Monday, January 26, 2015

Musing on birds this morning

I am thinking of birds....The following is a quick revision from my Writing Notebook on The Sleeping Beauty Retelling. I won't be on the Internet till February 8th when I shall return to blogging. I have some work to do on the book. I can't concentrate on what I need to do for the next few weeks with any distractions, so I am hiding in my bedroom with the laptop where I am not logged in to any account. Laughing. See you all then, but for now, enjoy my random thoughts on birds in folklore and fairy tales.



Illustration bu Franz Stassen, 1904

I've always been fascinated with birds, especially crows, as they are clever. Crows are part of the Corvidae family, which includes one-hundred and twenty species, among them, ravens, rooks, magpies, jays, and nutcrackers. Several fairy tales include birds and you can read about birds and folklore in a wonderful essay by Terri Windling (which includes links to other essays and books). Check it out here.

Of course, I have incorporated many of these fairy tales into my work. One of the stories (just one of many) that influenced me was The Children of Lir, which is an Irish folktale.




The King's children were all cursed to be birds, which is a fascinating thought. Of course, it reminded me of the Seven Ravens, which I had read as a child in Grimm's Fairy Tales.




That poor girl and her brothers. This type of fairy tale is Aarne-Thompson type 451, which means a sister and brother are included, but I thought it would be much more interesting if the girl was not a sister in the literal sense, but rather a rescuer who was not bound in that particular way. I was much more interested in another kind of moral choice. But this is a fascinating story and one that requires great sacrifice.

I am very interested in ordinary girls in extraordinary circumstances. That's a theme that I have repeated over and over on this blog. I am also interested in curses, because curses are really all about the consequences of circumstances, either personal or historical. This makes the past always present in our lives which is something that every person in The Deep South understands, in one way or another. (I linked to that definition because I only consider 5 states Deep South: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Personally, I've never considered any of the other states southern in the sense of what is really Deep South. And yes, I consider this place called The Deep South, both cursed and blessed. If you want to understand that, I suggest reading Faulkner.)

....All of which brings me back to birds, in a very dark way.


This is a illustrations by Arthur Rackham for the The Three Ravens aka Two Corbies, an old English ballad. It hangs on my inspiration board in the art room. Along with the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, this ballad of The Three Ravens is a key inspiration for my retelling.

There were three ravens sat on a tree,
They were as black as they might be.
The one of them said to his make,
'Where shall we our breakfast take?'

'Down in yonder greene field
There lies a knight slain under his shield;
'His hounds they lie down at his feet,
So well they can their master keep;

'His hawks they flie so eagerly,
There 's no fowl dare come him nigh.'
Down there comes a fallow doe
As great with young as she might goe.

She lift up his bloudy head
And kist his wounds that were so red.
She gat him up upon her back
And carried him to earthen lake.

She buried him before the prime,
She was dead herself ere evensong time.
God send every gentleman

Such hounds, such hawks, and such a leman.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

In the art room this week


Nothing moves me more than a beautiful painting. For many people, music motivates writers. For me, art is a key ingredient in the creative process. Of course, my favorite paintings are narrative, and I honestly believe the greatest art is narrative art, and that the greatest books are written the way an artist paints, in layers, with myth and metaphor, with scenes and symbols. This painting is a guilty pleasure. I have an obsession with paintings that are a bit whimsical like this one. It's called "A fair beauty." The artist is Herbert Gustave Schmalz who was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites. I've previously posted this painting on Facebook but found it on Flickr this past week while I was searching for some paintings of flowers and insects that might help me with a composition I am doing. If I am on the Internet, nine times out of ten, I am looking at paintings. What a wonderful gift that time has been for me, the ability to see all this fabulous art work that normally I'd never get to see. I'll be checking in, but this week, I am in the art room working. Be back next Sunday.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A note

A few posts I reverted to draft when moving my blog long ago. I am updating those posts and did not know they would post now. Strange. I thought they would post on the original days. Well, I will have to do it differently. No more posts today. Laughing. This is what you call a technical difficulty in the twilight zone of blogging.

The Tombstone from West Norwood Cemetery in England


It's true that all my stories have cemeteries and graveyards in them. Maybe not this fanciful, but somehow a tombstone is going to surface in any plot I create. When I saw this photo on Flickr, I knew this place would go in a book.

Sheltered Garden by Hilda Doolittle

I have had enough.
I gasp for breath.
Every way ends, every road,
every foot-path leads at last
to the hill-crest—
then you retrace your steps,
or find the same slope on the other side,
precipitate.
I have had enough—
border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies,
herbs, sweet-cress.
O for some sharp swish of a branch—
there is no scent of resin
in this place,
no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
aromatic, astringent—
only border on border of scented pinks.
Have you seen fruit under cover
that wanted light—
pears wadded in cloth,
protected from the frost,
melons, almost ripe,
smothered in straw?
Why not let the pears cling
to the empty branch?
All your coaxing will only make
a bitter fruit—
let them cling, ripen of themselves,
test their own worth,
nipped, shrivelled by the frost,
to fall at last but fair
with a russet coat.
Or the melon—
let it bleach yellow
in the winter light,
even tart to the taste—
it is better to taste of frost—
the exquisite frost—
than of wadding and of dead grass.
For this beauty,
beauty without strength,
chokes out life.
I want wind to break,
scatter these pink-stalks,
snap off their spiced heads,
fling them about with dead leaves—
spread the paths with twigs,
limbs broken off,
trail great pine branches,
hurled from some far wood
right across the melon-patch,
break pear and quince—
leave half-trees, torn, twisted
but showing the fight was valiant.
O to blot out this garden
to forget, to find a new beauty
in some terrible
wind-tortured place.

by Hilda "H.D." Doolittle (10 September 1886 – 27 September 1961)
Thank you, Cate Lombardo