Fairy Tales and Myths

Warning: May contain spoilers if you haven't finished  Path of Needles. 

“Fairytales...As if those pitiful things reflect the beautiful savagery of the world as it was meant to be.”

Art by Joe Ryan

Art by Joe Ryan

Introduction to The Fairy Tales and Myths of the Paths series.

The fairy tales you know are very young.

Most of them were re-written in the 1900’s. They find their origins in the collections gathered by the Grimms’ brothers and Charles Perrault in the 17th and 19th centuries. Likewise, these collections were based off oral stories told in French salons and around hearth fires by German peasants. The oldest versions of these tales were darker, cruder; they lacked the enforced Christian morality imposed upon them by Perrault and his contemporaries. Yet even those gathered for children and modern audiences had a certain darkness that modern audiences often find...unappealing. 

These older, darker fairy tales and myths heavily influenced the Paths series. Take “The Story of Grandmother,” for example, where Little Red Riding Hood has to trick the wolf into letting her go and ultimately saves her own life. There’s also “The Frog Prince," in which the prince is only released when his frog form is splattered against a wall. Or “Donkeyskin,” whose heroine is forced to run away from home in order to avoid marrying her father.

The seeds of these tales, among many others, grew into the characters in Path of Needles. Read on to learn more, and be prepared; you never know where the Paths might take you next.

 

A Much Improved Introduction to the Fairy Tales. Written by Jim Corboy (who is better at this than anyone pretentious enough to call themselves “the Author.”)

By now, you know that these fairy tales are based on something big. Something real.

Well, these assholes have been trying to kill my friends and me for a while now, so I’ve used my mad research skillz (re: obsessive time spent on Wikipedia) to look up some information on them. Forewarned is forearmed, after all. I’ve also added the stories themselves, when I could find them. I figure they might be handy to have available.  

I’ll keep this introduction short. Always better that way, in my opinion.  Just know this: What I’ve found is not reassuring. And if one tenth of this information is accurate, we’re even more screwed than I thought.

 

Path of Needles, Path of Pins

Little Red Riding Hood as you know it today is based on a much older story, called “The Story of Grandmother.” Originally an oral peasant tale with many regional variations, “The Story of Grandmother” was heard and subsequently changed by famous fairy tale collector Charles Perrault and later by the Brothers Grimm. They white washed a lot of the inappropriate stuff (like the wolf telling Red to take off her clothes) and added a huntsman who shows up to save the day. In the original tale, Red was a lot spunkier, and with the help of some washerwomen saved her own butt.

Heather Jacolbia

Heather Jacolbia

You may be wondering why such a cool heroine was made into a sniveling, helpless child. It’s because the patriarchy and centralized organizations in general like to victimize the weak, so that it appears that only the men in power can save the day, thereby guaranteeing that—

You know what? I’m going to stop myself right there before I go completely off topic, which I’m prone to do. Just ask Kat.

Getting back on track: the Path of Needles is pretty prominent in the story. Little Red has to walk it in order to get to her Grandmother’s house. Now, the way I figure it, the Path of Needles is a guide­­—a metaphysical arrow, pointing to a hero’s destiny. After all, it led Kat to the Rose Queen. If that’s not destiny I don’t know what is.

Not that I necessarily believe in destiny. But that’s a conversation for another time.

Speaking of things I’m unsure about, there’s the Path of Pins to consider. Kat was shown the Needles, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Path of Pins will come into play, too. Call it intuition if you’d like. Maybe even paranoia. I just wish I knew where and when.

 

Iron Hans

I googled ‘Hans’ and ‘golden hair,’ not really expecting to get anything out of it. Little did I know that this is one fairy tale that got a lot right. I mean, okay, the Wildman wasn’t exactly a prince in disguise. And the real Hans was a lot less noble than the kid in the story. And I still have no idea who Ergol is, or whether there are any fairy tales based off him.

But you know what? Who cares. Because this is still pretty damn close and it’s interesting as hell.

For this one, I think it’s best to just read the story.

One thing I did notice: in fairy tales in general, but more specifically this story, nothing is given without a price. Here, the prince’s desire to get his ball back leads him to indentured servitude with the Wildman. Which actually leads to his expulsion first from his castle, then the woods where he makes his home. That's a hefty price for a toy.  

In other words, I won't be asking anybody for favors any time soon.

 

Donkey Skin

Donkey Skin is an earlier version of the story the Disney generations know as “Cinderella.” The Cinderella story is actually very common in the fairy tale world. There are Cinderella “tale types” in China, Japan, Africa…pretty much anywhere that has a culture has some variation on the story.  

Recorded by Perrault, Donkey Skin is a darker version of the Cinderella tale. In the story, a dying Queen makes her husband swear not to marry again unless the bride is as beautiful, kind, and smart as she is. The only princess to fit this description is the king’s daughter. The princess runs away, hides herself in a kitchen, and eventually marries a prince. Etc.

How this impacts us? I’m not sure yet. But the name came up, and there’s enough weirdness floating around that I’d like to cover my bases.

Kalyna Riis-Phillips

Kalyna Riis-Phillips

 
Chelsea Gould

Chelsea Gould

Kelpie

I have to get this out of the way: these guys are really, really creepy, and I don’t like them. Especially not the one that tried to drown me. Here’s what I know, research done in an attempt to lengthen my lifespan.

Kelpie: pronounced ‘kel-pee.’ A water loving Fey horse that originated in the United Kingdom. Or whatever the UK was called when the Fey were around. According to myth, Kelpies are dark green or black horses with wild eyes that trick their victims into touching them. Once the victim (usually a child) touches its skin, they are magically stuck there- very much like superglue.

The experience is uncomfortable. Trust me on this one.

The Kelpie then drags its victims back into the pond/river/lake and proceeds to eat their still beating hearts as they drown.

There are some variations on this story, but that’s the basic idea. Of course the truth is a little different. In the real world, Kelpies turn into humans when they step on dry land. And, okay, Niall is scary, but he is pretty funny sometimes. When he’s not trying to kill me.

You know what? I still don’t like them. 

 

The Frog Prince

Can I get some credit here? I knew that S.O.B was a monster. No one is that mean naturally. It just doesn’t happen.

You know the Frog Prince story: Princess loses her golden ball, frog promises to retrieve it in exchange for a kiss, at which point he turns back into a human and they marry.

Right?

In the older versions, most notably the version in the Grimms’ 1812 collection of fairy tales, the princess doesn’t kiss the frog. Instead, she throws him against a wall. A loud “SPLAT” noise is appropriate here.  It is only then that he transforms into a happy, human prince, and they marry.

Knowing the actual anthropomorphic frog that inspired THAT little story, the darker version makes more sense. Also, is it just me, or does the frog seem pretty power hungry? I’ve been told that these stories are really inaccurate, but I have to wonder whether that’s true or if it’s just the Fey’s pride talking. Some of these stories seem to peg them pretty well. 

 
Kalyna Riis-Phillips

Kalyna Riis-Phillips

Copyright © Hannah Kollef 2012