Category: fairy tales

How did you keep your story so original withou…

How did you keep your story so original without feeling diluted by other Beauty and the Beast tales? I have an idea that I would like to pursue but I feel like it keeps getting mixed in with other media I've enjoyed. See Disney's live-action BatB last year, and it mixes. Finish watching Ancient Magus Bride, and it mixes. Even read your comic, and it feels like it mixes. I want my own story and I'm so afraid of stealing from others but how to avoid with a popular trope that is everywhere?

I hope you’ll forgive me, Anon, because I’m going to ramble a lot here!

I think the sheer level of research I did helped a lot. I read and watched every variation I could get my hands on, from schlocky paperbacks to modern YA to post-war art cinema, to soviet puppet plays, to the original 1740 novel. The more material you give your brain to work with, the more unique your storytelling will become, because you have an understanding of the genre, or the craft, or the topic, and you’ve seen how others execute it, for better or for worse. furthermore, don’t JUST look at BATB stories (or sci-fi stories, or superhero comics, or sports anime or WHATEVER). Read, experience and watch widely. You’d be surprised where you find inspiration (And if you go obscure enough, no one will know where you swiped it from, hohoho). Sometimes those outside influences and experiences are what make your story shine with a lustre the others don’t. 

Experience is as much a part of writing as research. That old chestnut about write-what-you-know is true. Sure, I don’t know what it’s like to be kept captive in a haunted castle that preys on human weakness… but I sure know what it’s like to be lonely, and to feel trapped. If you can use your honest emotions, your story will ring true. Combining that emotional honesty with your research makes for a powerful story. A big thematic influence on my version of the story was Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which I read while spending a summer semester in Italy. The grandeur of museums and churches, combined with long afternoons I spent in palace gardens alone and the curious, lesser-told stories of Greek myth really got me into the mindset of the story and helped solidify the feeling of the little thing I had been working on. Exploring places that evoke the feelings you want is a great way to inhabit a character’s headspace…And you don’t need international travel to do it, I was just lucky! I started writing this version of BATB sitting in an empty apartment during a thunderstorm. There was no furniture yet and I was sitting on the floor watching black clouds and lightning through floor-to-ceiling windows. That’s where the library scene came from. Right now I’m working on a detective story, and wandering through my very economically depressed neighbourhood and poking around the grungy, shuttered storefronts is a great scene-setter.

But what do you do once you have the research, right?  Well, I never really stop researching as I go. My process is much more like sculpting than anything else. I amass a great heap of reference and related material, and anything that has the right “flavour” to it, and I glop it all into the loose shape of what I think I want to do, and then I start hacking parts off. At first it’s a big chop-job. I’m in there with hedge clippers taking off whole characters and plot twists. Then it’s a bit more refined, knocking out unneeded scenes and subplots. As this goes along, I often move scenes here and there, finding places they better fit into until the flow feels natural. By then, I’m not chopping away big hunks of story anymore, I’m just carefully finessing the parts I’ve decided to keep. There’s more in the trash bin than on the page by the end.

So I would suggest you embrace that first stage – take everything you love and throw it onto the page, even in its most stolen, embarrassing form. Right now you know what you want it to feel like, but maybe not what your version of it will look like (spoilers: It never turns out the way you think it will, but your readers won’t know that). So lean into that trope! Use that stolen scene as a bookmark! “I want this moment in the story to really feel like when Christine follows the Phantom through the mirror!” or “It should be as heartpounding and fragile as the conversation after the waltz in the Disney broadway show!”. That’s enough to let your brain cook away at it while you work on other things. You’ll be coming back through to change and fix things as the story evolves, anyway. You’re just starting to feel your way through the story and to discover what it is you have to say about it. It’s a bit of a personal journey, I think. You uncover just as much about yourself as you do about the tale you want to tell. All a first draft has to do to be successful is exist. <3

And remember…all of us here love this story, and I’m sure we would love your story. Share it with us when you’re ready!

What is the deal with Argus&rsquo; and Beauty&…

What is the deal with Argus’ and Beauty’s mothers?

Well, the original story had a host of interesting mom-figures in the background that generally don’t appear in shorter adaptations. We’ve got The Beast’s mother, a warrior-queen who more or less masterminds Beauty’s stay at the palace. Then we have Beauty’s mother, a fairy who dabbles with mortals and gets herself in trouble for it. Then we have The Beast’s guardian/godmother, a fairy who lays the curse on him after he refuses her advances… basically, a whole bunch of underused maternal figures, all very different from one another.

 I liked the idea of Beauty’s hidden magical heritage, since we never see it outside of the original tale. I also enjoy making allusions to other fairy tales. Animal bride stories come in a variety of forms, but I thought swan maidens made for most tonally appropriate choice here (I coin-flipped between swan maidens and selkies, but I think swans make more sense since my adaptation doesn’t linger in the port city Beauty grows up in). 

I decided three moms was too many for the story, so I chose to split the positive and negative maternal traits into two characters – Elise, Beauty’s mother, takes on the role of the good fairy who guides Beauty at the castle, as well as that of the Original-Story-Beast’s mother who engineers her incarceration there. Argus’ mother is the negative, controlling maternal figure. I ditched the godmother-seductress angle in favour of making her his biological parent, and a straight-up narcissist rather than a predator. I felt the complicated nature of abuse and loyalty could be seeded in the background without bringing the suggestion of sexual trauma too much to the forefront.

The idea of the good mother and the wicked mother is a really common trope in fairy tales. Usually fairy tales signal the wicked mother by making her the stepmother (because how could the “real” mom ever leave her kids in the woods/force them to be a servant/favour the other child/etc?? Surely this must be some false, other mother!) but really it all comes back to the same place– we have strong feelings about our families. When we love them, we love them more than anything and when we hate them…well, the betrayal is all the worse. 

Hi! Sorry if I bother but may I ask what Subtl…

Hi! Sorry if I bother but may I ask what Subtle Princess is about and if you have link to version of text or summary? Cant find it anywhere. Thanks.

This story is sometimes translated as “The Discreet Princess” (which is honestly a misnomer. Her bloody and complicated revenge mission is anything but discreet!) There’s a lovely article about the tale and it’s author here!

It’s an extremely arch, extremely overwrought, extremely funny story of a princess wreaking complicated gory revenge on the hilariously evil prince who seduced and impregnated her less-than-bright sisters. There’s a pile of trap-laying, disguise-wearing and generally ridiculous plots by both parties, and a suitably silly conceit to give it a happy ending. A lot of the story is similar to King Thrushbeard type tales, but rather than one lover trying to humiliate the other into submission, it’s a straight-up power flip as Finette/Finessa deflects the wicked prince’s every ploy back at him. It’s one of the most bombastic fairy tales I’ve come across, and because we have knowledge of its original author and her place in history we can see a lot of the politics and frustrations of the time in her writing. Furthermore, since it is not from the oral tradition, but is a properly written story, we suffer less adaptation decay as it comes to us through the ages.

If you are so inclined,  I found a recording of my favourite translation of the story!

You didn't make The Mincing Princess soun…

You didn't make The Mincing Princess sound all that bad. Considering how much of a bitch she clearly was to all her guests, I don't consider the suitor to be in the wrong for bringing the princess down a peg or two.

You know, the nice thing about Fairy Tales is that their stripped down simplicity allows us to bring a lot of ourselves to the table. There’s a reason Jungian psychology loves to use them (Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment is a flawed but very fascinating read)! They’re a great mirror to the soul, and I’ve always thought that learning their favourite fairy tale is a good way of learning about a person.

Obviously in my own adaptation of Beauty and the Beast I’ve laid a lot bare on the page. While it became a bit of a personal metaphor for depression in my young adult years, as a teen I was really drawn to the story because I identified with the themes of isolation and responsibility. It was “my” fairy tale because it spoke to a lot of the struggles in my upbringing.

I was a caregiver for a young child in a difficult family situation some years ago. Her favourite activity was play-acting Cinderella. We did it every time I visited. Sometimes she was Cinderella defying her family to go to the ball, sometimes she was a stepsister or stepmother, exploring the power of forbidding me from going. That was her fairy tale, the one that resonated with her, the one that she saw herself in and could safely explore a whole host of complicated feelings through.

So your feelings about The Mincing Princess (which I confess, I have not re-read in a few years and could be drastically misremembering) are interesting, and worth analysing. It’s amazing the biases we can hide from ourselves, and how quickly the subconscious can be laid bare by the power of stories.

What exactly is the Mincing Princess about?

What exactly is the Mincing Princess about?

The Mincing Princess is a variation of the King Thrushbeard tale, Essentially, it’s a genre of fairy tale about a haughty or arrogant princess who embarrasses a suitor. She is brought low when he disguises himself as poor man and humiliates her through various means (subjecting her to poverty and starvation, destroying her property, forcing her to steal etc.). When he ultimately reveals himself as a wealthy nobleman, she is so grateful for an end to the abuse and poverty that she happily accepts him as her husband. It’s very similar to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew in many ways. It’s also a very difficult story for modern readers to put into any sort of positive light without a great deal of finagling, due to the fact that it really is a straight-up revenge fantasy. A lovely palate cleanser for the type of tale is to follow it up with The Subtle Princess, in which a wicked prince gets some serious just desserts from a princess he hoped to treat this way. 

norroway: Big news, friends!  From our Patreon…


Big news, friends! 

From our Patreon/Tumblr debut, to our move to Tapas, and then solely to Patreon, the comic has finally found a permanent home. First in the NORROWAY series, The Black Bull of Norroway will be available in November from Image Comics! 

As it turns out, it’s going to drop on Cat’s birthday–November 11th. 

We are so excited to finally be able to offer NORROWAY in print. Because of the pacing, we have always felt it’s best enjoyed in one sitting. We hope you agree! 

It’s currently available for preorder via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indiebound, and Indigo.



screenshothaven: La belle et la bête-2014


La belle et la bête-2014

The Cards of Chaos is free on Amazon until Wed…


The Cards of Chaos, a Gothic fairy tale inspired by Angela Carter and Isak Dinesen, featuring fabulous cover design by Kit Mizeres (@kitmizeresart), is available for free on Amazon until Wednesday.

Preview the beginning here:

was sacrificed to the Jackal that Christmas. Her parents gave her up
willingly when the black cab came. They had been blessed with eleven
children, all in fine health; one was no great loss, they solemnly
agreed. Moreover, they had not been especially fond of Cebina. She
had always been a queer child. She suffered from an assortment of
nervous gestures―nail-biting, tremors of the hands and feet―she
was unable or unwilling to curtail, and she had a habit of muttering
to herself just below the threshold of hearing, so that she might
have been speaking in tongues, for all anyone knew. She sat with her
shoulders hunched; her siblings, snickering, called her Vulture.
Sometimes, while the other children frolicked raucously about the
house, she would clamp her hands over her ears, curl into a lump of
lace and muslin, and lay for hours, hardly moving, on the floor of
the pantry, like a bomb threatening to detonate. 

So when the
black cab came for Cebina on a frigid night in late December, some
days before the holiday, there were no tears, though her parents did
attempt to conceal their relief that she would not be in
their vicinity
when her fuse was finally spent. 

afraid this is goodbye, my dear girl,” said Father, giving Cebina a
squeeze on the shoulder. His reflex had been to reach out for a
handshake, but partway through the gesture he had thought better of
it, and for a perilous moment his hand had wavered in the space
between himself and his daughter. He hoped the cab driver, whose
silhouette loomed in the doorway, had not noticed his hesitation. 

Mother, who
had noticed, glared. Her husband was always humiliating her in front
of company. He understood numbers and nothing else; numbers clung
like tobacco fumes to his clothes. If she were to cut off the top of
his head (as she had been tempted on more than one occasion to do),
out would pour numbers―suspended, she imagined, in a kind of aspic
jelly. They were hardly sending the girl off to boarding
were they? No, circumstances called for a far grander demonstration
of affection.

She stooped
over and gave her daughter a peck on the cheek, a display which
succeeded, at least, in being wetter than her husband’s. 

little Cebina,” she said, approximating a beam of pride, “marrying
at fifteen. Who would have thought?” 

And indeed,
Cebina’s mother had never dreamed she would be rid
of her daughter so soon. For not only did Cebina exude a peculiar air
of menace, she was also unbeautiful. She did not have the china
doll cheeks
of her sister Rigmor, or the coppery
of Karina, or lips red as peppermint candy, like her sister
Christine. Her features were chaotic and crooked, as though God,
grown bored with the classical mode in which he had chiseled her
sisters, had begun to dabble in the avant-garde as he fashioned her.
Cebina’s mother had often lain awake at night hatching plans, plans
she knew all too well were thoroughly deranged, to convince some
hapless fellow he had found the ideal bride in her daughter. 

father had never deeply considered the problem of his daughter’s
charmlessness. He had scarcely considered her at all. Like other
equations he could not solve, he had relegated her to a dusty trunk
at the back of his brain where he would not have to be reminded too
frequently of her existence. In fact he had directly addressed his
daughter no more than nine times in her fifteen years of life, and
only one of those times, when inquiring into the whereabouts of his
newspaper, had he called her by the correct name. Faced with the loss
of the girl, imminent and irrevocable, he felt only the faint
consolation that she would not be around to bewilder
him anymore. 

received her
farewells in silence. She stared sullenly at things. Occasionally,
she yawned. Mother cringed at the sight of her daughter’s open
mouth, uncovered and cavernous. The girl yawned as conspicuously as a
jungle animal, and with a similar perverse satisfaction. So she would
show no emotion: no fear or love, not even anger in the face of―well,
there was no avoiding the truth of
the matter―in
the face of her
premature demise.
So she would refuse to behave like a normal girl to the bitter end.
So be it. 

The cabman
coughed. This was the first sound he had made since rousing Mother
and Father in the middle of the night with his knock on the door.
Father had gone to answer, knowing beyond doubt that the black cab
had come; still he had shrunk back in fear from the figure towering
in their doorway. Without waiting for the driver to announce himself,
he had stammered that he would fetch his daughter right away and
clambered on
all fours
up the staircase. 

Now he and
his wife waited. They longed for their visitor to say something, to
fill the spangled sprawl of the winter night with the warmth of
meaningless chatter. The cough must surely be a
signal to them―the
overture to some announcement. 

Out of the
darkness a snowflake the size of a swan’s feather tumbled down,
settled on the black brim of the driver’s hat, and remained there
with all the assurance of a white
or ribbon, as if it had always been there, as if he had fixed it
there himself with a pin. He said nothing. 

At the same
time words bubbled forth from both of Cebina’s parents.
not inviting the man indoors (and on such an inhospitable night!);
Father extended a belated invitation; Mother offered
coffee and peppernuts; then, so as not to appear excessively proud,
they half-retracted these gestures of welcome,
deprecating the decrepitude of their home, its porous walls and
comfortless furniture, the ceaseless creaking of the murderous
stairs, stopping just short of implying that a homeless waif
be better off sleeping in a roadside ditch, with a pillow of powder
snow, than in one of their meager beds― 

The faraway
blare of a freight train lopped off their voices. Across the street
the cabman’s horse stamped and issued billows of steam from its
nostrils. Somewhere a bevy of prairie wolves bayed. 

 The driver
chose this moment to speak. 

“The girl
is not clothed for the cold,” he

Mother and
Father, turning to look at their daughter, saw that what the driver
said was true. Cebina wore nothing but a nightgown and a pair of
slippers. They had not even thought to pack her a bag. Why lavish
clothes on a corpse? 

Cebina said dully, after several seconds had passed, “aren’t you
going to give me something
to wear?” 

won’t require much,” said the cabman in a voice like cracking
ice. “A winter coat and a pair of shoes should be
Mittens, if you have them. My master will, of course, provide for her
wardrobe and necessaries.” 

Mother and
Father were frozen stiff with mortification and required further

The shadowy head bobbed. “Mrs. Beckstrand. If you would be so

Mr. and
Mrs. Beckstrand began to thaw. They blinked profusely. When they
could again control their limbs, Father went to the closet to
retrieve the requested items, while Mother, unbidden, climbed the
stairs to fill a hat box with Cebina’s clothes, though she knew
their sin would not be forgiven
could never be. They moved with the subaqueous slowness of
sleepwalkers, or those who have been hypnotized, in awe of the
cruelty they had found within themselves. Sending their daughter off
to her death without a scrap of protection against the cold! And
still they did not mourn for her. What strange and marvelous
contraptions, their hearts. 

Cebina, to
the relief of her parents, did not say goodbye. She stepped into the
fur-trimmed boots Father brought her, wrapped the oversized coat
around her shoulders, and, with hands gloved in deerskin, took hold
of Mother’s proffered hat box. Father awkwardly tugged the flaps of
a wool cap over her ears. She told the driver she was ready. 

be going, then,” he said. 

After that
came the longest silence of all.

jesncin: Prince and Beast painty doodles! Thes…


Prince and Beast painty doodles! These two are from an anthology project I’m working on >:) I do these doodles in between school work and this project as a means of loosening up.

Kind of a Beauty and the Beast genderbent, but also something completely new!