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Charles Perrault's "Toads and Diamonds," illustration by Kate Greenaway, 1875

Charles Perrault’s “Toads and Diamonds,” illustration by Kate Greenaway, 1875

Simplia stood over breakfast bar sorting the mail. The pile of Actual Mail towered over the pile of junk

Sagacia looked up from the computer screen, where she was checking out a string of links Clare Murphy had just sent. (Find them under the comments for the post just prior to this one.) Nodding, she shared the sentiments that came with the links:

Been having this conversation with a few storytellers around Europe and Australia, all of us keen on finding original source material that celebrates all genders and all relationships, rather than the typical heteronormative ones that dominate performances and festivals.

Very glad to find more people talking about it. …Looking forward to seeing what else is out there.  

Simplia ripped open a letter with a Pittsburgh return address. “Ah! Barra the Bard wrote to us…er…Activist in Oslo.”

In one of her Five Hundred Kingdoms fantasy series, “One Good Knight,” Mercedes Lackey has a different than expected gender for one of her characters. … Also, in Tolkien’s “The Return of the King,” when the Lord of the Nazgul taunts that he cannot be killed by a man, he is first cut down to size (literally) by Merry the hobbit cutting his leg, and then by Eowyn pulling off her helmet, in which she has been disguised as Dernhelm, and points out that she is no man, just before she slays him.  One of the best such moments in literature or movies IMO. 

“Modern interpretations and retellings,” Sagacia observed. “Here’s one from Camille Born.

When I tell my version of The Talking Eggs (aka Diamonds and Toads), the heroine takes her riches , moves into town and refuses all offers of courtship and marriage because she feels in her heart she does not need a man in her life to complete it in any way. She sets herself up in a comfortable home, and uses the money from the sale of the diamonds that flow from her mouth to set up a school for girls and women to teach them skills, to give them a place to become their own selves. She is happy with being herself among women. And she lives out her life in that way — well respected by everyone in the town. The end.

Priscilla Howe weighed in: In “The Boy Who Had No Story,” he becomes a woman, has children, etc. and then turns back to a man. Then there’s the Story of Silence, powerfully told by Dolores Hydock, which plays with gender. 

Not quite the same thing, but I end The Tale of the Squire’s Bride with, “The squire never did get married after all, not that day, not any day. And Astric? She might have gotten married and she might not have, but she was left ot dream her dreams and not the squire’s.

“I guess it’s all right to create your own happier-than-ever-after ending, isn’t it?” asked Simplia. “I mean, it’s folklore, and we’re folk, yes?”

Simon Brooks does it…apparently after much soul searching,” Sagacia said, and she read:

I do my own retelling of the Norwegian “The Boy Who Turned Himself into a Falcon, a Lion and Ant.” It is now a story “based on” that tale. I was so annoyed at the number of stories where the princess was “forced” to marry some stable boy, or some trickster, that the boy hero became a girl. I do not usually make changes to classic folk tales, but this is one instance I have done and so the now-girl chooses not to marry the princess at the end of the story. I took a couple of other liberties and made some other changes with the tale too, but I do not think it loses anything in the telling and in fact has become a favourite of my “fans.”

Sagacia rubbed her eyes, and Simplia rubbed her head. All this reconsidering was making her brain hurt. In a good way. A therapeutic way. But she had had enough for one day. There were still letters in the pile.

“Can we think about those another day?” she asked her friend.

“Of course. Let’s just hope Vasilisa’s mail is slow for awhile so we can catch up with the replies for Activist in Oslo.”