Find short samples here of the original fairy tales that are part of the Tales from The Fells body of work. A proposed photo book/storybook hybrid is in the works, consisting of several fairy tales accompanied by photographic illustrations, tactile elements, and other embellishments. This project has benefited from the mentorship, support, and assistance of curator Susan Bright, and fairytale scholar and Harvard Department Chair, Maria Tatar, for which the artist is extremely grateful.
All materials copyright 2016-2018 Anne Eder. Reproduction of either text or images is not permitted without written consent.
Vera June and the Magic Teeth
Once upon a time there were two lovely children named Eldon and Vera June. They were not orphans but they might have been better off if they had been, for their parents were quite awful. Their father was a huge and hairy beast of a man, capable of terrible things, things too awful to speak of. His evil deeds were legendary and no one dared come near their home for fear of his anger. He would, at times, sit on top of the children if he thought that they might be feeling joy in some small accomplishment. Their mother was small and sly, a sorceress of exotic poisons and a compulsive teller of lies. She pretended to be a caring mother while actually keeping them sick and weak by feeding them her evil potions. At other times, she would feign sickness herself and demand to be waited on hand and foot. Sometimes she would bury them alive and dig them up later just for fun. Growing up in this house, with two adults who toyed with them like cats do their prey, was all they had ever known. Vera June sometimes yearned for someone to care for them and keep them from harm. Instead, she and her brother lived in fear and darkness, day after day. In spite of this cruel treatment, they were as thoughtful and good as two children could ever be.
As time went on, Eldon became very quiet, and every night Vera June dreamed that her teeth had fallen out or were broken or stolen.
Eldon grew thinner and weaker, and Vera June became afraid that he might die. Each passing day found him closer to death. Vera June could see the bones under his skin and he slept most of the time. His sister made up her mind to save him, but she did not know how. One night she dreamed of a green forest. Many times Vera June had thought of escaping, but until the dream vision, she had no idea where to look for help. When dawn came and the parents still slept, she half carried her brother and they escaped into the woods…
The Four Ghostly Tasks
Ivy Noelle was born six days before Christmas. Everyone said that she was the most beautiful baby they had ever seen. Even the midwife, who had delivered many babies, (and who confessed that most could not truly be described as beautiful) said that she was the loveliest infant born during her long career. The child lay next to her mother in the sunshine and was loved by all. Time passed, and she grew into a wild, feral little thing. Her hair was long and dreadlocked, and she was always barefoot. She laughed like other people breathe, naturally and without thought. Her mother, who cared little what others might think, accepted her ways and encouraged her to be the free spirit she was. She never knew a bad day, rainy or sunny. She called her mother “honey”.
Ivy loved her older brother intensely, and nothing pleased her more than to make him laugh. He was quiet and serious by nature, and often found himself rescuing small creatures and insects in danger of being trampled by her dancing feet. She invented stories and ran wild with the boys next door. They dressed as monsters and animals, kings and queens. They built forts in the woods, sucked the honey out of honeysuckle blossoms, fed chickens, and ate with their fingers. As she got a bit older, she spoke and wrote in made up languages, inventing alphabets written in shaky letters that looked as though they were alive. Ivy Noelle was exactly who she was, which was just fine with everyone.
One day, when the sky was cloudless and blue, a bomb fell. It killed many people including all of Ivy Noelle’s family. She alone survived. The land came under the rule of cruel men who left a trail of destruction in their wake. She was sent to live with distant cousins and could not understand what had happened. Grief made her unruly and reckless, and at times, full of rage. These relatives had no time for her wild ways. They made her live outside in a shed and do all the chores. Always a small girl, she was very much unsuited to these tasks. Her clothes were worn to rags and she was hungry and cold in winter; but though the dogs were allowed indoors to sit by the fire, she was never invited. In summer, she longed for cool water in which to bathe, or shade to rest in for just a minute, but these things were never allowed. She was not looked after in any way. She battled illness after illness and was worked to the bone. Eventually her spirit was crushed and left her body, an invisible wisp in the cold wind.
The swallows that flitted about freely nearby, recognized in her something familiar, and using their beaks and fanning the air with their long, lovely, tapered wings, they guided the little spirit into the woods where it drifted through the trees like smoke. Now as it happened in that forest there lived a shaman…
Another excerpt, same story:
The creature was pleased to see that the tiny ghost did not give up, but persevered and prevailed. “Thank you, small spirit! This is a job well done. Next, I need to make a pair of wings, large enough for myself to wear (the creature was about seven feet tall), and for this, you will need to bring me quite a number of small wings. These may only come from moths and butterflies that have died when it was their natural time. It is not difficult to find some. Please take care that they are not damaged.”
So off the little ghost went, and found that she was now capable of moving quite swiftly, flying rather than drifting. The same moths who had so selflessly helped her before came to her aid once more and showed her where to find their burial place, where many of their kind went to die as they felt the end coming. The ground was littered with their feathery wings, in velvety browns and tawny golds, some silver and marked with spots that resembled eyes, arrows, or night skies. The wings were indeed very fragile and she had to take great care. It was not possible to float many along at once, so the task required countless trips back and forth. The exertion put some color into the little ghost’s--- well, cheeks can’t really be quite right---into the ghostly cloud that now looked much more like cotton candy. She was beginning to change shape, with a hint of limbs and head starting to form. The creature accepted the wings and when all were assembled into a larger pair, they were very breathtaking indeed…
Larkspur and Her Chicken
This was no ordinary chicken. In fact, this chicken was once the daughter of a king. One day while she was walking alone on the castle grounds, she was transformed by an evil sorceress. This witch was angry with the king for his intolerant views on magic and for his placing the wealth of the land in the hands of a few, forcing the rest to make choices born of poverty. The culture of the land declined, as most people had no time for reading, for art or music, or even ordinary kindness. Competition and desperation made men bestial and savage. Magic was suppressed and soon many forgot that it ever existed.
It was hard to think clearly as a chicken, and at first the princess flapped and clucked and ran wildly about, not knowing where to go for help. She was chased and hunted by hungry animals and people alike. A chicken on its own was in a precarious position, and she was fortunate in being small and scrawny, and not immediately appetizing. She threw in her lot with the first family she happened upon with a coop, and they decided that she needed fattening up before a meal would be possible. Thereafter, she was stolen several times in succession---first, by another family, then a band of actors, and finally by the youngest of some roving thieves, a small, fierce girl named Larkspur.
Larkspur had black eyes that burned with a fire and determination that troubled even the adult robbers. She claimed the chicken as her own and none dared challenge her, not even the biggest and roughest of the men. They were afraid she might come in the night and slit their throats, that is how fearsome she was. She was smart and wiry, and honestly, quite ruthless. Larkspur was a tiny girl, and could have made a meal of the chicken despite the small size, but when she turned her intense gaze upon the bird, she was surprised to meet with something similar in its eyes. The chicken gave back a glare as defiant as she got, as though daring Larkspur to eat her. Larkspur decided to wait, and each day, despite her hunger, she made some excuse not to kill and eat the chicken. She took to carrying the bird around clasped tightly to her chest so that no one could make off with it, and fed it scraps of her own food. The chicken was striking in appearance, and proved increasingly useful and clever.
Larkspur taught the bird to fly over low fences (giving her a boost with a somewhat frightening toss in the air) and to steal from the gardens, and soon they were eating better than the rest of the robber gang. This did not escape the attention of the others, and before long the group was more interested in stealing the chicken from Larkspur than in their usual larcenous activities. This necessitated constant vigilance on Larkspur’s part, and eventually she decided to head out on her own. Clutching the bird, one night while the others slept she silently made her way into a dense and tangled forest, taking care to leave no tracks or traces by which they might be found, sweeping her footprints away with a pine branch. In the morning, the robbers nervously told each other that she must have been carried off in the night by a predator, or another robber band. No one went to look for her…
There were two spirits with soft voices and green hair. One sang like a bird, and the other loved the singing. The latter gave everything she had away and was loved impossibly for her impossible generosity. They lived in a warm land with mosquitos and sticky young things around them, where sun and shadow were sharply defined and danger was part of every joy. They laughed at all of it, always.
One day, looking down they realized they had changed. They were living in sticky meat bodies like the young things. They laughed. They picked up the young ones and dressed their wounds and bandaged their knees and kissed their bloody cuts. They found shelter from the biting insects, but protection from other larger meat people was not so easy. Those came and went, doing varying degrees of harm, leaving their detritus. It was difficult, but the two carried on, and still they laughed.
This went on, the singing and the giving and the healing, for a long time. The singing spirit took her young ones away from that place, away from the ones who caused harm, and it was difficult and lonely but she persevered. The other tried to help the “big meats”, dressing wounds she could not see while giving them everything she had. She had success in this. She lived among them. All the young things of both grew and were marvelous. The singer and the giver could speak through magic across distance, and their communication was like fingers of lightning that tickled and made them laugh. It was enough.
They began to change again. The giver began to turn green, her hair became long chenille-like locks, her skin became moss, and her eyes and open heart were white roses. She worked magic in the world, but she herself was becoming part of the earth. Her grace became dazzling; her fragrance filled the air around her. She saved lives without making a sound. All the young ones and the big ones clutched at her, tried to keep her with them, but one day she turned and smiled, raised a finger to her lips to silence and comfort them, and disappeared into the warm and sticky woods.
The singer flew to the spot where the other had disappeared and covered the ground in white roses and tears. She herself had become bone and air, wore bones on the outside of the meat body; she was thin but strong. She weighed nothing. Her voice in song was rare these days, but she used it now to comfort the rest. She took the young ones and the big ones into her bony arms to placate them, the cool, smooth bone soothing their hot foreheads and grieving hearts.
Someday, before too long, she would follow her sister into the woods, and the ash of her bones would nourish the green, giving nature of the world and her song become one with the songs of the birds. But not just yet.
The sister of bone returned after an extended absence. The first thing she noticed was the amount of birdsong in the forest. Some days are quiet, this day the birds were particularly vocal. The second thing was a fat garter snake, with stripes of bright yellow, rippling quickly over the pine needles, making fast forward progress despite the lateral “s” shapes of each movement. Last, the scent of her sister was everywhere. It permeated the air within the bars of sunlight, in the still shadows, in the pockets of space under roots and rocks and tree limbs. She inhaled sharply, though it intensified her longing and loneliness, unable to resist contact even if it brought with it the sting of loss. Something had called her back here. Now she must find out whom, or what, and why.
She traveled swiftly through the woods, seeking, and came to a dark place. The brown of bark and branch braided together overhead blocking the light and the sound was no longer birdsong, but the mechanical whirring of cicadas--- crescendo and decrescendo, causing her companion animal to become anxious, often looking over its shoulder and whining softly. “Shhh”, she comforted the creature, “it will be alright.” She picked the small creature up and held it close…