The Beautiful Daughters based on an African Folk tale and the book by John Steptoe
The Pied Piper
Bardic Stories and Retellings
A Retelling of the Wife of Bath's Tale by Chaucer
I sought to tell this classic tale but to change the knight's actions to a kiss and unwanted affection to make the tale less upsetting or triggering for some and to enable it to be told in audiences of mixed age. The concept of consent is so important and I wanted a version all could feel safe hearing.
Long ago there was a good king who sought for his knights to be noble in both word and deed. He saw them as an extension of himself and their actions reflected upon them. One of his knights was young, bold, a pleasure to behold but oft times lacking in patience and prudence. Knowing he was admired by many a maid he felt he could choose any of them to pursue. He sought out a young lady in waiting to the queen. The girl was young and not accustomed to court but pious and sweet of nature as well as fair of face. As he woo’d the maiden she rebuffed his advances. Thinking her protestations an invitation he tried to kiss her. A mighty slap was heard in the great hall and soft weeping. All became silent. As the red flower of shame bloomed on the knights face all eyes turned to him. To behave in such a manner was to lose one’s title, land, place in court and worst of all honour. In the silence the girl was brought to the queen’s side consulted, comforted and taken to recover in spirit with the other ladies of the chamber. The queen summoned the knight to the front of the hall. Ashamed he walked forth. His pride collapsed and the scorn the elder knights gave him felled him like no blow ever had. The queen had asked the maiden what she thought a fair reward for such unseemly actions and she knew well the mind of the king. Because it was her lady insulted she spoke to the knight. She bade him go on a quest to better know the mind of women. If he could tell her one year and a day hence what it was women truly desired he lands and title and place at court would be safe; if not he would become a beggar. The knight left the hall and rode away to seek the answer that would save his title. He thought it would be easy. It was not. It seemed to him every woman near and far wanted different things. Maidens wanted young husbands, mothers wanted for sleep and crones wanted for youth to bloom again in their cheeks. Some women wanted pleasure in bed, others land, some power, most money and none wanted more work or a knight asking questions but not helping their situation. A year and a day passed and he still had no answer. As he rode to the castle prepared to lose all he held dear he spied a hag in the road. Ugly, bent and scarred. He paused to ask her if she knew what women desired above all else. She replied she did but she would only tell him before the queen and that he should grant a wish to her after she told. He agreed and rode with her to end his quest. When questioned by the queen the hag whispered into his ear that above all women desired dominion over themselves. The right to control their future, bodies and all else that pertained to them. The varied answers made sense to him now. He was also suddenly struck by the gravity of his actions. The Queen pronounced him able to rejoin court and at that moment the hag spoke. She told the court of the knight’s promise. The one thing she asked was to be his wife. Horrified by his reality but knowing he must be noble he married her that night. That evening the knight avoided the marriage bed as long as he could. The hag asked him if he would prefer her to be a beautiful maiden but untrue and constantly a vexation or be herself, but wise and devoted. Exhausted, tired of questions and seeking to make the right response he asked her how she would live. At that moment a bright light appeared and the hag revealed herself as a beautiful member of the fey. Smiling she invited her husband to bed for he had truly understood what women desire. The next morning they were gone, never to be seen again by mortal eyes.
Persephone and the Hemlocks
Persephone was bored and for a daughter of a Goddess that was a feat in itself. Her ladies were content to spend virginal days gathering flowers. She wanted to visit the Hemlocks and Henbane and herbs of a darker growth. Flowers with the power to send one from this world to the next. The things that only bloom at night. Her preferences caused her to wander from her maidens frequently. So often did she roam ahead that they became accustomed to it. And there at the edge of the forest, where the field ended and shadows played she met a man one day. WIth hair as fire and eyes of gold he stood by some mushrooms she had been seeking. They began to converse on them and other things that grew in the shade until she heard her maidens and when she turned to see them and then turned back...he was gone. The visits continued and one day he asked her to come with him, join him always, ruled beside him as an equal in all things for he loved her mind and wit above all else. Be the wife of Hades. She wanted to go. Marry. Join her love. But her mother was jealous, possessive and saw her daughter as a child, a possession. So the lovers planned. The next day saying she smelled a flower in bloom she went ahead of the maidens and with a rumble and heavying of the Earth a Chariot of bone appeared, flames in its wake. Persphone ran to it and her waiting snatched her up and downward they rode as the earth closed behind them. “She has been taken! Stolen! Abducted,” cried the maidens to Demeter. Distraught and angry Demeter failed to walk the Earth, the matters of mortals and fields of Barley meant naught to her. Her heart had been stolen and so as she grew cold and desolate so did the earth. Zeus himself heard the wailing of all and saw the earth brown and wither and went to Demeter to beg her do her duty. She would not with out Persephone. Zeus went to Hades and saw Persephone happily at her husband’s side. Seeing Zeus and knowing why he had come she snatched a pomegranate from a bowl beside her and scooped the seeds into her mouth. Red juice staining her robe and mouth. “I have eaten the food of the underworld and now you must let me stay, “she cried. “Only a few seeds and for that you can not claim a meal,” replied Zeus. “But she HAS eaten them,” roared Hades. “A handful of seeds you ate and so a handful of months each year you shall reside below, the mortals can manage a few months of your mother’s woe. The rest of the time you shall be with her.” Dressed in black she returned to the maidens and her mother. Encouraging the things that grow only to send mortals to her kingdom or bring release, knowing despite her mother she would be home below soon enough.
Retelling of the Introduction to "Don Quixote"
There lived in a village, the name of which I do not care to remember. A gentleman of not quite fifty, lean of body and sparse of pate. He had a fine suit of homespun he wore daily and one of velvet on Sunday and occasions. He had a housekeeper of not yet forty, a niece of barely twenty and a stable boy to help him with errands and such. He ate more pottage than all else and on some days a pigeon, mostly a salad and once a week a joint of beef. He had, at one time a sizable estate but had taken to neglecting it, even selling off whole acres of tillage for books. He sought the stories of his ancestors, of knights errant, squires faithful and maidens fair. Of Giants and sorcerers evil. He loved such phrases as “ The reason for my unreason regarding the reason for your beauty leaves me with no reason,” He sought so hard to understand these verses that in truth Plato himself could not have understood them. He surrounded himself with so many books that he scarcely slept and read so much that his mind began to wither and turn to dust that seemed to dribble out his ear. So furtive in his pursuit of the past that one day he awoke and decided that he himself was indeed a knight. And sought to outfit himself as such. First he needed a noble steed and so went down to his stable. There he had an on old hack, a beast barely a horse, with a swayed back, sores on its legs from an abundance of flies, pointed withers and a knotted grey mane. Yet this is not what our self proclaimed knight saw and it was the only horse he had. He saw a noble steed with a milk white coat that shone in the sun and muscles that rippled as it strode nobly toward him. So to this nag now graceful charge he gave a noble and fine name of Rocinante. While in the stables admiring his mount he discovered bits or armour belonging to a long dead ancestor. Seizing the pieces he drug them to his hall and took the lance from off the wall and began to polish the pieces more rust than naught. A helm missing a goodly portion of its chin was obtained from an attic and with paper and plaster he sought to fix it. He swung a long dead blade he had retrieved from the wall at his repairs and they crumpled. Feeling that his helm would protect him without such repairs he set it aside. And now, with his swayback nag, dressed in rusted remains of armour , with a dull sword and crooked lance our dear gentleman rode forth. In his mind he saw only the world he wished, the world that had passed long before his birth. To him he rode a valiant charger, in shining armour with blessed blade and lance. He was off to find the fair maiden for whose honor he would fight, a squire to faithfully accompany him and wrongs to be made right. Swaging and clinging to his mount our knight errant rode noble of heart but no sound of mind into a world he had only dreamt. Oh wait tales of giants and sorcerers and deeds done I have to tell.. I you but give me the chance.
Janet and the Wood One of Three in the Tam Lin Cycle I have Written Based on Classic Scottish Myth
One aspect of the Tam Lin tale that is often quickly passed is that when Janet returns to the wood she is pregnant and seeking herbs. We know Tam Lin has lived with Mab for time untold...but what of the young woman who stands against her. Why would she dare fight the Queen of the Fey? There must be more to the tale. Often we only hear the action, not the before.
The backsmith was courting her sister. The miller’s son gave her cousin an excuse to bring grain to grind. And for a second summer no one came for Janet. “Why? What is wrong with me ? Am I damned to spin in my father’s home and have no hearth of my own? Will I never glow from a walk in the wood with the man I burn for?” She found fault in her rebellious brown curls, her eyes of no one color and the blemish on her cheek. The very curve of her ample breast made her feel disgust as she reached for even the smallest morsel. One evening her sister came to supper with cheeks a glow and her hair astray babbling on about her wedding a few weeks hence. “Janet” she said” if you keep such a dark look on your face not even Tam Lin in the Wood will want you.” Janet left the table. Tears in her eyes as her father scolded her sister. “I am off to the well father,” she called. No one seemed to hear. She began to walk. As the sun set and the pale light of evening began to show above Carhart wood. Tam Lin of the Elves indeed… A story to caution girls just LIKE HER SISTER to save themselves before the priest blessed a coming union. Anger, rejection , unworthiness burned in Janet. Her chest heavy and cheeks a flame… Her head began to pound and she knew she needed a sweet flower tea to calm it. The herbs were gone and she would need more if she were to sleep at all. She kept walking through the pasture. Past the sheep and to the edge of Carhart Wood. The earth and green and life scented the air and then, what was that? Ohhh roses. She smelled roses. SO many uses for a rose. Deeper she walked Plants in hand Forgetting her complaint Her hair slipped its knot as she plucked a rose in full bloom, its thorn drew a dark drop of blood. And a pale hand brushed the fallen curl from her face. Eleven hands caressed more that night and it seemed to Janet a dream. The sort of dream that one does not talk of. And in that stolen night Janet gained power over herself and how she saw each curve and marveled at all that had been hidden. In the morning she awoke in her narrow maiden’s cot a maiden no more, a cut rose in her hand, wondering if it had indeed been a dream. But all dreams can turn dark in a moment. For Janet it took the weeks till her sisters marriage. Her breasts ached, her stomach rebelled and the weariness the overtook her was greater than any she had ever known. And then, fair Janet knew that yes, there was one who had wanted her and all she could be. But he was no mortal man and to wed him in a church with the haste her sister enjoyed with her lover was not to be. A child would make a constant companion. What is no other would have her? Certainly not now. What would this seedling bloom to be? Would Mab reclaim it anyhow and leave her alone and ruined? No. It could not be. That evening weeping but resolute she walked in Carhart Wood but sought no roses. She sought other flowers, small and violet. Mosses too. She sought to brew a bitter drink to swallow, one that drew more than a drop of blood. Heart heavy she heard a voice and with it she pondered her third choice. And as we know Tam Lin she claimed and fought for and along with him she made another choice all her own. For no matter how the evening had played Janet alone controlled her future.
Agnes in Pennsic-Land
I fell asleep in my hammock reading a book last July or maybe August and had the most peculiar dream. I awoke in a white tent to the sound of a cannon, when I stumbled out I was surrounded by vikings and they offered me a cool blue drink as some marched off to a battlefield. Bewildered I smoothed my dress; only to find it had become a blue bodice and skirt. My hair was now braided with ribbons. A woman with a basket and a broad hat beckoned me to come down the hill with her, and overwhelmed with curiosity I followed. Down a dusty road we walked. Sun shining on steel burnished bright as a battle was fought but no blood was shed. Suddenly a brass band marched past us. It was as if every market day and tourney in all time had been blended together. Colors of fabrics I had not known fluttered by, merchants in pavilions selling everything from delicate dragons made of glass to Steel Helms. It was too much and not enough all at once. From the other side of the road I smelled meat roasting and endless delicious options from many lands. And oh the people! They came from every land and nation, from times recorded and not, with all manner of dress from loincloths to starched gowns with ribbons ruffs. On and on the sights and sounds enrobed me till dark fell and magical lanterns glittering with warmth in the drum and laughter laden air called me back up the hill towards a castle. A real castle. So what was it? It was warm and cold, dry and wet, quiet and loud, empty and full all at once. When I awoke I sought this place and found only a bare green hill, now knowing something I could never explain. Would that I should wake to this dream again.
Sheva’s Rose In the late Spring When the bird do nest A lady begged a lord to answer her request,
My Lord a Rose I do beg thee, To bloom all the summer day, And growing ever more in my garden to stay.
In the market he did search, To find his love’s request, But it was a sickly branch that she thought was best.
The branch shall die And you shall see no bloom Are you sure this is the rose to which we should give room?
Why yes m’lord this is the rose, Small that it may now be, With love and nurture constant glorious it shall be.
The days did pass and care she gave, Tending both day and night, And lo the bud with spring forth with the summer’s light.
The buds grew and bloomed, She walked by them in the day, And smelled soon the rose that loves wages did now pay.