The theme for Day 4 of the Poetry Challenge is: Deer in Fairy Tales, Folkore, and Myth.
"As long as people have lived or hunted alongside the deer's habitats," writes Ari Berk (in Where the White Stag Runs), "there have been stories: some of kindly creatures who become the wives of mortals; or of lost children changed into deer for a time, reminding their kin to honor the relationship with the Deer People, their close neighbors. And there are darker tales, recalling strange journeys into the Otherworld, abductions, and dangerous transformations that don't end well at all. But all stories about the deer share some common ground by showing us that the line between our world and theirs is very thin indeed."
For inspiration, have a look at the week's worth of deer art, poetry, prose, and links I posted 0n Myth & Moor in July. There are so many good deer-related fairy tales and myths that the hard part will be deciding which to choose.
The rules of the Challenge are listed in Tuesday's post; if you're new to this, please read them before you join in. Everyone is welcome to participate by contributing poems, giving feedback to the poets, and joining in the conversation. Many thanks to all who have done so already...your generosity is overwhelming, everyone.
Don't forget that new poems will continue to appear under all of the posts until the Challenge closes at midnight on Saturday, so be sure to go back to the Bear, Snow White, and Snow Queen threads to read the latest offerings there too. And good luck in the woods on the trail of the deer. Enchantment abounds there. Be careful.
We start, as usual, with a poem from the Journal of Mythic Arts archives, and today it's one of mine. "Brother and Sister" is based on the Grimms' fairy tale of that name, which has haunted me ever since I was young. It's followed by a poem in response by Barth Anderson, written from the deer-brother's point of view. Barth is the author of The Patron Saint of Plagues and The Magician and the Fool, and I recommend them both with great pleasure.
Brother and Sister
by Terri Windling
do you remember, brother
those days in the wood
when you ran with the deer —
falling bloody on my doorstep at dusk
stepping from the skin
grateful to be a man?
and do you know, brother
just how I longed
to wrap myself in the golden hide
smelling of musk
blackberries and rain?
tell me that tale
give me that choice
and I'll choose speed and horn and hoof —
give me that choice
all you cruel, clever fairies
and I'll choose the wood
not the prince.
Sister and Brother
by Barth Anderson
you long to run in musky rain and princely skins
but, sister, I have sped that hidebound marathon
wearing golden hides that warped my hands
and broke my scalp with a crown of horns —
I've run through thorns and thirsty fens
through wolves that bite and cats that catch —
those blood-dried hides of hoary kings
scoured raw my skin and
deadened my heart with hammering —
when I reached your hearth I shucked that hide
and faerie hands unveiled my sight:
ever beneath that scouring skin
proud, callow princes were scraped away
revealing numb and bloody men below.
but no more hides and no more hurts
run, sister, if you must but no more marathons
for I choose this hearth, not the princely hide,
and I will let my skin knit smooth.
Filmmaker Lisa Stock also responded to the poem, with a beautiful short film full of deer, snow, and magic. If you ever have a chance to see it, or any of her InByTheEye productions, don't miss it.
The art above is: A medieval French "Winged Deer" tapestry design, "Out of Narnia" by papercut artist Su Blackwell, "Caretaker 2" by Jeanie Tomanek, "Deer Woman" by Susan Seddon Boulet (1941-1997), "Brother and Sister" by Carl Offterdinger (1829-1889), "Caretaker" by Jeanie Tomanek, "The Muse" by T. Windling, poster for "Brother & Ssister" - a film by Lisa Stock, "The White Deer" by Virginia Frances Sterrett (1900-1931), and an early 20th century photograph of a young Kenyan woman with her pet deer.
Publication information: "Brother and Sister" first appeared The Armless Maiden anthology, and was reprinted in the Journal of Mythic Arts and The Poets' Grimm. It is copyright c 1995 by T. Windling; all rights reserved by the author. "Sister and Brother" first appeared in the Journal of Mythic Arts. It is copyright c 2003 by Barth Anderson; all rights reserved by the author. All poems posted in the Comments thread are the property of their authors, who likewise reserve all rights.