The way things change
The secret handshake

Shaping stories, and being shaped by them in turn

Cinderella by Edmund Dulac

“The store of fairy tales, that blue chamber where stories lie waiting to be rediscovered, holds out the promise of just those creative enchantments, not only for its own characters caught in its own plotlines; it offers magical metamorphoses to the one who opens the door, who passes on what was found there, and to those who hear what the storyteller brings. The faculty of wonder, like curiosity can make things happen; it is time for wishful thinking to have its due.” - Marina Warner (from The Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers)

Snow White by Angela Barrett

“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that... there are many kinds of magic, after all.”  - Erin Morgenstern (from The Night Circus)

Round the Oak Tree by Kelly Louise Judd

“We who make stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who without that story will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort. And that is why we write.” - Neil Gaiman (from The Graveyard Book)

“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way around.”  - Terry Pratchett (from Witches Abroad)

Thumbelina by Lisbeth Zwerger

Art above: "Cinderella" by Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), "Snow White" by Angela Barrett, "Round the Oak Tree" by Kelly Louise Judd, and "Thumbelina" by Lisbeth Zwerger.


I love that quote from the Graveyard Book: Neil Gaiman's work is a feature of the classroom, We use his poem, Instructions, to springboard our instruction writing. Graveyard Book is our clsss story book too.

I often have children moan that they are too old for fairy tales and yet will lose themselves in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit or Coraline. What are these if not the stuff of the fairy tale.

The important thing is that we feed the children a varied and rich diet of stories. With out them how are they to make sense of their worlds, articulate their hopes and fears or find ways to communicate their ambitions. With the story the ragged one or foolish one is often proved wise; riches are achieved through cleverness and kindness and a respect of the natural world. Surely these are the most important life lessons we can teach.

Such wonderful quotes and images Terri, here's a wonderful paragraph that fits in with your theme from Isabel Allende's "The House of the Spirits"
"... Reaching across the narrow space between them, she took her daughter's hand and began to tell her stories from the magic books of the enchanted trunks of her Great-Uncle Marcos, which her poor memory had transformed into new tales. This was how Alba learned about a prince who slept a hundred years, damsels who fought dragons single-handed, and a wolf lost in a forest who was disemboweled by a little girl for no reason whatsoever. When Alba asked to hear these bizarre stories again, Blanca could not repeat them, for she had forgotten them. This led the little girl to write the stories down. She also began to record the things that struck her as important, just as her Grandmother Clara had before her." (p.347)

Am soon off on a train to New York, so no poem. But I have grabbed a line from Neil's book and may come up with something later. My, this is a topic you and I have discussed, well, forever, Terri. Who does the shaping, who is shaped? Do we tell tales or do they tell us. . .


Your tales certainly helped to shape me, Jane.

“It’s like in the great stories. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were and sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. These were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding onto something. There’s some good in this world. And it’s worth fighting for.”
- Samwise Gamgee

On the train to New York cocooned in movement and white noise, I managed this poem:

Good Lies

“They’re good lies that say true things.”
--Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

My father was a liar: his place of birth,
his name, even his love of family was a lie.
But the stories he told about himself,
under those lies, were true.
How can this be? We reveal in stories,
even as we revel in them,
stripping off skin, muscle, tendons,
flensing down to the bone. I know
because I heard his lies all my life.

The tales we love, the tales we tell,
are the barometers of ourselves.
I am hot, I am cold, I am cloudy as cumulus,
sorms on the horizon, soon I will shed rain.
Once upon a time is as significant a tell
as the card player’s inadvertent blink,
or an intake of breath. You can lie to me,
but tell me a story and I will know you,
zero or 98.6 at the bone.

I fell in love with story as a tiny child, and now stories definitely shape my paintings!

Btw the link to Angela Barrett actually links to a completely different Amgela Barrett. The one whose work you share above doesn't actually have a website.

Hate to lower the Comments tone, here, but:

OMG OMG you have to put these pics/quotes on Tumblr so I can ReBlog them!!!!!!!


Fantastic! The quotes and the artwork. All of the quotes inspired me and I'll probably share them. :-)

Thank you for the introduction to the work of Kelly Louise Judd! I am "collecting" these inspirational and visionary women, with their dreamlike symbolism, each painting a story.

Once again you have collected such beautiful and healing food from stories, for story tellers and ears that listen. Even as I recover and fill a half-cup of energy I am changed for the better. Thank you, Terri.

The Woodwife changed my art and how I felt about poetry. It influenced my decision to move to a remote area in the mountains. Before The Woodwife, I didn't pay attention to poetry. My paintings changed as well. I began to paint the spirit of things rather than just what appeared on the surface. There are words like thanks and gratitude and appreciation, but it doesn't really say it all. I think it is safe to say that your story changed a lot of my thinking and a lot of my life because of the new way I looked at things. Pilamaya

I too, am the daughter of a liar. One of those who made up stories that brought slaps to the knees and laughter from the old timers. We--the small ones would learn of him through his stories and learn truth lived over time. "You can lie to me,
but tell me a story and I will know you,zero or 98.6 at the bone."

At the table, it was to the bone we sought as treasure. For in the marrow we learned to suck loudly to be fed storyteller's gold.

I love this. *happy sigh*

I count "The Woodwife" among my Susan Cooper's, my C.S. Lewis', my Robert Holdstock's my Alan Garner's...the books that changed me, changed how I saw things...shaped me.

K.W. and Christina, thank you both for your words. I feel honored indeed.

I had a liar/storyteller in the family too, my mother in my case (and my father when I eventually met him), her strategy for survival so I have compassion for her even though she took it to destructive extremes; so this poem hit me hard, Jane. Interesting that we've all grown up to be storytellers ourselves, using that skill in healthier ways.

Oh, thanks for letting me know that! I just assumed without checking the site carefully (being in something of a rush yesterday). My bad. I'll change the link to one that's more appropriate.

Can I just chime in on this Woodwife lovefest? Honestly, like the first molecules of water to reach a dormant seed, it helped the hard-cased, under-the-ground-of-awareness thing in me that needs poetry and story and the mythic of place and other-than-human people. Obviously I'd read fantasy and fairy-tale lit before, but something about that story connected me to ... possibility, to possibility in myself even, in spite of all the ways I’m supposed to be “regular” and not pay this any mind.

Picture that little seed, and that little drop that, unbeknownst to seed at first, made its way from cloud family to the top of an oak, slid first down one leaf then down another, picking up speed and substance listening to "what the oak said." Into the soil and then -ping!- just one drop to wake an acorn who never knew she was part of a forest.

I'm back to reread this after a day, to chant a chant of praise for The Wood Wife, too. It sits beneath my bed, large print, hard-bound, a testament to being able to find a story when most it was needed. After years of an illness that prevented paper and print, I found your book in a library sale. Able to read again, it was the whole ... story, author, myth, and place-poetry had invited me back to believing it was possible, again.

Well said. How, indeed? Stories give children and us all (but especially the young) the possibilities.

I'm going to pile on with Wood Wife love too. It was a life-changer for me because I wasn't even aware that there was such a thing as mythic fiction until my sister-in-law, who lives in America, gave it to me to read while taking me and my husband on a mythic journey of our own through the American southwest. The two things, the road trip and the book, are wound together in my imagination into one single piece of magic. And I even sat and had a meal in the old Hotel Congress in Tucson just like Johnny Foxxe did.

Because of The Wood Wife I found the Journal of Mythic Arts, and through that so many other treasures of mythic fiction and art, and then this blog, which has given a great richness to my life which is otherwise fully bound up with the daily rituals of family and farm. What an age we live in when with the touch of a computer I can commune with writers, artists, teachers and so many others here. I come for Terri's posts, for Jane's poems, *and* for the international conversation in the comments, and always leave with my soul refreshed, ready to start the day, reminded that there is art and spirit in working with the land and the sheep and raising children too.

For my fellow Wood Wife fans, did you read the Q&A Terri did on Goodreads? It gave me some new insights into the book. Here is a link to it, which is very long but hopefully it will work.

I didn't know about the Wood Wife Q&A. I just read it and I'm sitting here stunned. So much food for thought. I must share it with my wife- and then I know what we'll be talking about this weekend, as a two writer/academics attempting to live in a balanced and equal marriage. Thank you for the link, Cynthia Rose.

"my father when I eventually met him"

Terri, there's a whole fairy tale encased in those seven words. And one that, as a new father myself, makes my heart twist- the whole concept of fathers, in fairy tales as in life, taking on new meaning for me now.

Jane, your poem is powerful, and powerfully searing.

Mokihana, I too grew up a house of storytellers here in Northern Ireland, with the line between fact and fiction not deemed particularly important. The tale was all. And oh how my old uncles can tell tales! We do our best in the next generation but our stories don't hold a candle to their's. Of course, that may be what our children one day say about us....

This is one of my favorite posts!

I've been a lover and chaser of these tales since I was a child.

How can I explain the effect fairy tales have had on me? How I clutched to my books, how I wondered about them, stepped into the stories... the woman with hair longer than her body, the brother who gets a bit of the glass in his eye, the girl who was devoured by a wolf. Not only was I enchanted with them, the way one is enchanted by the spell of an old, wise witch-- I knew them to be true, and if not completely true, than utterly possible.

Still do, as a matter of fact. :)

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