Like most writers, when I was young I was a prolific reader. I inherited at least a dozen books about ‘beloved’ children’s stories and fairy tales, and read all of them. I can still very clearly remember reading fairy tale collections by nightlight, because I wasn’t supposed to be awake still.
I am also Swedish (though a half breed, lol), so my grandmother gave me books of Swedish legends, and thus I have a fond spot for trolls and gnomes.
I used to move about those worlds with freedom and excitement. How will the young hero outsmart the witch, or the giants? What will become of the human child adopted by trolls? How will the princess in disguise save herself from her curse? How will the young woman save her love after she violated the rules of their magical treaty?
For a long time I have wanted to write a YA or Middle Grade book that returns me to those ancient and wild worlds. I have flashes: rocks covered in moss in a pine forest; huge boulders guarding dark pools near waterfalls; giant trees alive with light; Baba Yaga’s house in a magical clearing; treacherous, gray mountain paths through troll-infested lands…
The thing about those legends and fairy tales is that they all used the same set of rules. It made me feel as if I would have a fighting chance if I were ever transported magically into that world.
Then, today, I found this video, narrated by Neil Gaiman, called ‘Instructions’, which creatively lists all the instructions that heroes and heroines must follow in these tales.
Suddenly I have a fierce hunger in me to dig up those old books and return.
Seriously. Go watch that video. Tell me if you don’t get the hunger inside to visit.