Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Awesome But Little Known Fairy Tales are my Bread and Butter

Damn it, I missed my own topic again! Le sigh. In my defense, though, moving and full time job and NaNo, yada yada yada.

Anyway, at any given moment, I have a multitude of stories clamoring for attention in my head. It gets very loud and very confusing. Once the story is written, the clamoring goes away, but the moment that happens, there’s always a new story idea waiting to take its place.

So! My ongoing, hypothetical works in progress are as follows:

-My massive Next Gen universe that talked about a few weeks ago, and all the individuals stories that entails.

-A Sherlock fanfiction that I really need to finish because if I don’t finish it soon, I’m not going to finish it at all, thank you inability to write against canon.

-An anthology of short stories called Reimagined that will contain all my fairy tale ideas that aren’t long enough to be full length novels. At current count, this will contain nine stories. Two of them are written.

But my current project is my NaNo novel. It’s called Minstrel Queen, at the moment, and it is a retelling of “The Lute Player.” Never heard of it? I am saddened but not surprised. No one has. Which is a massive shame because this story is amazing. It’s been a while since I’ve written a fairy tale According to Cassie, so let’s jump into that.

The Lute Player – According to Cassie

So basically, there’s this king. And he decides that, for some reason, he absolutely has to go to war. No one has attacked him; he’s just got his heart set on leading a crusade against the heathen land somewhere off in the distance. So he rides off, leaving his wife and kingdom behind.

And then he gets killed. Or at least, that’s what everyone thinks, and everyone mourns him. For three years. During which time, the queen never leaves her chamber, and apparently, no one ever worries about putting anyone else on the throne. For some reason.

But then, the queen gets a note from the king. He’s not dead, just captured. He’s in a dungeon, and he’s asking her to sell their castle and lands and empty the treasury to put together a king’s ransom and spring him from imprisonment. But the queen, being the most intelligent character in this story, looks at that suggestion and thinks it’s really dumb, presumably for the following reasons:

  •     If she sells the castle and the kingdom, what exactly is he hoping to come home and rule?
  •     If the heathen king hasn’t demanded a ransom/killed her husband already, what is the likelihood that he’s aware he’s got another king in his dungeon?
  •     Related to that, if he isn’t aware, isn’t showing up with a kingdom’s worth of gold gonna be pretty suspicious and give this king grounds to demand even more?
  •     Who are you gonna sell the kingdom to, who are you going to trust to take that much money into foreign lands, and how are you gonna transport it?
Yeah, the Queen looks at this situation and thinks, I’ve got a better idea. Because really, a trained monkey could have come up with a better idea.
Her idea is this: she disguises herself as a minstrel boy, and journeys off in secret to find her husband. Using only her wits and her music, she makes her way to the heathen land, and when she arrives, she heads straight for the palace and begins to sing.
Her music is so beautiful and enchanting that the heathen king immediately offers her anything she wishes as payment for gracing them with her song. This seems like a really dangerous promise for a king to make, but the kings haven’t shown themselves to be the smartest creatures around, so . . .
But the queen does not take advantage of this. Instead, she says that her journey is a lonely one, and could she have a prisoner from the dungeon to be her traveling companion? Because this woman is cunning, conniving, and intelligent, ladies and gentlemen.
She is taken to the dungeons, she finds her husband, she says “That one,” and without paying a single penny, raising a single suspicion, or attacking a single person, she and the king leave the heathen country for their own.
But here’s the thing. Her husband doesn’t recognize her.
On the one hand, it’s understandable. It’s been three years. She’s disguised as a boy. She’s the last person he expects to come spring him out of jail. They’re in a dungeon, and it’s dark.
But even once they are out in the daylight, he doesn’t recognize her, and she decides to keep her secret for reasons not made clear to us in the story.
When they reach their kingdom, the king “reveals” to her that, hey, he’s actually a king! And he will reward her for what she’s done with anything she can ask for. Again, really stupid promise for a king to make. But all she asks for is his trust and his love.
They part ways. She runs back through the forest and gets to the palace first. She decks herself out as a queen again, and goes into the throne room to wait for his return and, presumably, that jolt of recognition of Hey! It was my wife who saved my ass! She’s awesome, and I will make sure everyone knows it!
But, sadly, the queen married an idiot. And he still doesn’t recognize her, and worse than that, he starts denouncing her in front of the whole court. She’s a horrible human being, she’s selfish and thoughtless and cares nothing for her king. She’s a treasonous traitor because she let him languish in prison and didn’t do a thing to help.
It’s at this point in the story that we should correctly identify that the king is assuming an awful lot of things:

    A. That his message made it to the queen.
    B. That she would have been able to raise the money and send it to him in the time elapsed.
    C. That the heathen king he went to war against for being a heathen would have immediately freed him upon receiving ransom money.

Understand, he’s asked no questions of her. No, “Hey, did you get my note?” No, “Hey, did you send anyone to try and negociate my release?” No, “Hey, I’m happy to see I still have a kingdom to rule. How’d you manage that, by the way?” No. He just jumps right in and calls her a traitor. Doesn’t even give her a chance to defend herself. He just shuns her and meets with his minsters to talk about her punishment.

And the Queen? Well, she slips from the room, returns to her chambers, puts back on her minstrel clothes, grabs her lute, and goes out into the courtyard to play.

Immediately, the king goes, “Go get that minstrel boy and bring him here! He’s the one I have to thank; he saved my life!”

So the Queen, in disguise, is brought before everyone, and pulls her cloak back to reveal who she actually is. The court, unlike the king, recognize her immediately. To his credit, though, he does, too, this time, and he falls down on his knees and begs her forgiveness. She grants it, and they rule together for the rest of their lives.

I love this story, but I do have some questions. I threw lots of the ones I have in above, but as I’m retelling the story, I’m answering even more. I follow Cecy, the minstrel queen, from the age of six through the end of her fairy tale, rescuing her husband, becoming a great queen, etc. But I’m trying to make the king a little more sympathetic, and I’m trying to make the love Cecy has for him feel a little realer. My ending also won’t be quite so neat and easy for King Rowland.

But that’s my project this month. We’ll see how it goes. Only 44,000 words to go, give or take!

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