Escape Artists

News:

  • Get your 500 word fantasy stories ready! We'll be open for submissions through the month of March, and starting the voting sometime in early April. Full details on Podcastle's website

News

Get your 500 word fantasy stories ready! We'll be open for submissions through the month of March, and starting the voting sometime in early April. Full details on Podcastle's website

Author Topic: PC367: The Washerwoman And The Troll  (Read 3949 times)

Ocicat

  • Castle Watchcat
  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 3338
  • Anything for a Weird Life
on: June 11, 2015, 12:28:02 AM
PodCastle 367: The Washerwoman And The Troll

by Julian Mortimer Smith

read by M.K. Hobson

Originally appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, May 2013.

Bunchunkle was magnificently ugly. The trollmothers said there hadn’t been such an ugly child since Grimshik’s day, and Bunchunkle wore it with the pride and mirth befitting a troll. He could pull a face to make you void your bowels and howl with terror. He had a genius for mischief that rivaled even that of old Quillibim, the Arch Rascal of Moldy Stumps. There was much speculation about what would happen if a human ever laid eyes on Bunchunkle, but as far as anyone knew it had never happened, for Bunchunkle was as quick and sly as he was ugly.

When the faefolk decided it was time to drive the old washerwoman from the Blinking Woods, they did not come to Bunchunkle immediately. He was reclusive and cantankerous and did not like to be disturbed. Besides, they were loath to seek him out for fear of laying eyes on his revolting face. But nobody doubted that he would succeed if all else failed. They knew he was there as a last resort.


Rated PG.

Julian Mortimer Smith lives in Southwest Nova Scotia in a small lobstering town called Yarmouth. His short fiction has appeared in Terraform, Daily Science Fiction, and AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review. He has stories upcoming in Pulp Literature and Asimov’s Science Fiction, and you can find him online at julianmortimersmith.com.

M.K. Hobson is hard at work on a few writing projects, all of which are going more slowly than she’d like. Her latest written offering is The Ladies and the Gentlemen, a novella in the Veneficas Americana series. It’s currently in production by Audible, and is also available in e- and paper book format from Amazon.com.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: July 01, 2015, 01:04:39 PM by Talia »



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #1 on: June 15, 2015, 02:03:58 PM
This captured very well the old timey fairy tale feel, much more filled with the cruelt whimsy of the older style of tale.  That poor woman, though I think she found a happyish ending in the end, embracing everything she hadn't had in life, the freedom to do whatever the hell she wanted to do.  I thought the image of the troll with a cloak of mortality was an interesting image. 

The logical side of my brain did balk a little bit at the boy being led on a chase until he died of old age...  I mean, at some point, why didn't he just stop chasing, especially when he got old enough to not have the toddler-brain anymore.  But this kind of story defies close logical examination, so it fit well enough, it just made me wonder how, practically, that could possibly make sense.



SpareInch

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1388
  • Will there be sugar after the rebellion?
Reply #2 on: June 15, 2015, 02:27:10 PM
The logical side of my brain did balk a little bit at the boy being led on a chase until he died of old age...  I mean, at some point, why didn't he just stop chasing, especially when he got old enough to not have the toddler-brain anymore.  But this kind of story defies close logical examination, so it fit well enough, it just made me wonder how, practically, that could possibly make sense.


I think one is supposed to read a certain amount of allegory into fairy tales. Although I suppose I just put myself on the spot now, haven't I?

OK... The boy grows up and pursues his own interests and obsessions (Metaphorical brownies) and forgets all about his dear old granny. But she never stops caring for and looking out for him, (The metaphorical searching in the woods) until she realises he is no longer her little grandson (The metaphorical changeling) and goes to live her own life for a change... Or alternatively, she looks out for him until senility takes hold and she stops caring about him. )The metaphorical dissolving of the changeling)

The troll taking over as washerwoman though... I have to admit, I can't quite decide what that might be a metaphor for.

Fresh slush - Shot this morning in the Vale of COW


TimWB

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 30
  • Author "The Flesh Sutra", 2015 Stoker Prelim Nom
    • To Smother In Orderr To Sell The Body To Science
Reply #3 on: June 16, 2015, 01:41:00 AM
Or it could be that this is depressing and ambiguous.



Fenrix

  • Curmudgeonly Co-Editor of PseudoPod
  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 3952
  • I always lock the door when I creep by daylight.
Reply #4 on: June 17, 2015, 03:39:56 AM
Bunchunkle for life!

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


turnspitdog

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 1
Reply #5 on: June 18, 2015, 04:07:07 AM
Overall I liked this story.  It felt much like a classic fairy tale, and not one of the watered down Disneyesque stories that has to have a happy ending.  The ending was ambiguous.  The washerwoman was happier, she'd thrown off all the cares of life with her mortality.  The troll seemed happy washing clothes, which I'll admit was confusing.  Although the reversal of the two characters, the woman becoming a fae, and the troll wearing her mortality was masterful. 

I was particularly fond of the whimsical tone of the story.  The perfection of the names, the tricksey qualities of the various fairies.  All of it was well done.  I was less fond of how overwhelming the cast of characters was.  The author clearly has a skill for appropriately naming characters in this venue and couldn't seem to stop.  The return of the birch sisters was the only thing that seemed to bring it around full circle. 

Being an aspiring author myself, I can appreciate what both what he accomplished and what he was trying to do.  The voice was such that it helped me get over a problem I was having in a story of my own, revealing the ending that was eluding me.  This in turn revealed that the narrator's voice was wrong, but the story could be much improved.  So thank you, for your story, and your help.



Fenrix

  • Curmudgeonly Co-Editor of PseudoPod
  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 3952
  • I always lock the door when I creep by daylight.
Reply #6 on: June 18, 2015, 04:19:04 AM
Something this story strongly reminded me of was Brian Froud's artwork of the fae. This whole story was painted in his style. His art books demolished any concept of "nice fairies" more thoroughly than anything else.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2015, 02:56:05 AM by Fenrix »

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


DragonChick

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 4
Reply #7 on: June 18, 2015, 03:19:01 PM
This story caught my imagination. I felt so sorry for the washerwoman but also impressed with her strength and acceptance and loved it when she finally cracked up. Good for her!

Just Believe...



TrishEM

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 208
Reply #9 on: June 29, 2015, 11:41:38 PM
Whee! What a thrill to have my comments from "The Specialist's Hat" picked for feedback and read by Graeme Dunlop, who perfectly inferred and voiced my mental intonations from what I'd written!

As for this story, I certainly thought Julian Mortimer Smith did a great job at capturing the feel of an old-fashioned fairy tale, with its mischievous and even cruel faefolk. I loved that after all the suffering, both the washerwoman and the troll had happy endings.
I didn't have any trouble with the boy chasing the fae until he died of old age. He'd been caught in a spell of fascination, and everyone knows that time flows differently in Faerie.
And I loved M.K Hobson's reading.



shanehalbach

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 181
  • Clockwork Lasercorn
    • shanehalbach.com
Reply #10 on: July 14, 2015, 04:56:54 PM
OMG I love this one so, so much.

When my daughter was little, we read through the entire Pantheon Edition of The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales (864 pages of Grimdark, baby) and I can say that this story captured that feeling exactly.

One thing that always struck me about the original fairy tales is that there was just this sense of surrender. The world was bleak and terrible, unpredictable and untameable. People just suddenly dropping dead or being devoured by something unknowable or being unspeakably cruel to each other was just...the way the world was. Forget complaining about it, it was almost not even worth remarking on. And most of the world was so unfathomable and awful, that it was easier to believe in cruel fae toying with you for their own pleasure, rather than a vast uncaring universe. At least toying with you is a motivation.

It feels so weird to us now, but it always makes me marvel over how difficult life really was back then. You lost your livelihood, you lost your baby, you lost your sanity. ::shrug:: Life, amiright? Guess we'll wash our own clothes now!

Can I just say I'm really glad I don't live in a time period where literature like this made sense?


childoftyranny

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 175
Reply #11 on: July 18, 2015, 12:33:16 AM
Can I just say I'm really glad I don't live in a time period where literature like this made sense?

I think that might depend a bit on where you live too, some places out there are quite tough to live in still. I don't think I have much to add, I agree that it catches the callousness of the Fae as forces of nature quite well, I always find it interesting to read stories now where humans aren't the focus of power, whether it be nature, magic or aliens, its a very different outlook when you cannot assume you are on top.



Devoted135

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1252
Reply #12 on: August 04, 2015, 02:14:38 AM
This story felt like it could have easily been an original Grimm's fairy tale if it weren't for the lack of children (the grandson notwithstanding). That exception probably just says something about my lack of knowledge of Grimm's fairy tales, though.

Anyway, it was horrible and creepy and wonderful, just as a dark fairy tale should be. The poor washerwoman, I'm glad that she got a modicum of revenge in the end.


Whee! What a thrill to have my comments from "The Specialist's Hat" picked for feedback and read by Graeme Dunlop, who perfectly inferred and voiced my mental intonations from what I'd written!

Such a thrill!