Fairy tales are more fierce then we’ve been led to believe. But we all know that fey creatures are tricksy things. Every story teaches us this and I really love how well this point is portrayed in A CREATURE OF MOONLIGHT
Rebecca Hahn was kind enough to talk to us today about fairy tale magic and! give us one of the mini stories **(ooo and squee over extra content!!)** that was cut from the book.
Fairy tale magic in A Creature of Moonlight
The forest in A Creature of Moonlight is filled with magical creatures who tempt the girls of the kingdom it surrounds away from their homes and futures. In some ways the woods provides these girls with an escape from being human, from having to deal with growing old, choosing one thing or another. It’s also more particularly an escape from the limitations of being a woman in a land run by men. When the girls in this fairy tale society cannot bear their lack of power, the woods offers one final option, one last chance at freedom.
When I was drafting this novel, I explored what the magical woods might mean by writing many versions of fairy tales about girls who are taken out of their ordinary lives in one way or another. Several of these were cut for concision and relevance, though a few still remain in the final book: at the beginning of Parts Two and Three and scattered through Part One. Here’s one such story that didn’t make the cut:
That night as I’m trying to fall asleep, one of Annel’s stories keeps running through my head, the one about a village lass who falls in love with a lord’s handsome son. He catches her eye one day as he’s riding through her village, and he sees the love that’s there, and he cannot resist. He spirits her away on his horse, takes her off to his castle. He loves her there, and in time she bears him three bright boys, and he raises them as his own.
But then one day his father lord marries him off to the daughter of a lady, and the three bright boys are sent back penniless to their village, and their mother tears out her hair and never wears nothing but black from that day on. And the boys vow revenge, but there’s nothing they can do to a lord’s son, is there? So they grow old, farmer and shopkeeper and miller, respectable in their way. Their mother wastes away, never marrying again, steeping in her bitterness through the years.
She dies in the end, or she throws herself from a cliff into a stream and becomes a fish, one or the other, depending on the story you are telling. Depending on if it is a fairy tale or only the local gossip.
I think it’s fascinating how often traditional fairy tales feature young or small or poor main characters, and how the magic of the tales so often aligns itself with them. Before they were written down, fairy tales were told by women, poor women who wouldn’t have had many choices in life. Now, of course, we associate fairy tales with children—another rather powerless group of people. By giving the magic in a fairy tale to the young or the female or the poor, tellers resisted power structures and granted agency to traditionally powerless members of society—and, as the women and children associated with those main characters, to the listeners and readers as well.
The magic in A Creature of Moonlight isn’t fairy godmother magic, providing perfect happiness to the worthy and destroying the wicked. But I hope it does sometimes grant the less powerful characters choices they might not otherwise have, or at least give a voice to longings that their society might not want to hear.
Rebecca Hahn grew up in Iowa, went to college in Minnesota, and soon after moved to New York City. She worked for two years there as an editorial assistant at a children’s book publisher while writing her first novel, A Creature of Moonlight, on the side. But her Midwest blood was calling her back; these days she keeps a cozy apartment in Minneapolis, where she converses with the winter cold, the wide sky, and many whispering trees.