In honor of Tell a Fairy Tale Day which was yesterday, I started to write a fairy tale. However, the tale has taken on a life of its own, much like my stories have a tendency of doing and has grown in the telling. I’ll share part of it here in this blog, leaving the rest as a download. I’ll also share how to write a fairy tale.
Basic Ingredients for a Fairy Tale
There are six main ingredients to create a fairy tale or high fantasy. In order to write a fairy tale, you’ll need to know these six ingredients and use them. When I created my fairy tale, I went through these six items and the story began to tell itself.
The first item is magic. Magic will explain all the things that go against the normal world’s laws. Things such as a person flying, a cloak causing the heroine to disappear, or bringing someone back from the dead are all acceptable in fairy tales because magic allows these to happen. Although it is the key, it is so well known and accepted, there’s not much to say.
Fairy tales take place in worlds that aren’t necessarily the everyday world. To create my world for the fairy tale, I used Hannah Heath’s blog on fantasy lands other than forests. I wrote each one down and then rolled a twenty-sided die. I gave an Irish castle for the main setting and then rolled salt flats and mesas and buttes. Other settings may include forests, castles, gardens, pirate ship, England, bogs, and canyons.
Good vs Evil
This is another motif that almost goes without saying. In fairy tales, the protagonist is the hero or heroine and is always good. She may or may not do everything right, but for the most part wants to do what is right. Think Snow White. The antagonist is always evil. Not just mean and bad, but evil. Think Sauron.
In all fairy tales, there is a hero. The hero goes on a journey, either in reality or figuratively. When the journey begins, a call to adventure forces the hero to leave her comfort zone. Then she passes through several trials, while a protective companion helps her. Between the trials and her experiences she grows up and matures before returning home. The Lord of the Rings illustrates this beautifully.
Bilbo gives Frodo the ring which is his call to adventure. As he leaves the comfort of the Shire, he endures multiple trials from orcs, to Ents, to the council. Gandalf and Aragorn are his protective companions as well as Samwise–can’t forget about Samwise Gamgee. Throughout the journey, Frodo grew and matured until he understood Bilbo. Finally, he returned to the Shire and was ready to finish Bilbo’s writings.
This hero’s round is the basis for the plot in both fantasy and fairy tales. It’s an easy way to create a story line. However, I found I couldn’t create a plot before having characters.
Special Character Types
Fairy tales and fantasy usually have some type of special race that isn’t human. Things like unicorns, dragons (don’t forget the dragons!), pegasus, dwarves, elves, fairies, goblins, centaurs, and griffins all these fit into fairy tales.
For my story, I wrote all these out on a piece of paper and gave them numbers. Then I did a random drawing for my guardian and for the antagonist.
Finally, fairy tales have some sort of magical or fantasical object that enables the hero or heroine to accomplish his or her goals. Harry Potter had his wand, the sorting hat, the sword, and of course there was Hermione’s purse that was bigger on the inside than the out. Sleeping Beauty had a spindle while Hansel and Gretle had the house made of sugar.
Again, I created a list of objects: wand, sword, cloak, shoes, cauldron, spyglass, staff, mirror, shield and pouch. I then randomly chose two of them. By now, I had a plot, characters and this just helped line out what was going to happen.
A fairy tale beginning
Once upon a time in a land where kings ruled with ironed fists from castles overlooking their lands there lived a young princess who loved her home. Whenever she wandered out into the market with her mother, she returned thankful for the home she had. She never wanted to be one of the lowly peasant girls she noticed carrying water from the well or caring for younger siblings. Instead, she was content where she was and with who she was, except for one small thing.
Her father believed all rules applied equally to everyone, whether they were high or lowly born. This irked her to no end. How could the same rules fit both classes? She couldn’t figure it out.
“Princess Steren, your father wishes to see you.” The guard bowed low.
Steren ran her fingers through her strawberry-blonde hair to make sure it was in place, then gathered her needlepoint together and stood.
“Thank you, Lykos.” She waited for the guard to move, but he didn’t. “Is there more?”
“Yes, your highness.” Lykos averted his eyes from her golden-yellow ones. “He says I must escort you.”
Steren felt like rolling her eyes, but her training kept her from showing her emotions. “Very well. Lead the way.”
Lykos led her down several hallways, past the main hall, and through two large sitting areas. A frown crossed Steren’s brow.
After two more turns, Steren moved closer to the guard. “Lykos, where are we going?”
“To your father.”
With a resigned sigh, she stepped back and continued to follow Lykos. After several more twists and turns, he stopped at a small door. Steren had never noticed this one. Yet with the size of the castle, there were many doors she had not seen. Lykos knocked twice, waited and knocked twice more. The door swung open and a curly head peeked out. The head nodded, and the door inched open enough for Lykos to enter. He motioned instead for Steren. She shrugged and slid through to a dimly lit room.
A meeting with Father
A candle flickering at the desk shown on a parchment. A man sat pouring over the pieces, a reddish light highlighting his brown hair. The curly headed guard cleared his throat, and the man sitting at the desk looked up. Shock ran through Steren as she realized the man was her father. She had never seen him alone and in such casual attire.
A smile lit up King Weland’s face upon seeing her. “Steren, thank you for coming. Lykos, thank you for bringing her.”
Lykos bowed. “It was a pleasure, my lord.”
“You are free to go. I will see to her from here on out. Orestes you are also free to leave.”
“My lord, I cannot leave you unattended.” Curly hair fell into the guard’s eyes, and he pushed it away.
“Then wait outside until I call you.”
The two guards bowed and left, leaving Steren alone with her father. Thoughts swirled around in her head. She wondered what the commotion was all about. Why the secrecy?
King Weland sat back and smiled at her. “I see the curiosity in your eyes, Steren. Has it been that long since I called you to my study?”
Steren shrugged, but didn’t say a word. The king let out a soft sigh and stood, his hand still on the parchment. His other hand motioned to his daughter.
Steren moved forward, letting her feet take her where she needed to go. Despite her reluctance to let her father know, her curiosity soon got the better of her. She leaned over an ancient map. Faded ink marked the castle and lands around it. Further out, blots indicated the mesas of Boyne. Beyond that even fainter ink indicated Bergh— The rest of the name faded away.
She pointed to the spot. “What’s this father?”
He gazed into her eyes, his face as serious as she had ever seen it. “That, my dear child, is the land of the Bergholden, a race of elves that have turned away from the realm and gone their own way.”
“Why have I never heard of them before?” She leaned in trying to make out the writing but the glow of the candle did not reveal it.
Her father’s hand rested on her shoulder causing her to look into his serious dark eyes. “My dear, the Bergholden have existed in our world for ages. They wander into Cashel from time to time but the guards escort them back across the boundary.”
A wrinkle marred Steren’s face. “If Cashel is a free land and open to all, why would your guards send the Bergholden away?”
“Cashel is free to her own citizens and those who agree to abide by the law of the land, Steren. The Bergholden rose up against my great-great-grandfather. They refused to obey the laws that enable us to have peace. Therefore, they were pushed out of Cashel.”
“One act has banned them all?” Steren’s voice rose. “That’s not fair, Father!”
She turned away from the desk, her dress swishing, and her father’s hand fell back to the desk. He caressed the map.
“It may seem that way to you, daughter, but I have seen how they still refuse to listen to reason. I cannot have them in Cashel stirring up the citizens to rebel against the laws that are for their own good.”
“And how is it for the good of all, if one people group cannot even come into the realm?” Steren stood with her hands on her hips, a very unlady-like stance.
King Weland shook his head, his feet apart like hers, but his hands held in front of him. “Steren listen to reason. The laws protect the people. When the Bergholden enter the realm, they seek out young people who are dissatisfied with life. The Bergholden prey on our young people’s dissatisfaction and tell them lies to lure them away.” He shifted, and before Steren could speak again, continued. “That is not why I brought you here. I have something else for you.”
A special gift
He walked with ease across the room away from the light of the candle. At the wall, his hand found what it was seeking, and a door slid outward toward him. Steren felt her mouth drop open. She knew of secret passages in the castle and often used them herself, but that a small room she had never noticed had need of a secret surprised her.
Her father stepped into the entry, but then returned for the candle. He motioned for her to follow. The candle lit a stone hallway and stairs leading down. King Weland took the stairs confidently. Steren followed a little less assuredly.
Before long, the stairs ended, opening onto another room much like the one up above. A small desk sat in one corner, while a large wardrobe filled another. Her father walked to the wardrobe and opened the wooden door. He handed the candle to Steren. She stood taking in the greens, reds, and browns that reflected back at her. Glimpses of lace, satin, and furs met her gaze, but her father passed all of them and moved to the back of the wardrobe. He pulled out a long black cloak lined with a brownish fur along the hood. The way it draped indicated its warmth and weight; yet her father carried it as if it was made of silk. A smile played along his lips, and his eyes softened in the candle light.
“Princess Steren.” He paused until she met his gaze. “I present to you, the right of your birth. As Princess of Cashel, you have the keeping of the vault. From your mother’s family’s jewels to the cloak of Branwen, the treasures are now your responsibility to keep safe. Only people of noble birth or whom you can trust absolutely shall know of these items. There are people who would use them for their own good and not for the good of the people.”
He stepped behind her and dropped the cloak across her shoulders. Then he returned to the front and secured the clasp. “The cloak of Branwen is now yours. You may wear it at all ceremonial events. It will distinguish you as princess. However, you must also be aware, that any time you raise the hood, you will blend into your surroundings so none may see you.” He chuckled. “Your grandmother found that useful when any young suitor other than grandfather came around.”
Steren ran her fingers over the soft material. “My grandmother owned this?”
“It was her pride and joy. She didn’t have a daughter of her own to pass it on to. So, I am able to pass it on to my daughter.” He watched as she softly pulled the hood up over her head.
Steren looked out from the brim of the fur. Warmth filled her, but she barely could tell the cloak sat on her shoulders. From the look her father gave her, she knew he had spoken truth. His eyes squinted trying to find her. With a smile, she moved toward the door. Her father’s eyes stayed fixed where she had been.
“Steren, remember, you can’t just walk off. You are a princess with responsibilities.”
Steren sighed and removed the hood. Her father turned toward the sound of her sigh and smiled.
“I know you don’t like those responsibilities, but one day you will be queen of Cashel. You will have the whole kingdom to think of, and with your fifteenth birthday, you have passed into a new position. You will follow your mother around and learn from her and me over the next few years. Then you will be ready to transition into queen when the time is right.” Her father stopped in front of her and placed his hands on her shoulders. “I am so very proud of you, Steren. You will be a wonderful queen.”
To Steren’s surprise tears formed around his eyes. Impulsively, she hugged him, and for a brief moment she was a little girl without cares.
“Now, let’s go back upstairs. Even princesses have to learn the laws of the land and why they are there.” He started up, but paused with one foot on the stair. He turned to face her. “Steren, be wise about when you use the cloak’s ability, and never use it in the castle.” When she didn’t respond, he pressed for an answer. “Do you understand me?”
Resentment built up in her. Couldn’t he have kept the rules out of it? Why did he always have to list the rules and regulations?
Back upstairs, her father set the candle on the desk, drawing Steren’s eyes back to the map. She wondered about the Bergholden. Could they be as awful as her father said? Doubt crept into her mind. If her father had made as much of an emphasis on her not wearing the hood in the castle, which was hardly an offense if her grandmother did it, as he had the Bergholden, could the elves really be all that bad? Her reasoning told her they couldn’t.
Do you want to know how the story ends? So do I. Feel free to share your own story ideas as well. Sign up to receive the rest of the fairy tale. I may send it out in segments as I write it.