For our celebration of Fantasy, we are so happy to welcome back Ruth Long to the blog who partook in our last fantasy theme. Ruth’s upcoming YA Fantasy is steeped in myth, and her other novels published by Samhain also take the fantastical approach to fantasy. To learn more about Ruth and her books, please head over to her official website.
Fairytales in a modern dress
By Ruth Frances Long
Some stories are timeless. They stay with us, returning again and again, and twist themselves into new shapes to hide unexpectedly, in plain sight. Much like the fae themselves, fairytales lie in wait for us, ready to pounce.
Writing always involves dipping into other stories—references, themes, archetypes. Shakespeare was a master of this, like a kid at a pick n mix, taking a story here, a folktale there, a legend or a political rumour that suited his patrons.
Fairytales and folklore are the oldest of our stories. They are quite literally the stories “folk”—the common, average person living their day to day lives—told each other. Sometimes this was to convey a warning (“Don’t go near the pond or the Green Witch will leap out and pull you in” aka “Don’t go near the pond or you’ll fall in and drown”), a moral stance (don’t be greedy/selfish/cruel), folk memory (“a funny thing happens in the sky every year or so and this is why”) or historical events (“once upon a time there was a king called Coel”). These stories are a way of explaining what happens in the world around us, our past, our values, our hopes and our fears.
Did I mention that they are old? OLD. They are stories that recur and evolve, that filter up through our collective consciousness and resonate with us. We recognise our archetypes, no matter what our background. A hero is a hero and we know them by their actions.
Why does the boy go out alone to face a dragon when he can’t possibly win? Because he will. He’s noble and true, loves his people, or maybe one girl in particular, even when he shouldn’t. Why does a girl follow her lost brother into a forest? Because she will find him and win him back, through her wits and her courage rather than sitting around waiting for someone else to do it. Why does the youngest brother or sister set out on the quest that has claimed both older siblings? Because that’s what the youngest child does in fairytales. That is the role of each of these characters.
These are things we know. Or rather, to emphasize the importance of this point—These are Things We Know. Story tropes, if you like, figures from our collective memory—the stories we tell and have always told each other, be they folktales, fairytales, or today’s urban legends. Living in Ireland there is evidence scattered across the land of a culture, who built barrows, ring forts and monuments which we no longer understand. And today, in the modern world, we can scoff and dismiss and explain away the stories of fairy forts and people living beneath the ground—the fair folk, the Shining Ones, the Daoine Mhaith. But then someone wants to dig up a mound, and there is a story about someone who went there at night and never came back. Or a tale about someone who moved a pile of stones and never had good luck again. If we forget, our stories remind us.
So many of our fairytales have been scrubbed clean over the years, recreated for ages that didn’t want to know about their darker origins. But it doesn’t take much looking to dig out the darker warnings beneath. Love is glorious—our stories tell us—but it must be won through trail and danger. Be sure your love is worth it. Prove your worth, and your partner should do the same. As time moves on, and cultures change, its worth remembering that yesterday’s ghostly highwayman is today’s phantom hitch-hiker. Re-imagining our oldest stories can shed new light on them, or perhaps that light is older than we imagine and we are just seeing it as new. Re-imaging our oldest stories is to reinvent them for our age, and to reopen the doors they hide which can let us catch a glimpse of a truth.
Fairytales resonate within us—in our stories and songs, in our culture, ancient and modern. They call to things deep inside us, things that we don’t always realise that we know. I often found while writing The Treachery of Beautiful Things that fairytales would appear out of the words I was writing, elements of old stories that were weaving their own way through my words. I hadn’t intended to put them there. They did that all by themselves. But given the type of novel I was writing, and the folk tales and fairy tales that form the basis of the world-building, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that other things I wasn’t entirely expecting should find their way in. Like, as they say, calls to like. Part of the magic of writing is when the story seems to take off on its own and the writer finds themselves struggling to keep up. You tap into something else, something older, a pool of stories that have always been there, dressing themselves up with the clothes of a given age, reinventing themselves and appearing to us in a garb like our own. Much like those beautiful, treacherous fae. When you start to work with fairytales and folklore, perhaps you shouldn’t be surprised when something magical happens.
A lifelong fan of fantasy, romance, and ancient mysteries, Ruth Frances Long studied English Literature, History of Religions, and Celtic Civilization in college and now works in a specialized library of rare and unusual books. She lives in County Wicklow, Ireland. The Treachery of Beautiful Things is her first novel for teens. She writes for adults as R. F. Long (The Scroll Thief, Soul Fire, The Wolf’s Sister, The Wolf’s Mate, collected as Songs of the Wolf, and The Wolf’s Destiny). Visit Ruth at www.rflong.com.
The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long (Dial, 16th August, 2012)
A darkly compelling mix of romance, fairy tale, and suspense from a new voice in teen fiction.
The trees swallowed her brother whole, and Jenny was there to see it. Now seventeen, she revisits the woods where Tom was taken, resolving to say good-bye at last. Instead, she’s lured into the trees, where she finds strange and dangerous creatures who seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with secrets of his own. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack’s help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where stunning beauty masks some of the most treacherous evils, and she’s faced with a choice between salvation or sacrifice–and not just her own.
We want to thank Ruth so much for being here today. Ruth has kindly offered to giveaway an arc of her upcoming YA, The Treachery of Beautiful Things. It’s open internationally and ends April 13th. All you have to do is comment below and let us know what myths and legends do you like the most?
34 thoughts on “Fantasy Celebration: Guest Post & Giveaway with Ruth Long”
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Hi Mrs Long, I cannot wait to read your book, the cover is so beautiful 🙂
I love many myths & legends 🙂 One of my favourite creature may be The Irish Fairly Woman known as The Banshee who is often depicted crying and mourning the death of their loved ones… the legend of Children of Lir is a great one too.
In Greek mythology I have to choose Cassandra who was blessed with the gift of prophecy by Apollo. But after she shunned him, he added a twist to her gift; Cassandra was doomed to tell the truth, but never to be believed.
I don’t know if this counts, lol. But I really enjoy the legend of Robin Hood. And i hope he was real, because if so, that would make me 🙂
The myths, legends and folk & fairytales section of my bookshelves is quite large, so it’s a problem narrowing it down to favourites! 😀
The classic Greek and Roman myths are always a good read, and I also like Egyptian and Irish mythology. Inuit legends are also fun, with an odd, almost surreal edge to them sometimes.
But my favourites are the old Welsh legends from the Mabinogion. I read the tales themselves and also enjoy the many stories that have drawn from them, as well as been inspired to write my own!
I’m a fan of greek myths (heritage and all that) but also enjoy celtic tales of fae. They’re so immediate, they feel like they can happen today, and I love that potential for magic.
This is a great post. I love all fairy tales and myths, but I think my favorites are the Eastern legends. The stories of forest spirits and mystical, wise dragons and naga–they’re particularly cool to me 🙂
I love Folk tales of every nationality but most especially those from Ireland – tales of the wise woman, how to recognise a changeling and what to do.. those kinds of stories.
I love Chinese folk tales! The beautiful colours and animals! They’re some of my favourite (Other than ones about the fey :))
I love all myths and legends, they teach us so may lessons and make everything magical
I’m really looking forward to reading this book! One of my favorite legends is that of the Tain Bo Cuailnge. Both Queen Maeve and Cuchulainn are such fascinating figures and I could read the story over and over again.
I am a HUGE fan of Juliet Marillier – Daughter of the Forest is a version of the seven brothers turned into swans and their sister who has to save them. Most of the tales she uses are Celtic/Irish and they’re really great.
Ruth’s story sounds right up my alley!! 🙂
Looking forward to reading this book! I like all myths and legends as I find them fascinating but my favourites are greek mythology and the Arthurian legend *grin*
Thank you for the opportunity to win and for making it international!
Great post! I love all mythology, but I think those that are closest to my heart are the ones that come from North/Central/South America.
I really like Slavic mythology. It’d be nice to read more fantasy books about it!
I’m a big softy when it comes to Greek Myths about the Gods and Goddess, Its something about the what if they existed and how awesome would that be that really interest me a lot.
I also like the scary legend of the nine taled fox, thats always fun. I watched a korean drama based on it but it was more romantic comedy and I loved it!
I cant wait for The Treachery of Beautiful Things, Ive had it on my wishlist fo a long time 🙂
What a great post! The book sounds great. I’m a big fan of greek & celtic mythology. Really any fantasy that like you said where someone struggles & proves themselves along with some adventures just captures me. Thanks for the giveaway!
I wasn’t that intrigued by the Arthurian legends until The Mists of Avalon and now I want more!
If I have to pick just one then it’d have to be the tales of The Wild Hunt. Variants of their tales turn up in lots of different mythologies and languages, each time with a twist unique to that region or country. My favourite version of their tale would have to be when they’re the Yeth Hounds of Devon seeking the moss maidens.
I love Norse myths and legends particularly after reading a recent book that featured them. Irish legends and Roman are close second and third!
I love unicorns and pegasus and I love the legend of King Arthur and Camelot. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com
The Grimm Brothers’ Collection of Fairy Tales. These are the fairy tales that we grew up with where those who are good always triumphs over evil, where good magic is strong than black magic.
Thanks for the great post and giveaway! I’m not partial to any one legend or mythology. I like ’em all. Celtic, Norse, Roman, Greek… I like all the different cultures and histories.
Thanks for spotlighting this author. This is the first that I’ve run across her and her books sounds awesome 🙂
I’ve always been fascinated by the legends surrounding King Arthur.
as a kid i grew up with all sorts of urban legends and myths and id have to say i am most fascinated at fairies.. magical and unique creatures like centaurs and unicorns are also adorable <3
Thanks for the great giveaway! This has been on my TBR list since hearing about it. I’ve always loved the traditional fairytales as a kid (having a book with felt characters to dress up), as well as modern fairy tale retellings (Cinder by Marissa Meyer and Jackson Pearce”s Sisters Red and Sweetly).
Fairytales and myths – you have my immediate attention. I fell in love with Russian fairytales when I was in college and have always been fascinated with the Rusalka.
Nice post. I like Greek myths.
Ms. Long, As a general rule, I don’t usually read YA; however, the subject matter & premise will make your novel an exception for me. I am looking forward to its release.
Some of my earliest memories include the Mother Goose tales, along with the sanitized versions of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc. What an eye opener the Brothers Grimm were! Loved the dark tales.
At an early age, I discovered and devoured the Greek myths, followed by Roman, Norse, Celtic and Arthurian as well. I don’t actually have a specific favorite, but a number of authors I read have profiled/expanded upon the Celtic mythos. So, if necessary, I’ll go with that.
Thanks for the contest!
I really enjoy Greek mythology and fairy tales. Thanks for the giveaway I’m really looking forward to The Treachery of Beautiful Things 🙂
firstname.lastname@example.org (in case I win)
My daughters love mythology. Greek, Norse, Egyptian… we read it all. The current favorite around here is when Athena turns Ariadne into a spider after their weaving contest.
Lately I’ve been more into more obscure/less popular myths and legends, but the Greek myths are probably my perennial favorites.
I love many legends, but I think my favorite might be Lorelei and the “singing rock” on the Rhine River in Germany. I visited the place a couple of times and took a boat tour because I was so intrigued. But, again, there are many good legends.
This is quite awkward ;D Hope this is still open. I forgot to add a comment here after writing on the author’s blog. Where was my mind? Anyway..
I really see this as a really interesting book. It’s one of the book i’m sure i’d really love reading =D The cover is beautiful and the synopsis is enchanting!