My initial plan this week was to give you a bit of commissioned art but I think so much happened in this update that I wanted to do an author notes section instead.
This is our “flashback” episode — as you noted in Red Riding Hood, each dominant figure of legend isn’t quite explained until we are far inside the narrative. What I discovered here was a little more complicated as there’s a tale within a tale WITHIN a tale it seems at times.
Elisa’s “double life” can mean many things and more will come out in Bard and Queen’s conversation next week. However, it might be worthwhile offering you some background on the story the Bard saw.
As some of you may have forgotten, the book Count Wolfram supposedly held several true tales that were really accounts of his world’s truth– whether in the past, present, or in the future. That said — he chose to unwrite “Red Riding Hood” at the end of book one as he had previously understood it. But in his mind, the story of the Queen of Swans is true.
More or less, one can presume he has some variant of what we narrate here as the core of Elisa’s memories is taken from Hans Christian Andersen’s “Wild Swans.” However, there is a critical difference between the tale we often read (or similar tales) — namely the ending.
As someone who read a lot of fairy tales, I have always found the helplessness and haplessness of the king who plucked Eliza from the woods to be troubling. A woman capable of learning as she matured, I would argue, could not keep returning to insanity. And so her choice at the end. Of course, we know that this departure undid the happy ending routinely promised in most tales of this particular type. (You can look at Surlalune Fairy Tales for a listing of such variants, the majority of which end quickly and happily.)
It is these variants that our Bard/poet is familiar with. Many vary on details like numbers of brothers, methods of capturing the young princess, and sometimes how the young princess uncovers a method to free her brothers.
Research is fun, I tell you! But there are many more from other places and cultures lesser known. Ahem.
Just a fun little note. Within this narrative, Elisa makes reference to a unicorn halfling. It is the same one as referred to in the Unicorn short story. This sets her journey to the Golden City quite early in time. Said unicorn was not on this trip, sadly, as much as he’d like to have been.