Tales are fascinating things. They seem to me to be the poetry of history—all the superfluous bits are worn down, tossed away, leaving only the sharpest images, the strongest words, the barest stories. But those stories survive. To do so, I believe they must hold some real human truth. They speak to each reader in a different way, and yet appeal universally to readers and storytellers over decades and centuries.
In writing a novel from a tale, I hoped to retain the essence of it, what makes it sublime. Of course, part of what makes tales, such as those collected by the Grimm Brothers, so appealing is the mystery inherit in their brevity, something instantly lost when flushed out to novel length. I felt it was important, therefore, to make the setting as close to the setting of the tale as I could. It felt to me like a place we know, a place that is here somewhere, but in the past, just as tales are about us but long ago. To do that, I based Bayern loosely on the Germany of old, the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm. This is not a true historical setting, but resources such as the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus helped me build a foundation for what I hoped was a believable, and familiar, world.
For more information on myths and tales and literature, Terri Windling keeps an archive of her marvelous essays at www.endicott-studio.com.
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