So many great fairy tales, fairy tale retellings, and fantasy books from 2013 … and too little time to read them! Heading into 2014 I am certain there will be many more to add to my list. I’ve included several here which, according to Goodreads, were some of the top reads for the year. Have you read any on the list – or maybe all of them?! Which were your favorites?
By now you will have heard plenty of news about J.K. Rowling’s latest project – a movie version of her book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The book itself, written by the fictional Newt Scamander, features more than 80 fantastical beasts and beings. Some of them, such as the pixie, the kelpie, the unicorn, the mer-people and the dragon, are well-known to even the most half-hearted fantasy fans. But there are quite a few exceptions. Here are a few fun ones.
- Puffskein: A sphere of soft ur that is fond of eating leftovers and even the occasional spider. It emits a humming sound when it is contented. Fred and George Weasley modified the Puffskein to make the Pygmy Puff.
- Jobberknoll: A speckled blue bird that never utters a peep until the moment before its death. And in that moment, it utters a long scream which consists of every sound it has ever heard – backward. Its feathers are used in Memory Charms and Truth Serums.
- Ashwinder: A thin, gray wisp with glowing red eyes that rises from embers to lay its eggs in a dark corner before it dies. It only lives about an hour.
- Bowtruckle: A twig-like creature, about the size of a person’s hand, which serves as the guardian for its home tree (which it looks very similar to!). A peaceful being, but can become violent when its tree is threatened.
- Chizpurfle: A crab-like, parasitic creature that is attracted to magic. It often attacks magical objects such as wands and cauldrons. When it can find no magic, it will resort to attacking Muggles’ electrical devices and wires.
- Glumbumble: This furry flying insect produces a treacle that induces melancholy, which can be used as an antidote to treat hysteria. It nests in dark places and feeds on nettles.
- Streeler: A giant snail which changes colors hourly. Streeler venom is one of the few things that can kill a Horklump.
- Diricawl: Muggles think of this plump, flightless bird as the extinct dodo bird. But the wizarding world knows it is not extinct – rather, it can disappear and reappear when needed as an escape method. Thus Muggles have not seen it for many years.
Many of the creatures in Rowling’s book (and upcoming movie) are ones she invented herself, although the classic fairytale beasts emerge here and there as well. If you could create a magical beast, what would it be?
“You’re a wizard,” I snapped. “Can’t you just use magic to make your own food?”
“Ah, yes,” he retorted. “Because mud pies are so very delicious and the wind fills empty stomachs quite nicely.” — Alexandra Bracken (Brightly Woven)
Whether it’s a steaming pot of stone soup on the village square, Anne pouring you some raspberry cordial (or is it currant wine?!) on the front porch of Green Gables, a mug of butterbeer with your friends around a table at the Hog’s Head, or a very delicious-looking red apple handed to you by a old woman peddling on a forest road – let’s just admit it, we want to taste these things. After all, our minds are tasting the stories they come from, we see the places and people in our imaginations – why shouldn’t we take it a step forward and bridge the gap, make part of the story palpable and real and … delicious? What is it about these foods that draw us in and remain in our minds long after the story we have read is put back on the shelf, if not our desire to crawl into the stories themselves?
As I research cookbooks based on famous books and fairy tales, I have come across many different recipes and even series. It’s amazing how inspired readers can become, all because of the food or drinks they read about in a favorite book. And even more amazing is the sheer volume of these types of cookbooks there are to choose from, once you start to look. There are dishes that existed before the books were written, and have been made famous by being featured in a book. And then there are the dishes that the authors have created solely for the purpose of their story (some of which prove most definitely that the authors should stick to writing, and not cooking!). Either way, and however delectable (or occasionally disgusting) these dishes turn out to be, we, the addictive, obsessive readers, are most definitely going to try them.
I’m no cook myself, and I won’t be attempting to come up with my own special version of green eggs and ham anytime soon (my husband would shudder to imagine such a thing put into my hands) – but I’m not adverse to trying the recipes invented by others. I couldn’t decide whether to focus on fairytale and fantasy cookbooks (since, after all, that’s what I’m blogging about), but I got so excited when I visited the library and saw all the options out there, that I’ve decided to go a bit wider. Over the next week or two I will do brief reviews of the books and sites I come across, and even hope to post reports of how it goes in the kitchen when I (gulp!) try some of these recipes out. My 6-year-old has kindly volunteered to help me, and is, as I write this, on my bed pouring over stacks of cookbooks, looking very much like a miniature, somewhat harassed editor.
So stay tuned for my next blog post, later this week, of the fairytale cookbook reviews (I’ve decided to begin with the fairytale genre and proceed outward from there for the following reviews). And in the meantime, check out some of the following links and sites for some super-fun recipes to try!
Elven Lembas Bread (The Lord of the Rings)
Raspberry Cordial (Anne of Green Gables)
Cauldron Cakes and Butterbeer (Harry Potter)
Turkish Delight (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
Mr. McGregor’s Winter Garden Vegetable Pies (Peter Rabbit)
Miniature Castle Cakes
When you begin to think about it, cats have played some crucial roles in literature, specifically sci-fi and fantasy. What is it that’s so alluring about a magical cat? A talking cat? Or even a goddess cat?
From ancient Egyptian times, when the Goddess Bastet (in the form of a cat) was worshipped, and even before, cats have always held a certain mystery and fascination for us humans. In medieval times, cats in general, and black cats specifically, were thought to be evil. Women who took them in to care for the poor mistreated or neglected animals were in turn labeled witches.
I myself love cats … I’ve owned probably over a hundred of them over the course of my life. And while my husband might argue with you as to whether I’m a witch or not … depending on the day … like any cat lover, I can tell you they are anything but evil. Spooky sometimes, yes. Spastic and quirky … yeah. Moody and uppity and picky – uh-huh. The one thing I know from my years of cat experiences is that, without a doubt, cats definitely have personality. And I suppose that’s why they so naturally fit into literature, whether as characters themselves, or as interesting sidekicks.
- The Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
- Crookshanks in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
- Fritti Tailchaser in Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams
- Magicats! books (collection of cat stories) edited by Jack Dann
- The ThunderClan cats in the Warriors series by Erin Hunter
- Rhiow and the team of cat-wizards in the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane
- Gareth in Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander
- The cat with no name in Coraline by Neil Gaiman
- “The Cat” in The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce
- Thelma, Roger, James and Harriet in Catwings by Ursula Le Guin
- Goldeneyes in the Catmage Chronicles by Meryl Yourish