Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Frog in my throat

On Monday I posted an excerpt from Too Much of Water. It's the classic Frog Prince fairy-story: girl has golden ball, girl loses golden ball in the water, frog prince promises to get golden ball back in exchange for spending the night in her bed...

Of course, I gave it an Ashbless twist or two.  There's nothing sexy about frogs, so I made him a water spirit, which instantly gave it a Russian setting. (And then that turned out, upon doing some research, to fit in with the reign of Ivan the Terrible, and in fact I pinned my heroine Zorya/Anna down to his fifth wife, not that it matters to anyone but me.)

Russian folklore is incredibly specific about the kinds of spirits that hang out around people. There's a house spirit, a yard-spirit, a barn-spirit, a bathhouse-spirit (oh yes) ... and the dangerous spirit of the millpond is the Vodyanoi.

This is what they usually look like:

Vodyanoy by Ivan Bilibin, 1934

That's not sexy either! Fortunately they are shapeshifters that can take human form and my vodyanoi is very much more based on these illustrations by John Bauer (1882-1918) of the Swedish fairytale Agneta and the Sea King:

The story-writing process started, as all my stories do, with a visual image: the vodyanoi rising slowly and menacingly out of the water:
First the green water bulged, and then it broke around the peaks of his dark head and his pale shoulders. He lifted his face from the pool and smiled, showing her his outstretched hands cupped about the golden orb. Then he waded out of the pool, each step revealing more of his body. She feared at first that he would be naked, but there seemed to be something heavy wrapped about his lower half. As he mounted the bank, streaming water, she saw that it was a leathern sheet, secured by a knot of thong and all slick with water and algae, hanging low from his hips and so long that it brushed the tops of his feet. With every step his left leg flashed pale through the gap in the wrapped hide.
And I thought I'd kick the collection off with a story that has a very uneasy ending indeed...

 Fierce Enchantments at  Amazon UK (only £ 2.39 on Kindle!) : Amazon US (only $3.84!)


Jo said...

Oo, nice one. But I would like to add this to your illustrations, a classic, very familiar.

Janine Ashbless said...

Oh yes - I remember that one! :-D