Please give a warm welcome to author, Hannah Fielding!
For the love of legends
For me, researching a book is just as enjoyable as writing it. I set each of my novels in a passionate, romantic country, and so that I can really transport my readers there, I immerse myself in the setting: its history, its scenery, its cuisine, its culture. Top of my research list are local legends – I love colourful, age-old stories; the more fantastical, the better!
Since I was a young girl, tucked up in bed and listening avidly to my governess weaving bedtime tales, I have loved legends. Fairytales too, of course – they sowed the seeds for my romantic nature – but legends fascinated me most: those that have stood the test of time, that offer intriguing explanations for the modern world, that are at once fantastical and yet, somehow, believable.
My novel The Echoes of Love, set in Venice, Tuscany and Sardinia, incorporates various Italian legends – told by the hero, Paolo, who is a raconteur extraordinaire, to my heroine, Venetia – and in my research files I collected many more. What better way to share some of these most romantic, magical and atmospheric tales but in this Echoes of Love ‘Legendary’ Blog Tour!
Today, I’m taking you to Venice, city of mystery and magic and fairytale…
The Three Crones
In 1954 Italian journalist Italo Calvino was commissioned to write a collection of Italian fairytales as an Italian equivalent of those of the Brothers Grimm. One of the tales he collected was ‘The Three Crones’, set in Venice (also popularly known as ‘The King Who Wanted a Beautiful Wife’). Here is a version of the story:
A king was lonely, and he sought a wife. Of course, his queen must be perfect: gentle, kind, loyal and beautiful. But no woman he met could come up to his high standards. And so still the king was lonely. Finally, he could bear the fruitless hunt no longer, and he sent a servant whom he trusted greatly to continue his quest.
The servant did so, and one day he came across a cottage outside of which sat three women. Their features were shrouded by their cloaks, but their hands were white and soft. Surely women with such hands were beauties! He returned to tell the king of his find, and the king summoned the women to his court.
The women came. They remained shrouded, for they had seen no ray of sun in their lives, and they feared the light would hurt them. The king – the foolish king – believed them in this, and he determined to marry the oldest.
Come the wedding night, the king was much looking forward to laying eyes for the first time upon his lovely bride. But alas! This was no twenty-year-old beauty, as promised; this was an old crone – wizened, ugly. In disgust, the king threw his bride out of the window.
But the crone did not die – her wedding dress caught on a protrusion and she hung there, stuck. Along came four fairies with the spirits of imps. Hearing her tale, they weaved a spell to make the hag young, beautiful, wise and kind.
The next morning, when the king awoke he heard his wife calling from outside. When he saw the change in her, he was astounded. He must have been mistaken, he thought. Perhaps he drank too much at the wedding banquet! He had his new queen rescued at once.
Time passed, and the king and queen settled into a happy life together. The king was no longer lonely, and the queen was no longer stuck living with her witchy sisters. But could said sisters leave her to her happiness? Of course not! They appeared at the castle and demanded to know how she had wrought her transformation. ‘I had myself skinned,’ explained the queen calmly. ‘This is what lay beneath my awful exterior.’
In a state of excitement off her sisters trotted to be skinned. But beneath their skins lay nothing of worth. Theirs was an unhappy end. But for the king and queen, life was just beautiful.
Some sobering morals on beauty here (and on believing too easily what you are told). I like to think that the crone who became a queen was a good sort to begin with, because otherwise it seems quite unfair that she is so rewarded with a transformation. Or perhaps the point is that the king, who valued only beauty in a partner (and threw his ugly wife out of the window!), should be punished by so marrying a crone. For surely she remains that at heart, given the way she unfeelingly sends her sisters to their most grisly doom!
At least one reader commenting on this post will WIN in the Very Venetian giveaway, with prizes totalling more than $600:
• 5 signed hardback copies of The Echoes of Love
• 10 signed paperback copies of The Echoes of Love
• 3 romantic Venetian masks
• Lots of fabulously colourful Murano glass goodies: 16 pendants, 2 bracelets, 2 paperweights and a vase
Anyone who comments on a blog tour stop post will be entered in the giveaway. Simply comment below, including your email address so that Hannah can contact the winners. Good luck!