Strands of Bronze and GoldAuthor: Jane Nickerson
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .
When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world. Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale.
Top Ten Changes I Would Make in Fairy TalesIt’s obvious that there are many problematic aspects in most famous fairy tales. Why must everyone be beautiful? Why is there so much royalty going around? So many poor woodcutters? (Oh, now that I think of it, there probably really were so many poor woodcutters in that day and age.) Why so many childless couples who end up with either doomed or miniscule only children? Most of the problems are explained away because “it’s a magic thing.” However here are ten changes I would make if I were Queen of Fairy Tale Land:
10. The youngest child would not always be the most good-looking and clever, and the step-parent would never be evil, since step-parents have enough problems taking on a ready-made family as it is. But then again, one would hate to make the biological parent evil instead…
9. I would give the bright and beautiful heroine more choices for a love interest. A single prince should not be her only option. By the same token, it’s sad when only one sibling gets matched up. I would introduce the eleven unmatched dancing princesses to the (coincidentally) eleven unmatched princely brothers of “The Wild Swans” princess. That’s eleven options for each of them. If you stir them up, there’s bound to be one that each of them likes…but what if they all want the same one?
8 ½. Seven league boots for everyone!!! It’s only fair.
8. There should be more than three wishes. And the wishes are not allowed to be tricksy. Fairness again.
7. Several fairy tales involve the hero in burglary—The Tinderbox, Jack in the Beanstalk, Aladdin. The idea is that, because the owner of the object is evil, the hero isn’t really a thief. Huh. That doesn’t actually make sense. Therefore, there must be some clever, lawful way for them to get the loot. Gambling (if that’s legal in Fairy Tale land), labor, performing a service for the owner, some sort of trade, etc. Of course then the evil owner would probably try to cheat them out of the object, and then the hero would have to steal it…
6. How can King Midas turn everything he touches into gold and not be gold himself? It boggles the mind.
5. There’s got to be some reason why Little Red Riding Hood can’t tell that her grandmother has a furry face and pointy nose. It could be too dark, except that we need to keep those classic lines—“What big eyes, hands, teeth.” Perhaps the grandmother has some skin disease and needs bandages all over, except for the eyes and mouth. Leprosy?
4 ½. How can the wolf even blow that hard? Are wolves known for lung capacity?
4. Prince Charming has got to be able to recognize Cinderella in some other way than by her shoe size. For one thing, just how miniscule are her feet? Does she teeter about on points like Barbie dolls do? Having a body part that is so different from every other human your age is sort of the definition of a freak. And yet the glass slipper and big-footed stepsisters are such fun components. Maybe Cinderella also develops a sudden skin disease so her feet really are the only way she can be recognized.
3. I don’t want the miller’s daughter in “Rumpelstiltskin” to end up married to the king. He’s a greedy guy who only wants her because she can spin straw into gold. How about she runs off before she has to marry him? And even before she spins any straw or meets Rumpelstiltskin. Except then there’d be no story. A problem.
2. Rapunzel’s hair is simply too long. It would totally get in the way, be absolutely disgusting because it would be crawling with dust bunnies and impossible to wash, and get yanked out of her head if anyone tried to climb up it. Unless, of course, the young man and witch were tiny. Perhaps we could mix together one of the miniscule only children stories with this. Then again, I’ve seen some illustrations for the story that involve special hooks and pulleys to fix the weight problem, but still…Must be magic.
1. Isn’t it icky that the prince kisses Snow White’s corpse? And how long has she lain there supposedly dead, but not rotting and without nourishment? The nourishment thing also causes problems with Sleeping Beauty. Must be magic.
You know, all the solutions I can come up with are so problematic that, in the end, maybe we should continue to say that it’s a magic thing and leave it all as it is.
For many years Jane Nickerson and her family lived in a big old house in Aberdeen, Mississippi, where she was also the children’s librarian. She has always loved the South, “the olden days,” gothic tales, houses, kids, writing, and interesting villains. She and her husband now make their home in Ontario, Canada.