2012 — And that’s a wrap!

Well, we’ve got a few hours yet, but we’ll grandfather any significant events into the new year, should they happen to occur.

2012 was a great year for me. Obviously the Hugo sort of blew it out the water, so it’ll probably go down among the best years of my life for that alone. But even if we shuffle that off to one side, it was a very good year. We sold a lot of Dragonbreath books, Dial bought the Hamster Princess trilogy, Bread Wizard plowed onward. I started a couple of projects that, when I cock my head, look as if they may go somewhere solid. I wrote a short story or two, mostly posted here, that didn’t suck.

I traveled a lot, including to France. My birding life-list finally cracked 300 (and kept going, thanks to High Island, Texas and Europe–now sits at a whopping 345, which is pretty darn good for somebody who does their primary birding out the back window.

We finally did the floors downstairs. I built a lot of garden beds, slung a lot of mulch, drank a lot of coffee, fed a lot of birds.

Nobody died.

Actually, that’s a big one. We did lose one cat, but that was all. Maybe it’s a function of middle-age or something, but increasingly, at the end of a year, I sometimes feel like we’re all doing a high-wire act, and if I get to the end and nobody’s fallen off, I think “Whew! Pulled it off again!” I love so many people these days, and none of us are getting any younger. (God, that’s morbid. Clearly I’m getting old. I cry at movies and sad books and news stories all the damn time now, too. NPR can generally reduce me to weeping about once a week these days. Then again, Maurice Sendak, who the world lost this year, said something in an interview that made total sense–“I’m happy! I’m very happy! I just cry a lot because so many things are sad.” Or words to that effect. I can’t re-listen to the interview because that’s another one that’ll break your heart.)

On to happier topics! This year in the garden saw too much money spent (of course) tons of labor (naturally) but yielded a great many tomatoes, two baby hummingbirds, two baby Carolina chickadees, a couple of tufted titmice, one pipevine swallowtail butterfly and god knows how many frogs. I blogged a lot over at Beautiful Wildlife Garden and Native Plants & Wildlife Gardening. I learned exciting things about obscure plants. A thrush adopted the deck. (He’s still there. Kevin dutifully gives him mealworms every morning. I think he lives here now.)

I met many very cool people. I will eventually recover from the fact that Connie Willis knows I exist. I may or may not have gotten in a fist fight with Neil Gaiman over access to the nacho bar.

I tweeted. We podcasted. I played a lot of D&D, a fair bit of Diablo III, a whole lot of Assassin’s Creed II. I ate some fabulous meals and some terrible ones. I read some pretty cool books. I laughed a lot more than I cried. I did not hit any deer with the car. (THIS IS IMPORTANT.) Kevin and I continue to poke one another at random intervals and giggle a lot and make crude jokes and accuse one another of having dealt it, which is high romance for people like us. (He fills my week-at-a-time pill case, too!*)

It was a very good year for me. I don’t expect 2013 to top it, frankly (the Hugo kinda puts that off the table) but if it runs along the same lines, it will be as much as I can hope and probably a fair bit better than I deserve.

I hope you all have a truly lovely 2013, and if you can’t look back at 2012 and say “That was awesome!” at least you can look back and say “Thank god that’s over with!” (I’ve been on both sides of that equation, lord knows…)

Onward! Upward! And we pulled it off again!

 

*I will never forget being at a room party at a con and Kevin coming out of the bathroom and going “That’s an AWESOME pill case! Where did you get it!?” and immediately getting into a lengthy discussion of the relative merits of various pill cases with one of my publishers. See above about Not Getting Any Younger.

Can I Get An Amen?

Ran across this passage by Beverley Nichols and had to share for my writer friends, since this is pretty much how I feel all the time.

Money….not very much, but better than it’s ever been before. Probably it will all be taken away from me, or will be worth nothing, just when I have written my last word and feel the time has come to sit back and watch the flowers unfolding. However, that is a morbid thought. The only fact that matters is that there is money in the bank. It has accumulated there, mysteriously, because every day I lock myself up in a room and guide my pen over sheets of paper, and then sell those sheets of paper. That, you will agree, is an exceedingly peculiar way of earning one’s living. Making odd scrawls on a sheet of paper…rather ugly, hurried scrawls, blocked over, scratched out, very painfully erased and amended…and then exchanging those scrawls for beautiful, tangible things, like tulip bulbs, and shelled walnuts, and bottles of mysterious, dusty, and exquisitely fragrant Chablis! Very odd indeed.

But then, the minute any man except the farm labourer begins to ponder the sources of his income, he will feel inclined to hang his head in shame, unless he is a charlatan or a stockbroker.

— Beverley Nichols, Village in a Valley

Orders shipping after New Year!

Just a note to let y’all know that print orders put in between now and the end of the year will ship after January 2nd. I have family coming into town and require some serious downtime.

Hope you all have a wonderful fabulous holiday of whatever variety you celebrate, whether it’s with scads of family and friends or a peaceful dinner of Chinese take-out and a bottle of wine. (Which I have done on occasion. And which can actually be very pleasant indeed.)

And if you haven’t checked out my gardening blog or the LJ mirror with the Twelve Days of Gardening Christmas, they may be worth a few moments of amusement in between glasses of wine.

Annotated Fairy Tale: Tatterhood

I’ll be honest with you—I love this one. It’s very short compared to some of the drawn-out sagas we’ve seen and never once devolves into East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which is sort of the go-to fairy tale for dragging things out. So this’ll be a quick little afternoon amusement instead of a lengthy epic. Still!

It’s also one of the very very few fairy tales that has a kick-ass female hero who isn’t just there in an advisory capacity. (Seriously, why was the Mastermaid not just killing everything in her path? Why did she even need the prince around?)

I do rather resent the ending, though.

A little digging turns up that this is Aarne-Thompson type 711, “Beautiful and Ugly Twin.” Apparently this is common in Norway and doesn’t come up much elsewhere. Go figure.

 

Tatterhood

(collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, 1852)

Once upon a time there was a king and a queen who had no children, and that made the queen very sad. She seldom had a happy hour. She was always crying and complaining, and saying how dull and lonesome it was in the palace. “If we had children there would be life enough,” she said. Wherever she went in all her realm she found God’s blessing in children, even in the poorest hut. And wherever she went she heard women scolding their children, and saying how they had done this and that wrong. The queen heard all this, and thought it would be so nice to do as other women did.

We only have the kids on alternate weeks, and let me tell you that the scolding bit is about as much fun as chewing your leg off in a bear trap. Seriously, why are there dirty socks on the windowsill? Seriously? Again?

At last the king and queen took into their palace an adopted girl to raise, that they might always have her with them, to love her if she did well, and scold her if she did wrong, like their own child.

Ironically, she will vanish without a trace one paragraph from now.

One day the little girl whom they had taken as their own, ran down into the palace yard, and was playing with a golden apple. Just then an old beggar woman came by, who had a little girl with her, and it wasn’t long before the little girl and the beggar’s child were great friends, and began to play together, and to toss the golden apple about between them. When the queen saw this, as she sat at a window in the palace, she tapped on the pane for her foster daughter to come up. She went at once, but the beggar girl went up too; and as they went into the queen’s apartment, each held the other by the hand. Then the queen began to scold the little lady, and to say, “You ought to be above running about and playing with a tattered beggar’s brat.” And she started to drive the girl down the stairs.

The queen is setting herself up for one of those classic fairy-tale comeuppances here. Always be polite to beggars and always follow directions. 

Also, I hope you enjoyed the adopted girl because we will never hear from her again.

“If the queen only knew my mother’s power, she’d not drive me out,” said the little girl; and when the queen asked what she meant more plainly, she told her how her mother could get her children if she chose. The queen wouldn’t believe it, but the girl insisted, and said that every word of it was true, and asked the queen only to try and make her mother do it. So the queen sent the girl down to fetch up her mother.

“Do you know what your daughter says?” asked the queen of the old woman, as soon as ever she came into the room.

No, the beggar woman knew nothing about it.

The kid’s nuts, Your Majesty. She keeps trying to tell me that it’s fairies leaving dirty socks on the windowsill.

“Well, she says you can get me children if you will,” answered the queen.

“Queens shouldn’t listen to beggar girls’ silly stories,” said the old woman, and walked out of the room.

This right here is proof that the old woman has magical powers. She just told off the queen and walked out. You don’t do that unless you’re pretty confident that you can turn everybody into toads if the issue comes up.

Or you’re fireproof. Fireproof is also good.

Then the queen got angry, and wanted again to drive out the little girl; but she declared it was true every word that she had said.

“Let the queen only give my mother something to drink,” said the girl; “when she gets tipsy she’ll soon find out a way to help you.”

Possibly this is a seriously clever two-woman con designed to get Mom’s drink on.

The queen was ready to try this; so the beggar woman was fetched up again, and treated with as much wine and mead as she wanted; and so it was not long before her tongue began to wag. Then the queen came out again with the same question she had asked before.

“Kids? Whadya want kids for? It’s all dirty socks and dragging me in to talk to queens. Seriously, get a goat. Goats are useful. And they don’t wear socks.”

“Perhaps I know one way to help you,” said the beggar woman. “Your majesty must make them bring in two pails of water some evening before you go to bed. Wash yourself in each of them, and afterwards throw the water under your bed. When you look under your bed the next morning, two flowers will have sprung up, a beautiful one and an ugly one. Eat the beautiful one but leave the ugly alone. Be careful not to forget this last bit of advice.” That was what the beggar woman said.

All those who think the queen is going to listen, raise your hand. No, keep ’em up so I can count them.

Right. You have failed Fairy Tales 101. Report to the old well to be assigned whatever horrible thing will fall out of your mouth whenever you talk from now on. Ask for earthworms, they’re easier to hide than toads. And good in the garden.

Incidentally, that’s a lot of water to dump under the bed. If I did that, I’d expect a leak in the living room.

Yes, the queen did what the beggar woman advised her to do; she had the water brought up in two pails, washed herself in them, and emptied them under the bed; and when she looked under the bed the next morning, there stood two flowers; one was ugly and foul, and had black leaves; but the other was so bright, and fair, and lovely, she had never seen anything like it, so she ate it up at once. But the pretty flower tasted so sweet, that she couldn’t help herself. She ate the other one too, for, she thought, “I’m sure that it can’t hurt or help me much either way.”

Remarkably, the queen will not learn from this mistake.

Well, sure enough, after a while the queen was brought to bed. First of all, she had a girl who had a wooden spoon in her hand, and rode upon a goat.

There is almost no way to interpret this that does not involve the queen giving birth to a riding goat. I am guessing there was a lot of screaming and a lot of head-scratching on the part of the midwives—and how do you even explain that to the king? “Say, Your Majesty, you aren’t aware of any…err…odd shoots on the family tree, are you? You know…extra limbs…maybe with hooves…?”

It’s even more disturbing if you take the literal interpretation that she rode out on the goat, under her own power. I am not entirely sure that dilation in centimeters is what’s called for here. Presumably the queen had like three epidurals and maybe some laudanum. 

She was disgusting and ugly, and the very moment she came into the world she bawled out “Mamma.”

“If I’m your mamma,” said the queen, “God give me grace to mend my ways.”

Last time I take advice from drunk beggar women. Let me talk to the goat. Technically the goat’s mine, too.

“Oh, don’t be sorry,” said the girl on the goat, “for one will soon come after me who is better looking.”

I dunno, that’s a fine figure of a goat. Come to Mamma, goatikins! Lookit those liddle hoofie-woofies! Wooo, this is good laudanum!

After a while, the queen had another girl, who was so beautiful and sweet that no one had ever set eyes on such a lovely child. You may be sure that the queen was very well pleased.

This is even better than a goat!

The elder twin they called “Tatterhood,” because she was always so ugly and ragged, and because she had a hood which hung about her ears in tatters.

Incidentally, she’s the only character in the entire story who gets a name.

The queen could hardly bear to look at her.

Because she’s ugly or because they had to invent a new scale for vaginal tearing after that whole riding goat incident?

The nurses tried to shut her up in a room by herself, but it did no good. She always had to be where the younger twin was, and no one could ever keep them apart.

One Christmas eve, when they were half grown up, there arose a frightful noise and clatter in the hallway outside the queen’s apartment. Tatterhood asked what it was that was making such a noise outside.

“Oh,” said the queen, “it isn’t worth asking about.”

But Tatterhood wouldn’t give in until she found out all about it; and so the queen told her it was a pack of trolls and witches who had come there to celebrate Christmas.

The queen is incredibly blase about this. I am gonna go with serious laudanum habit, because otherwise having packs of trolls and witches in the hallways is completely commonplace. “Not worth asking about. Just witches and trolls again. It’s Tuesday, you know that’s witch-and-troll-in-the-hallway-day. Sheesh, go play with your brother the goat or something.”

So Tatterhood said that she would just go out and drive them away. In spite of all they could say, and however much they begged and asked her to leave the trolls alone, she just had to go out and drive the witches off. She begged the queen to be careful and keep all the doors shut tight, so that not one of them would open the least bit.

Anyone who thinks the queen listens, raise your hand.

Nobody? Good.

Having said this, off she went with her wooden spoon, and began to hunt out and drive away the hags.

The two-handed wooden Battlespoon is used to this day by an order of warrior nuns found only on a small island off the coast of Norway. The name is chock full of umlauts and is believed to have been the Viking word for “Just keep rowing, dude.” The nuns have artfully ragged habits and keep a flock of exceedingly handsome goats.

All the while there was such a commotion out in the gallery that the like of it had never before been heard. The whole palace creaked and groaned as if every joint and beam were going to be torn out of its place. Now I can’t say exactly what happened;

Oh, it was so totally the queen.

but somehow or other one door did open a little bit, and her twin sister just peeped out to see how things were going with Tatterhood, and put her head a tiny bit through the opening. But, pop! up came an old witch, and whipped off her head, and stuck a calf’s head on her shoulders instead; and so the princess ran back into the room on all fours, and began to “moo” like a calf.

The next time somebody pulls out that ancient astronaut crap about how primitive societies were so much more advanced than we are, I’m pointing to this story and claiming that the old Norse could do head transplants.

When Tatterhood came back and saw her sister, she scolded them all, and was very angry because they hadn’t kept better watch, and asked them what they thought of their carelessness now that her sister had been turned into a calf.

Great. Now my siblings are a goat and a calf—and I am still gonna be third in line to the throne. This family has issues, even leaving aside Mom’s increasing opium dependency.

“But I’ll see if I can’t set her free,” she said.

There’s only room for one farm animal in this family!

Then she asked the king for a ship with a full set of sails and good load of stores, but she would not have a captain or any sailors. No; she would sail away with her sister all alone. There was no holding her back, and at last they let her have her own way.

We will also never see the parents again. I would hope that they went back to their adopted daughter, but at this point, I think she’s well out of it. I like to think she ran off with the beggar-girl and her mother and learned witchcraft.

Tatterhood sailed off, and steered her ship right up to the land where the witches lived. When she came to the landing place, she told her sister to stay quite still on board the ship; but she herself rode on her goat up to the witches’ castle.

C’mon, bro, let’s go get our sister’s head back…

When she got there, one of the windows in the gallery was open, and there she saw her sister’s head hung up on the window frame; so she jumped her goat through the window into the gallery, snapped up the head, and set off with it. The witches came after her to try to get the head back. They flocked around her as thick as a swarm of bees or a nest of ants.

I want Pixar to do this movie, just so I can see Tatterhood with a severed head under one arm, riding her war-goat, beating the crap out of people with her spoon.

The goat snorted and puffed, and butted with his horns, and Tatterhood beat and banged them about with her wooden spoon; and so the pack of witches had to give up.

We may be witches, but a goat AND a spoon? That’s just crazy talk.

So Tatterhood got back to her ship, took the calf’s head off her sister, and put her own on again, and then she became a girl as she had been before.

I like to think that they tacked the calf-head on the front of the ship as a figurehead. And then became pirates. “STAND AND DELIVER OR YOU GET THE GOAT AND THE SPOON!”

After that she sailed a long, long way, to a strange king’s realm.

Well, I’ve terrorized all the other pirates until they just hand me money as soon as we pull alongside. Now I’m bored and the deck is ankle deep in goat crap.

Now the king of this land was a widower, and had an only son. When he saw the strange sail, he sent messengers down to the beach to find out where it came from, and who owned it; but when the king’s men came down there, the only person they saw on board was Tatterhood, and there she was, riding around and around the deck on her goat at full speed, until her strands of hair streamed in the wind. The men from the palace were all amazed at this sight, and asked if more people were not on board. Yes, there were; she had a sister with her, said Tatterhood. They wanted to see too, but Tatterhood said no.

“No one shall see her, unless the king comes himself,” she said; and so she began to gallop about on her goat until the deck thundered again.

I think we should take up barrel racing next, bro. We could make a killing on the pro-riding circuit!

(Incidentally, I told you guys about how my great-grandfather ran off with a trick rider from the rodeo, didn’t I? True story. Piece of family history. She was always described as “mannish” but of course all parties died long ago so all we know is the one line “he ran off with a mannish trick rider from the rodeo.” I have always wished we had some context on that.)

When the servants got back to the palace, and told what they had seen and heard down at the ship, the king wanted to set out at once to see the girl that rode on the goat. When he arrived there, Tatterhood brought out her sister, and she was so beautiful and gentle that the king immediately fell head over heels in love with her. He brought them both back with him to the palace, and wanted to have the sister for his queen; but Tatterhood said “No,” the king couldn’t have her in any way, unless the king’s son would take Tatterhood. That, as you may guess, the prince did not want to do at all, because Tatterhood was such an ugly hussy. However, at last the king and all the others in the palace talked him into it, and he gave in, promising to take her for his queen; but it went sore against his grain, and he was a very sad man.

I am torn here, because I’d feel for anybody being emotionally blackmailed into marrying against their will, but his reasons are so dreadful. She’s an ugly hussy? Dude! Have you seen what she can do with a spoon? This woman is a force of nature!

The goat does not apparently get any marital prospects.

Now they began making preparations for the wedding, both with brewing and baking; and when all was ready, they went to church. The prince thought it the worst church service he had ever been to in all his life.

That’s because you were born several centuries before the Satan-is-everywhere-in-popular-music sermon common in the mid-eighties.

The king left first with his bride, and she was so lovely and so grand, all the people stopped to look at her along the road, and they stared at her until she was out of sight. After them came the prince on horseback by the side of Tatterhood, who trotted along on her goat with her wooden spoon in her fist. To look at him, he was not going to a wedding, but to a burial, and his own at that. He seemed so sad, and did not speak a word.

In fairness, I can understand the prince being a teensy bit intimidated. She’s carrying the Battlespoon and he’s got to know she can take him with the goat tied behind her back.

“Why don’t you talk?” asked Tatterhood, when they had ridden a bit.

“Why, what should I talk about?” answered the prince.

Please don’t hurt me. They say some of those trolls turned up in Greenland. And they scream whenever they see silverware.

“Well, you might at least ask me why I ride upon this ugly goat,” said Tatterhood.

“Hey,” said the goat, “No need to get nasty about it. I thought we were a team.”

“Why do you ride on that ugly goat?” asked the prince.

“Is it an ugly goat? Why, it’s the most beautiful horse that a bride ever rode,” answered Tatterhood; and in an instant the goat became a horse, the finest that the prince had ever seen.

“If you could do this all along, sis, I wish you’d mentioned it. I totally would have had a shot with that hot Clydesdale babe back home.”

They rode on a bit further, but the prince was just as sad as before, and couldn’t say a word. So Tatterhood asked him again why he didn’t talk, and when the prince answered, he didn’t know what to talk about, she said, “Well, you can ask me why I ride with this ugly spoon in my fist.”

“Why do you ride with that ugly spoon?” asked the prince.

Oh god, please don’t hit me with it. I like all my limbs.

“Is it an ugly spoon? Why, it’s the loveliest silver fan that a bride ever carried,” said Tatterhood; and in an instant it became a silver fan, so bright that it glistened.

Because it was Tatterhood, I assume it was one of those razor-edged iron fans from the kung-fu movies.

They rode a little way further, but the prince was still just as sad, and did not say a word. In a little while Tatterhood asked him again why he didn’t talk, and told him to ask why she wore the ugly gray hood on her head.

“Why do you wear that ugly gray hood on your head?” asked the prince.

Actually he figured out what was going on by now, but he’s afraid that if he breaks the sequence, he’s gonna end up with a calf’s head. If he’s lucky.

“Is it an ugly hood? Why, it’s the brightest golden crown that a bride ever wore,” answered Tatterhood, and it became a crown at once.

Now they rode a long way further, and the prince was so sad, that he sat without making a sound or uttering a word, just as before. So his bride asked him again why he didn’t talk, and told him to ask now why her face was so ugly and gray?

“Yes,” asked the prince, “why is your face so ugly and gray?”

“Am I ugly? You think my sister beautiful, but I am ten times more beautiful,” said the bride, and when the prince looked at her, she was so beautiful, he thought that she was the most beautiful woman in the world. After that it was no wonder that the prince found his tongue, and no longer rode along with his head hanging down.

I dislike this. Tatterhood is a badass and deserves better.

I think it needs another section.

Now they rode an even longer way, and the prince was still sad and also slightly concerned because the former goat was trying to put the moves on his horse. So his bride asked him again why he didn’t talk.

“You might at least ask me why you’re such a shallow douchebag.”

“Why am I such a shallow douchebag?” asked the prince.

“Upbringing, I expect,” said Tatterhood. “You should meet my mother. Anyway, you’re not shallow. You’re a caring decent human being who would not judge me for my failure to conform to conventional beauty standards.”

And the prince discovered that he had previously undisclosed depths and said “Honestly, I still think this arranged marriage thing is a little weird, but I’m willing to get to know you better. Incidentally, what kind of music are you into?”

So they drank the bridal cup both deep and long, and, after that, both prince and king set out with their brides to the princesses’ palace, and there they had another bridal feast, and drank once more, both deep and long.

Absolutely no response from the king or queen. I blame the laudanum.

There was no end to the celebration. Now run quickly to the king’s palace, and there will still be a drop of the bridal ale left for you.

That is a nice little end phrase though. One of these days I’ll have to note down all the endings. Most of them are so much better than “happily ever after.” Except maybe the one with the pebbles.

Fake Christmas Tree

Bob the hamster was pleased with his new Christmas tree. It didn’t drop needles, it wasn’t a fire hazard, and it didn’t look fake like all those cheap plastic ones.

It did wander off occasionally, but it always came back when he filled the food dish.

I am feeling in a surprisingly Christmassy mood, so I thought I’d do this. Merry Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, and if you’d like to duplicate the image on your blog, feel free!

I Know My World Too Well

Had a complicated dream last night that involved me going through a portal in a painting painted black (by using a rock with the Biting Pear painting on it!) turning into a fox, spotting a pair of unicorns (because only animals can see unicorns, which are apparently wandering around the city most of the time) turning into a unicorn myself, and having a lengthy conversation with them. The unicorns (which were the goat-deer-like model rather than the horse-model) took me to a very odd Chinese bathhouse, full of moving stone statues, where we prayed to some peculiar deity.

“AHA!” I said, suddenly enlightened, turned into a dragon, and went off to kill the emperor, which apparently was what I was supposed to do all along.

None of that is terribly important. This is pretty standard dream fare for me. What stuck in my mind was that after I had slain the emperor, I went off to check my blog, and discovered an argument in the comments about whether or not I had actually been a unicorn all along.

Just in case anyone is wondering, I am not now and never have been a unicorn. Just in case it ever comes up.

Ten Years of Blogging

So yesterday marked the ten year anniversary of this blog. This one. Right here. Ten years ago, I said “What the heck—nobody’s gonna read it, but might as well.”

Christ, that’s a long time.

In that ten years, I moved—eight times, I think? I have traveled more places than I can easily count, driven across Texas three times, gotten married, gotten divorced, started a webcomic, finished a webcomic, won a Hugo for a webcomic, got an agent, wrote…um…twelve books?…edited thirteen books, sold almost all of the books, painted quite literally thousands of paintings (holy crap, that’s a lot) started a garden, left a garden, started another better garden, bought a house, unbought a house, been depressed, been medicated, been happy, ate canned haggis, sold half a million copies of the Dragonbreath series, had swine flu, back pain, root canals and damaged ankles, had electrodes strapped to my ass for medical reasons, went birding, fell in love, cried a lot, worked at an art supply store, worked on weird crap, adopted cats, was adopted by a beagle, became a meme, read seed catalogs, painted walls, got mad, screamed about politics, screamed about religion, sometimes just screamed, started a podcast, played D&D, started and abandoned untold numbers of projects, got an IUD, contemplated the noble wombat and told tales of defective wildlife and my late grandmother who was probably a demigod.

And you’re still here.

We’ve had some times, haven’t we?

I love you guys. I’m glad you’re here. I have moved too many times in my life and I think some part of me is just from the internet now, rather than being from anywhere geographically located. And if I’m from the internet in general, this blog is my home town.  Without you, it would be a lonely town full of tumbleweeds and the distant baying of feral beagles.

My life has changed so much since I started this blog ten years ago that I can honestly say that this blog is one of the only constants through the entire span, other than…um…my parents. And carbon. Carbon hasn’t changed much. Hell, I even learned to like tomatoes and raw fish.

Other than some books and some art, I don’t think I even have any possessions that have lasted that long. Most of my dishes did not survive the moves and none of the clothes would fit anymore. The stained glass lampshade had an encounter with a heavy box. There’s a crown of thorns my stepfather made out of horseshoe nails, but it’s kept in a box with “WARNING: PUNCTURE DAMAGE POSSIBLE” on the sides, since I have never yet figured out how to display the damn thing (and it’s gorgeous, don’t get me wrong.) My ex-husband kept the majority of the furniture. I might still have one good-sized kitchen knife dating more than a decade, but I won’t swear to it.

Oh, an a cow skull. The one cow skull’s been around awhile.

I hope that the next decade is awesome, but perhaps not quite so dramatic. I love my current likfe, and I rather hope it keeps on keepin’ on. However, as long as there is Defective Wildlife in the yard (and Thrush-Bob is still tormenting the cats, yes) and art to be made and paladins to throw into molten hand lotion and a chance of electrodes being strapped to my nether regions for sound medical reasons, I imagine I will keep blogging.

Thank you all for sticking around.

Annotated Fairy Tale: The Story of Log

Would you believe that it was July when I last did one of these?

Man. Time flies. Or maybe I just haven’t had insomnia nearly enough.

This is a Finnish folktale, sent in by an Alert Reader, who said I had to read it and was so very, very right. It’s from a website called “Finnish Folktales–The Gold Scales” and I haven’t been able to find any details about who translated or collected it originally. The website kindly allows one or two stories to be used from the site, and I am very grateful, because frankly, the world is a better place the more people hear of Log!

 

Log, The Hero Who Released The Sun

Hmm. Log. Well, it’s better than “Charming.” Probably an old Finnish name. Log Logsson. Inga Logsdottir. Maybe that’s Norwegian. Well, anyway. Log.

Once a poor couple had no children. Their neighbours all had boys and girls in plenty but for some reason God did not send them even one.

“If I cannot have a flesh and blood baby,” the woman said one day, “I’m going to have a wooden baby.”

Oh god, he’s really a log, isn’t he?

She went to the woods and cut a log of alder just the size of a nice fat baby. She dressed the log in baby clothes and put it in a cradle. Then for three whole years she and her husband rocked the cradle and sang lullabies to the log baby.

We saw this before with the Hog Bridegroom, but y’know…at least the pig was alive. Three years gets us heavily into people-with-baby-dolls-they-think-are-real uncomfortable silence territory.

At the end of three years one afternoon, when the man was out chopping wood and the woman was driving the cows home from pasture, the log baby turned into a real baby! It was so strong and hearty that by the time its parents got home it had crawled out of the cradle and was sitting on the floor yelling lustily for food.

Oh dear god, he’s made of were-wood.

It ate and ate and ate and the more it ate the faster it grew.

Ravenous log-baby! Nothing weird about that. Nope.

It was not any time at all in passing from babyhood to childhood, from childhood to youth, and from youth to manhood. From the start, people of the village knew it as Log, and Log never got any other name.

I can’t help but imagine the way this went down, with the neighbors knowing that Log’s parents were suffering some very strange issues.

“Guess what? Log sat up today!”

“I…see.” *avoids eye contact* “Well. That’s…um…something. How nice for you.”

“And he said his first word, too!”

“…sure he did, Martha.”

And then one day here they come with the log, and it’s practically a teenager, and clearly it must LOOK like a log enough that they knew what it is, so the neighbors are presumably sitting on the porch, watching the family walk by.

“So a teenaged log just walked by with his parents…”

“I’m going to drink heavily now, Martha.”

“That sounds like a great idea, Sven.”

Log’s parents knew from the start that Log was destined to be a great hero. That was why he was so strong and so good. There was no one in the village as strong as he was, or anyone as kind and gentle.

Aww. It’s nice that Log is a sweetie. I suppose it’s probably very calming being were-wood. Maybe on the full moon you just stand out in the garden and root.

Now just at this time a great calamity overtook the world. The sun, the moon, and the dawn disappeared from the sky and as a result the earth was left in darkness.

“Who have taken from us the sun and the moon and the dawn?” the people cried in terror.

“Whoever they are, “the king said, “they shall have to restore them!”

Don’t be a sun and moon hog, dude.

“Where, O where are the heroes that will undertake to find the sun and the moon and the dawn and return them to their places in the sky?”

There were many men willing to offer themselves for the great adventure but the king realized that something more was needed than willingness.

“It is only heroes of unusual strength and endurance,” he said, “who should risk the dangers of so perilous an undertaking.”

So he called together all the valiant youths of the kingdom and tested them one by one. He had some waters of great strength and it was his hope to find three heroes: one who could drink three bottles of the strong waters, a second that could drink six bottles, and a third one to drink nine bottles.

…waters of great strength. Uh-huh. Is that what they’re calling it these days?

Hundreds of youths presented themselves and out of them all the king found at last two: one was able to take three bottles of the strong waters, the other six bottles.

“But we need three heroes!” the king cried. “Is there no one in this entire kingdom strong enough to drink nine bottles?”

My heroes must be strong and willing and have livers made of cast iron!

“Try Log!” someone shouted.

All the youths present at once took up the cry, “Log! Log! Send for Log!”

Everybody loves Log! Log is popular! He’s kind and gentle and oh-so-strong! The men want to be him, and the ladies want to be with him.

And I bet he has amazing woo–

Ahem.

No, no. I’m good. Not going for the easy shot there. We are dignified here. We are serious scholars of folklore. We are

OH GOD WOODWOODWOODWOODDICKJOKEWOODWOODWOOD!

(…wood.)

…right. Now that’s out of our system.

I feel better now. Do you feel better now?

Do you want to sing the Log Song from Ren & Stimpy first? Okay. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Right. Moving on!

So the king sent for Log and sure enough, when Log came he was able to drink down nine bottles of the strong waters without any trouble at all.

Log is used to wood-grain alcohol. This is nuthin’. Hardly makes you blind at all.

“Here now,” the king proclaimed, “are the three heroes who are to release the sun and the moon and the dawn from whoever are holding them in captivity and restore them to their places in the sky!”

He equipped the three heroes for a long journey furnishing them money and food and drink of the strong waters, each according to his strength. He mounted them each on a mighty horse with sword and arrow and dog.

And dogs, too! That’s awesome! It’s nice to see a king for once who is neither an idiot nor a villain.

So the three heroes rode off in the dark and the women of the kingdom wept to see them go and the men cheered and wished that they, too, were going.

Roadtrip! And the king supplied the booze AND the dogs!

They rode on and on for many days that seemed like nights till they had crossed the confines of their own country and entered the boundaries of an unknown kingdom beyond. Here the darkness was less dense. There was no actual daylight but a faint greyness as of approaching dawn.

They rode on until they saw looming up before them the towers of a mighty castle. They dismounted near the castle at the door of a little hut where they found an old woman.

“Good day to you, granny!” Log called out.

Log is very polite. You would expect no less, of course. When was the last time you saw a tree with road rage?

“Good day, indeed!” the old woman said. “It’s little enough we see of the day since the Evil One cursed the sun and handed it over to Suyettar’s wicked offspring, the nine-headed serpent!”

“The Evil One!” Log exclaimed. “Tell me, granny, why did the Evil One curse the sun?”

Suyettar, near as I can tell, is a really nasty witch that shows up as a recurring villain in Finnish folktales. The Evil One, presumably, is the Devil, but Log is not required to fight him.

“Because he’s evil, my son, that’s why!”

No beating around the bush with motivations for us! We’ve got serpents to kill!

“He said the sun’s rays blistered him, so he cursed the sun and gave him over to the nine-headed serpent. And he cursed the moon, too, because at night when the moon shone he could not steal. Yes, my son, he cursed the moon and handed her over to Suyettar’s second offspring, the six-headed serpent. Then he cursed the dawn because he said he couldn’t sleep in the morning because of the dawn.”

I used to have this problem. Then we got Venetian blinds in the bedroom. I wonder if the Devil has considered this?

“So he cursed the dawn and gave her over to Suyettar’s third offspring, the three-headed serpent.”

“Tell me, granny,” Log said, “where do the three serpents keep prisoner the sun and the moon and the dawn?”

“Listen, my son, and I will tell you: When they go far out in the sea they carry with them the sun and the moon and the dawn. The three-headed serpent stays out there one day and then returns at night. The six-headed serpent stays two days and then returns, and the mighty nine- headed monster does not return until the third night. As each returns a faint glow spreads over the land. That is why we are not in utter darkness.”

This old lady is a serious quest giver. I assume there’s a big yellow exclamation point over her head or something.

Log thanked the old woman and then he and his companions pushed on towards the castle. As they neared it, they saw a strange sight that they could not understand. One half of the great castle was laughing and rocking as if in merriment and the other half was weeping as if in grief.

Probably this means the people in it, but I love the image of the castle itself sobbing into the moat and the other half shaking its towers in glee.

“What can this mean?” Log cried out. “We had better ask the old woman before we go on.”

So they went back to the hut and the old woman told them all she knew.

Many fairy tales would be easier if this old woman was hanging out in them.

“It is on account of the dreadful fate that is hanging over the king’s three daughters,” she said. “Those three evil monsters are demanding them one by one. Tonight when the three-headed serpent comes back from the sea he expects to devour the eldest. If the king refuses to give her up, then Suyettar’s evil son will devour half the kingdom, half of the castle itself, and half the shining stones. O, that some hero would kill the monster and save the princess and at the same time release the dawn that it might again steal over the world!”

Hint, hint.

Log and his fellows conferred together and the one they called Three Bottles, because his strength was equal to three bottles of the strong waters, declared that it was his task to fight and conquer the three-headed serpent.

I can take three bottles of Jack Daniels! I can take your damn serpent, too!

Meanwhile, in the castle preparations for the sacrifice of the oldest princess were going forward. As the king sewed the poor girl into a great leather sack, his tears fell so fast that he could scarcely see what he was doing.

“My dear child,” he said, “it should comfort you greatly to think that the monster is going to eat you instead of half the kingdom! Not many princesses are considered as important as half the kingdom!”

Heck of a bedside manner on this guy, huh?

The princess knew that what her father said must be true, and she did her best to look cheerful as they slipped the sack over her head. Once inside, however, she allowed herself to cry for she knew that no one could see her.

The sack with the princess inside was carried down to the beach and put on a high rock near the place where Suyettar’s sons were wont to come up out of the water.

There’s a sign. It says “Multi-headed Serpents Only. All Others Will Be Prosecuted. No Lifeguard On Duty. Do Not Feed The Twenty-Four-Headed-Otters.”

“Don’t be frightened, my daughter!” the king called out as he and all the court started back to the castle. “You will not have to wait for long, for it will soon be evening.”

…I see that we’ll be making up for the restraint of the previous king here. “It’s okay, honey! The monster will eat you at any moment! Isn’t that an ego-boost?”

Log and his companions watched the king’s party disappear and then Three Bottles solemnly drank down the three bottles of strong waters with which his own King had equipped him.

*glug glug glug*

“I’m goodsh. Lemme at ‘im. What’re you lookin’ at, anyway? Think you’re so speshul ‘cos you’re a damn LOG. Well, you’re not. You’re not speshul. You’re not better’n me. You’re just a damn…piece of…wood…

*sniff*

I din’t mean it, man. I love you. You know I do. You’re…like…my besht friend, man. Log. Wha’ever..”

As he was ready to mount his horse, he handed Log the leash to which his dog was attached.

“If I need help,” he said, “I’ll throw back my shoe and then you then release my dog.”

Both shoes are for wussies. Real men fight drunk, with one shoe, and their dog. Sort of like Rocky III meets Old Yeller.

With that he rode boldly down to the beach, dismounted, and climbed up the rock where the unfortunate princess lay in a sack. With one slash of the sword he ripped open the sack and dragged the princess out. She supposed of course that he was the three-headed serpent and at first was so frightened that she kept her eyes tightly shut not daring to look at him. She expected every minute to have him take a first bite and, when minutes and more minutes and more minutes still went by and he did not, she opened her eyes a little crack to see what was the matter.

“Oh!” the princess said. She was so surprised that for a long time she did not dare to take another peep.

“You thought I was the three-headed serpent, did not you?” a pleasant voice asked. “But I’m not. I’m only a young man who has come to rescue you.”

Fortunately he had time to sober up while she was peeping.

The princess murmured, “Oh!” again, but this time the “Oh!” expressed happy relief.

The third “Oh!” expresses something else again, but we got that out of our systems early on.

“Yes,” repeated the young man, “I am the hero who has come to rescue you. My comrades call me Three Bottles. And while we are waiting for the serpent to come in from the sea I wish you would scratch my head.”

…ah….is he still drunk?

The princess was not in the least surprised at this request. Heroes and monsters and fathers seemed always to want their heads scratched.

I…wait…what?

Um…

Is this a euphemism for…no, she said fathers, and he doesn’t seem like that kind of king, with the sobbing and the bad bedside manner and whatnot. Dumb, but well-meaning.  So…uh…huh. How ’bout that?

So Three Bottles stretched himself at the princess’ feet and put his head in her lap. He settled himself comfortably and she scratched his head while he gazed out over the dark sea waiting for the serpent to appear.

Is Three Bottles a large dog or a unicorn or something? “The Unicorn With The Iron Liver!” Man, that’d be a helluva furry kung-fu flick.

At first there was nothing to break the glassy surface of the water. They waited, and at last far out they saw three swirling masses rolling landward.

“Quick, princess!” Three Bottles cried. “There comes the monster now! Get down behind the rock and hide there while I meet the creature and chop off his ugly heads!”

I am fortified with head-scratches…apparently…

The princess, quivering with fright, crouched down behind the rock and Three Bottles, mounting his horse, rode boldly down to the water’s edge awaiting the serpent’s coming.

It came nearer and nearer in long easy swirls, slowly lifting its three scaly heads one after another. As it approached shore it sniffed the air hungrily. “Fee, fi, fo, fum!” it muttered in a deep voice, repeating the magic rime it had learned from its evil mother, Suyettar,

“Fee, fi, fo, fum!

I smell some yum, yum!

I’ll fall on him with a thud!

I’ll pick his bones and drink his blood!

Fee,fi, fo, fum! Yum! Yum!”

I can only guess that “Fee fi fo fum” is the monster equivalent of one of those old traditional tunes that everybody keeps putting new lyrics to. Or maybe it’s like how Emily Dickenson all scans to “Yellow Rose of Texas.”

“Stop boasting, son of Suyettar!” Three Bottles cried. “You’ll have time enough to boast after you fight.”

“Fight?” repeated the serpent as if in surprise. “Shall we fight, pretty boy, you and I? Very well! Blow then with your sweet breath, blow out a long level platform of red copper whereon we can meet and try our strength each with the other!”‘

“Nay,” answered Three Bottles. “You blow, and instead of red copper we shall have a platform of black iron.”

Oh, this is marvelous fairy tale detail. Head-scratches…little off, but blowing the platforms is just the thing.

So the serpent blew and on the iron platform that came of his breath, Three Bottles met him in combat. Back and forth they raged, Three Bottles striking right and left with his mighty sword, the serpent hitting at Three Bottles with all his scaly heads and belching forth fire and smoke from all his mouths. Three Bottles whacked off one scaly head and at last a second one, but he was unable to touch the third.

“I shall have to have help,” he acknowledged to himself finally, and reaching down he took one of his shoes and threw it over his shoulder back to his comrades who were awaiting the outcome of the struggle. At once they loosed the dog which bounded forward to its master’s assistance, and soon with the dog’s help Three Bottles was able to dispatch the last head.

Go, dog!

He was faint now with weariness and his comrades had to help him back to the old woman’s hut where he soon fell asleep.

She’s a quest-giver, an encyclopedia, and a bed & breakfast. This woman does everything. Forget the princess, marry her.

Night passed and dawn appeared. A great cry of relief and thanksgiving went up from all the earth.

“The dawn! The dawn!” people cried. “God bless the man who has released the dawn!”

Only at the castle was there sorrow still.

“My poor oldest daughter!” the king cried with tears in his eyes. “It was my sacrifice of her that has released the dawn!”

Then he called his servants and gave them orders to gather up his daughter’s bones and to bring back the leather sack.

“We shall need it again tonight,”he said.

I may be the king and have a huge castle and all, but leather sacks aren’t cheap!

He wiped his eyes and for a moment could say no more. “Yes, tonight we shall have to sew up my second daughter and offer her to the six-headed serpent, him that holds captive the moon. Otherwise the monster will devour half my kingdom, half the castle, and half the shining stones. Ail Ail Ail”

But the servants when they went to the high rock on the seashore found, not the princess’ bones, but the princess herself, sitting there with her chin in her hand, gazing down on the beach which was strewn with the fragments of the three-headed serpent.

“Sure, the serpent’s dead. But where’s that nice man I gave head-scratches to? Was I not supposed to scratch on the first date? Is he going to call?”

They led her back to her father and reported the marvel they had seen.

“There, king, lies the monster on the sand with all his heads severed! So huge are the heads that it would need three men with derricks to move one of them!”

“Some unknown hero has rescued my oldest daughter!” the king cried.

“Actually, he said his name was Thr–“

“I SAID, some unknown hero has rescued my oldest daughter!”

“Would that another might come tonight to rescue my second child likewise! But, alas! what hero is strong enough to destroy the six-headed monster?”

So when evening came they sewed the second princess in the sack and carried her out to the rock. Log and his companions saw the procession move down from the castle and they saw that the castle was again disturbed, one half of it laughing and one half weeping.

“It’s the second princess tonight,” the old woman told them. “Unless her father, the king, gives her to the six-headed serpent, the monster will come and eat half the kingdom, half the castle, and half the shining stones. He it is that holds the moon captive and the hero that slays him will release the moon.”

Yeah, yeah, we get it. It’s a pretty straightforward mathematical progression. Three, six, Log. 

I’m getting kind of curious about the shining stones, though. What are they? Are they like the magic rocks in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? How do they work?

Then he whom his comrades called Six Bottles cried out, “Here is work for me!”

He drank bottle after bottle of the strong waters until he had emptied six. “Now I am ready!” he shouted.

He then staggered four steps, vomited in a heroic fashion, drunk-dialed several exes, and then Log cleared his throat a few times and Six Bottles got the hint.

He mounted his mighty horse and as he rode off he called to his comrades, “If I need help I’ll throw back a shoe and then you unleash my dog!”

He rode to the rock on the shore and dismounted. Then he climbed the rock and released the second princess. He told her who he was and as they awaited the arrival of the six-headed serpent he lay at the princess’ feet and she scratched his head.

This might actually be less weird if it’s a euphemism, but I kinda think she’s really scratching his head.

This time the serpent came in six mighty swirls with six awful heads that reared up one after another. In terror the second princess hid behind the rock while Six Bottles, mounting his horse, rode boldly down to the water’s edge.

Like his brother serpent this one, too, came sniffing the air hungrily, muttering the magic rime he had learned from his mother, wicked Suyettar:

“Fee, fi, fo, fum!

I smell some yum, yum!

I’ll fall on him with a thud!

I’ll pick his bones and drink his blood!

Fee,fi, fo, fum! Yum! Yum!”

“Stop boasting!” Six Bottles cried. “You will have time enough to boast after you fight!”

“Fight?” repeated the serpent scornfully. “Shall we fight, little one, you and I? Very well! Blow then with your sweet breath, blow out a long level platform of white silver whereon we can meet and try our strength one with the other.”

“No,” answered Six Bottles. “You blow instead, and let it be a platform of red copper,”

Elegant! Unlike the poetry!

So the serpent blew and on the copper platform that came of his breath Six Bottles met him in combat. Back and forth they raged, Six Bottles striking left and right with his mighty sword, the serpent hitting at Six Bottles with every one of his six scaly heads and belching forth fire and smoke from all his mouths. Six Bottles whacked off one head, then another, then another. At last he had disposed of five heads. He tried hard to strike the last, but by this time the serpent had grown wary and Six Bottles’ own strength was waning. So he reached down and took one of his shoes and threw it over his shoulder back to his comrades who were awaiting the outcome of the struggle. At once they loosed the dog which bounded forward to its master’s assistance. Soon, with the dog’s help Six Bottles was able to dispatch the last head.

These are awesome dogs. My beagle would bay hysterically, wet himself, and the best I could hope for is that one of the heads would choke to death on him.

Then I’d be sad. And no amount of head-scratches would help.

Then his comrades led him, weary from the fight, to the old woman’s hut, and soon he fell asleep.

While he slept, the moon appeared in the sky and a great cry of relief and thanksgiving went up from all the world, “The moon! The moon! God bless the man who has released the moon!”

The king was awakened by the sound and looked out the castle window. When he saw the moon had returned to its place in the sky, his eyes overflowed with grief. “My poor second daughter!” he cried. “It was my sacrifice of her that has released the moon! Tomorrow morning I will send the servants to gather up her bones and to bring back the leather sack into which, alas! I must then sew my youngest daughter for the nine-headed serpent. Ai! Ai! Ai! How sad it is to be a father!”

THERE WILL BE NO HEAD SCRATCHES FOR ANYONE.

But on the morrow when the servants went to the rock they found the second princess sitting there alone gazing down on the scattered fragments of the six-headed serpent.

“Here she is, safe and sound!” they reported to the king as they led the second princess to him. And, marvel of marvels! on the beach below the rock lies the body of the six-headed serpent torn to pieces! Its heads, king, are so monstrous that six men with derricks could scarcely move one of them!”

Derricks? Where’d they get derricks? Is this an oil rich country?

“God be praised!” the king cried. “Another unknown hero has come and saved the life of my second child! Would that a third might come tonight and rescue my youngest child! Alas, she is dearer to me than both the others,

We are standing RIGHT HERE, Dad.

but I fear me that even if there be heroes who could dispatch the first two serpents, there is never one who can touch him of the nine heads that holds the mighty sun a captive!”

And the poor king wept, so sure was he that nothing could save the life of his youngest child.

When Log and his companions heard of the king’s grief, Log at once stood forth and said, “This last and mightiest battle is for me!” He opened the strong waters and drank bottle after bottle till he had emptied nine. “Now let night come as soon as it will!” he cried. “I am ready for the monster!”

Log has a liver made of oak and is thus only slightly tipsy.

He started forth, telling his comrades he would throw back a shoe if he needed help from his dog.

So it was Log himself who slashed open the sack for the third time and released the youngest princess who was much more beautiful than her sisters. She fell in love with the mighty hero on first sight and was so thrilled with his godlike beauty

Hang on, when did he go from loglike to godlike? Nobody mentioned that Log was a studmuffin. We covered good, strong, kind and gentle, but nobody said he was pretty.

that when he put his head in her lap she hardly knew what to do–

It’s okay, baby. True Log Waits.

–although her father always declared that she scratched his head much better than either of her sisters.

Oh god, no. Just no. I don’t even know what….no. Just…ewww. I mean, it’s a sad day when the BEST possible explanation is headlice.

They had not long to wait for soon all the sea was a glitter with the swirls of the ninefold monster who was coming to shore with the captive sun in his keeping.

“Wait for me behind the rock!” Log cried to the princess as he leapt on his horse and started forward. “Be careful!” the princess cried after him.

Nearer and nearer came the swirls of the nine-coiled monster. One after another of his nine heads rose and fell as he approached, and every head sniffed more hungrily as it came nearer, and each head rumbled as it sniffed,

“Fee, fi, fo, fum!

I smell some yum, yum!

I’ll fall on him with a thud!

I’ll pick his bones and drink his blood!

Fee,fi, fo, fum! Yum! Yum!”

Does Log even have blood? What is the serpent smelling, anyway? Sap?

Is this actually an extemporaneous song about what the serpent is experiencing, or is this the monster equivalent of the football fight song? Does our side get a fight song?

Log, Log, he’s our log!

If he can’t do it, we’ll send in the dog!

“Stop boasting!” Log cried. “You will have time enough to boast after you fight!”

“Fight?” roared the awful monster. “Shall we fight, poor infant, you and I? Very well! Then blow out a long level platform of shining gold. On it, we can meet and try our strength each with the other!”

“No!” Log answered. “You blow. And instead of shining gold we shall have a platform of white silver.”

So the monster blew and on the silver platform that came of his breath Log met him in combat. Back and forth they raged, Log striking right and left with his mighty sword, the serpent hitting at Log with all his nine scaly heads and belching forth fire and smoke from all his nine mouths. Log whacked off head after head until six lay gaping on the sand. But the last three he could not get.

Suddenly he pointed behind the serpent and cried, “Quick! Quick! The sun!”

Log is surprisingly cunning for a were-tree.

The serpent looked around and Log whacked off a head. Now only two remained, but try as he would Log could get neither of them. Again he tried a subterfuge.

“Your wife! See, over there, they’re abusing her!”

The monster looked and Log whacked off another head.

Wait–hang on–time out. This is…actually, that’s sort of not-cool of Log, and sort of sweet of the serpent to go “What? Where? Honey! Are you okay?” This is the only even remotely nice thing we see out of a serpent, and y’know, it puts them in a whole new light, really.

But one now remained and as usual it was the hardest of them all to get. Log felt his strength waning while the monster seemed more nimble than ever.

“I shall have to have help,” Log thought.

He threw back his shoe to his comrades and they at once loosed his dog.

He’s very reluctant to call in the dog. I suppose when you’re a were-tree, you have a different sort of relationship to dogs and their…habits.

With the dog’s help Log was soon able to dispatch the last head. Then Three Bottles and Six Bottles helped him off his horse and supported him to the old woman’s hut where he soon fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning the blessed sun rose at his proper time and people all over the world fell on their knees with thanksgiving, and weeping with joy they cried out, “The sun! The sun! God bless the man who has released the sun!”

At the castle they woke up the king with the good news but the king only shook his head and murmured in grief, “Yes, the sun is released but what do I care now that my youngest daughter has been sacrificed!”

Hello? Two living daughters over here! And the farmers in the kingdom are probably pretty happy about that photosynthesis thing happening again.

He dispatched the servants to gather up her bones. They returned bringing the princess herself and telling a marvelous tale of the beach littered with nine severed heads so huge that it would need nine men with derricks to move one of them.

“What manner of heroes are these who have rescued my daughters!” cried the king. “Let them come forth and I will give them my daughters for wives and half my riches for dowry! But they will have to prove themselves the actual heroes by bringing to the castle the heavy heads of the monsters they have slain.”

When Log and his fellows heard this, they laughed with happiness and, strengthening themselves with deep draughts of the strong waters, they gathered together the many heads of the mighty serpents, bore them to the castle, and piled them up at the king’s feet. Then Log stepped forward and said: “Here we are, come to claim our reward!”

Three-Bottles and Six-Bottles were staggering a bit and thought it was best to let Log talk.

The king, true to his promise, gave them his daughters in marriage, the oldest to Three Bottles, the second to Six Bottles, and the youngest to Log. Then he apportioned them the half of his riches and, after much feasting and merrymaking, the heroes took their brides and their riches and bidding the king farewell started homewards.

As they rode through a great forest, they sighted a tiny hut. Log motioned his comrades to wait for him quietly, as he crept forward to see who was in the hut. It was well he was cautious for inside the hut was Suyettar herself talking to two other old hags.

The most impressive thing about this is that the old woman didn’t have to tell him to do it.

“Ay,” she was saying, “they have slain my three beautiful sons, my mighty offspring that held captive the sun and the moon and the dawn! But I tell you, sisters, they will pay the penalty. . . .”

To hear better, Log changed himself into a piece of firewood and slipping inside the hut hid himself in the woodpile near the stove.

Holy crap, TIME OUT AGAIN.

I was mostly joking about the were-wood thing! You’re telling me that in addition to godlike beauty, all around boy-scoutness, he can turn himself into firewood?

This is…potentially a rather dangerous talent, now that I think of it. “Hey, Martha, throw another log on the–Oh! Log! I didn’t realize you were…hiding in the woodpile…like a weirdo…”

We do not learn nearly enough of Log’s childhood. Did he hide in the woodpile to avoid spankings? Did he turn into firewood on the playground when embarrassed? This is rich story territory, people!

“Ay, they will pay the penalty!” Suyettar repeated. “I shall have my revenge on them! A fine supper Suyettar shall soon have, yum, yum!

I’ll fall on them with a thud!

I’ll pick their bones and drink their blood!

Fools, fools, to think they can escape Suyettar’s anger!”

Hey, that didn’t rhyme…

“But sister, sister,” the two old hags asked, “how will you get them?”

Suyettar looked this way and that to make sure that no one was listening.

Nobody suspects…the firewood!

Then she whispered, “This is how I shall get them: As they come through this forest, the three men with their brides, I. shall send on them a terrible hunger. Then they shall come suddenly on a table spread with tempting food. One bite of that food and they are in my power, he-he! Ay, sisters, tonight Suyettar will have a fine supper! Nothing can save them unless, before they touch the food, someone make the sign of the moss three times over the table. Then table and food would disappear and also the ravening hunger. But even if that happens, Suyettar shall still get them!”

“How, sister, how?” the other two asked.

“Then I should send on them consuming thirst, and then put in their pathway a spring of cold sparkling water. One drop of that water and they are in my power, he-he! Nothing can save them from me unless, before their lips touch the water, someone make the sign of the bark three times over the spring. At that the spring would disappear and also their thirst.

But even if they escape the spring, I shall still get them. I shall send great heaviness on them and a longing for sleep, then let them come on a row of soft inviting feather beds. If they cast themselves on the beds, they are mine, he-he! to feast on as I will! Nothing can save them but that someone make the sign of the tree-top three times over the beds before they touch them.

Oh, sisters, I shall get them one way or another for there is no one to warn them. If there was anyone to warn them, he wouldn’t dare tell them what he knows, for he would also know that if he told them he would himself be turned into a blue cross and have to stand forever in the cemetery.”

There is a lot to digest here.

What are the sign of the moss, bark, and tree? And what a novel punishment that last is. Suyettar is certainly novel.

As Log knew now all the dangers that threatened, he slipped away from the woodpile and, when he was outside, took his own shape and hurried back to his comrades.

…this seems to imply that he can move as firewood.

The mind boggles. Are little barky bits wiggling along like millipede legs? Is he hopping? Is he rolling down stairs and over the neighbor’s dog?

“Away!” he cried. “We are in great danger!” They all spurred their horses and rode swiftly on until Three Bottles suddenly cried, “Hold, comrades, hold! I am faint with hunger!”

“Me, too!” cried Six Bottles.

At that instant a great table, laden with delicious food, appeared before them.

“Look!” cried the one of them.

“Food!” cried the other.

They flung themselves from their horses and ran towards the table; But quick as they were, Log was quicker. He reached the table first and, raising his hand, made the sign of the moss three times. The table disappeared as suddenly as it had come and with it the strange hunger that had but now consumed them.

Sign of the moss. Still baffled. I am wavering between crossing oneself and shining the Moss-signal over Gotham. “He’ll be here as soon as he can, Commissioner! Which is about an inch a season, unless we treat the Joker with buttermilk!”

“Strange!” Three Bottles exclaimed. “I thought I was hungry, but I’m not!”

“I thought I saw food just now,” Six Bottles said. “I must have been dreaming.”

So they mounted again and pushed on.

“Danger threatens us,” said Log. “We must hurry and not dismount no matter what the temptation.”

They agreed, but then one of them cried out, and then the other, “Water! Water! We shall soon perish unless we have water!”

At once by the wayside appeared a spring of cool sparkling water and it was all Log could do to reach it before his fellows. He did get there first and made the sign of the bark three times, so that the spring disappeared and with it the thirst which had but now consumed them all.

“I thought I was thirsty,” Three Bottles said, “but I’m not!”

“Why did we dismount?” Six Bottles asked. “There’s no water here.”

So again they mounted and went forward, and Log, warning them again that danger threatened, begged them not to dismount a third time no matter what the temptation.

They promised they would not, but soon, complaining of fatigue, they wanted to. Their brides, too, swayed in the saddle, overcome with weariness and sleep.

“Dear Log,” they said, “let us rest for an hour. See, our brides are drooping with fatigue! One hour’s sleep and we shall all be refreshed!”

At once beside them on the forest floor they saw three soft white feather beds. Log leaped to the ground, but before he was able to make the sign of the tree-top over more than one of the beds, his comrades and their brides had fallen headlong on the other two.

And that was the end of poor Three Bottles and Six Bottles and their two lovely brides. There was no way now of saving them from Suyettar. She had them in her power and nothing would induce her to give them up.

Well, that was abrupt and depressing.

I hope they slept peacefully and dreamed of head scratches.

As Log and his bride sadly mounted their horse and rode on they heard an evil voice chanting out in triumph, “I’ll fall on them with a thud, he-he! I’ll pick their bones and drink their blood, he-he!”

…doesn’t bode well. I note that he doesn’t even try to fix it, though—nope, not happening, very sad, time to go home, I guess. Clearly Suyettar was a tough customer.

“Poor fellows! Poor fellows!” Log said, and the princess wept to think of the awful fate that had overtaken her two sisters.

Well, Log and his bride reached home without further adventure and were received by the king with great honors.

“I knew my heroes were succeeding,” the king said, “when first the dawn appeared again, and then the moon, and last the mighty sun. All hail to you, Log, and to your two comrades! But, by the way, where are Three Bottles and Six Bottles?”

“Your Majesty,” Log said, “Three Bottles and Six Bottles were brave men both. By their prowess they released the one the dawn, the other the moon. Then in an evil adventure on the way home they perished. I can tell you no more.”

“You can tell me no more?” the king said. “Why can you tell me no more? What was the evil adventure in which they perished?”

“If I told you, king, then I, too, should perish, for I should be turned into a blue cross and stood forever in the cemetery!”

“What nonsense!” the king exclaimed. “Who would turn you into a blue cross and stand you forever in the cemetery?”

“That is what I cannot tell you,” Log said.

The king laughed and pressed Log no further,

Ha ha, everybody else is dead and the god-like heroic kind gentle beautiful strong sexy hunk of were-firewood is depressed and appears sworn to silence! I’m so amused!

but the people of the kingdom, scenting a mystery, insisted on knowing in detail what had happened the other two heroes. So the rumor began to spread that Log himself had done away with them in order that he might gather to himself all the glory of the undertaking.

I guess maybe everybody didn’t love Log.

The king was forced at last to send for him again and to demand a full account of everything.

Log realized that his end was near. He met it bravely. Commending to the king’s protection his lovely princess, Log related how the three mighty serpents whom they had killed were sons of Suyettar, and how in revenge Suyettar had succeeded in destroying Three Bottles and Six Bottles together with their brides. Then he told the fate about to overtake himself.

Oh god, it really is Old Yeller!

“He’s my log, ma. I’ll do it.”

He finished speaking and as the king and the court looked at him, to their amazement he disappeared.

Log, nooo!

“To the cemetery!” someone cried.

They all went to the cemetery where at once they found a fresh blue cross that had come there nobody knew how. There it stands to this day, a reminder of the life and deeds of the mighty hero Log.

*sniffle* I hope they put up a nice plaque, the jerks.

The king was overcome with sorrow at losing such a hero. He took Log’s bride under his protection and he found her so beautiful and so gentle that soon he fell in love with her and married her.

Ah…huh. How nice for her. I’m sure that wasn’t awkward at all.

Well. It was no twenty-four-headed otter tale, perhaps, but if you had told me that the most sympathetic hero we’d find in a long time was a piece of sentient firewood, I…would probably have believed you, actually. But still. Nooo! Log! We hardly knew ye!

Clearly Log needs to be resurrected in fan-fic. Dr. Who crossover, maybe. My Little Log. Team Log! LOGS DO NOT SPARKLE. THEY ARE TOO MANLY TO SPARKLE AND ALSO THEY ARE LOGS.

…still kinda weirded out by the head-scratching thing, though.