once upon a conversation (b)


The husband and I are reading Pat Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind together. The bulk of the book is the protagonist Kvothe recounting his youth and essentially fleshing out the man behind the Legend, relaying the sources of many a story about him. Still Kvothe, a figure of Legendary/mythic proportion (of which we have yet to fully realize), exists within a realm of already conceived mythical figures that would pre-date him. The Name of the Wind recounts songs and stories of varying folk lore, some specific to regions or a people, and some shared by everyone (the Chandrian, Lenre and Lyra, etc).

Sean and I got to talking about the myths, fairy tales, and folk lore observed by fictional characters within a novel. Some feel more borrowed and cobbled together than others, but regardless, they can be as wonderfully entertaining and as real as a tale that comes from some other country only heard about, but never seen. A folk tale can blend quite nicely into fiction unless it is very presently culturally observed, like the man who gathers bad children in a bag near Christmas and carts them off into the woods to be brutally murdered; I was afraid of him up until we moved to a different country. Still I worry a bit that he will be waiting for me when e’er I return.

I have read little in the Fantasy genre (thus far), nor do Sean and I tend to read the same books, but I think it natural anyway that the conversation would move from Rothfuss to Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There are many charming and terrifying tales told in the realm Tolkien created and historicized. The song of the Ent wives is a particular favorite of mine, or of the maid Nimrodel.

After Tolkien, Sean reminded me of the story he’d read in a Gene Wolfe novel that he liked so much. We since have gotten the 2nd half of The Book of the New Song: Sword & Citadel so as to read it again, and to collect it. I found the chapter/story, “XIII: Foila’s Story—The Armiger’s Daughter,” on-line last night, here. We also learned it shows up in at least one of Wolfe’s short story collections.

A collection… There are collections of fairy tales and folk lore and myths from around the world. Is there an anthology of lore/tales collected from “fictional” places?

What tale would you like to see in such a collection?  I like Jesse Ball’s tale in The Way Through Doors about the man who meets the devil on the road home to his wife and makes an arrogant and unwise deal. Or of the queen (?) who loved a count who did not return her affection so she hunted down the ugliest woman in the known world and made him marry her in their kingdom of ice. Course, the protagonist is making up stories, it is not a part of some fantastical place other than his own imagination. It isn’t Middle Earth, or Narnia, or where ever it is that Kvothe lives, or within the Wheel of Time, or A Song of Fire and Ice, or the Dark Tower

What tale would you like to see in such a collection? Do you have a favorite fairy tale, folk tale, or myth conceived in some cultural setting in a fictional realm?* Would you limit it to Fantasy/Sci Fi, or could we include  others, like Psychological fiction for example?


*Going to have to work on that wording of that question; fictional is a tricky word. How would you more eloquently word it? What would you call such a collection of tales (if it doesn’t already have a known name)?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. When it comes to discussing folktales and common lore, I always rue my choices of college electives. A friend of mine took a “Folklore and Fairy Tales” class, and it ended with a trip to Hungary or some other Eastern European country. How I wish I would’ve taken more humanities classes…

    Inevitably, I also start thinking about three graphic novel choices: Fables, Hellboy, and Sandman. Gaiman is a master of global lore, and Mignola follows close on his hills. Both seem to find obscure pieces of stories and incorporate them in delightful ways. (I’m thinking of Anansi Boys and American Gods, here. He borrowed and created great creatures of myth & legend.)

    Folklore and the worldbuilding is one of the big reasons why I love the fantasy genre so much. I love the stories (or the scraps of them) spread on a children’s song, or whispered around a campfire. Men bragging at a pub, but with shifty eyes from unspoken truths. No one believes the folk stories, just as we don’t believe in boogie men, but no one is completely stupid, either. Stories come from somewhere, eh?

    I think your idea is great. A collection of “fictional” folk stories, anthologized from various works of spec-fic, would be a wonderful read.

    There are many stories that I love, especially the ones Rothfuss created. But I like Tolkien’s, GRRM’s, and a host of others, too.

    I’ve not read Wolfe, though I’ve had Shadow & Claw, Books 1 & 2 of The New Sun on my shelf for over two years now. One of these days I’ll get to that.

  2. Carl V. says:

    Although I know for a fact I’ve read many stories with fictional folklore in them, nothing specific is coming to mind in regards to what I would like to see in a collection.

    I am particularly fond of books in which the author incorporates a believable history, folklore, mythology that existed before the character(s) in the story. Tolkien is of course a master at this and one of the many reasons I am so in love with his work is the rich history woven throughout his tales. Robert E. Howard actually does a surprisingly good job of this with his Conan stories. I say “surprisingly” simply because I was blown away by these stories when I started reading them a few years back, not expecting them to be as rich as I found them to be.

    Mike Mignola mines folklore and mythology with utter perfection in his Hellboy series, particularly the earlier graphic novels. Like Logan, I often wish I had taken more classes like this in school…though I guess there is nothing stopping me from doing so now (except time and money, of course).

    To Logan and anyone else interested I would highly recommend reading Terri Windling’s essays on folklore, fairy tales and mythology. Hers and others can be found here:


    I am excited that you and your husband are reading this book together. I’ve ordered the audio version for my wife because I want her to experience it too.

thoughts? would love to hear them...

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