Over the Rainbow Table of Contents

Here is our Table of Contents for Over the Rainbow: Folk and Fairy Tales From The Margins (Exile, 2018).

Introduction: Fairy Tale Transformations – Derek Newman-Stille

Skin – Nathan Caro Frechette

I Am Not Broken – Fiona Patton

The Half Courage Hare – Rati Mehrotra

The Story of the Three Magic beans – Ace Jordyn

Iron Jenny and the Princess – Robert Dawson

The Waltzing Tree – Richard Keelan

Fairest Find – Nicole Lavigne

White Rose, Red Thorns – Liz Westbrook-Trenholm

Path of White Stones – Kate Heartfield

The Page of Cups and the Star – Evelyn Deshane

Unearthing History – Lisa Cai

Half Gone Dark – Tamara Vardomskaya

None of Your Flesh and Blood – Chadwick Ginther

Pied – Quinn McGlade-Ferentzy

La Bete Sauvage – Karin Lowachee

Martinis, My Dear, Are Dangerous – Kate Story

Daughter Catcher – Ursula Pflug

As Never Bird Sang Before – Sean Moreland

The Canadian Response to Mercedes Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdoms

A review of Lindsay Carmichael’s The PRince and the Hedgewitch that I posted on Speculating Canada

Speculating Canada: Canadian Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy

A review of Lindsey Carmichael’s The Prince and the Hedgewitch (in Canadian Tales of the Fantastic, Red Tuque Books, Penticton, BC, 2011)

By Derek Newman-Stille

To anyone who has read Mercedes Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdoms series, Lindsey Carmichael’s The Prince and the Hedgewitch will strike a familiar cord. Like Lackey’s series, Carmichael’s short story plays with the idea of a world that is entirely draped in the trappings of fairy tales. Like Lackey’s ‘The Tradition’ that shapes events in her world, making them conform to the traditions of stories that have already been written (i.e. a third son will always become king after undergoing a quest), Carmichael’s ‘the story’ has a similar way of making the world around it conform to story archetypes. In the worlds that both authors create, there is a sense of the inevitability of fate and a fundamental lack of agency.

There are a lot…

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Feeding the Imagination: Food in Fairy Tales

Feeding the Imagination: Food in Fairy TalesBy Derek Newman-Stille

“Change Within and Without” by Derek Newman-Stille

Food provides an important role in fairy tales and food frequently had transformative powers. Food is something that links people together. It is something that human beings share – a need to eat. We link food to celebrations that mark the passages of time. Food is frequently linked to our expression of our ethnicity and our culture. Food can also be a means of establishing difference and foods are frequently used as a way of expressing discrimination – for example, calling Germans “Krauts”, The French “Frogs”. Food can be a marker of discriminatory difference and what we enjoy eating is culturally defined.

Tales about fairies frequently feature food, with the caveat of warning that when people enter into the fairy realm, they should never eat fairy food, no matter how appetizing it seems to be. Eating fairy food can forever force people to stay in the fairy realm. In this way, food is linked to space and place, with food becoming an anchor where it becomes literally a part of the body. There is an ingesting of part of the fairy realm that occurs and that realm becomes part of the human guest. Food has the power to change people. 
Yet, it is also considered rude not to offer food. Fairy tales frequently centre around curses that have resulted from not offering a beggar food. Frequently powerful beings take the form of people in need of food in order to test the generosity of a hero. Food represents a bond between person who offers food and the person who receives it, linking them in social custom and tying them together through the notion of “the gift” and of the friendship between guest and host.

Food has a form of magic in fairy tales, a power to evoke changes. In “Cinderella”, food, in the form of a pumpkin, becomes a vessel of change, literally changing into a carriage to carry her to her new life. Cinderella enters into the body of the pumpkin, being swallowed by it in a reversal of the expected consumer-consumed relationship. It is part of her transformation and it is similarly a figure of change, converting to a pumpkin at midnight just as she transforms. It is a companion on her voyage to change.

Yet, many fairy tales feature the idea of food as a threat. They explore the power of food to potentially feed, but also to potentially kill. Snow White is a tale of an apple. The apple is so much a part of Snow that she has white skin like the inside of an apple and apple red lips. Yet the apple becomes a symbol of death rather than life, imbued with poison. Snow White is a tale of the ripening of youth and the experience of age. The apple given to Snow is, like the queen herself, all appearance. It is made to be beautiful to conceal a dark centre of poison. 

And the apple, like the pumpkin is a fruit of transformation. The apple provides a gateway for Snow White into eternal sleep. It is a symbol of the complicated nature of food – both as something that can sustain life and also, through poison or disease, something that can take life away.

Jack in the Beanstalk is a tale of transformative beans. Jack, in hunger, exchanges one source of food (a cow) for another (three magic beans). Yet the beans provide the roots for a tale of transformation. They grow deep in the ground and up into the clouds, providing a geographic gateway for Jack into a different realm and a change of circumstances. The beans are rooted in place in Jack’s world, but their stalks provide movement to a different place. Jack is able to life in two spaces through the beanstalk’s ability to suspend itself, bridge-like, between these two places.

Hunger is something that frequently serves as motivation in fairy tales, propelling protagonists to change their circumstances in order to be fed. These tales or hunger likely reflect reality at the time the tales were written. Hansel and Gretel becomes a tale of displacement due to food. Unable to feed their children, Hansel and Gretel’s parents kick them out of the house. They attempt to use food (breadcrumbs) as a way to trace their way home, but these are eaten. When the two young people come across a house of candy, they believe they will be able to eat in abundance, but this tale inverts humanity and food, making the youths potential food for the witch and the witch’s candy as nothing more than a trap. In fact, the witch complicates the food/human dynamic when she is baked in the oven by Gretel just like food is. 

Red RidingHood is similarly based on venturing with food and cannibalism. When Red wanders into the woods, it is to bring food to her ailing grandmother. However, this is another tale of cannibalism and, when RidingHood arrives, she is targeted as food by the wolf, who has already eaten Red’s grandmother and seeks to eat her.

Food and what has the potential to be considered food represents change. Perhaps this is because, so often we use food to represent passages of time, marking special occasions with it. The association between food and time is further enhanced when we look at ideas of ripening and rotting. Food has a limited window where it can be considered food – between ripening and rot. This is why the Cinderella tale is so fascinating – Cinderella travels within food, the pumpkin, and that food has a distinct expiry date – midnight.

Food changes over time and also changes us. In fairy tales, we really are what we eat… and we are what eats us as well.

Fairy Tale Traditions Versus Fairy Tale Transformations

Fairy Tale Traditions Versus Fairy Tale Transformations

By Derek Newman-Stille

Transformation Within by Derek Newman-Stille

Fairy Tales have been reconstructed in the 20th century as tales of caution and warning against difference. In reframing them as “Children’s Tales”, fairy tales have frequently been turned into tales of hegemonic control, tales that limit options and possibilities in exchange for ideas of “tradition” and “‘morals”.
Yet fairy tales have always been primarily about the RE-telling, about shifting and changing for new audiences and new listeners. They aren’t made to be static tales and the only traditions that they were made to represent were traditions about the importance of storytelling. 
Fairy tales are so frequently about transformations – from pauper to princess, from man to beast, from mermaid to girl – because they are tales that ARE transformative. They are tales that constantly shift and change with each telling, taking on new ideas as they are presented to new audiences.
Fairy tales come from oral narratives, and oral narratives are meant to be performed. Any performance shifts with its audience, changing as the audience finds certain things entertaining, offensive, humourous, or tragic, and performers know to shift the way they perform their tales to appeal to new and different groups. Fairy tales embrace these transformations, presenting them as metamorphoses of frogs into princess, but they are really about change and the need for change. It is often those in fairy tales who resist change, who become stuck in their ways, that suffer in their mundanity as a world of magic changes around them.
Tradition and transformation collide in fairy tales as they do in our world, generating new potentials that still take into account the stories that have shaped us. 

Fairy Tale Clothing

Fairy Tale Clothing
By Derek Newman-Stille

Clothing shapes the way people view us and we wear certain clothing to evoke certain social reactions. Our clothing shapes the narratives by which we are read and we shape the way we are seen by shifting our clothing. With simple changes in fabric and the shape of fabric we can be read as male, female, wealthy, conformist, outsider. Clothing can be a uniform, illustrating our careers. Clothing changes depending on the events we attend and the way we want to be seen at those events – shaping our celebrations and also the way we mourn.

Perhaps it is the adaptability of clothing that accounts for fairy tale obsessions with clothing and it’s transformative powers, but perhaps it could also relate to fairy tale interests in bodies and changes in circumstances. With a simple shoe, Cinderella changes her social status and circumstances, moving from pauper to princess. She is repeatedly read as a maid because her step-mother forces her to wear maid clothing and, even when she dresses in fancy clothes, these are torn from her by her step family, transforming riches into rags. Clothing seems to confine as well as define her until she is transformed by magic into a look that a princess is expected to have. She is read by her clothing and only seen as significant and noticeable when she conforms to the expected look of a princess. Yet she is shaped this way by the male GAZE, by the way she is looked at by the prince.

The Goose Girl is similarly a tale of transformation and clothing with a maid who changes clothing with a princess in order to assume her identity. Since the maid looks as a princess should (dressed in finery) and the princess looks like a maid, the girl is relegated to the position of Goose Girl and told to mind geese for the castle. Skill sets belonging to princess and maid are ignored because clothing is so definitive of social class and perception.

The Emperor’s New Clothes is similarly a tale of wealth and clothing, but, rather than conforming to expectations of clothing, this emperor seeks to set trends that define himself as different from the rest by wearing superior clothing. He simultaneously seeks the best materials, so light they seem like they aren’t there, and so spectacular they can only be seen by the most refined vision, while also fearing losing face and being seen as somehow deficient. The tale is one of pomposity and the fear that people have of losing face.

Red RidingHood is literally defined by her clothing, named after the red hood she wears. This hood represents the power to conceal, hiding her beneath red fabric. Yet that fabric is also the colour of blood, representing both the menstrual blood she will have as she passes from girlhood into womanhood and also the blood that will be shed by the wolf. It situates her as prey to the wolf, already marked in blood.

Clothing in fairy tales is transformative, but it also SPEAKS. Clothing is invested with symbolism and shapes the message that readers receive. So many fairy tales focus on clothing and it’s symbolic power because it IS a symbolic medium that already carries messages and shapes our understanding of the bodies that lay beneath the clothes.

Extended Deadline

We have been getting a lot of requests to extend the deadline for Over The Rainbow: Folk and Fairy Tales from the Margins, so we have decided to extend the deadline for submissions until the end of October. Our new deadline with be on November first.


As a result, we are also extending our reading period until December first, and will get back to people by December 15th about whether their stories have been accepted.


If you haven’t already sent us a story, there is still time.

An Interview with Shveta Thakrar

An Interview with Shveta Thakrar

Shveta outside, November 2015

Q: To begin our interview, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Shveta Thakrar: Yes! I’m a dreamer who unabashedly believes in magic, a Hindu who wants to bring some of her heritage and mythology to life in her writing, and someone who is even now tapping her foot, wondering when she’s going to get her wings and shape-shifting serpentine tail. I also really like cupcakes and mangoes and spicy things. And food in general. And compassion and empathy. And colors. And social justice. And the night sky. And elephants and peacocks and lotuses and goddesses and forests and mythology and folklore . . . and of course, books and magic and fantasy.

In fact, I’m busy assembling my personal library full of enchanted tales (and painting bookcases violet and berry pink to hold them) as I type this. May that library contain a rich selection of tales of adventure and wonder from all our global traditions.
Q: What fairy and folk tales did you grow up on?

Shveta Thakrar: Mostly the well-known works collected and edited by the Gebrüder Grimm (“Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and so on) in various books—along with the Disney versions—though I also read South Asian stories in Amar Chitra Katha comics. Also some Panchatantra fables from my dad.

(A side note: It didn’t occur to me until I was in my twenties that my South Asian stories were every bit as much fairy and folktale as any of the Grimm or the occasional Russian yarn about someone throwing a comb behind her I’d devoured. No one had made them sound relevant, and that’s something I want to see change.)
Q: How did these tales shape your development and who you decided to become?

Shveta Thakrar: As I said above, I’ve always loved magic, and I’ve always longed for something more than what we can see. I wrote before about feeling like a changeling, albeit one who doesn’t know what her original form was, and I often still feel that way—trapped in a world that has no place for me and expects me to appreciate its mundane concerns. But since I’m stuck here for now *grin*, I’ve tried to channel that sense of isolation and displacement into my art and making a better world in whatever way I can. Sometimes that means speaking out and writing; sometimes it means diving deep into books, spending time among greenery and blooms, taking time for spiritual practice, and living a magical, creative life.

(I very much believe in adding sparkle and whimsy wherever possible, whether through how I decorate myself and my teal-walled dreaming room or by carrying large branches through city streets or by sending letters written in jewel-toned ink on pretty paper and stamped with a wax seal.)

But on a writing level, I noticed in my mid-twenties that there didn’t seem to be much media that reflected the desi and the Hindu I was/am. And if there was, it did so in a harmful way, like in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It hurt, that absence, that blithe erasure, that harmful representation—all of it. I had a lightbulb moment where I knew I needed to help change how society views marginalized people—to help take them out of the margins and into the mainstream. And I knew I wanted to do that using the fantasy I love so much, the fantasy that sends silver jets of starlight whooshing through my veins.

Because everyone deserves magic.
Q: You did your Master’s degree in German literature. Were there any German fairy tales that spoke to you? Which ones?

Shveta Thakrar: Yes; I loved the works of E.T.A. Hoffmann, particularly Der goldne Topf (The Golden Pot), and was a big fan of the German Romantics in general. But even the basic Grimm stuff like the story with the dresses of sun, moon, and stars illuminated something in me that wanted to visit a place where I could find such things. That wish has never gone away; I’m always on the lookout for my magical Night Market, for the portal to Faerie (which to me encompasses all mythic traditions).
Q: In works like your short story “Lavanya and Deepika,” you combine the rich lore of India with the Norwegian tale “Tatterhood.” What inspired this weaving of different tales together?

Shveta Thakrar: Ha, the answer to this one is pretty matter-of-fact! I saw a call for submissions put out by an editrix of color, and she was determined to allow people of color to lay claim to the Western tales we’d been immersed in, so she started her own micromagazine focused on retellings. For my part, I loved the concept, and I got to play with the notion of “beautiful” and “ugly,” hence an “ugly” rose sister in “Lavanya and Deepika.”
Q: What potential new ideas and explorations can come from weaving different tales from different cultures?

Shveta Thakrar: We live in a fusion world. That sounds flippant and maybe even dismissive, but I don’t mean it that way at all. Rather, our ancestors have always traded tales and ideas and traditions. Always. A fluid exchange of values and ideas is what keeps civilizations healthy.

In fact, I’m going to quote aforementioned editrix Nin Harris here: “I’ve always had an appetite for fusion cuisine. I love the traditional, but I think we have to open ourselves to the in-between. Most cultures were never meant to be locked in stasis, and if we expect them to be locked in stasis, fixed in time, within a glass container, we aren’t doing them justice. A hybrid myself, I’ve always nurtured a love for the in-between. How could I not? To hate the in-between, to hate hybridity would be to despise myself.”
That said, we also have to be mindful of who tells/retells stories and how. Our world has been shaped for the worse by various empires and the damage of colonization, and that’s created a power imbalance that prizes Western stories and (white, straight, cis, able-bodied, Christian) Western storytellers. They’re given attention and weight, they’re considered canon, their voices are privileged over others, and their lens of viewing the world—stereotypes, biases, and all—is seen as more authentic and relatable than any other. This is a problem. This means #ownvoices often don’t get to tell their own stories, and when they do, it’s not to the same reception and acclaim as those privileged voices.


Then there’s the question of appropriation. Sometimes a tale or topic just isn’t for you to take or retell. Honor that, and leave it to the community from which it came.
Q: Fairy tales have the power to cross cultures, changing and adapting in each telling, and yet the term “fairy tale” has often been applied imperialistically only to European tales. What can we do to disrupt this Eurocentric perspective on what constitutes a fairy tale?

Shveta Thakrar: Stop prioritizing European tales and stop othering everything else. Instead, we should teach a large selection of tales from each culture from the start. They should be grouped together in beautiful anthologies with those European tales and treated with the same respect and recognition. And not referred to as “exotic” or “a break from the norm”! (It’s like how we talk about art history but really mean Western and a little Latin American art. Um, what happened to the rest of the world?)
Q: Your fairy tale–inspired fiction often includes elements of feminism and the empowerment of women. How do you shift and change tales to bring in empowering messages and to counteract the patriarchal messages that flood fairy tales?

Shveta Thakrar: I’m not going to lie; I’m a down-with-the-kyriarchy kind of girl. It feels natural to me to tell and read women’s and girls’ stories, and I’m far more interested in them. I also look around at the world and am half sick of shadows—sorry, I mean, of misogyny and turning women against one another and forcing them to submit to men. I have zero use for that, and zero use for pretending we can’t change society’s “rules” if we choose to. Nothing is written in stone; we just act like it is.

So I look at the stories and where I feel they break down in terms of protecting girls and women, and I rewrite that bit with what I consider a healthier, more loving take. Girls’ voices matter, for example. Girls can be friends instead of enemies in competition. Girls can save the world. Girls can be brown and queer and disabled and have mental illness and speak other languages and practice other faiths and live in other countries and be awesome.
Q: You often weave fairy tale elements into your fantasy fiction. What is it about the fairy tale that speaks so effectively to really powerful explorations of the fantastic?

Shveta Thakrar: We all know different takes on the tale types. They’ve been passed down through generations, and so they resonate in our skin, in our cells. Our job as authors is to flesh out those skeletons, but their echo of ancient recognition makes them perfect for shaping and sculpting into new stories. It’s almost a cheat code, if you will, a formula that has the weight of repetition behind it, making them accessible to a modern audience—while allowing us to bring in marginalized people and cultures to the forefront.
Q: Words have power in your work, shaping the world and carrying with them a form of magic. What is it about the idea of words that makes them often indecipherable from spells in so many fairy tales?

Shveta Thakrar: Put simply, words matter. The old rhyme lies: they do far more damage than sticks and stones and breaking bones—they break the heart. Tell a child that they are a mistake often enough, and they will begin to believe it. What is more heartbreaking than that?

Tell someone that their being female, queer, being brown, being disabled, etc. is wrong, and you harm them. But by the same token, celebrate those parts of their identity, and you help create a safe space for them to flourish inwardly. Words are spells.
Q: Your work often deals with LGBTQ2 themes and ideas. What potential do fairy tales have for evoking queer themes and ideas of queer liberation?

Shveta Thakrar: One of the things that troubles me about societal narratives, the things we teach our children from birth, is the idea that everything must be sexualized in a heterosexual way. What I mean is, a cis girl and a cis boy cannot simply smile at each other in daycare without people declaring them a One True Pairing and predicting their future together. This is dangerous. It creates the idea that the only worthy outcome in life (particularly for those people identifying as female) is an opposite-sex/cisgender romantic partnership. Not wanting that, or not putting that ahead of everything is just not a societally acceptable option.

It is also dangerous in that it erases. It erases gay people, lesbian people, bisexual and pansexual people. It erases asexual people. It erases transgender people and Two-Spirit people. It erases people who may be any of those things but want to be in more than one relationship at one time or who are happy on their own. I think fairy tales are a perfect vessel to showcase those of us whose identities have been erased in the mainstream notion of “happily ever after”: the bisexual brown queen, the nonbinary tailor who goes on mischievous adventures with the help of his cane, etc. We get to write them back in; after all, those tales exist for all of us.
Q: Are there any tales you can think of that are already filled with queer potential?

Shveta Thakrar: Honestly, anything! (Well, as long as it doesn’t contain other harmful messages like racism or anti-Semitism or sexism. Ew and no.) For example, I adore the tale of Nala and Damayanti. Why couldn’t Nala be a woman or a trans man or a romantic asexual or or or? Or why couldn’t Damayanti be a man, etc.?

I want to give these two novels and this one tweet a shout-out, as they show how the limits of queering tales are really only the author’s imagination:

Ash by Malinda Lo: a lesbian retelling of Cinderella

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst: a high fantasy in which a princess falls for the sister of her betrothed

https://twitter.com/broodingYAhero/status/720722943668563969 (This is meant in jest, but it sums up how malleable story clay is for writers.)
Q: You have mentioned before that you enjoy adding an Indian flavour to your work. What cultural ideas, tales, and themes have you drawn on in your fiction?

Shveta Thakrar: Excellent question! Hmm; I have used mythical beings from Hindu and Buddhist dharma so far, and I want to explore doing some retellings. On themes: feminism, freedom, friendship, emotional strength, appreciation of different ways of being female, spirituality. Beyond that, for cultural ideas, I am definitely interested in exploring a middle ground between the Asian tendency to put family above individual will and the Western opposite of prioritizing individual will over the family’s decrees.
Q: You have talked before about how important it is for there to be representation of diverse voices in fairy tales. What are some methods to give voice to those tales that are underrepresented, oppressed, silenced, and otherwise erased?

Shveta Thakrar: First, people in positions of privilege (white, straight, etc. authors) would do well to use their platform to shine a light on #ownvoices. They can start by normalizing these other tales and other voices who would tell them.

Secondly, editors and agents can actively pursue these diverse voices by seeking them out and inviting them to submit, whether stories or novels. Those authors need to be shown there is genuine interest in their work. Editors and agents, don’t wait for them to come to you. Go find them—and show you want this kind of work by publishing and promoting it!

And stop assuming the quality of work by marginalized authors must be inherently less. That is harmful and completely untrue to boot.

In terms of fantasy, imperialism has left us with (false) ideas of what’s magical and what’s not. Celtic and British fey = yes. South Asian nagas = what? Weird! No. (Correct answer = YES, PLEASE, NOW. All the creatures from all over the world.)

We all need to work on expanding our limited horizons.


Q: The theme of flowers appears frequently in your work, particularly people who share characteristics with flowers. What aspect of flowers appeals to you? What potential do flowers hold to represent ideas?

Shveta Thakrar: In Hindu and Buddhist dharma, the lotus is the symbol of enlightenment. It rises through the muck to break through the surface of the water in search of the sun. I adore this.

And flowers also work as a symbol for our lives and our personal growth: we start from a bud, hopefully bloom in our prime and offer beauty and a lovely fragrance and maybe fruit to the world (and some of us will cast off seeds to create more plants), and finally wilt into sleep at the end of our lives.

I also just love how beautiful and colorful flowers are. They add such splendor to everything!


Q: Music frequently features strongly in your work. What is it about music that speaks to you? How do you weave music through the fantastic and the mythical?


Shveta Thakrar: Though I’m an amateur harpist, I don’t know much about music theory from any part of the world, but I do know that music moves us in ways we understand and ways we don’t.

I love the various moods music inspires in me. It often feels like tapping into something Else, something from Elsewhere, and it opens doors for art and imagination. Some songs wrap me in a cloak of sound, and my heart swells in response, becoming that elusive portal to Story, to Dreams, to Beyond. It feels inseparable from my storytelling, so I just braid it in, the same way I could never write without drawing on lush descriptions of color.


Shveta Thakrar  is a writer of South Asian–flavored fantasy, social justice activist, and part-time nagini. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Online, Interfictions Online, Clockwork Phoenix 5, Mythic Delirium, Uncanny, Faerie, Strange Horizons, Mothership Zeta, Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, and Beyond the Woods: Fairy Tales Retold. When not spinning stories about spider silk and shadows, magic and marauders, and courageous girls illuminated by dancing rainbow flames, Shveta crafts, devours books, daydreams, draws, travels, bakes, and occasionally even plays her harp.

Derek Newman-Stille (interviewer) is a PhD student in Canadian Studies at Trent University. Derek conducts research on representations of disability in Speculative Fiction. He is the creator of the Aurora Award-Winning website Speculating Canada.