Thursday, February 16, 2017

Picture Book: Peau d'âne by Hélène Druvert

UK/France Links

Peau d'âne by Hélène Druvert is one of my recent discoveries, published in France in 2015. The book is available at and but not in

I have a penchant for Peau d'âne picture books which pretty much only come in French since the story is beloved in France but avoided by publishers in other countries due to the possible controversies of the tale of which there are a few. (Not familiar with Peau d'âne? Read Donkeyskin at the SurLaLune primary site.) Which always makes the books even more appealing to me because they are rare to find. This is now one of my favorite renditions. This version also uses minimal text to tell the story, letting the reader take it at face value.

Druvert has a beautiful illustration style--using silhouettes to tell her stories. Every other page in her pictures books--for she has illustrated a few titles--are cut out pages, intricately die cut and designed to overlay the pages between them as you turn the pages. The pages are sturdy on heavy stock paper but still fragile since they are die cut. The results are beautiful.

So in the images below--which you can click to see larger--the left side of the image is the back side of the die cut page.

Other books by Druvert include, with the first two linking to and the second linking to The Mary Poppins and Paris titles also have the die cut pages. I do not know for sure about the other two.

New Book: Rose & Thorn by Sarah Prineas

US/UK Links

Rose & Thorn by Sarah Prineas was released in the US in October. It is a Sleeping Beauty retelling and is also the second in a series, following last year's Ash & Bramble, which is a Cinderella retelling.

Book description:

This beauty isn’t sleeping! Discover the true story of Sleeping Beauty in Sarah Prineas’s bold YA fairy-tale retelling filled with thrilling adventure and romance, perfect for fans of the Lunar Chronicles and the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy.

After the spell protecting her is destroyed, Rose seeks safety in the world outside the valley she had called home. She’s been kept hidden all her life to delay the three curses she was born with—curses that will put her into her own fairy tale and a century-long slumber. Accompanied by Griff, the handsome and mysterious Watcher, and Quirk, his witty and warmhearted partner, Rose tries to escape from the ties that bind her to her story. But will the path they take lead them to freedom, or will it bring them straight into the fairy tale they are trying to avoid?

Set in the world of Sarah Prineas’s Ash & Bramble fifty years later, Rose & Thorn is a powerful retelling of the classic “Sleeping Beauty” tale where the characters fight to find their own happy ever after.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Bargain Ebook: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi is one of those books that has been on my radar for a while for my TBR pile and climbed higher on the list when I attended her panel at the Southern Festival of Books last October. I thought I had already posted about the book, but apparently I haven't. So lucky you if this sparks your interest because the ebook is also on sale for a short time for $2.99, down from the $10ish it was previously.

Another bonus is that this book incorporates India (as in the country, not Native American) folklore and mythology. Chokshi loves rich language--and it was revealed she is a fairy tale and SurLaLune reader before she knew I was in the room--so I have many reasons to recommend her here, too!  I love this current trend of Indian folklore inspired fiction with books like this and Renée Ahdieh's The Wrath and the Dawn to name a few. I read a lot of Indian folklore as I research so it has a filing cabinet all its own in my brain that I love to see explored through other sources.

Book description:

Praise for The Star-Touched Queen:
New York Times Bestseller
An Amazon Best Book of the Month
A Goodreads Best Book of the Month

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you're only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.

A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Datlow and Windling Fairy Tale Anthologies on Sale in Ebook Format

The entire ebook library of modern Fairy Tale anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling is on sale for $1.99 for each title for a limited time. They are usually in the $6 range. Four of the five titles have been on sale previously, but I have never caught Black Thorn, White Rose on sale previously, so I dare say it may be for the first time.

Now in ebook format I am only missing Snow White, Blood Red since it has not been offered digitally yet. I have owned the hardcovers for years, of course.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Princess and the Cat: A Tale from India

I have mentioned that there are few tales in which cats are true villains to be found in Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World. The following tale is a rare exception.

While that in itself makes the tale of particular interest, the fascination grows with the story's usage of elements that usually appear in ATU 510B: Peau d’Asne (Donkeyskin), one of the tales in the vast Cinderella Cycle of folktales. The tale deals with abuse and fear with elements that become quite modern--a stalker, the heroine escaping her stalker in disguise with name changing, for example--but has a happy ending.

I decided to share this story in full since it is so very interesting. It also represents the wide range of tales to be found in Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World.

The Princess and the Cat


THERE was once a King who had an only daughter, whom he loved exceedingly. One day she went into the bazar and saw a man selling a kitten, which she bought and took home. She was very fond of it, and took such care of it that it became an enormous cat.

When the time came for the Princess to be married the cat was very angry and jealous. He asked her if it was true that she was going to be married. She said nothing, and hung down her head for shame. When the procession arrived the cat again asked her if she was going away. Again she made no answer. When the bridegroom’s people came the cat jumped upon them and began to scratch and tear them until they were obliged to run away to save their lives.

When the King heard this he was astonished; but what could they do because the cat threatened to kill them all. The Princess was so afraid of him that she was obliged to be kind to him.

One day the cat said to her: “I am going out hunting.”

While he was away the Princess took the chance of escaping and went off to the house of a Chamar. She got the Chamar to make her a covering of skin so that the cat should not know her, and when her skin-coat was ready she put it on and started on her travels. On her way she met the cat, and when she saw him coming she sprinkled some barley on the ground and began to pick it up.

The cat asked her who she was, and she answered: “I am Chamni (the skin-woman), and I live by picking up the grains that fall on the ground.”

The cat went back to the palace and searched everywhere for her, but he could not find her.

At last the Princess reached the land of the Prince, her husband, and came begging at the palace door. Her mother-in-law saw her, and taking pity on her, gave her service in the kitchen. But as her skin-coat gave a foul smell no one would let her sit near them, and she had to remain apart.

One day the man who grazed the elephants fell sick and there was no one to tend them; so Chamni was sent out with them. When she was alone in the jungle she used to take off her coat of skin, and she made a swing in which she used to lie and sing while the Fairies from Indrasan came and sang, and sported with her. This so pleased the elephants that they stood round her and listened to the music.

As they would not graze they became so lean that the Prince could not understand the reason, and one day the Prince went himself to inspect them, and when he saw Chamni in her real form he was fascinated with her beauty. When she came back he sent for her, and when he had made her take off her coat of skin and heard her story, he accepted her as his wife. She told him about the cat, but he said: “Do not fear. When he comes I will kill him.”

Meanwhile the cat had traced out the Princess, and taking the form of bangle-seller (Churiharin) arrived at the palace. She stood outside crying: “Bangles to sell. Who wants bangles?”

The Princess called her in and was having a set of bangles fitted on, when the bangle-seller suddenly sprang upon the Prince, and would have torn him to pieces had not the servants come to his aid. The cat escaped, but some days later as the Prince and Princess were in their room, he made a hole in the roof and was just about to spring upon them when the Princess, who was awake, saw him and called to her husband. He seized his sword and cut off the cat’s head; after which they lived in the utmost happiness.


A folktale told by Mazhar Husen, of Mitzapur.

Source: Husen, Mazhar. “The Princess and the Cat.” North Indian Notes and Queries. Oct. 1893, p. 121-122.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Bargain Ebook: Deerskin by Robin McKinley for $1.99 TODAY ONLY

Deerskin by Robin McKinley is on sale in ebook format for $1.99 for TODAY ONLY. It was last on sale in March 2015 and usually retails for about $6.

Using what I've said about the book in the past:

Do I recommend this book? I remember first buying it upon its original release into hardcover with hard earned cash when being a poor student meant hardcover books were an absolute luxury. Have I ever regretted the purchase? No. Does the book still rest on the McKinley shelf in my library? Yes. Is the reason Donkeyskin is annotated on SurLaLune primarily in thanks to this book? Absolutely yes.

It's a tough book subject matter wise but it is lovely and now I also own it in ebook format, too, to access wherever I may be in the world. I think it handles a very difficult topic without glamorizing or exploiting it or being too graphic or explicit. Much more is implied than shown. But please read the description, be aware of the subject matter, and be aware of any personal trigger warnings, especially for victims of abuse. It is not a children's book either. These days it would be new adult but mature young adults will be fine with it. There is so much more out there that is much more graphic than this in the 22 years since it was published.

Book description:

The story of Princess Lissar, who flees her father’s wrath and is granted an unexpected new life

Princess Lissla Lissar is the only child of the king and his queen, who was the most beautiful woman in seven kingdoms. Everyone loved the splendid king and his matchless queen so much that no one had any attention to spare for the princess, who grew up in seclusion, listening to the tales her nursemaid told about her magnificent parents.

But the queen takes ill of a mysterious wasting disease and on her deathbed extracts a strange promise from her husband: “I want you to promise me . . . you will only marry someone as beautiful as I was.”

The king is crazy with grief at her loss, and slow to regain both his wits and his strength. But on Lissar’s seventeenth birthday, two years after the queen’s death, there is a grand ball, and everyone present looks at the princess in astonishment and whispers to their neighbors, How like her mother she is!

On the day after the ball, the king announces that he is to marry again—and that his bride is the princess Lissla Lissar, his own daughter.

Lissar, physically broken, half mad, and terrified, flees her father’s lust with her one loyal friend, her sighthound, Ash. It is the beginning of winter as they journey into the mountains—and on the night when it begins to snow, they find a tiny, deserted cabin with the makings of a fire ready-laid in the hearth.

Thus begins Lissar’s long, profound, and demanding journey away from treachery and pain and horror, to trust and love and healing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Many Tale Types in Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World

So while I have a lot of fun looking for multiple versions of stories in an ATU tale type when researching my books, for Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World my favorite section by far was "More Cat Tales" where I collected many, many other cat tales that I found. There are 94 tales in that section--more than one book all in itself--so I enjoyed the searching obviously!

From my introduction:

The “More Cat Tales” section may be the most fascinating thanks to its wide breadth of content. One goal of this section was to include representative tales from other tale types known to have cats in them as well as dozens more tales that were not classified. Hence we see cats with a diverse representation.

Folktales with cats tend to use well-known cat traits to drive or at least embellish the stories. So we have cats that are intelligent, cunning, independent, loyal, helpful, and sometimes even menacing. They are rarely victims and often come out victors in any conflicts.

One of the rare examples of a victimized cat can be found in ATU 1370: The Lazy Wife Is Reformed. It is a disturbing but not uncommon tale, although I chose to share only one example of it in this collection as “The Lazy Cat” from Hungary. A housecat is held responsible for a lazy wife’s poor housework. The husband beats the innocent cat (and his wife while she is holding the cat) as a means of teaching the wife a lesson. The wife is ultimately “reformed” into a better housekeeper. The tale, while considered humorous in times past, will be offensive to many modern readers with its violence against women and animals as well as its overall moral.

I'll discuss more of the other represented tale types in coming days, but wanted to share the table from the book's end matter that shows many of the tale types I identified.

Most of the tales in the "More Cat Tales" section were NOT identified by tale type, but the best known cat tale types and some other familiar types I did identify and provide in the list. You can click on the images below to see them larger.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Bargain Ebook: Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

There are a lot of wonderful books on sale in ebook format right now. Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan is on sale for $1.99, the first time it has been priced this low. It is a Maiden in the Tower retelling, which makes most people think of Rapunzel, but I also include Maid Maleen in that group. The book description feels like a mix of both tales with Jordan's own twists and turns of course from that inspiration.

Book description:

Destiny and darkness collide in this romantic, sweeping new fantasy series from New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan.

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok's lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna's survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn't stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bargain Ebook: Whittington by Alan Armstrong for $1.99

The ebook edition of Whittington by Alan Armstrong is on sale for $1.99 which seems very fitting right now at SurLaLune. This is a novel-length retelling of Dick Whittington's Cat is a Newberry Honor title, too. There are many award winning children's books on sale in ebook format right now, too.

Book description:

The power of reading is beautifully captured in this 2006 Newbery Honor-winning book.
Bernie keeps a barn full of animals the rest of the world has no use for–two retired trotters, a rooster, some banty hens, and a Muscovy duck with clipped wings who calls herself The Lady. When the cat called Whittington shows up one day, it is to the Lady that he makes an appeal to secure a place in the barn. The Lady’s a little hesitant at first, but when the cat claims to be a master ratter, that clinches it.
Bernie’ s orphaned grandkids, Abby and Ben, come to the barn every day to help feed the animals. Abby shares her worry that Ben can’t really read yet and that he refuses to go to Special Ed. Whittington and the Lady decide that Abby should give Ben reading lessons in the barn. It is a balm for Ben when, having toughed out the daily lesson, Whittington comes to tell, in tantalizing installments, the story handed down to him from his nameless forebearer, Dick Whittington’s cat–the legend of the lad born into poverty in rural England during the Black Death, who runs away to London to seek his fortune. This is an unforgettable tale about how learning to read saves one little boy. It is about the healing, transcendent power of storytelling and how, if you have loved ones surrounding you and good stories to tell, to listen to, and to read, you have just about everything of value in this world.

ATU 130: The Animals in Night Quarters (Bremen Town Musicians)

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. I'm ready for some more posts about Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World if you are! I can't even remember what I've covered and what I haven't so far. This book is already archived in my brain to make way for the next books so that is always a challenge, too. So I thought I would start with a simple topic, The Bremen Town Musicians.

From the book's introduction:

ATU 130: The Bremen Town Musicians

Cats are often key players in ATU 130: The Animals in Night Quarters tales. The most famous version of this tale is “The Bremen Town Musicians” from the many editions of Kinder- und Hausmärchen by the Grimms.

Several animals that are nearing the end of their usefulness to their owners fear their looming demise, so they band together to find a new home and occupation in their “retirement” years. In the Grimms’ tale the animals are a donkey, dog, cat and rooster, but the cast of animals varies across countries and variants. Many versions that include a cat are offered in this collection.

The animals eventually discover a house that they acquire from a band of robbers after a humorous nighttime adventure that includes each of the animals doing what they do best, from clawing to kicking, etc. to roust and scare away the robbers. This is a fun tale that nevertheless has a strong message about the usefulness of the aged.

There are 13 ATU 130 tales in the collection, not all of which include cats, including:

Benibaire from Spain
The Bull, the Tup, the Cock, and the Steg from England
Jack and His Comrades from Ireland
The Story of the White Pet from Scotland
The Choristers of St. Gudule from Belgium (Flanders)
The Bremen Town Musicians from Germany
Martin’s Eve from Austria
The World’s Reward from South Africa
The Monkey and the Crab from Japan
The Battle of the Ape and the Crab from Japan
How Jack Went to Seek His Fortune: I from United States
How Jack Went to Seek His Fortune: II from United States
The Dog, the Cat, the Ass, and the Cock from United States

I collected more than these that didn't include cats, but only kept for the collection those with cats or those tales that were unusual enough to merit inclusion without or without cats.

One of my favorite tales in this set is "Martin's Eve" from Austria. One reason is only important to me, I admit. I have many methods for acquiring the tales in these collections. One is cross-referencing between sources since oftentimes scholars will reference similar tales. Another is to use existing scholarship and studies of tales in a tale type. Finally, the most time consuming and challenging is raw research. I manually or digitally searched about 1,000 folklore titles for cat stories for this collection. Martin's Eve was one of the finds that I stumbled upon, not one I found referenced anywhere, but an obvious ATU 130 when I found it. So it felt like gold to find it! I love those moments, rare as they are. And the title didn't make me think it would be anything useful, so it was a complete surprise. The cat is the lead animal in this one, so double bonus.

St. Martin's Day is no longer celebrated as regularly or enthusiastically but it was a fine feast day with an excuse for revelry in times past. Drunken revelry and other assorted foibles abounded, too, of course. This tale centers around that November feast day which gives it a specific and unusual time frame but one that fits the tale type well.

I admit this has never been a favorite tale type, but especially the tales about aging animals finding a final home as well as the message of the animals banding together, then surviving and thriving from their natural abilities pleases me no end. So hurrah for a deceptively simple tale!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Witches and Cats in Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World

It was rather inevitable that witches would need to appear in a collection of cat tales, so there are several in Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World. Witches and devils are almost always evil and need to be destroyed in these stories, so they are not the happiest of tales, but definitely an interesting subgenre of folklore.

From my introduction:

It would be negligent to not include tales of cats as witches’ animal manifestations, familiars or companions since that is one of the most prevalent associations for cats in folklore. While I collected many short anecdotes featuring cats and witches—or devils which are interchangeable with witches in many of these stories—finding full stories to share was challenging. I have enough material and notes for a short book devoted to the topic, but it’s not one that is as interesting to me and has been addressed in greater depth elsewhere. However, I wanted some representative tales of witches and cats to be included here and so chose some of the most interesting and fully developed stories from my research.

One of my favorite stories in the entire anthology appears in this section. It is “The Black Cat,” from North Carolina in the United States. It made me laugh outloud the first time I read it and I knew it would have a place somewhere in this collection. It’s short and not an easy read since it is written in a Southern USA dialect, but be sure not to miss it.

Many of the tales offered as witch stories do not have an ATU type but fall into a different cataloging system as Migratory Legend 3055: The Witch That Was Hurt.[1] In this legend type, a witch is injured while in the shape of an animal, often a cat or hare. Her secret identity is revealed when the corresponding injury is seen on her after she has resumed her human form. She is usually punished or even executed for her witchy activities. The injury, thankfully, is usually a serious one, not a simple scratch, but more on the level of a missing appendage.

[1] Migratory legends are another tale classification system developed by Reidar Thoralf Christiansen in The Migratory Legends: A Proposed List of Types with a Systematic Catalogue of the Norwegian Variants (1958).

The Witch tales in the collection are:

The Cats of San Lorenzo from Italy
San Miniato fra le Torre from Italy
How Diana Made the Stars and the Rain from Italy
Diana as Giving Beauty and Restoring Strength from Italy
The Cat-Hags of Gries from Tyrol (Italy & Austria)
The Green Lady: Norfolk from England
The Weaver’s Wife and the Witch from England
The Cat Witches from Wales
The Two Cat Witches from Wales
Macgillichallum of Razay from Scotland
The Witch of Laggan from Scotland
The Severed Hand from Norway
A Witch Burnt from Netherlands
The Witch’s Cat from Belgium
The Devil’s Cat from Germany
The Severed Hand from Germany
The Witch from Russia
The Lady Who Became a Cat from India
The Vampire Cat of Nabeshima from Japan
A Plantation Witch from United States
The Crow and Cat of Hopkinshill from United States
The Black Cat from United States
The Cat Who Wanted Shoes from United States
The Woman-Cat from United States

Saturday, December 17, 2016

ATU 560: The Magic Ring in Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World

ATU 560: The Magic Ring is the tale type that I had the least amount of experience with and consequently learned the most about during the research for Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World. For this reason, it became one of my favorite tale types offered in the book. This is also one of the rare tale types where I was able to find more English translations of Eastern versions than European. And there was sufficient difference between the variants to make them interesting, especially the Eastern Hemisphere ones.

From my introduction:

Another vast tale type that features a cat as a key player is ATU 560: The Magic Ring which is often conflated with ATU 561: Aladdin—the more recognized tale in popular culture—since there are not many distinguishing factors between these magic object stories. However, a cat usually appears in the tales that fit best into ATU 560: The Magic Ring.

There are hundreds of known Magic Ring stories and no single tale is considered the definitive tale. One of the earliest known versions can be found in Basile’s Il Pentamerone as the first diversion of the fourth day, often known as “The Rooster’s Stone” or “The Stone in the Cock’s Head.” However, this version does not feature a cat so it has not been included in this collection.

In these stories, a young man acquires a magic ring after he unselfishly rescues several animals from abuse or death by paying for them with his last coins. He rescues the three animals in a succession of events, a dog, a cat and a snake. The snake is a prince among his kind and provides the means of acquiring a magic ring (or other object) that ultimately provides riches to the young man through wish fulfillment. The man’s wealth impresses the king and gains him a princess for a wife. Eventually he reveals the power of the ring and it is stolen from him, often through his wife’s complicity. He loses everything, is imprisoned, and faces imminent death. The dog and the cat have remained faithful during his journey from rags to riches and so set out to recover the ring for him. The cat is the better mastermind but together the cat and dog restore the ring to their master, thanking him for sparing their lives. His wealth is restored and he lives happily ever after in the lifestyle he prefers, sometimes as a king and sometimes as a regular man, depending on the level of his wife’s complicity in his trials.

This tale appears around the world, but the majority of the variants offered in this collection come from India and other parts of Asia. It is a fun tale, one with which I was less acquainted before I began the work on this anthology, but it became a grand treasure hunt to find rare variants to share. This tale type is more gratifying than “Puss in Boots” since the hero usually demonstrates his worthiness for his elevation to a higher social level. The Chinese and other Eastern versions are of particular interest, since they offer the story as a pourquoi tale of why cats and dogs do not like each other.

The Magic Ring tales included in the collection are:

The Cat and Dog and the Talisman from Turkey
The Grateful Snake, Cat, and Dog and the Talisman from Turkey
The Snake, the Dog, and the Cat from Greece & Albania
Gigi and the Magic Ring from Italy
The Hind of the Golden Apple from Portugal
The Enchanted Watch from France
Three Years Without Wages from Norway
The Ring with Twelve Screws from Russia
The Enchanted Ring from Russia
Sharau from Russia
The Story of the Man Who Bought Three Pieces of Advice from Iran
The Clever Cat from North Africa
The Wonderful Ring from Nigeria
The Magic Ring of the Lord Solomon from India
The Merchant, the Princess and the Grateful Animals from India
The Prince and His Animal Friends from India
The Charmed Ring from India
The Wonderful Ring from India
Lita and His Animals from India
The Golden Beetle; or, Why the Dog Hates the Cat from China
Why Dog and Cat Are Enemies from China
Tokgabi’s Menagerie (Cats and Dogs) from Korea
Why Dogs Wag Their Tails from Philippines
Juan Manalaksan from Philippines
Juan the Poor, Who Became Juan the King from Philippines