The Man Who Travels Through Fairy Tales
Guest post by Kate Danley, author of The Woodcutter.
One fateful night in 2004, I was sitting in anatomy class contemplating my failures. My twenty-year attempt to be a working actress was a flop. My typing skills kept a roof over my head, but staring down the barrel of life as a career secretary made me want to off myself with my own stapler. My last hope was to pick up a trade, and here I was, a thirty-something community college co-ed studying to be an x-ray tech. And I was lousy at it.
The teacher was late, so I picked up my pen, opened my lab notebook, and asked myself, “If I could read any story right now, what would it be?”
On my page emerged a dark fairytale. It began with a woman running from a soul-destroying creature. Then, a hero appeared who seemed like he might be strong enough to figure out where it all went so wrong.
That’s how The Woodcutter was born.
In folklore across the globe, there is often a background character of a hunter or woodsman who serves as a deus ex machina device. As my story took shape, I posed the question, “What if it was the same man?” What if there was a single person walking from story-to-story solving the problems of all the fairy tales we know?
It became a game to see how many legends I could layer in. The characters were so alive that it felt more like taking dictation than wrestling free a novel. They would wake me at night to whisper their stories and nudge me in the middle of the day. I would sneak my writing at work when my boss's back was turned… in class instead of taking notes… in line at Disneyland… anywhere. It was pure joy. Moments spent with The Woodcutter were like play, and with him guiding me through the Woods, I discovered what I truly loved.
Heroes are born in dark times. I think it’s funny that in my darkest hour, the hero I created to save an imaginary world also, somehow, ended up saving mine.