Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Neil Gaiman's Retelling of 'Diamonds & Toads'

I admit it: I'd heard about the book but never ventured further in my investigations - I should have.

[A note: Initially this post had a lot of exclamation points - a condition I slip into when I get excited about something. I've tried to edit most of them out but I'm sure a few have slipped through. Instead of speaking in frogs or sapphires I've been spouting exclamation marks!]

"Who Killed Amanda Palmer" by Neil Gaiman, has a retelling of Diamonds and Toads as part of the text.

This is one of those fairy tales I came to know as a child and so didn't realize it wasn't well known till much later. It's one of those tales that has many (MANY!) variants in many countries and is begging to be explored. In the Western world it's also known by the titles: Mother Holle (or Frau Holle) and The Fairies. SurLaLune - the best fairy tale resource on the web for text, annotations and interpretations - has a page on the VARIANTS around the world and the list is very long. Clearly, this is one of those stories that resonates across time and culture very well.

One of the short stories that has stayed with me is a retelling of this very tale and can be found in "Twice Upon a Time", edited by Denise Little. The title is "How I Came To Marry A Herpetologist" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman and turns the usually perceived curse of speaking toads and snakes on its head. To this day, I'm on the fence about whether I'd choose to speak jewels or reptiles as a result.

So, back to Neil Gaiman's version: Amanda Palmer (yes, the same Amanda Palmer as the title) was recorded reading the Diamonds and Toads retelling at one of her concerts. She does a lovely job of telling it, as you can see below:

Thanks to the community at Told This Time for alerting me. I couldn't help but expand on this news and add a little extra information about the tale for those curious. You can see the original post HERE.

NOTE: The illustration is by Lealand Eve, who has other illustrations exploring 'discomfort in fairy tales'. This tale definitely qualifies. You can find out more about Lealand Eve and see more work HERE.