Monday, November 11, 2013

"Tinder" by Sally Gardner

It's a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Tinder Box! One of my favorite fairy tales!! And it was released this last week!!! *flails arms in excitement and corrects multiple typos before continuing*

I came across note of this rather randomly, and since I'm not focused on keeping up with books (there are so many wonderful things happening in fairy tale retelling land all the time, there could be daily news just on those), but it didn't take long to figure out I am more than happy to recommend it.

Here's the write up from Ms. Gardner's website:
Tinder is a truly modern fairytale, at once cruel yet deeply enchanting. Sally Gardner chose to set her tale in the Thirty Years War after meeting two young British soldiers who had just returned from modern warfare and were finding civilian life difficult to deal with. They had nightmares and agreed they had never felt more alive than when out at the front. If there is one fairy story that encompasses the trauma of war and its aftermath, it is The Tinderbox and Sally has exquisitely captured these dark overtones in a tale of great love and great loss, accompanied by stunning illustrations by renowned illustrator David Roberts. 
Tinder follows the adventures of Otto Hundebiss, a soldier tired of war who defies death. A mysterious half-man, half-beast nurses him back to health, but continues on alone, leaving Otto only with some old shoes and a set of dice which will tell him the way forward. Stealing chickens and bread in order to survive, Otto is followed by a strange grey-cloaked man who can transform into a wolf. Hiding from the werewolf up a tree, he meets the enigmatic Safire and the two travel together until they are tragically separated. 

From then, Otto’s mission becomes clear and he rolls the dice in hopes that they will lead him back to her. He is soon plunged into an adventure of dark magic and mystery, meeting the scheming Mistress Jabber and the terrifying Lady of the Nail. He learns the power of the Tinderbox and becomes the master of wolves, yet even these powers may not be enough to bring him what he desires.
Firstly, the writer, Sally Gardner is an award winning author from the UK (you may recognize her name from I, Coriander), so I wasn't too surprised when I found an extract, read it and thought - "yep, good stuff, want more!"

Here's a taste from Chapter 1:
Once in a time of war, when I was a soldier in the Imperial Army, I saw Death walking. He wore upon his skull a withered crown of white bone twisted with green hawthorn. His skeleton was shrouded with a tattered cloak of gold and in his wake stood the ghosts of my comrades newly plucked, half-lived, from life. Many I knew by name.  
You can read more of the extract - with illustrations - HERE.

Secondly, the book is also illustrated by David Roberts; someone who's name may not be too familiar but there's a good chance you've seen his work in various places. What I've seen of the drawings in Tinder look wonderful and fit the prose perfectly. I'm not entirely sure that I'll get to see my beloved triplet canine characters with eyes as big as saucers, plates and platters but the giant wolves I've caught glimpses of, placate me a somewhat on this point. ;)

With the book just released there is a "blog tour" happening, with Ms. Gardner giving interviews and various insights about the book around the web. You can read one of them HERE and find a list of interviews and dates there too.

Ms. Gardner also wrote an introduction to fairy tales and how dark they can be, for scifinow, some of which sheds light on her inspiration and process for writing Tinder:
A good fairy tale takes us into the dark, dark woods of our imagination. From there we can go as deep into the forest as we dare or stay on the edge, looking at the trees. A fairy tale talks to our souls in a way few other stories have the power to do. It holds the heartbeat of our fears. 
... Perhaps what a good fairy tale shows us more than anything is its versatility. It may be retold and rewritten and still we recognize its origins. The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Andersen has always been one of my best beloved stories. He adapted a favourite childhood tale, The Spirit in the Candle, and added a dash of Aladdin. It is a wonderfully disjointed tale that travelled in the mind of its author who was twenty-nine years old before he wrote it down. 
Fairy tales should be frightening. Their nearest companions in literature are ghost stories. I love the dark retellings of Angela Carter, the fairy tales of Herman Hess, of the Italian writer Italo Calvino. 
It is not by chance that one of the greatest modern interpreters of fairy tales is Bruno Bettelheim for he was interned in a concentration camp where life is reduced to its barest bones. Fairy tales, under the cloak of a story, reveal the essentials of our lives. They project the trauma of adulthood onto young readers and show them a way of untangling its problems. 
“Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist; children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.”G K Chesterton

You can read the whole of her introduction (recommended!) HERE.

Note: on the page you'll find a poll, asking you which of the following is your favorite "dark fairy tale", of which The Tinderbox is one. The introduction for fairy tales by Ms. Gardner is below it.

It's funny. I never thought of The Tinderbox as being particularly dark. Perhaps because I always had this naive idea that the dogs would protect the princess should any form of harm be offered her along the way to the soldier - or by him. Clearly my impression of good dogs extended to magical ones in fairy tales.

But I'm curious: of the list given, which one would you say is your favorite dark tale?

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