Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Aussies 'n' Fairy Tales Week: Juliet Marillier, Daughter of Tales, Writer of Legends

Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier - Full cover illustration for Tor UK by Jon Sullivan
Here's a multi-award winning, epic historical fantasy novelist and fairy tale writer whom you will likely be familiar with: Juliet Marillier.

If you haven't read any books by Ms. Marillier, you're in for a treat. "Epic" is an excellent description of the stories she writes (many are, or become, series) and it's clear she does a lot of historical research into time, place, legend and related tales as she's creating her worlds. She cites traditional fairy tales and folklore as being among her biggest influences, and that she continues to read them all to this day. It's no surprise, then, to find folk motifs woven throughout her books, or to discover that she's written some wonderful stories inspired by specific tales (retellings is probably not quite the correct term).

The AFTS spoke to Ms. Marillier recently, asking her just what it was about fairy tales that attracted her. Here's an excerpt:
Many fairy tales weave through your books and short stories. Daughter of the Forest is based on ‘The Six Swans’ and Wildwood Dancing on ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’. What is it about fairy tales that attracts you? 
Juliet Marillier & furry family
I’ve loved fairy tales since I was a small child. Back then, it was the sense of wonder, the huge possibilities opened up by the idea that a magical realm exists alongside, or maybe inside, the world we know; and it was the thought that each of us can be a hero and achieve the apparently impossible. It’s often the gormless youngest brother or the quiet youngest sister who ends up saving the day – a person thought unimportant by his or her family and community. For a shy, bookish child, that was a reassuring message for the future! 
Over the years I’ve continued to read fairy tales, folklore and mythology and to read scholarly discussions of them, and the magic has never died for me. Fairy tales are powerful. They make sense of real life dilemmas. They give people codes for living wisely and well, and they provide hope and reassurance in times of fear and doubt. When I use fairy tale material I do so with immense respect for all the storytellers who have come before me, each of them reworking the story to suit his or her circumstances.
You can read the whole interview on the AFTS website HERE.

Since there's a very good chance she's already on your radar, I'll just list the books that are most distinctly linked to a tale (or tales) with a little added information.

Daughter of the Forest
Based on the fairy tale The Six Swans, it remains one of my favorite retellings of all books to date. A series of five more books followed to expand the story.

From Ms. Marillier's website:
In Daughter of the Forest, the fairy tale story - a youngest sister must maintain complete silence while weaving shirts from nettles in order to return her swan brothers to human form - is combined with a family drama set on both sides of the Irish Sea. More than anything, this is a story about the bond of love between siblings. 
The framework for Daughter of the Forest is a Germanic tale, The Six Swans, from the collection of the Grimm brothers. Beneath the classic fairytale elements (a wicked stepmother, a transformation, a trial by silence) is a story of courage born from loss, and lives forever altered. With its swan imagery and its remote forest setting, the Germanic story settles easily into the Irish landscape and may indeed even owe something to the Celtic tradition, a major influence on European folktales from the thirteenth century onwards. The Children of Lir, the tale of Aengus Og and his swan-bride, these are Irish myths in which child turns to swan and swan to beautiful maiden, in the space of an eye blink.
Wildwood Dancing
Using the fairy tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses (& referencing another...).

There are many mysteries within the wildwood. Jena and her sisters share the biggest of all, a fantastic secret that enables them to escape the confines of their everyday life in rural Transylvania. They have kept it hidden for nine long years. 
When their father falls ill and must leave their forest home over the winter, Jena and her oldest sister Tati are left in charge. All goes well until a tragic accident allows their over bearing cousin Cezar to take control. The appearance of a mysterious young man in a black coat divides sister from sister, and suddenly Jena finds herself fighting to save all she holds dear. With her constant companion Gogu by her side, she must venture to realms dark and perilous in her quest to preserve, not just those she loves, but her own independence as well.
And a bonus question from the Writer Unboxed mini-interview on the book:
Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself?JM: It combines fairytale fantasy, history, family drama and love story. The Transylvanian setting allowed me to explore some of the darker aspects of the Otherworld, but I’ve tried to avoid vampire cliché. The relationship between Jena and Gogu is central to the book. I’m always puzzled by those Frog Prince stories in which the girl is so thrilled when the frog morphs into a handsome prince. I mean, would you fall instantly in love with someone who had just … appeared? So I wrote a story in which the strongest bond of love is between girl and frog.
Heart's Blood
Inspired by the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast.

Author's Note:
Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favourite fairy tales, and readers will recognise the bones of it in Heart’s Blood: a mysterious house with an alienated, disfigured master, a priceless plant growing in a forbidden garden, magic mirrors and unusual household retainers. The story of my novel has the same general shape as that of Beauty and the Beast. 
However, this is far from a fairy tale retelling. It’s not even a close reinterpretation of the traditional tale. Heart’s Blood is a love story, a ghost story, a family saga, a story about people overcoming their difficulties, and a little slice of Irish history, as well as a homage to a favourite fairy tale. 
Prickle Moon
Ms. Marillier's short story and novella collection.

"She sang them in, verse by verse, name by sweet name ..." So begins Prickle Moon, Juliet Marillier’s first collection of short stories, and what stories they are. Each tale, whether inflected by fantasy, horror or science fiction, is powerful. Each bears the bones of its fairytale ancestors, inviting you to sit by the fire and hear stories at once timeless and ancient, yet shot through with the silver veins of modern life. Entertaining and enchanting, lyrical and lovely, Marillier will sing you in, too. (British Fantasy Award winner Angela Slatter)


Dreamer's Pool (Blackthorn and Grim Book 1)
Set in medieval Ireland, this book contains both fairy tale and mystery elements. Release date is set for October 2014 for Pan Macmillan in Australia, and November 2014 for Penguin's US edition.

Description introduction:
What if you were locked up awaiting execution and a stranger offered you a bargain that would set you free?  What if accepting bound you to certain rules of behaviour for seven years, rules you knew you were likely to break within days? And what if the penalty for breaking them was to find yourself back where you started, eaten up with bitterness and waiting to die?
Blackthorn chooses life, even though she must promise not to seek vengeance against her arch-enemy, Lord Mathuin. In company with a cell-mate, the hulking, silent Grim, the one-time healer and wise woman flees north to Winterfalls in Dalriada, where she settles in a derelict cottage on the fringe of the mysterious Dreamer’s Wood.  Blackthorn has promised her benefactor, the fey nobleman Conmael, that she will use her gifts only for good. But she and Grim are both scarred by the past, and the embittered healer finds her promise increasingly hard to keep. 
Read the first chapter excerpt HERE.

Other books by epic fantasy books (all with folktale motifs!) by Juliet Marillier:

You can find Ms. Marillier's website HERE
Her Facebook page is HERE
And she's a regular columnist on Writer Unboxed HERE.


  1. Ms. Marillier is my favorite author and I just love that you did a spotlight on her!

  2. I'm loving the titles and the covers. I just have to start reading her books.