Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 1

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I decided to take take my own challenge and write a Gothic Faery tale just for this blog. I have always loved the Grimm’s story of Briar Rose for its strange images of light and dark, beauty, sorcery, and the  formidable rose covered tower where the Princess sleeps for one-hundred years. This tale is pouring out, not even finished yet! I shall write it in parts. I despair of ever being to write a truly short story. Maybe someday, with enough practice, I will.

Roses, Briars, Blood

by Arlene deWinter

2009

Part One

The Queen longed for a child.

Though she conceived, she could not carry; the babes simply slipped out of her  in a torrent of blood; her tears did not matter. She could not command them to stay the course. Frightened of the mocking laughter, and sly whispers of the Courtiers, the Queen dressed in widow’s white and retreated into the dim lit Halls of Melancholy where the echoes of disembodied voices, the tap, tap, tapping of distant footsteps, and the soft pattering of snow falling upon snow were the only sounds she heard.

The King looked askance at the frail Queen. She was ever so pale, like that luminous, crown-petaled flower that glows along the dim paths and the banks of the streams that lead into the deeper shadows of the Otherworld. The fine, flax colored hair, and the small, perfect features that had drawn him with their poignant delicacy, were now an arrangement of signs that hinted of thin, fragile bones, and a slipshod womb.

So, disappointed, the King’s sighs filled the halls of the castle, followed, as the time wore on, by great majestic groans. The Queen grew anxious. Would the King seek to put her away ,and find another who give him the heir he craved?

A third child fell from her body, into the net of a lacy shroud, to be buried, without ceremony, at the crossing of the catacombs. In desperation, the Queen sought the help of a Sorceress whose powers were so great and fearsome, that she was forced to live at the nether end of the forest in a chateau on the side of a mountain ringed about with a high stone wall.

The Queen was frightened, for she must go utterly alone and did not know the way. No one must know she was consulting the Sorceress, for it would give the King just the reason he needed to dispose of her. He might even have her burned for witchcraft! So on the night when the moon was dark, she wrapped herself in a long, black cloak and met the groom in the stables. Slipping him a golden sovereign, (for silence is golden is it not?) she climbed upon the back of her blackest horse and set out for the forest. The Queen’s heart shivered at the sight of the tall peaks of the pines that looked, from this distance, like a wall of impenetrable shadows. But there was a narrow road that wound into that wood, worn down by hunters, and the King’s armed men.

Soon, the path vanished, and the Queen had to pick her way through an icy stream bed, led by the sight of a high stone wall edging just above the fringe of trees at the foot of the mountain. By the time she arrived at the gatehouse, it was beginning to snow. Strange peals of thunder, or high winds, rolled in the heavens above the heavy white clouds that seemed to have fallen closer to the earth, forming mists filled with snowflakes that swirled around the Queen and her horse.

Oh, what am doing? I shall surely suffer for this...she moaned.

Ah, the high, dark walls leaned toward her as if they would fall, and the gate was closed and dim.

How shall I get in? Perhaps there is gatekeeper, and a bell.

Indeed, a large bell hung inside a niche on the wall near the gate. Just as the Queen was about to pull the rope, a whole chorus of bells rang inside the castle walls, ethereal as heaven and deep as earth. The gate slowly opened, and the astonished Queen saw, just across the threshold, a tall and beautiful woman standing in a shaft of torchlight that  cast her long, long shadow before her on the ground.

“Who are you? Why do you come here?” the woman asked in an odd, low, lilting voice. “What do you want?”

Ah! I cannot say my name…I come because of a child, said the Queen in her silvery, whispery tones.

The Sorceress, for surely it was she, raised one eyebrow and smiled a knowing, red lipped smile. “You desire a child.”

Yes!

“Come inside.”

The Queen, every nerve on edge, slipped quickly through the gate, turning to look back as it shut, creaking, behind her, sealing her in, like a pact. She turned to face the Sorceress whose face, up close, shone with an eerie inner light, pale as the moon in a night of wavy, floating hair that lifted on a wind that blew all around her, and her alone.

The Queen followed the Sorceress across the cobbled courtyard and up a long stair lined with dusty portraits of rather beastly looking ancestors, and into the wide doors of a great hall. There, a table was laid as for a feast. The Sorceress gestured to the Queen to sit down.

It is as if she was expecting me, the Queen thought, suddenly alarmed, and looking for the door.

“You just happened to arrive at my dinner time,” said the Sorceress uncorking the wine. “It is fortunate for you that I had such a sumptuous meal planned for tonight — fit for a Queen. It is, of course Wahlpurgis Night when I must set a feast for the dead.”

Oh dear, thought the Queen crossing herself.

“Please enjoy yourself, Your Majesty!” said the Sorceress pouring the wine into a goblet and setting it before the Queen. “It is pomegranate wine made in my own land. Have some food. You are so thin. No wonder you cannot bear.”

Yes, of course. The Queen sipped her wine. Perhaps she can help me.

The wine was sweet. The food was rich. A peacock lay in a silver charger, but its dark, iridescent feathers were only a decorative cover for some indecipherable meat underneath that tasted like pork.

The Sorceress drank a goblet of wine, and picked at her food silently, gazing at the Queen with her large luminous eyes.  Suddenly the bells began to ring again.

Oh no! The King, my husband has come to get me! He knows where I am!

The Sorceress stood up. She looked very elongated and tall.

“He is not coming.The bells ring the time. Come with me. Be careful, though. The stairs are steep and you are quite drunk, Your Majesty.”

The Sorceress held out a long hand to grasp the arm of the tipsy Queen. Her fingers glittered and flashed with jewels in the firelight; jewels more precious than the Queen’s own.

Certainly not. The Queen shook the outrageous observation away and, at the same time, quickly appraised the rings on the Sorceress’s fingers. I have the finest jewels in the kingdom. Hers are naught but enchanted paste.

Still, rings and a wristlet of rubies, shining like drops of fresh blood, stayed in the Queen’s mind to hypnotic effect, as the Sorceress led her down a long, dark passage, past a series of magnificent bedchambers, to a door at the end under a groined alcove. The door opened into a  small chamber that contained nothing but a gilded cabinet with a crystal door, much like the reliquary of the Holy Sacrament in the Cathedral. The Sorceress opened the crystal door, and took out a vial of deep emerald green glass chased with copper filigree. Whatever was inside glowed so brightly that it created a soft green aura around the vial that lighted the face of the Sorceress so that her skin was tinged like the faint green underskin of a lily.

The Sorceress smiled and took the elegant stopper out of the bottle and poured a portion into a small vessel of violet glass. A wonderful scent filled the air of wet Spring grasses and flowers. The Queen felt as if the very breath of Life Eternal filled the air. When the Sorceress handed her the drink, the Queen quaffed it down without a thought, charmed at the way the elixir, for that is what it must be, warmed her limbs and calmed her nervous heart.

Oh yes!

“Now, this elixir shall help you to bear a child to term, and it shall be a beautiful child, healthy, and worthy of a kingdom. His Highness, the King, shall be so pleased, he will fall in love with you all over again. I only ask for one thing in return,” said the Sorceress, gently passionate, as if she pleaded from her heart.

Oh thank you! Ask anything, anything you want!

“Invite me to your baby’s Christening, Your Majesty. Make me her Godmother! I would so love to be at her wedding, her births, and when the time arrives, I shall attend her funerary rites. I wish to be treated as part of the royal family, so that my exile out here in the wilderness shall not be so bitter any more.”

Is that all? Why of course. For, if all goes well, I shall be the happiest woman in the world!

********

When the Queen lay a-bed in sudden labor, far above the noise of the celebrations that the King had ordained to take place throughout the kingdom, nine ladies from the wood, wearing translucent green gowns, and luminous bi-horned headdresses, crowded around her bed whispering enchantments:

We bestow upon this child exquisite beauty,…charm…wealth…strength… a lovely voice…grace…good fortune…kindness…power….

The chief of these ladies was the graceful Sorceress who stood like a shaft of violet moonlight, at the foot of the bed, watching with an interested smile upon her face.

The Queen’s labor was mercifully fast and, unlike those changelings who had torn away from her in waves of agony and blood, almost painless. The midwife bustled around, singing charms under her breath, leaning over the Queen, as if she did not notice the nine ladies, tall and stately though they were. Rather, she moved through them as if they were nothing more than shadows thrown across the bed from the images of the saints embedded in the stained glass windows.

“Such a clever Queen you are this time, Highness. This one is quick as Mercury! And look out! Here he comes! Push now, just a little harder…Here he comes! It…is …a…girl…”

The Queen sighed over the midwife’s worried disappointment. The Sorceress smiled in the shadows, her eyes glowing in the dark like embers. The new born cried as the nurse wiped the blood away in a basin.

“A beautiful baby,” said the midwife. “Good thing too. It’ll be easier to marry her off to a great house when the time comes. If she stays beautiful, that is.”

The Queen smiled, and held her now rounded arms out to hold the baby. She cuddled the clean, swaddled infant to her hot, damp body, lifting her head weakly, and cooing at her.

The beautiful Sorceress glowed white and green, her secret face flashed, and then she vanished. The nine ladies whirled away in a glimmering, smoky haze, out into the night.

To be continued….

Roses, Briars, Blood: Part 2

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Roses, Briars, Blood is in 11 parts:

Rosewolf, by Aline deWinter

The  following are the first two chapters of my YA novel, Rosewolf,  about a twelve year old girl,  Rose Tamlin, who is gradually transformed into a werewolf.  Her fate is sealed when she voluntarily opens the gate to Winterslewe, a strange mansion in the Forest of Wonders where Grandma invites her  in for tea…

Rosewolf

Part One

Nether End, England 1931

The Gift

Rose had not seen herself for the last four years.
The last memory she had of her face was in August on her thirteenth birthday. She traced her loss of reflection to the previous Christmas when she woke very early in the morning to find a large box at the end of her bed tied with a wide silk ribbon. The box looked old and was made of crinkled golden paper. When she undid the ribbon and opened the box, the dark, musty smell of old roses rose up out of it like a messenger.  Underneath the delicate ivory tissue she found a coat of blood red velvet.
She lifted the coat out of its box. It was as fine as silk and very wide and much too long for her. It had a deep, soft hood lined with fur. When she put the coat on, it floated around her, swinging in a wide circle as she spun around, and falling gracefully to her sides when she stopped.
There was something in one of the pockets. Rose felt around and pulled out a heavy parchment letter with a red seal. The seal was stamped the image of a woman in a long cloak. Rose opened it carefully, for it was very old; the writing faded to pale sepia and the parchment had grown soft and crumbly.

My dearest Childe, (the letter began…)
This coat is a gift for the time of your first blood moon. It is your inheritance. As time goes on, you will learn why it has come to you. Wear it on the night  of the full moon. Keep it in a secret place. Away from the others.
I love you, all blessings Childe,
Grandma

Rose did not understand what was meant by first blood moon, but she did understand that she had to hide the coat. But until when? And from whom? Her parents, she imagined. Rose felt around in the other pocket and her hand fell upon a small book-like object. It was covered in fine black leather crossed with a silver hinge and clasp. Inside were the portraits of two women. The images were very old, for both were wearing gowns with high Elizabethan neck ruffs. Jewels glinted in their elaborate hairstyles.
One of the Ladies had high, pale hair and hard eyes. She was beautiful, but looked very haughty to Rose with her aquiline nose and long neck. In the background was a wall of white roses. The woman was pointing at something with her long, jeweled finger. The forefinger was longer than it should be. Her red lips smiled enigmatically.
The other Lady wore a red bodice with a white, jeweled ruff that framed her rosy face. Her auburn hair was coiled in an intricate style with rubies and pearls woven in. Rose’s impression of this Lady was of fiery brilliance. Golden symbols floated in the air around her. She looked wise and playful holding a branch of red roses against her face. Her hand was long-fingered like the other one’s, the one with the hard eyes.
Rose also found in the same pocket, a large black key.
She lay the key and portraits on her bed with a sigh. Outside, snow was falling, the dawn light making it sparkle like motes of iridescence swirling at the casement windows. Rose looked again at the pictures of the Ladies and shivered. What did they want? Who were they? Daddy must know. He knows about all the ghosts and things.
Rose stood gazing at her reflection in a the tall, gilt framed mirror that filled a niche in the wall above her dressing table. The sun shone in at the window, rays streaming over the horizon and scattering prisms on the walls. The cat came in, curled around her legs, looking at her in the glass. This was her cue to quickly take off the coat, wrap in back into the box, and hide it. She put in the drawer under her bed and covered it with her nightgowns for now.
When she went downstairs, the Christmas tree was gleaming brightly in the half light. Her father was sitting beside the tree, an animated expression on his face. Her mother was in the kitchen making tea. They were excited about her new presents that they still pretended were brought by fairies in the night.
She could tell they had no idea about her other present…

First Moon

The night of the full moon came after a storm. The wind had blown some branches down and piled snow drifts against the outside walls of the garden. Rose looked out on the garden from the window seat in her bedroom at the top of the tower. The white roses she had planted beside the wall refused to fade, rather they bloomed more brightly against the snow, like fairy lights.
Rose rummaged in the drawer under her bed for the box with the coat inside and pulled it out. As the musty aroma struck her face, she flushed with anticipation. She put the coat on and twirled around in front of the mirror, trying the hood that framed her face with brownish fur. She was startled to see herself looking so wild! She thought her eyes looked different somehow, greener, more slanted, brighter than before. She laughed.
Moonlight spilled into over the garden wall and through the window where it reflected in the mirror above Rose’s head. It was time to go! She pulled her boots on and drew the crimson hood over her dark hair, pushing the straggling tendrils inside and fastening the clasp at her throat. She closed her door quietly and tiptoed down the spiral stair to the landing. The house was dark and very quiet. She hoped her parents had gone to bed. The house was so large, they could be anywhere and she must not be seen in Grandma’s coat! There was a line of light beneath their closed bedroom door. She heard them talking. Holding her breath, Rose hurried down the stairs to the bottom floor, into the entryway, and pushed open the door.  A gust of cold air hit her face with the smell of snow. The ground sparkled darkly in the moonlight. Suddenly the cat dashed in, almost knocking into her. It was crying and cold, arching its back when it saw her.
“What’s wrong, Shadow? Be quiet now! Shhhh!” she admonished.
Rose felt annoyed that her mother had not let the cat in earlier. The way it was purring, rubbing her legs, and clinging to her coat, it must have been very upset and cold. She detached the little claws carefully and put the cat in the lounge. Then she let herself out quickly into the night, shutting the door firmly behind her.
Once out in the frosty air, Rose headed for the forest. Flying over the snow, she was amazed at how warm the coat was; she hardly felt the chill. In the distance, the trees stood black and stark, fretting the pale, moon stricken clouds that floated above the horizon. When she arrived at the edge of the trees, a bright path lit up over the snow, leading into the forest where she was forbidden to go.
Rose moved away and went down a known path to the lake. It shone like a milky opal in its ring of bare trees and dark shrubberies. Her sister had been lost in the Forest of Wonders long ago. Remembering that, how could she disobey her worried parents and follow the bright path that she knew Grandma meant for her take into the Forest on this night of the full moon?  She might never return again!
Rose gazed across the lake. It was frozen and riddled with snow drifts and black patches where water ran cold beneath the ice. Mist rose on the other side like veils before the moon. A dog howled far away and sad. Then everything fell silent and as still as the crystalline shimmer of ice among the trees.
Filled with a sense of strange desolation, Rose  decided to go home. The forest loomed, the shadows gathered in the depths of the trees, and the bright path shone like a magic thread. It  pulled on her somehow, seemed to wind her in.
“It can’t hurt to go into the woods. Not just this once,” she reasoned. “Grandma wouldn’t harm me. She gave me this coat, after all.”
Rose still stood very still, glancing around and listening. She heard bells ringing.  She stepped on the path.
She walked for a long time before the woods opened up to a clearing. The path ended abruptly in front of a tall, black, wrought iron gate. Beyond the bars, a large manor house loomed, high and noble looking, with carved window frames, gables and turrets. The windows were dark. The house seemed to be sleeping, dreaming like a living thing. Suddenly, everything was turned about; the house, and the wood were skewed so that Rose looked down on herself from high above, standing small and lost in her red coat the color of blood on the snow.

As she gazed at the house, the front door opened, and a tall woman emerged shrouded in fur. She had a regal bearing. She stood on the walkway for a moment looking back at Rose. Her eyes were large and luminous in her delicate, heart shaped face; her scarlet lips turned up at the corners in a smile that did not reach her eyes.  She wore her pale ivory hair piled high on her head, held in place with an elaborate tarnished comb like a claw. Rose thought she must be very old, but she did not look old. Her hair was glossy, her complexion was brilliant, clear ,and empty of lines. When she spoke her voice was sweet, but hollow, and sent shivers down Rose’s spine.
“At last you arrive at Winterslewe. welcome. I have waited a long time for you to come. Your name is Rose. Am I not mistaken, my little one?”
Rose gripped the bars of the gate. She wanted to run, but the gaze of the mysterious woman held her. Her struggle must been apparent to the Lady who smiled a trifle mockingly. Her teeth were long and yellow.
“Cat got your tongue?”?    “Y-y-yes,” Rose cleared her throat. “Did you give me that letter? And this c-c-coat, Ma’am?”
“Yes, I did. Now you have come, it is up to you whether you let yourself in, Rose. Remember the key? It fits the lock to the gate you grip so tightly. Let yourself in, Rose, for I am not allowed beyond the gate. Use the key and come inside. We shall have tea. I have already prepared it.”
Rose felt around in the coat pocket and took out the key. It was heavy and carved the same as the gate and the tall railings of the fence. The lock was huge and groaned loudly as she turned the key and opened it. The gate suddenly swung wide as if caught by a strong wind. The way forward shone brightly. Rose felt a shock go through her as she got closer to the Lady who smelled like bark and fur as if she were a wild animal from the wood. Once Rose was over the threshold, the gate clanged shut behind her of its own accord…
“Yes, Rose. Now you enter my humble home of Winterslewe. It is named so because here it is always winter. Do you know who I am Rose?” The Lady walked slowly towards the house as she spoke. She seemed to drift above the ground, so smooth was her step.
“No, I don’t. Who are you, Ma’am?” Rose felt her throat tighten as if she was afraid to know the answer.
“I am your grandmother, Lianna, Rose. Have you not heard about me?”
“The Grandma who gave me this coat?”
“Yes, Rose.”
Rose felt her skin prickle as Grandma opened the door and let her inside. She knew she should not go in, but she followed her grandmother in through the dark door anyway. Grandma seemed so kind, smiling at Rose, and bending graciously to help her find her way in the dimness of the long passageway. They passed under an arch and down a hallway that led to a formal drawing room. When Grandma pushed the door open, Rose gasped in astonishment.
The far end of the long room was taken up by an ornately carved fireplace the size of a small room. An inviting, warm fire raged in the grate. The furniture was very old and a bit tatty, the Persian carpets worn, the ceilings were lofty, and the walls! — the walls were buried under trellises of climbing white roses. They grew unchecked, twining around the windows, spreading across the ceiling, weaving round the chandelier, and sprouting shoots over the floor. Rose felt enveloped in a sweet, narcotic scent so heavy that she could hardly breathe. The cloying air, and the twilight blueness, lit only by the fire and a few flaring candles in tall, treelike stands, made her feel weak and light headed so that she longed to sit down.
Grandma motioned to Rose to sit in an wing chair that faced the fire, and she sank into it with the last of her strength. On a delicate round table in front of her, a silver tea service was placed, its shiny surface glinting with firelight.  Steam wafted from the teapot with a vapor as sweet smelling as the white roses. Grandma sat across from her pouring tea into china cups. Rose huddled deep into the chair, and the warmth of the ruby red coat. She felt drowsy, but alert. The room was hazy, seen through the vapor. Grandma looked like an image in a steamy mirror as she hand the teacup and saucer to Rose.
“Now you shall have my special tea and cakes. It is brewed from the very same flowers you see all around you, Rose. I brought them indoors as it so cold outside always. They make a wonderful tea. It is for this that I invited you here, and I want you to come every month on the full moon so we can enjoy tea together. Imagine! I have never met my own grandchild in all these years! How old are you, Rose?”
Grandma handed Rose a small cake in a porcelain plate.
Rose looked at her with wide eyes. “Twelve. Grandma? How come you never came to visit us? I am sure my dad misses you. You are Daddy’s mother aren’t you? He told me you were all witches…”
Grandma shook her head as if get cobwebs out. “Twelve! What and excellent age! An interesting time in a young girl’s life.” Grandma smiled, her eyes bright and piercing. “Wait for the first blood moon. That is the magic time. That is what I am preparing you for. Drink up! The tea will help you grow oh, so strong.”


Suddenly a laugh rang out from somewhere in the house.
Grandma rose from her chair and looked over Rose’s chair toward the drawing room door and shouted,”Isabella! Stop it now!”
Whoever it was giggled and came right behind Rose’ s chair. Rose jumped! Little fingers were creeping over the wing of the chair. Rose looked from the fingers to Grandma with alarm!
“What are you worried about Rose? It is only Isabella. Come, Isabella, meet Rose. Rose, this is my other granddaughter, Isabella.”
A little girl stood before Rose, grinning and giggling. She had pale crinkly hair that hung down to her ankles. She wore a small ivory satin gown that made her look like a doll. Rose smiled at the girl who smiled back.  Her teeth were long and sharp looking, like Grandma’s.
“Would you like some tea, Isabella?” Grandma asked pouring her some as she settled into a brocade chair.
Isabella sipped her tea with a stiff smile.
“Why is she here, Lady Lianna?”
“I invited her, Isabella. She is my granddaughter and was born with a caul. That makes her one of us, darling.”
“What?” Rose asked, not sure of what she heard. Isabella was glaring at her.
Unnerved, Rose drank more tea, and munched the very sweet cake. Moonlight streamed in through one of the tall French windows that stood in a row along the eastern wall. Its eerie rays lit up the roses as it touched them so that the walls glowed with myriad orbs of white light. Outside, wolves were howling.
A shadow floated up behind Grandma. Grandma stood up and opened the casement window. The howling sounded much closer then. Rose wasn’t sure, but she thought she saw the wolves come into the room and swarm around her grandmother whose eyes lit up at the sight of them, glinting with cold fire. Rose blinked the vision away. It was only smoke from the hearth, after all, not wolves. Isabella was playing in the smoke. She and Grandma were laughing. Grandma tilted her head back and, when she laughed, and her mouth was wide.
Rose heard a snuffling sound beside her, below the wing of the chair. She squeezed her eyes shut, her heart pounding with fright. A hot breath brushed her face. When she opened her eyes, the face of a wolf was at her shoulder, looking at her intently.
“Ah!” she jumped and then froze.
It was staring at her over the arm of the chair, smiling, snarling, smiling. Rose squeezed her eyes shut again and shivered. A cold nose touching her neck. She screamed, but as in a nightmare, could make no sound. When Rose opened her eyes again, the wolf was slowly vanishing into a swirling mist.
Smiling, Grandma swayed toward Rose holding out a delicate china plate with a cake on it.
“Rose, here, eat this cake. It is time to go now.”
Rose obediently held her mouth open for the cake. As she chewed, the room began to clear and energy returned to her body.  Suddenly, Grandma lifted her out up and escorted her to the door. She opened it, and Isabella pushed her out.
Rose stood shivering on the front step. The sky was gray with pre-dawn light. She wasn’t sure if she was awake or dreaming until she heard a voice behind her calling.
“Rose, when you leave, don’t forget to lock the gate. Thank you for visiting your old Grandma. Come again next month, when the moon is full. It has been a great pleasure to have you. Goodbye for now.”
Rose walked down the walkway, her feet crunching over the snow, and went out of the gate. When she turned to lock it, she saw Grandma and Isabella standing in the doorway, waving at her. It was uncanny how much alike they looked, one smaller than the other, but the same.
“Goodbye,” she said softly, still unsure whether she dreamed or not.
The heavy gate closed with a loud clang, almost catching her fingers so that she snapped awake. And indeed, Winterslewe, Grandma, and Isabella, were still there.

This is a work in progress. let me know what you think and if you want more. I might be able to serialize it, but it is a novel and therefore very long.

Please comment! I love to hear what you think.

Art Dolls for the Tattered Victorian Gothic in You: “Black-Eyed Suzie”

by Edward Gorey

While I spend the rest of this week finishing my original Gothic Faery Tale, “Roses, Briars, Blood”, I thought it would be fun to take a look at Gothic Tales in another medium: Art Dolls. I love interesting dolls, and have made some myself, based on fairy tale characters, over the years. I have a small collection of antique china dolls — the worst fear of tough Cockney men, several of whom told me, including a serious Ghost Buster from the East End of  London: “There’s nothing scares me more then one of them old china dollies!”

I found Black Eyed Suzie’s doll blog quite by accident. I am so glad I did! The artist’s real name is Sarah Faber, but she goes by Black Eyed Suzie.

The Black Eyed Suzie dolls remind me of  damp, foggy Victorian England; aristocratic ladies strolling around the ornamental gardens, lonely in their  turreted stately homes with their one-hundred rooms, or walking in the bleak streets of London in the rain. They are often haunted by ghosts of lost children, or suicides. Like the Governess in “Turn of the Screw”, they have a look of tragedy about them, both real, and imagined.

Black-Eyed Suzie

Sarah says in the video below, that some of her dolls  are inspired by Edward Gorey. They fit very well, I think, with my theme of Gothic Faery Tales. Faery Tales don’t only live in books or on the pages of a blog. They also appear in art, and  these dolls are art. Gothic Faery Tales also manifest in fashion, decor, music, and films. What we we perceive as the dark side of Faery Tales can be expressed through whatever medium creates that mysterious, disturbing, haunting atmosphere that pulls us where we know we should not go…

Here are some dolls to haunt you…

This one is called Agatha. She reminds me of a brilliant play I saw in Seattle in the early 1990’s based on Edgar Allen Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher, combined with another piece that took place in a madhouse, and  done in the style of the Grande Guignol, 18-19th century Paris’s Theatre of Horrors. Madwomen romped freely in bare hoop shirts, like portable cages, showing off the bloodstained crotches of their pantaloons….

“Oh my God! He stormed into the house, carried me off, and ravished me. Then he threw me out of the coach into a ditch, saying he had had enough — that now I am useless, ruined!  “Good luck!” he shouted as he drove away. I can still hear the sound of the whip and the screaming horses. What will become of me? I shall be forced to seek revenge!”

We found this poor lady wandering about outside in the snow, unescorted, and without a cloak or bonnet. Does anyone know her name, or why she is out in the cold? What has happened to bring her such a pass? The only thing she remembers is the sound of howling….

In this video, Sarah discusses her inspirations and how she makes her beautiful dolls.

Though the shop be haunted by ghosts of dead dolls…

You must check out Black Eyed Suzie’s blog at: http://blackeyedsuzie.typepad.com. They are handmade, one of kind, and for sale to the most discriminating collectors…

We love comments. Let us know what you think please…or we shall have to bother you when you are alone, in the night time, in the dark, alone….

The Threshold by A.S. Byatt, conclusion

And one day we will write it otherwise, that he would not come, that he stayed, or chose the sparkling ones, or went out again onto the moors to live free of fate, if such can be. But you must know now, that it turned out as it must turn out, must you not? Such is the power of necessity in tales.

Well, she took his hand softly, and the touch of her cool fingers was the kiss of moths, or cool linen after a hard days work, and she turned her face towards him and lifted up those eyelids and looked at him and then he saw her eyes. What can I say of her eyes, save that he looked into them and was lost and no more saw the heath, nor the other two bright creatures turning and turning in their cages of light, nor yet  his own trusty steed who had come with him prancing and saddle-sore to the known world’s end? If I were to attempt this description — but no, I cannot — yet I must, for I am your chronicler, bound to recount toyou, what? Imagine then twin pools at midnight, lit by no external shining, but from deep within, some glimmer, some promise, lucid though sloe-black, deep after deep. Imagine then, when she turned her head slightly, a black not after all bluish, like those black plums, but very faintly brown, the slightly hot black of panther-skin, waiting, out of the gleam of the moon.

‘I will come with you,’ said the Childe, a second time, and she said softly enough, inclining her head in what might have been a dutiful way, ‘Come then.’

And she drew him on, over and under the threshold of the standing stones, and his horse called out in alarm, but he stepped on unhearing. And although the stones seemed simple enough in the  midst of the moor, which seemed vaguely to stretch on behind as it had before, he found it was no such thing, for beyond the lintel was a descending track, winding and winding, between banks of sweetly scented flowers that he had never seen or dreamed of, blowing soft dust at him from their huge throats, and lit by a light neither of day, nor of night, but even the perpetual unchanging light of that kingdom…

by Christabel LaMotte                                                       Finis

The Threshold by A.S.Byatt continued…

Then passed they before him, each in her turn, each in her own little cage of light, as though, it might be, she were a candle and cast beams of her glory, a little distance, through the walls of a lanthorne. And as they passed, each sang, and to her song unseen instruments twangled and made delicious moan. And the last rays of the bloody sun showed the standing stones grey on a grey heaven.

First came the gold lady, stepping proudly, and on her head a queenly crown of gold, a filigree turret of lambent sunny gleams and glistering wires above crisping gold curls as heavy with riches as the golden fleece itself. She held out her gold box bravely before her and it struck out such rays that his eyes were briefly dazzled with it and he was forced to look down at the grey heather.

And she sang:

Mine the bright earth

Mine the corn

Mine the gold throne

to which you’re born

Lie in my lap

Tumbled with flowers

And reign over

Earth’s tall towers

And he could have stretched out his hands and warmed them, in that cold gloaming, at all the fire and brilliance that shook for her as she passed.And he thought she offered happiness, but said, natheless,

‘I shall see all, before I speak.’

Then came the silver lady, with a white crescent burning palely on her pale brow, and she was all hung about with spangled silver veiling that kept up a perpetual shimmering motion around her, so that she seemed a walking fountain, or an orchard of blossom in moonlight, which might in the day have been ruddy and hot for bee kisses, but at night lies open, all white to the cool, secret light that blesses it without withering or ripening.

Mine the long night

The secret place

Where lovers meet

In long embrace

In purple dark

In silvered kiss

Forget the world

And grasp your bliss

And he thought she knew his secret soul, and would have stretched out his arms to her in longing, for she made him see in his mind’s eye a closed casement in a high turret, and a private curtained bed where he would be most himself. For it was himself, surely, she offered him, as the other offered the sunlit earth. And he turned from the gold lady and would have taken the silver, but caution, or curiosity, restrained him, for he thought he would still see what the dim last might offer, compared to her two sweet sisters.

And she came almost creeping, not dancing nor striding, but moving imperceptibly like a shadow across his vision, in a still pool of soft light. And her garments did not sparkle or glitter but hung in long pale folds, fluted like carved marble, with deep violet shadows, at the heart of which, too, was a soft light. And her face was cast down in shadows, for she looked not at him, but at the dull lead casket, as pale as might be, and seemingly without hinge or keyhole, that lay cradled before her. And around her brow was a coronet of white poppies and on her feet were silent silken slippers like spider webs, and her music was single, a piping not of this earth, not merry, not sad, but calling, calling.

And she sang:

Not in the flesh

Not in the fire

Not in the action

Is heart’s desire

But come away

For last is best

I alone tender

The Herb of Rest

And then the heart of the Childe was wrung indeed, for it was the Herb of Rest which his father so desired him to bring home, to end, as only that might, his long agony. And the Childe’s heart rebelled a little, for he was loth to abandon the rich brightness of the golden dame, or the lovely clarity of the silver one, for the softness and quiet and downcast eyes of this half-invisible third. And you know, and I know, do we not, dear children, that he must always choose this last, and the last sister is always the true choice, is she not? But let us have a moments true sorrow for the silver blisses the Childe would have preferred, and the sunlit flowery earth which is my own secret preference, and then let us decorously follow as we must, as he takes up the soft hand of the third, as his fate and the will of his father’s decree, and says, half musing, ‘I will come with you.’

#3 of 4

To be continued in the final link below…

The Threshold by A.S. Byatt, conclusion

The Threshold by A.S.Byatt continued…


And the first came in a golden glow, putting out gold slippered feet from under a dress rich and stiff with cloth of gold and all manner of silk embroidery. And the cushion she bore was tissue of gold and the chased box shone like the vanishing sun herself with rich gold chasing and fretwork.

The second was bright with silver like the light of the moon, and her slippered feet were like slivers of moonlight, and all over the silvery gown shone crescents and luminous rounds of argent light, and she was bathed in a cool but intense brilliance, which most beautifully embellished the polished surface of the silver casket she bore on a cloth of silver, with its threads like needles of pure white light.

And the third was dull behind these two and had a subdued lustre, like that of armour burnished and used, like that of the undersides of high clouds hiding the true light that suffuses their steely grey with a borrowed brilliance. Her dress was alive with slow lights like still water under the stars but in the shadow of great trees, and her slippered feet were softly velvet, and her hair, unlike that of the others, was caught back under a masking veil. And the first two smiled at the Childe as they came out of the stone shadows in their brilliant pools of glimmering light. Only the third cast down her eyes, modestly, and he could see that her lips were pale, and that her eyelids were heavy and smoky dark and threaded with violet veinings and her lashes were like the feathery plumes of moths on her colorless cheeks.

And they spoke to him, it seemed, with one voice, which had in it three tones, a clear clarion, a reedy oboe, a whispering low flute.

‘You may go no further this way,’ said they,’ for this is the edge of things, here, and beyond is another country. But you may choose, if you will,  one of us to be your guide, and venture further. Or you may turn back if you will, without dishonour, and trust yourself again to the plain.’

And he answered them courteously that they should speak on, for he had not come so far and so wearily simply in order to turn back. Moreover he was charged by his father with a mission, which he might not reveal in that place. ‘It is known to us already,’ said the three damsels. ‘We have waited long for you.’

‘How am I to know, then,’said the Childe. greatly daring, and in tones of the most humble respect,’that you are not those whiteladies of whom they speak with such fear and honour in the villages I have come through?’

Then they laughed, high, low, clear and whispering, and said they doubted much whether honour was so very apparent when those were spoken of; however there was much superstition and misbelief, as to the whiteladies, among the common people, to which he should perhaps not give too much credence.

‘As for ourselves,’ sad they,’ you must take us as you find us, and judge of us as you see us, what we are, or what we may be to you, as all men must, who have a high courage and a clear vision.’

Then said he, not knowing before he spoke that he had made up his mind to venture, but as if some voice spoke through him,

‘I will assay.’

‘Choose now,’ they said then,’ and choose wisely, for extremes of bliss and misery stand on your choice.’

#2 0f 4:To be continued at the next link below…

The Threshold by A.S.Byatt, Part 3, continued…



The Threshold, by A.S.Byatt

Creatures of the Mythic Night

The Faery Melusine

The Faery Melusine

I discovered the fiction of A.S.Byatt while I was living in England.  A brilliant writer, the real joy is finding the odd fairy tales embedded in the main story. Filled with compelling images and psychological twists, they remain in your mind long after you have put down the book.

The is a very beautiful one from Possession: A Romance, 1990. Based on the legend of the Feary Melusine, Possession is like a fairy tale onion, layer upon layer of wonders. This story involves the mysterious whiteladies of the night…

The Threshold

by A.S.Byatt

The old woman bade the Childe farewell, courteoulsy enough, if curtly, and sent him on his way to the frontier, telling him to keep boldly along the track, deviating neither to right nor left, though creatures might call and beckon him enticingly, and wonderful lights might be seen from time to time, for this was enchanted country. He might see meadows or fountains, but he must keep his stony way, she told him, apparently with no great faith in his strength of purpose. But the Childe said he wished to come to the place his father had told him of, and that he wished to be faithful and true in all things and that she need not fear. ‘As to that’ said the crone,’it is all one to me whether the whiteladies pick your fingers or whether the sluggish goblins of the grimpen dispute your little toes between them. I have lived too long to care much for the outcome of one quest or another: Cleaned white bones are as good as a burnished princeling in a mailcoat to my old eyes. If you will come, you will come; if not, I shall see the whiteladies flickering fire on the heath.’ ‘I thank you nevertheless for your courtesy,’ said the punctilious Childe, to which she said, ‘Courtesy is too fine a name for it. Be off with you before I fall into a teasing frame of mind.’ He did not like to think how that frame of mind might be, so he pricked his good horse with his spurs and rode out onto the stony track with a clatter.

He had a thwarting day of it. The heath and moor were criss-crossed with little tracks, dusty and twisting between the heather and the bracken and the little juniper trees with their clinging roots. There was not one way out but many, all athwart each other like the cracks on a crazy jug, and he followed first one and then the other, choosing the straightest and stoniest and finding himself always under the hot-sun at another crossing just like the one he had just left. After a time he decided to go with the sun behind him always — at least this led to consistency of proceeding — though it must be told that when he decided this he had only the haziest idea , dear readers, of where the sun had been at the beginning of the venture. So it often is in this life. We become consistent and orderly too late, on insufficient grounds, and perhaps in the wrong direction. So it was with the poor Childe, for at dusk he found himself apparently back at the place where he had set out from. He had seen neither whiteladies nor grimpen goblins, though he had heard singing at the end of straight sandy paths he had avoided, and had seen creatures crash and spring briefly far away in seas of bracken and moorland herbs. He thought he recognized the twisted thorn trees, and might indeed have done so; there they stood in their triangle, as they had done at dawn; but of the old crone’s little hut there was no sign. The sun was going down fast, over the edge of the plain; he pricked forward a little, hoping he might be mistaken, and saw before him, a little on his way, an avenue of standing stones, which he had no memory of seeing before, though they were, to say the least of it, hard to miss, even in the graying light. At the end of the avenue was a building, or structure, with huge gateposts and a heavy roofing stone and a stone to mark the threshold. And beyond, the growing dark. And out of this dark, towards him, stepped three most beautiful ladies, walking proudly between the stones, and each bearing before her on a silken cushion a square casket. And he marvelled much that even in the gloaming he had not been aware of their coming, and was wary of them, for he said to himself in his mind,’It may be that these are the bonecracking whiteladies of whom the old woman spoke so lightly, come to turn me from my path as the light of the world fails.’ Certainly they were creatures of evening for each seemed to create her own light as she walked,  a haze of shimmering, and glittering and fluctuating light, most lovely to behold.

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The Threshold by A.S.Byatt, Part 2