Mother Tongues by Theodora Ziolkowski

imageTwo young men arrive at the home of a peasant woman.  We hear you know many stories, they say. Will you tell them to us for the book we are writing.

What follows is a wonderful collection of four stories, each perfect for the Brothers Grimm.  Stories left out of their collected tales you might say.

Two are set in places that seem very like the world of the Brothers Grimm–two are set in modern times. Each one works in a subtle ways, with just the lightest touch of magic, just barely enough of the fantastic to make them fairy tales.  Fairy tales for people who don’t care much for fairy tales.

In the opening story, a woman begins a tale for her audience of two young men while at her window a flock of geese begin to appear.  Watching, listening. Are they the geese in the story she is telling?

This is my artwork.

In “Apples” Ms. Ziolkowski present her take on the Snow White tale.  Hers is a story about a woman desperate to keep her beauty at any cost, even the lives of her two step daughters.

When I was a little girl and always trying to hide my eye patch, Stepmother used to tell me I was lucky I had at least one good eye. One is enough to get by, she’d explain. Or, Beauty for little girls isn’t everything, you know. Beauty doesn’t count quite yet. Just wait until you’re older.  Just wait until you’d do anything to get it back.

I thought that was very good. I think it’s a good snapshot of Ms. Ziolkowski’s stories, too. Something a bit familiar, something a bit strange. Snow White has only one eye.  Her stepmother motivated by her own fading beauty instead of jealousy.

The final story “Foam” has this wonderful opening:

When we were living, we moved in with a man and his niece.

“When we were living”!  You’ve got my attention.

This is Lea Greenwood’s artwork. She did the wonderful cover and the rest of the illustrations in Mother Tongues.

I purchased Mother Tongues through subscription. It’s published by The Cupboard, a small press that operates out of Florida.  They publish a small chapbook four times a year featuring the work of a single author.  By small I mean small enough to fit in your pocket. Each addition is only $5.00; a one year subscription is $20.00.  I’m not getting anything free from The Cupboard, but I am looking forward to the next edition.

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