(Today's guest blog is from author Maya Chhabra (who was also one of my beta-readers for Mother of Souls) to celebrate release day for her little mermaid retelling, Walking on Knives.)
As a kid, I never liked the main character in Rumpelstiltskin, the girl who must spin straw into gold or die. The miller’s daughter agrees to hand over her first-born to the mysterious Rumpelstiltskin if he helps her accomplish this impossible task. Then she goes back on the deal.
As an adult, I recognize that the miller’s daughter was in an impossible situation, and Rumpelstiltskin took advantage of it to make an unfair bargain. I also realize that if she willingly handed over her child to the dubiously ethical Rumpelstiltskin, she’d be a terrible parent. But as a kid, the unfairness rankled. She got the benefit of supernatural help without having to follow through on the price.
The little mermaid is an entirely different kind of person. She’s under a lot less pressure than the miller’s daughter. She enters into her terrifying bargain voluntarily, for the promise of something better rather than to avoid a terrible fate. And what she does when things go wrong for her is entirely different as well.
In the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the little mermaid’s sisters try to save her from her impending death when the prince refuses to marry her. They give up their beautiful long hair in exchange for a knife. With this knife, the little mermaid can kill the prince and live out her full life as a mermaid.
But the little mermaid is made of sterner stuff. Though tempted, in the end she refuses to displace the terrible consequences of her bargain onto another person, and throws the knife into the sea.
She may not have her voice, but actions speak louder than words. And that’s why she’s a hero—both in the original tale and in my queer take on it, Walking on Knives. Though I changed much in my reimagining, that moment is central to her character.
You can find Maya's book blog "Maya Reads Books" at Wordpress.
She is on Twitter as: @mayachhabra.