Last, but far from least in my recent influx of blog posts is this guest post by the lovely Wyn Owens, who has written a Rapunzel story I am very much looking forward to reading. What she has to say is very insightful into both of her subjects.
Rapunzel and Ancient Japan
People ask me where I got the idea to set my retelling in a world inspired by ancient Japan.
The simple answer is because pagodas make nice tower substitutes, but you can’t build a story solely off of that. When you write a fairytale retelling, you need to make sure whatever setting you choose can work with the spirit of the original story. That’s not to say you can’t choose whatever culture or time period you want, because you can; imagination is boundless and possibilities are endless. It simply means you need to put thought into it, and find ways—common threads, if you will, that can stitch the fabric of plot and setting together.
So, what threads are there that bound Rapunzel and Ancient Japan together in my mind?
Rapunzel, I think, is about loyalty and endurance. Rapunzel survived for six years, alone in the wilderness, caring for her two children. Meanwhile, the prince searches endlessly for her for that same amount of time, even while blind and starving, eking out a life on roots and grass.
It’s also about family—Rapunzel’s parents wished dearly for a child, and Mother Gothel, despite sticking Rapunzel in a tower, seemed to care about her, until Rapunzel ‘betrayed’ her, at least. And there is, of course, the family Rapunzel and her husband make together.
There are definitely other themes, but these ones are my favorites. And, luckily for me, they fit easily into a Japan-inspired world.
Loyalty to one’s family or lord and endurance in spite of great odds is a staple of Japanese culture—personified in the samurai but present throughout the culture. And beyond mere loyalty, throughout Japanese history the bonds of family were revered. The ties between siblings, parents and children, grandchildren and grandparents—they were extremely important, to be respected and used to dictate decisions and actions.
These were the threads I used to weave my tale, to pull together the spirit of Japan and the story of Rapunzel into a single, coherent story. With these, I created a story about a princess in a pagoda who loves and a samurai, and the bonds of family and loyalty that drive them on to endure the troubles that lie before them.
About the book
Hanako has dwelt alone for all her life, with only her two silent handmaidens and the countless dragon effigies on her walls to keep her company; her only knowledge of the outside world gained from the books and scrolls she reads. When the wandering ronin stumbles onto her haven, she gains her first friend, never knowing how deeply this chance meeting would affect her.
In the wilds of the mountainous country of Akiyama, there stands a pagoda. When Shichiro, an exiled, honorless samurai stumbles across it one rainy morning, he expects to find it empty and abandoned. He was not expecting to find a lonely princess with near-mythical blue eyes dwelling in the top floors.
The threads of fate have tied these two together, and all the while turmoil boils in the midst of the Seven Countries of Azuma-no-Kuni. Rumors of alliances and armies sprout up, and whispers of the long-lost Imperial Line returning at last. Old prophecies ripen at last, and old myths prepare to show themselves once again in the hour of need. Amongst it all stand two new allies—an isolated princess and a near-friendless ronin, as the wheels of fate and destiny circle them and draw ever closer. Will peace at last return to the fractured realms, or will remnants of the once great Empire splinter beyond all redemption?
Wyn Estelle Owens is the penname of a young woman who’s still figuring out what this whole ‘adult’ thing is all about. She lives in a big, old house in Maryland by a Hundred Acre Wood (dubbed Neldoreth) with her parents, three occasionally obnoxious brothers, her dog Jackie, and her rabbit Joker. She is fond of reading, writing, drawing, speaking in dead or imaginary languages, playing videogames, quoting classic or obscure literature, being randomly dramatic, and generally making things out of yarn. Her dream is to write stories that inspire people to chase after the wonderful world of storytelling. Her favorite all-time authors are Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Christa Kinde, and above all, J.R.R. Tolkien, who first inspired her to pursuing novel writing when she read the Hobbit at the age of seven.
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