Over the years, I’ve found myself disappointed by many YA fairy tale retellings. I’m always drawn to them, and yet most of them don’t provide the satisfaction I’m looking for.
Rosamund Hodge’s gorgeous books, however, are the few exceptions–both of them take inspiration from fairy tales, but have their own unique twist on the stories we’re so familiar with. I find myself utterly captivated when I’m immersed in these books, swept away by the romance, the lush prose, and the interplay of darkness and lightness in the unforgettable characters.
In Cruel Beauty, the author reimagined the stories of Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard, and Cupid and Psyche. In her latest book Crimson Bound, she draws her influence from two other very different fairy tales. As part of the blog tour we’re hosting for the book, Rosamund is with us today to tell us more about her dark, dark influences. They may surprise you.
Fairy Tale Inspirations
by Rosamund Hodge
When you write novels based on fairy tales, inevitably someone is going to ask, “But why did you choose to retell that story?”
Crimson Bound is inspired by two fairy tales–“Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Girl With No Hands.” So that’s two questions. And if you ask me why I picked “Little Red Riding Hood,” the answer is really simple.
Because technically, Crimson Bound isn’t based on Little Red Riding Hood–or at least, not the Grimm and Perrault versions that most of us are familiar with. I used, instead, an old French version of the story called The Grandmother’s Tale.
This story starts the way you remember–the girl goes into the woods to bring some food to her grandmother. But the wolf that she meets is actually a werewolf, and when he gets to the house ahead of the girl, he doesn’t swallow the grandmother whole. He chops her up, and puts a plate of her flesh and a bottle of her blood in the pantry. When the girl arrives, the wolf tricks her into eating the “meat” and drinking the “wine.” Then he tells her to get undressed and join him in the bed; as she removes each item of clothing, she asks where to put it, and he says, “Throw it into the fire. You won’t need it anymore.”
When the girl gets into the bed, finally there’s the familiar exchange–“Grandmother, how hairy you are!”–and finally the girl realizes that there is something really creepy and strange about this situation. So she tells the wolf that she has to go to the bathroom, and when he can’t persuade her to do it in the bed, the wolf ties a thread to her ankle and lets her go outside. The girl ties the thread to a tree–so that when he tugs on it to check, he thinks she’s still there–and then she runs away free. Hooray, happy ending!
When I first read this story, I found it both fascinating and terrifying. Because in the usual story, the wolf only wants to eat Little Red Riding Hood. In this story, he wants to make her like him. He wants to make her complicit in the death of her grandmother.
And he succeeds. Even though the girl escapes, she’s already eaten her grandmother’s flesh. She will never be the same.
Then there’s the thread that the wolf ties to her ankle. I have spent the last thirteen years of my life mainlining anime and manga, and in the process I learned about the East Asian legend of the “red string of fate“–an invisible red string that connects two people fated to marry or fall in love. You can, for just about any two anime/manga characters, find fanart of them tangled up in the red string. So when I read about the wolf tying a string to the girl’s ankle, my immediate thought was: FATE.
Maybe they’re connected now. Maybe the girl doesn’t really escape at all.
In Crimson Bound, there are no wolves–exactly. But there is a magical race called the forestborn. If they catch you, they can put their mark on you, and then in three days you will die–unless you kill somebody else. But if you kill, you will start to share in their power, until you turn into one of them.
My heroine, Rachelle, was looking for a way to fight the forestborn. She had dreamed all her life of protecting people from them. But when a forestborn marks her . . . in the end, she kills. She is doomed to become one of the creatures that she hates.
And she has to find a way to live with that guilt, and that fate.
And what about the other question–why did I also base this novel on “The Girl With No Hands?” Well, because I feel like they’re the same story, only with a different ending.
“The Girl With No Hands” is pretty obscure, so you might not have heard about it. Basically, a poor miller meets the devil, who offers to make him rich if he only promises that in three years he can have “what is standing behind your mill.” The miller, who apparently has never read any myths or fairy tales ever, thinks that this just means the apple tree planted in back of the mill. But actually it’s his daughter.
When the devil turns up to collect, the miller doesn’t try to save his daughter. It’s the devil, so what can you do? But the girl draws a circle of chalk around herself, and the devil can’t cross the line. So he tells the miller to take away all water from the girl, so that she can’t wash her hands, and somehow that will give him power over her. (Cleanliness is next to godliness, I guess.) The miller doesn’t want to offend the devil, so he takes away all water from his daughter. But she weeps on her hands so much they are washed clean, and when the devil turns up the next day, he still can’t take her. So the devil orders the miller to cut off her hands.
It’s the devil. What can you do? So the miller chops off his daughter’s hands. But when the devil comes back, she’s wept on the stumps until they are clean. And three tries are all the devil gets: he has to go away, and while the miller offers to support his newly-handless daughter with his devil-riches, the girl says that she will go wandering instead.
There’s a second half to the story, where the girl marries a king and the devil forges letters in attempt to get her killed, but I didn’t use that part in Crimson Bound. Because what captivated me about the story was the beginning: a lone girl, betrayed by her own father, utterly helpless to the point where her own body is not her own.
And yet utterly strong. Because when everything else is taken away from her, the girl doesn’t break. She doesn’t lose herself. It’s like The Grandmother’s Tale–there’s a malevolent supernatural force that wants to make an innocent girl his–but this time the girl wins.
So when I read that story, I thought, “Wow, if Little Red Riding Hood ever met the Girl With No Hands, she would hate her so much.”
And that’s how I came up the love interest for Crimson Bound: Armand, the bastard son of the King. He–reputedly–was marked by a forestborn, and refused to kill, and yet survived. In retaliation, the forestborn cut off his hands. Now the entire country reveres him as a living saint, but Rachelle is sure that he’s actually a fraud. Because there is absolutely no way for anyone to escape the kill-or-die choice of the forestborn.
Then she’s forced to become his bodyguard.
They have a lot to say to each other.
Crimson Bound Synopsis:
When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.
Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?
Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.
(This is a standalone novel, not part of the Cruel Beauty Universe.)Crimson Bound will be available in stores and online on May 5, 2015 in hardback, as well as on audiobook. Add it to your GoodReads shelf here!
About the Author:
Rosamund Hodge loves mythology, Hello Kitty, and T. S. Eliot. She writes YA fantasy that draws on two of those things. In her wild youth, she studied Medieval English at Oxford; she now lives in Seattle and writes wildly.
Win Crimson Bound and Cruel Beauty
Thanks to our friends at Balzer + Bray, we’re giving away two prizes!
— a bundle of Rosamund Hodge books, including hardback copies of both Crimson Bound and Cruel Beauty
— a copy of the fantastic audiobook narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden.
These books are the perfect thing to curl up with on a dark, rainy night…or perhaps as you lie on the grass in the cool shade of spring.
To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you’re excited about Crimson Bound! Let us know in the comments which of the two prizes you’d prefer as well, or if you’re open to either one.
Open to U.S. and Canadian residents aged 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission. See entry form for complete details.
Crimson Bound Blog Tour
Visit the rest of the Crimson Bound tour, where you’ll find other deliciously dark insights into the book, as well as opportunities to earn more points for the giveaways! You know that if we’re hosting a tour for a book, we think it’s well worth your time.
Don’t forget to visit all three of the flash fiction stops, too–Rosamund wrote 3 short stories that give you more of a peek into the world of Crimson Bound.
Monday, 4/20 The Midnight Garden Fairy Tale Inspiration: Little Red Riding Hood & The Girl with No Hands
Tuesday, 4/21 Mundie Moms Cosmetics for Badasses
Wednesday, 4/22 Two Chicks on Books Audiobook Clip + Interview
Thursday, 4/23 YA* Romantics Flash Fiction #1
Friday, 4/24 Cuddlebuggery The Obligatory Strong Heroine Post
Monday, 4/27 YA Midnight Reads Writing a Bad Girl/Good Boy Romance
Tuesday, 4/28 Alice Marvels Flash Fiction #2
Wednesday, 4/29 The Daily Prophecy Q & A with Rosamund Hodge
Thursday, 4/30 The Social Potato Death Before Dishonor
Friday, 5/1 The Starry-Eyed Revue Flash Fiction #3
Many thanks to the lovely bloggers who participated in the tour!
Quote graphic by The Midnight Garden. Feel free to download and share, with link/credit back to us!
Are you excited for Crimson Bound? Did you guess the stories that inspired this particular book? I can’t wait to see what fairy tales the author will explore in her books next!