Friday, September 03, 2021

Karen Wiesner: The Stories Behind Classic Fairy Tales (Woodcutter's Grim Series), Part 2


Classic Tales of Horror Retold, Volume I Collection

 by Karen Wiesner

Four Supernatural Fantasy Romance/Mild Horror Novellas

This is the second of eight posts focusing on my Woodcutter's Grim Series and the stories behind classic fairy tales.

For the ten generations since the evil first came to Woodcutter's Grim, the Guardians have sworn an oath to protect the town from the childhood horrors that lurk in the black woods. Without them, the town would be defenseless…and the terrors would escape to the world at large.Ts collection includes Books 1-3 in the series along with The Final Chapter: 

"Papa", Book 1

 ** A horrifying rendering of “Hansel and Gretel” in which revenge is served up sweet...Less than a year after Rand left his family for Amy, his ex-wife and two children are killed in an accident. Ever since then, Amy has had terrible nightmares in which Rand's children return to exact revenge. When Rand convinces her to come away with him to an isolated cabin in the woods, Amy's guilt-filled nightmares turn into pure horror. **

The Woodcutter's Grim Series started officially when my family went camping and everyone was telling scary stories around the fire one night. The idea for a terrifying “Hansel and Gretel” is what I came up with. The scariest part of my pitifully weak rendition around the campfire that night was Hansel and Gretel calling in their thin, ghostly voices, “Papa” to their father, who’d abandoned them. After this, I had a nightmare about a spooky town that seemed completely deserted. The only thing the hero could find were little piles of sugar everywhere. Later, he realized those were all that were left of the townspeople. That was the jumping off point for the story “Papa”.

The basis of the fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel" is a deeply disturbing, tragic story of famine, disease, and infanticide but could also have had something to do with a successful female baker in the 1600s that another baker (a male) grew jealous of and so accused of being a witch. You can probably guess the rest, but if you want to know more details about this travesty, visit:

"Blood of Amethyst", Book 2

** A bloodcurdling answer why Rumpelstiltskin wanted a child of his own... Amethyst's father disappears and Sheriff and Guardian Gabe finds him drained of blood. When Amethyst herself grows pale, cold, wakes only in the night when her taste for blood overwhelms her, Gabe becomes aware something in the woods is stealing her life. He'll face his deadliest foe yet when the woman he loves falls prey to a nameless creature who wants her very soul. **

Okay, so who doesn’t wonder why the childhood fairy tale creature "Rumpelstiltskin" wanted the queen’s child for his own? His reasons couldn’t be good. They had to be horrifying. I’d always wondered about the answer to that question, and so it was natural in this “a modern rendering of a classic fairy tale” to explore that angle, as well as establish the inner workings of the fairy tale horror town Woodcutter’s Grim first introduced in “Papa”. Since Sheriff Gabe Reece (leader of the Protectorate) made his first appearance in that story, it seemed natural to make that character the focus of this one.

Another thing I've always wondered is where the name "Rumpelstiltskin" came from and what it means. There are several ideas about the origin. One idea is that it stems from a childhood game in which children took turns assuming the role of a noisy goblin with limp. The word could also describe a mischievous poltergeist. There's also a crude suggestion that the name has a phallic interpretation in the story. In other words, an impish creatures forces a woman to "make gold" with him and then tries to take her firstborn. This story could have been a warning to easily manipulated young women of the time. Check out the full attempt to discover the origin of the classic tale here:

"Dancing to the Grave", Book 3

** Loosely based on “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”. The children of Woodcutter's Grim are changing...and only one person, music teacher Diane Anders, realizes the truth. Can she and her husband, Kurt Jones, a member of the ancient lineage of the Protectorate's Chosen Seven, save them and the future of their town? **

 Another children’s fairy tale that’s always fascinated me is the "Pied Piper of Hamelin". Why would he want to lure all those children away? I came up with an explanation here in this modern retelling. Isn't having all your children taken away the very definition of horror? I also liked exploring the early phases of a couple reuniting after one of them had cheated. The title was another no-brainer, since it was based on the Pied Piper story.

 I hope to never have to research rats again! That was pretty unpleasant and made me itchy the whole time I was writing the story. The heroine Diane was allergic to rats, and I have the same condition, but it's not relegated to just rats. At the time I was working on this story, we lived in an older house, and I kept smelling something dead in the basement, where my office and computer were. My husband wouldn't believe me, but we found a newly deceased carcass of a bat not long later…when a bunch of live bats started flying around my head one night while I was working down there! Needless to say, my office was moved upstairs the very next day.

The story behind the fairy tale "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" might be just what you'd expect, following the story closely to events that took place in 1264 in a Germanic village. When the town elders reneged on the deal, one potential explanation (or myth) is that children could have been compelled by the piper into missionary service, via the Children's Crusade. Did they in fact cross the sea to convert Muslims to Christianity, or did they never reach their destination, either starving or being sold into slavery?'s_Crusade/

"The Amethyst Tower", The Final Chapter

** Loosely based on “Rapunzel”. The isolated maiden meets her knight in a time-traveler who's come into the future to rescue her from the Warlock Lord holding her captive in the amethyst tower. Where else but in the fairy-tale-horror town of Woodcutter's Grim? **

While I really wanted to come up with more Woodcutter's Grim Series stories, I didn't really have any ideas and so assumed it would end with four novellas. But, later when I unexpectedly dreamed up more stories to fit in this series, "The Amethyst Tower” gave me a focal point and a boundary to write the rest of the “middle” stories inside, knowing where the series would end.

At the time when I was outlining "The Amethyst Tower", I’d been lamenting for years that Disney still hadn’t done a movie for the fairy tale "Rapunzel" (Tangled came out years later), so I wanted to do a scary version. The end of “Dancing to the Grave” provided the perfect segue into "The Amethyst Tower". The hero in the story, Prince, wasn't someone I wanted to make a typical hero. For countless years, he'd tried to fulfill the prophecy about him being a savior, with no idea how to go about it. He was discouraged and depressed, not to mention a little defeated. It wasn't until much later that I realized how important this story was to the series when I tried to "write backwards" with new tales that fit before the events of "The Amethyst Tower". Trust me, there is nothing fun about painting yourself in a corner and having to stay within it to tell the rest of the stories in a series.

Some fairy tales are based on sad tales of religion gone wrong, as is the case with Rapunzel. A pagan merchant father couldn't bear to have his daughter marry (his reason for that can't be good) so locked her in a tower. After she converted to Christianity, her prayers were so loud, the merchant was informed of them by those in the town below. When he dragged his daughter in front of the Roman pro-consul, he was told he either had to behead her himself or he'd have to give up his fortune to shut her up. Can you guess what he decided to do? Sigh. But at least he got his just due when he was struck by lightning right after the evil deed against his own child was done.

Reviews and Honors for WOODCUTTER'S GRIM SERIES, Volume I:

2008 Dream Realms Award Winner

Best Book of 2010 Nominee from Siren Book Reviews

Recommended Read from Dark Angel Reviews

5 star review from Howling Good Books

5 star review from BTSemag

5 star review from Linda's Reviews

5 star review from author Jenna Whittaker

4 1/2 star review from Siren Book Reviews

4.25 star review from Huntress Reviews

4 star review from RT Book Reviews

4 star review from Paranormal Romance Reviews

4 star review from Coffee Time Romance

4 star review from The Romance Review

Do you love telling or hearing scary stories around a campfire? Have you ever dreamed about something that made you want to write a story on the basis of the dream? Leave a comment to tell me about it!

Happy reading!

Find out more about this collection and Woodcutter's Grim Series here:

Karen is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series. Visit her here: 

1 comment:

  1. That "true stories behind classic fairy tales" page has a lot of interesting tidbits.