WHEN WE ARE ENCHANTED
Faerie contains many things besides elves and fays, and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants, or dragons: it holds the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky; and the earth, and all things that are in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted.
J. R. R. Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories
The first (and only) story I could ever recall my father telling me as a child was The Musicians of Bremen. My father, a small and somewhat mischievous man, delighted in the adventures of the clever animals outsmarting common robbers. Neither of my parents were readers, and bedtime stories were never a tradition in our house, but there was something about The Musicians of Bremen that made my father recall it from his own childhood and recount it to me without the aid of a storybook. I’m not certain where my father first heard the story. I would like to think that my grandmother had heard the story while growing up in Belarus. I picture her, sitting beside a warm fire on a cold winter’s night, hearing tales of talking animals and clever princesses from her own parents. The stories would then become part of her, going with her as she traveled across the Atlantic Ocean between the two World Wars to settle in Paraguay and raise a young family. Then, in the forties, the stories would pass on to my South American father. Decades later, my father would tell me of the musicians of Bremen in his heavily accented English, the story carrying both the Old World magic of Belarus and the flavorful countryside of Paraguay to me, a child growing up in the American Midwest in a dreary subdivision that was mostly open fields then.
A few years later when I had learned to read, the first book I can recall falling in love with was a slim volume of Grimm’s Fairy Tales which I bought at a used book store. Aesthetically, there wasn’t much to recommend the book. It was an abused paperback copy with a maroon cover and ragged edges. However, this unusually unattractive volume proved to be an object bewitched. Every lover of books experiences that first moment of transformation when the book ceases to be words on a page, but images, scenes, and ideas so vivid, we suspect they might be more real than the world which we inhabit. My time came with Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and from then on, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Cinderella were to become a permanent part of my imagination.
For many of us who consider ourselves to be either readers or writers, folktales, which include both fairy tales and mythology, are our first love. With the mention of a glass slipper, we not only recall the world of fairy godmothers and impossible quests, but the world of our childhood, the texture of baby blankets and the irritation with siblings intent on pulling our hair during storytime. Folktales are both beyond our modern culture and the anchor of it. It is impossible to think of Western Civilization uninfluenced by classic fairy tales and stories of ancient heroes and the gods who aided them.
And so, with “Enchanté,” we at Halfway Down the Stairs seek to return to the heart of narrative. While our stories and poems, unlike the earliest of folktales, may not come to you from across a campfire on a cold winter’s night, we hope to conjure a bit of word magic. In many ways, this debut issue is everything that Halfway Down the Stairs aspires to be. Our goal is bring our readers fresh, intelligent, and sensitively written poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, free of all literary snobbery.
Our poetry writers for our debut issue are Francesca Leung and Vicki Northern who draw upon Western mythology to tell tales of paradise lost. In her epic poem, “The Gryphon,” Francesca Leung tells of the creation of animals both ordinary and extraordinary, ultimately commenting upon friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness. With “The Fall of Troy,” Vicki Northern revisits the myth that captured the ancient Greek imagination, conjuring both its beauty and its tragedy. The fiction writers of “Enchanté” are Alison Stedman, Leah Wickman, Vicki Northern, and myself. With “A Conference of Villains” and “Yagmar Falls From the Sky,” Alison Stedman pokes fun at the villains of the fairy tale realm and the wholesome princesses whom they oppress. With “Gifts so Treasured,” a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, Leah Wickman comments on the importance of wisdom and beauty. “Frost,” my own retelling of Snow White, is a story about loneliness and everyday cruelties. Then with “The Small Hours,” Vicki Northern creates an original folktale about that mysterious force, Time itself.
The staff of Halfway Down the Stairs has thoroughly enjoyed putting our debut issue together, but we are eagerly looking forward to our next issue in March 2006 when we will begin to accept outside submissions. At that time, we will also begin to accept work of all genres. The theme of our March issue will be “Wanderlust.” For submission information, please click here.
The staff of Halfway Down the Stairs would like to extend a special thanks to all those who helped make our e-zine possible. I would like to thank both Cliff and Tyson at Writing Forums for all the technical advice. Thank you, Cliff, for sharing what you have learned through the creation of your own e-zine, Sacred Twilight. Your help has been immeasurable. And thank you, Tyson, for the advice on coding and web hosting. Most importantly, we would like to thank Julie of Scrivenshafts who has generously given us web hosting, as well as her time and support.
Of course, we would like to thank you, our readers. It is for you that we have created Halfway Down the Stairs. We look forward to hearing from you, and we hope that you will visit us again in March for the publication of “Wanderlust.”
— Stacy Wennstrom, Senior Nonfiction Editor
© 2005, Stacy Wennstrom