A Story Within a Story

The Fairy's Tale

This illustration is entitled ‘A Fairy’s Tale’. In it, master-storyteller Chikabok entrances a gathering of woodland folk with a vivid tale. The gathering comprises a fantastical array of creatures, including keddy-potts, drummon-toadies, snap-dragons, slug-fairies, baby mountains and potato men, as well as Chikabok himself, who is clearly a magpie-fairy. Confused? You need not be . . .
Within The Dark Raven Chronicles, witches have their own customs and of course their own traditional tales. We might grow up knowing certain popular nursery rhymes, and it’s the same with children growing up in covens. All of the amazing creatures I’ve just described are familiar enough to young witches. I’ve always loved the idea of a story within a story, yet I never found the right place for it in Raven’s Wand. Instead, we’re afforded just hints and glimpses of the rich world that lies behind a coven like Wildwood. I wanted to include these traditional witches’ stories, but the pacing of the novel never really allowed it. Richard Adam’s included two or three of the rabbits’ folktales in Watership Down. (I’ve written a full blog on this, one of my favourite books, here on this website, entitled ‘Black Rabbits and Terrible Generals’). What I will say again, is how effective these small inclusions are at expanding any fictional world. It’s like peeping at the cogs that drive the hands on the clock.

For those who’ve read Raven’s Wand, or are reading it, keep an eye out for the following; Wildwood’s chief witch Valonia, on rare occasions calls her bright young student Kolfinnia, ‘Little Wolf Mother’. This isn’t just a throwaway remark. There’s a whole story behind it entitled ‘Wolves in the Stars’, which tells how in the distant past, a cosmic monster tried to devour the Earth, and was stopped by one particularly brave witch named Luna, and a vast pack of wolves led by wolf-mother Fen. It’s a real story, in the sense that it exists complete and ready to read, and it directly integrates with everything about The Dark Raven Chronicles, and explains why Kolfinnia earned the nickname Little Wolf Mother. Interesting, isn’t it?
There is another, perhaps even more potent example of a hidden story with Raven’s Wand. I think it crops up just twice, and always in a sombre context, but look carefully and you’ll hear Skald, Valonia’s thunder-sprite quote the phrase, ‘If need of witches be so great’. He’s not being melodramatic – he’s quoting a pact made by his own Lord long ago, and which directly relates to his partnership with Valonia. ‘If need of witches be so great’. What does it really mean? Again, the story to explain this vague but ultimately critical pact, entitled ‘A Witch’s Best Friend’, exists and is ready to read, and in doing so we also learn something very special about Skald.
I hope that eventually all of these short stories will become available, but like fractals, the deeper we look the more detail we see, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find a story within a story within a story . . .

6 thoughts on “A Story Within a Story

  1. Laura Lauff

    Would you consider putting out audio books on mp3 files of your books? I’ve collected the print copies you’ve made available, but haven’t been able to read them due to my eyesight. I listen to books at home and at work on mp3. I love your works. Is it possible to buy poster sized prints of your book images?

    1. Steve Hutton Post author

      hi Laura – sorry to hear how you struggle with your eyesight, I’m all the more touched to hear that you’ve collected my writings despite this. An audio version would be great, but to do it justice I’d need good recording equipment to get a listenable sound, and a good narrator. I could read the book myself, but just because I wrote it doesn’t mean I’ve got the kind of voice suited to it! (Unless you like the Yorkshire accent!). Perhaps further down the line, when Raven’s Wand become more recognised and established, an audio or even large print version might arise – it’s not beyond possibility. I wish I could say something more certain. Large prints on the other hand can be sorted out – most of the artwork here on Wildwood could be produced as a print as most are quite large (50x30cm) and some are double this, so keep it in mind if you have a favourite. Thanks again for your support, Laura, I remember you making a donation via Paypal a year or two back, that sort of kindness isn’t forgotten. Best wishes – Steve H

      1. Laura Lauff

        Dear Steve, Thank you for your reply of very good news. I know your books will soar and you will be able to make audio books someday (and movies). I recommend Terri Hatcher. She is doing a very good job narrating the book “Battle for Wonderla” that I am listening to right now. There are lots of creatures that talk and she has a different voice for each one. I think the storyteller image would make a nice poster because there are so many characters. I like all the artworks because of the details. I look forward to seeing art in the book that I haven’t seen yet! Even though I am 52 yrs old, I still remember that my mother told me that I was an elf/fairy. Lauff means “to laugh or to run” so I think she is right! She made the world magical for me by telling me that birds and insects are fairies that had to change shape so that they wouldn’t be noticed in this world. Wildwood Witches story and pictures help me keep this mindset in my day. Thank you!

        1. Steve Hutton Post author

          hi Laura, you certainly enjoy a very mystical world-view, and I’m delighted to hear that Wildwood fits it so well, and you own theory on fairies seems uncannily plausible . . . (-: I enjoy audio books too on occasion, and I remember listening to William Hurt reading a story by Stephen King, which was wonderful. King himself then read the next story (it was a collection) and although well written, his voice was rather off putting (don’t tell Mr King!). A good voice can really make a story (or break it!)

          1. Laura Lauff

            Dear Steve,
            I’m sure your accent would be just fine because we all have accents. My husband’s is British/Australian and his mother was from Yorkshire and my accent is Florida/Wisconsin. Stephen King is also on my mind lately because he is one of the signatories of the Writer’s Against DonaldTrump Letter, so I am very pleased with S. King even though I stay away from his books because I don’t like scary stories.
            Now Here Is Some News That Will Make You Very Happy!
            My husband took himself off to the electronics department on his own today while we were shopping and when we got home—- He….connected my computer to the tv and gave me a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse and now I can——-READ WILDWOODWITCHES BOOK ON THE TV! I looked at your website and could view the pictures on the TV too. So that is exciting and fantastic and I’m on page 29…..I’ll read a bit everyday between my night job as a cleanroom custodian at 3m and my day job as a rescuer of garden plants. My back neighbor moved in and needs his lawn back for his baby and asked me to take his plants. The neighbors around the corner are scaling back to just the ferns and fountain by their gazebo and asked me to take their plants too*there are so many!* (before she sprays poison on them–Oh No!)
            Thank you sincerely for the dramatic beginning to the story…. gosh… a bit scary,,,, but good too with the crow that warned the witches in the cave and the magic of the sweet peas. I think boy that turned 18 is going to have to switch sides.
            From, Laura

          2. Steve Hutton Post author

            that’s WONDERFUL news, Laura! I’m not very tech’ minded and so it never occurred to me that you could adapt your TV that way. I hope you like the story, and don’t find it too scary or shocking (-: It’s funny you mention plants – I have a peace lily and a cactus that were given to me because they were dying (nice gift eh?) and I’ve done my best to nurse back to health. The peace lily is a temperamental character while the cactus is loving its new life in the conservatory, even though we don’t get much sun up here.
            Once again, it’s great news that you can enjoy the book, and welldone to your clever husband for sorting it out!
            All the best

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