Apologies for the hiatus, but I have been away. Normal service should now be resumed.
I spent part of yesterday afternoon listening to my eight-year-old niece doing her homework. She is doing myths and legends at school just now, and her homework was to write a story telling the tale of how the snail got its shell. It was fascinating – she told us what she was going to write beforehand, a little bit at a time, and the story that evolved before our eyes, was full of elements from all sorts of things.
It was a quest story. Our hero, who begins life as a slug, is cruelly orphaned in a savage attack on his family by thrushes. And yes, it was a hero, and not a heroine. He then runs into a friendly goddess who conveniently has had her crown stolen by magpies. Our hero agrees to retrieve it for her in exchange for her granting him a wish. There then follows an episode, which I commented bore more relation to Dungeons and Dragons than any traditional legends I knew. It involves trapdoors secret passages, grabbing the stolen crown, and escaping detection in the nick of time – thrilling stuff! Our hero has gained two sidekicks by this time, although only he gets a wish from the goddess, which seemed a bit unfair to me. For some unexplained reason he asks for a house on his back, like a tortoise, and so becomes a snail.
I think my niece may make a writer – she has a powerful imagination. She does read quite a lot of fantasy and there are clearly derivative elements to this story, but the way she has strung them together into a workable whole is interesting. The story had bits that could have come from Aesop or Ovid, as well as Tolkien or CS Lewis – she loves Narnia, and yet the choice of a slug as hero was good even if she did have to remind herself that it doesn’t have any legs.
I look forward to reading her more mature work.