Editor’s Note: Baba Yaga’s Fiery Devices

The following is an excerpt from “Baba Yaga Burns Paris to the Ground,” which can be read in full at Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness.

In Russian stories, Baba Yaga is tougher on Russians than anyone else, and she lusts particularly for Russian blood. It’s suggested that she’s testing her fellow Russians, ensuring that they respect and deserve to live on Russian soil. The industrial revolution and three-thousand odd miles stand between Baba Yaga and the pétroleuses; they belong to different worlds. Still, I see similarities between Baba Yaga’s defense of Russia’s forests and the incendiaries’ defense of their sprawling city.

babacover-full

Baba Yaga has an array of magical objects: her house on chicken legs, her mortar and pestle ship, her one leg made of bone. All of these give her power and bring the stories that she stars in to life on the page. But what interests me most is Baba Yaga’s associations with fire. Her house is sometimes located across a river of flame and is ringed by lanterns made of human skulls. Her stove is her greatest threat, a place where characters believe they will be incinerated, although it as often resurrects life. Like Fitz Fitcher, Baba Yaga has the power to take life, but like the youngest sister, she can also put it back together again. Baba Yaga can even resurrect herself: in fact, she sometimes dies at the end of a story, only to turn up in yet another tale.

Baba Yaga is neither fairy godmother nor evil sorceress. She is something more ambiguous. She teaches those who come to her door essential survival skills. She teaches them when to be honest or to lie, when to obey or demand, to steal or stay. Baba Yaga doles out punishment, but she also doles out tough love. Why, then, the bad reputation? Perhaps she is called evil to remind the young that she is opposed to the Christian order of things, that she cares not for polite society. That even if she helps the hero, she is a wild woman and not to be trusted. If Baba Yaga builds incendiary devices to give to little girls, and Baba Yaga is good, doesn’t that mean the social order is at least a little bad?


This Editor’s Note was written by Tiny Donkey Founding Editor Wren Awry.

Image by Ben Passmore

The Ghost Moose

by Ivy Jade

I should note that there were no moose in my fairy tales. Mice would weave dresses and songbirds wing in to harmonize, rats prey on babies, wolves leer at unaccompanied minors, and snakes give terrible advice, but for all her bedtime vespers Grandmother never had a word to offer on the moose. Moreover, I lacked an authoritative source to aid in personification of muskrats, ground squirrels, and particularly heather voles. The cats (duplicitous, self-serving) enjoyed sucking members of our abundant backyard vole community down to dollhouse rugs, and I struggled to decide what to make of it. Of course, a mouse in the house was inclined to die in the walls as opposed to sew me a back-to-school sweater, and the only rat I knew was Evans, who ate a lot of yogurt chips and liked to sleep in my sleeves.

Of the moose I had absolutely no guidance. Rocky and Bullwinkle couldn’t be taken as communion; it lacked the mystic energy of tale layered over tale, the spiritual ambiguity of a frog emerging from the well with a golden ball or an ugly little man spinning straw by starlight.

Now that the moose are dying I wonder what it means for the stories, and I figure not much. There are ghost moose, which surely should mean something (hypothetical: the Little Match Girl is rescued from mortal hallucinations on the back of patchy, white-skinned moose), but moose as a fairy-species were passed over when they could have been messengers of kind fatality or knobby-kneed saviors, always owl-like with wisdom. Instead the ticks got them, a thousand sucking parasites to fell a thousand pounds of animal. Carbon dioxide got them, far from the realm of wicked witches or sadistic stepparents.

When I tired of the princesses, Grandma ought to have subbed in a moose for Little Red. I like to believe a moose would know a wolf in sheep’s clothing. She would never be selfish or preening. She would know to fear the foe and not the forest, though I admit I’m spouting pure conjecture. I do know that a moose forswears a moral. She promises uncertainty and wildness. Moose are all the allegory I need for a good story, antlers added. They fade into Faerie meek as ghosts, and the birds build nests from their fur.


Ivy Jade studies biology at Smith College. She is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota and maintains a personal interest in the preservation of at-risk species.

Snow White and The Apple

by Jayme Russell

1. In Bluets, Maggie Nelson collects the color blue. Blue experiences, objects, and emotions. Pain, sadness, and song. She writes, “And so I fell in love with a color—in this case the color blue—as if falling under a spell…”

2. Once—She fell. UnconsciousFrail. PoisonBody. LipSugared. SilentWhite.

3. Sound and dream covered in a layer of white. Mary Ruefle’s Little White Shadow begins, “one in ruins/struck/notes whose sounds/spent a winter here.”

4. “Fresh snow fell on snow already fallen; when it ceased, the whole world was white,” writes Angela Carter in “The Snow Child.” I cover text/words/sound with a thick layer of white, building a background on which bright colors become brighter. To show just how red. Just how blue. Technicolor images breathe within the white landscape.

5. Ruefle erases book after book. As she puts it in Madness, Rack, and Honey, she takes words out of this world. With a stroke of the hand she blots them from existence.

6. “It calms me to think of blue as the color of death. I have long imagined death’s approach as the swell of a wave—a towering wall of blue,” Nelson says. But what of deathly pale? Covered/Cursed/Ruefled. The body. SkeletonEmaciated. LittleWhiteShadow. Heart beating. Veins pulsing. Alive but so thin. Speechless.

7. “I do not think I really have anything to say about poetry other than remarking that it is a wandering little drift of unidentified sound, and trying to say more reminds me of following the sound of a thrush into the woods on a summer’s eve—if you persist in following the thrush it will only recede deeper and deeper into the woods…” says Ruefle.

8. In the “Lady of the House of Love,” Angela Carter describes her Countess—a Snow White/Sleeping Beauty/vampire hybrid—as “only a shape, a shape imbued with a faint luminosity since it caught and reflected in its yellow surfaces what little light there was in the ill-lit room…” She is object, ghost, and archaic bride draped in satin and lace. Her prince is enthralled by the color of her lips: “he was disturbed, almost repelled, by her extraordinarily fleshy mouth, a mouth with wide, full, prominent lips of a vibrant purplish-crimson, a morbid mouth.” She is alive. She moves and breathes. Her sleeping curse lingers on her lips.

9. “At times I have been tempted to think that we dream more colorfully now because of the cinema,” Nelson insists. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first feature length, hand drawn animated film. Such bright colors titled white.

10. The queen says, “Yes girlie, now make a wish and take a bite.”

Continue reading Snow White and The Apple

Contest: Once Upon a Cartographer . . .

Write us a folk or fairy-tale essay in the form of map.

This map can be an image, cartoon, written essay, photograph, video, audio, Google map, interactive media or in any other medium you can think of. It can be a traditional essay or image that “maps” a certain landscape, journey or idea; or it could take the concept of a “map” and reinterpret it in a whole new way. You can graft a folk or fairy tale on to a map of a certain place, or make a map out of a folk or fairy tale that you love. There’s virtually no wrong way to interpret this prompt–just let your imagination run wild, have fun with it and send us your best work!

One first-place winner will receive a copy of the Mauve Issue of Fairy Tale Review, signed by founding editor Kate Bernheimer, and will have their work published by Tiny Donkey in January 2016. Up to three other winners will also have their essays published throughout the month of January.

Submissions will be accepted from September 1 until January 1. Written essays should be 400 words or less. Visual submissions should consist of just one image. Video, audio and interactive media submissions should be two minutes or under in length. Please email submissions to tinydonkeyeditorial@gmail.com or upload them to our online submission manager under the Tiny Donkey category. Please put “Maps Contest” in the submission subject line.

What We Lose

by Richard Leis

What must a boy lose to become a little bird? In “The Juniper Tree,” by the Brothers Grimm, the boy loses more than just his head and his life after he is murdered by his evil stepmother. All that fat and skin and tissue sliced up, made into stew, fed to his oblivious father. All that bone wrapped up in a silk scarf and deposited under the juniper tree by his grieving half-sister. Then the tree works its magic and the dead boy is transformed into a living bird, a singing bird, a busy bird, a vengeful bird. He is without human arms, hands, and fingers now that they are wings. His legs are tiny and his feet are missing toes. His bones are hollow and light. His lips are rigid beaks.

People lose huge chunks of self—limbs, organs, functionality, quality of life—to disease and trauma every day. The survivors learn to fly and sing in their remaining bodies. They rise and fall and rise again with new routines and augmentations. They do not, however, receive for their efforts the bird’s reward at the end of the fairy tale: upon crushing his stepmother with a millstone, he immediately transforms back into the living boy he once was.

Transformative rewards may be coming, though. Recent medical breakthroughs promise to give back what survivors have lost: 3D-printed windpipes and other organs infused with the patient’s own cells. [1] Thought-controlled prosthetics. [2] Face transplants. [3] Rewritten genetic code to prevent and treat genetic diseases. [4] These and other emerging technologies arrive and improve so rapidly that we have to wonder where all of this is heading. For a few years yet, these technologies will only approximate what survivors have lost, but there may soon come a time when technology returns full functionality to the human body and imbues it with better-than-human capabilities and performance.

After a terrible accident, the protagonist in Sunny Moraine’s recent short story, “Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained,” grapples with a cutting-edge prosthetic arm, an arm that provides enhancements and capabilities the original did not have, an arm that may be sentient, an arm that may be seeking friendship. [5] When a medical breakthrough arrives that fully regrows lost biological limbs, the protagonist ponders the question “The Juniper Tree” never thought to ask: What must the little bird lose to become the boy again?


Richard Leis is a reader for Tiny Donkey, an editorial assistant for Fairy Tale Review, and a writer of speculative fiction, nonfiction and poetry. He studies Creative Writing and English at the University of Arizona, where he is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE).


[1] “Doctors Create A 3D Printed Trachea on a MakerBot.” 3D Print. 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 4 June 2015. <http://3dprint.com/40128/3d-printed-trachea/>.

[2] “Prosthetic Limbs, Controlled by Thought.” The New York Times. 20 May 2015. Web. 4 June 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/21/technology/a-bionic-approach-to-prosthetics-controlled-by-thought.html?_r=0>.

[3] “Face transplant.” Wikipedia. Web. 4 June 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Face_transplant>.

[4] Cimons, Marlene. “Rewriting genetic information to prevent disease.” The National Science Foundation. 25 February 2015. Web. 4 July 2015. <http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=134286>.

[5] Moraine, Sunny. “Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained.” Uncanny Magazine. 2015. Web. 4 June 2015. <http://uncannymagazine.com/article/love-letters-things-lost-gained/>

What Am I Missing Here?

by Joyce Goldenstern

Folktale behavior often bewilders me, as does my own. My thoughts wander to trace hidden patterns, more easily discerned in folktales than in my own life. This morning, a tale opens with the death of a beautiful queen. Before the queen dies, she makes her husband promise not to remarry anyone who does not have hair as golden as her own. Has she forgotten that her own daughter has such hair? Allerleiruh.

This afternoon, a tale opens with an old queen who has betrothed her daughter to a prince in a distant land. It is a tale of a long journey, of a true bride and of a chambermaid who takes the place of the true bride. The Goose Girl.

Allerleiruh, distraught upon hearing of her father’s desire to marry her, gathers her wits to dissuade him. She makes an impossible demand. He must provide her with a cloak made of 1000 furs, one from each animal in the kingdom. Undaunted, the king presents his daughter with said cloak and sets a date for the wedding.

Meanwhile, the talking head of a slain horse reveals the chambermaid’s deception, so the prince decides to ask a fatal question at a feast. “How would you sentence a false bride?” the prince asks the chambermaid, his own false bride.

Allerleiruh chars her face and wraps herself in furs. She runs away to a forest where she sleeps night and day in a hollow trunk until finally a hunter, identified as “the king,” finds her. This reference to “king” is so jarring that once when I presented this tale to an adult seminar, many participants ended up thinking that it was indeed the father who had found his daughter. How startling that the tale does not proffer a “prince”—a royal title which would distinguish generations and relations more clearly. Yet, not clarifying can blur relationships in psychologically significant ways.

That Allerleiruh marries the “new” king who is confused with the old … That the chambermaid does not recognize her own crime and thus sentences herself to torture and cruel death…. Such predicaments attest to the human capacity to self-deceive and force me to ask, “What is obvious in my own behavior that I do not see?”


Joyce Goldenstern leads seminars in folktales and in literature at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Her adapted tales have been published in Western Humanities Review, North American Review, Pacific Review and other venues. She also writes and publishes fiction.


Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. [1819] 1977. Grimms’ Tales for Young and Old. Translated by Ralph Manheim. New York: Anchor Press, Doubleday.

_______________. [1819] 1992. The Complete Fairy Tale of the Brothers Grimm. Translated by Jack Zipes. New York: Bantam Books.

The Not-So-Final Girl

by Wren Awry

“In ‘Bluebeard’, as in cinematic horror,” Maria Tatar writes, “We have not only a killer that is propelled by cinematic rage, but also the abject victims of his serial murders, as well as a ‘final girl’ who either saves herself or arranges her own rescue.”[1] You can find this “final girl” trope in film noir classics and tacky slasher films alike; it is a staple of the horror genre.

Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is different. Instead of being a final girl, Amirpour’s punkish protagonist (called, simply, The Girl), is a vampire who doles out vigilante justice to bad men. She is, in a way, an anti-Bluebeard.

The Girl stalks the streets of Bad City, a sparse Iranian ghost town made up of a handful of residents, an abandoned power plant, and a ravine where dead bodies are thrown. The town’s powerful pimp, Saeed, is The Girl’s first on-screen victim: she watches Saeed cheat and assault sex worker Atti. When Saeed invites The Girl to his home and attempts to seduce her, she kills him.

The Girl’s other victims are also men that mistreat Atti, including heroin addict Hossein, who forces Atti to shoot up with him. The Girl—watching through the eyes of her avatar, a cat—enters Atti’s bedroom and kills Hossein. While Bluebeard lures young girls in to his home, the Girl trespasses into forbidden chambers—Saeed’s gated house, Hossein’s heroin-infused dream world—to do away with them.

The Girl doesn’t just kill, she also warns. She asks a little boy, skateboarding alone at night, if he is good. When he answers, “Yes,” she calls him a liar. Threatens him. Tells him she will be watching him. Don’t grow up to be a shitty dude, The Girl seems to be saying, And I won’t have to drink your blood.

There’s one good boy in the film, and she let’s him live. He’s Arash, Hossein’s son and The Girl’s brooding, dutiful, leather-jacketed love interest. He’s a sort of “final boy,” but he, too, mixes up what’s expected of him. At the end of the film, after Arash realizes that the Girl murdered his father and that she could easily murder him, he skips town with her anyway.

“A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” isn’t riffing on “Bluebeard” directly. But it’s playing with the tropes of horror films, and by subverting cinematic horror, the film turns “Bluebeard” on its head in profound and chilling ways.


Wren Awry studies Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. Their creative nonfiction has been published in Loom Art Zine, and they occasionally write criticism for the Anarcho-Geek Review.


[1] Tatar, Maria. “Bluebeard.” The Classic Fairy Tales: Texts, Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton, 1999. 140. Print.

Kid Cages

by Wren Awry

In Reserve, New Mexico, kids wait for the school bus inside of wood and wire mesh cages. They were built after Mexican grey wolves were re-introduced to the area in 1998 because, some say, the wolves were following children home from school. [1] Mexican wolves seldom attack humans, and there are no recorded deaths at their paws. [2] So, where does the fear come from? Environmentalists blame rancher propaganda and ranchers blame the wolves. I also blame wolves. Not the real, flesh-and fur-kind. I blame “stranger danger” wolves made of celluloid and sentences.

I imagine parents have stopped reading “Little Red Riding Hood” to children; they skip the scene where Belle is surrounded by snarling, yellow-eyed monsters in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. They tell their children to look out for upright canines with deep tenors, who will urge them to “pick a few flowers for granny.” Wolves, we all know, blow houses down, so when the wind comes, kid, please assume wolf-hiding position. Lycanthropy is not funny here.

But there are other kinds of wolves, and other kinds of fears, in the European fairy-tale canon.

“What should happen to a mother who throws her sons to the wolves?” a prince asks his wife in “The Wolves,” a Bavarian tale. The princess mentions red-hot iron shoes, and is duly punished.

Before death, did the princess recall the two wolves that shaped her fate? The one snarling back at her, in the mirror, during a fit of jealousy; and the one she sent her seven newborn sons to, in hopes that the canis lupus would eat them (“Multiple births,” she had, unfortunately, just told her husband, “Is a sure sign of adultery”).

She does not know—will never know, though she might guess—that the prince ran in to the midwife bringing the infants to the wolf. That the prince intercepted, saved his sons, had them raised by a loyal subject. Perhaps he re-routed. But in my mind, he followed the same path. The wolf the princess hoped would eat her sons raised them instead. When they returned to the court eighteen years later, the boys were long-haired and lupine. [3]

In the kid cages of Reserve, do students peer through the wire mesh to look for wolves in the piñion and juniper? And, if yes: out of fright, or desire? Some must spin daydreams out of their mothers’ worst fears; must long to join up with the wolves out there in the wild world.


Wren Awry studies Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. Their creative nonfiction has been published in Loom Art Zine, and they occasionally write criticism for the Anarcho-Geek Review.


[1] “Miller, Joshua Rhett. “Are ‘kid Cages’ Protecting N.M. Children, or a Case of Ranchers Crying Wolf?” Fox News. FOX News Network, 29 Oct. 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/10/29/are-kid-cages-protecting-nm-children-or-case-ranchers-crying-wolf/?intcmp=trending>.

[2] “Mexican Gray Wolf.” Arizona Game and Fish Department. AZGFD, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://www.azgfd.gov/pdfs/w_c/wolf/WEB_Mexican_Wolf_details.pdf>.

[3] Eichenseer, Erika, Engelbert Suss, and Maria Tatar. “The Wolves.” The Turnip Princess & Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales. By Francis Xavier Von Schonwerth. New York: Penguin Classics, 2015. N. pag. Print. Penguin Classics.