The Pleasant Grove

by Aimee Harvey

The place I was born was neither magical nor dream-like, but for us—her seven and I five—it was a place of wonder. The truth of it, though, was that my cousin and I were simply too young to realize the grim conditions in which we lived. The place we grew up was called Pleasant Grove, which proved itself to be a lie of a name because it was neither pleasant nor a grove of any sort, it was instead an ugly place, the bad part of an urban paradise. There, the houses had walls with holes in them, and pieces of old and broken-down cars littered the lawns around us. But this is something one does not notice until they grow older, when they become desensitized to the wonder of even the most magical places. Of my time there, I can only remember the summers, which were always unbearable and humid. The air was always thick and our hair was always frizzy; we were happy and we did as we pleased. We were ignorant to the ugliness, to the despair felt by those who lived in that place, many of whom could never leave.

For us, though, every single day there was one of exciting routine. We’d circle the pecan trees in the yard of our neighbor, and gather the pecans in plastic bags our grandmother saved from the grocery store. We would crack the shells in the way our grandfather had taught us, enjoying the fruits of our labor between slurps from the garden hose. We’d pet the goat that my grandmother had stolen from my grandfather, who lived across the street, partly to spite her ex-husband and partly to save the goat from being turned into dinner. The goat was kept in a makeshift pen made of chicken wire in our backyard, and we would squat beside him, laughing at the socks my grandmother had taped to his horns to keep them from causing us pain. During the evenings, we would be taken by the hand to St. Augustine to show our devotion. We would sit in the pews in a room lit softly by white candles, in peaceful silence. We would clasp the plastic beads we were given, not really knowing what anything meant. This was youth, but this was ignorance. This was poverty, but this was bliss.


Aimee Harvey is a nursing student at the University of Arizona.

Editor’s Note: Muon, the Castaway

μ−

The muon is our hero, a thing that begins with being cast away: a proton shimmies from deep space into our planet’s atmosphere, collides with one of anything, decays into a pion, which in turn decays into our muon. She is given two millionths of a second to explore this strange country we call Earth: were it not for the relativity of time—objects moving fastest experience time slowest (and she moves fast indeed)—our muon would decay well above our heads. She would become an electron and two neutrinos; no helper could reordain her old spin. Decay is more permanent than being magiked into a deer, into a raven. The pieces are harder to find, when they too decay: imagine a deer becoming eight rabbits becoming a hundred butterflies becoming a trillion muons.

600px-Muon_Decay.svgThen we have to ask what it is the muon means to accomplish here, because she is not going back home. One possibility is that by her transformation she transforms us: she might pass into our upturned palms, break apart one of our cytosines, alter our genetic happenstance. There’s a rumor that’s how some species, even ours, were made: the most kind muon mutation. Maybe instead of fearing her radiation, this thing we ordain her bremsstrahlung, we should embrace her: she could know a way to make us better.

This pilot who has survived a high-speed cartwheeling from the center of our galaxy or beyond inside the belly of a proton—let’s catch the muon as she falls. She is one in three million to survive the fall. So we should ordain her with speeches about our three lives of water and other such nonsense. We should make her feel at home. Let’s remember to hold out own palms. We could let her keep falling—what is a dozen feet of bedrock after galactic travel—but then she would be like people: purposeless, unsure, our palms turned to the sky, trying to hold a conversation with bones.


This Editor’s Note was written by Tiny Donkey Editor and Fairy Tale Review Managing Editor Joel Hans.

Hungover and Fever Dreaming

by Brittany Hailer

In my white negligee—grease-stained, straps falling to my elbows—I suck marrow through the bones of a chicken carcass. I lean on the rickety table, my knees on the hardwood floor. I’ve woken up starving again. Insatiable and needy, I toss the fragments of skeleton over my shoulder. I can hear them scraping across the floorboards behind me. What is left drips from my chin. Hunched over, I see that the bones were bleach-white, picked clean. My kitchen is a desert. I crawl to the fridge for more.

On the bent wooden table is Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. The book is open to “The Tiger’s Bride.” I read the words and drool across the pages. I bite my cuticles until they are soft and wet. My skin peels back leaving red ditches along my nail beds. I read the fairy tale, humming, mouthing Carter’s words.

I decide I want this mask the Tiger wears: a man’s face, too perfect, rich eyebrows and yellow eyes. His body, striped and muscular, paces the castle. Although his jaws drip blood, he is still hungry. He growls from beneath the mask, but no one pays him any mind. The ceramic gentlemen face goes on smiling as the animal adjusts his silken black gloves.

I wipe my mouth with bare wrists, hair past my waist in knots. I hate the tattered negligee clinging to my hips. It pulls at my belly, and sticks to my skin. I can’t move like I want to.

“Or maybe I should be the Tiger’s Bride?” I say to the flickering light bulb in the empty fridge, “I’d get up off my knees and stop eating scraps then!”

I walk back to my bedroom and pull the nightdress over my head. I imagine the Tiger licking my skin to reveal a shiny new coat underneath, black and orange stripes snaking up my torso.

If I were the Tiger’s Bride I’d place my hand firmly in his offered paw, I think to myself. I’d crawl into the earth then, and come out clean then. I wouldn’t be hungry then.

I lie on my back, the ceiling fan rotates, a soft breeze lilts over my body. I lift my hands to catch the cool air. I stare at the dirty cracked fingernails I want so badly to become claws.


Brittany Hailer is a creative writing teacher in a women’s rehabilitation center. She has taught creative writing workshops at the Allegheny County Jail. She is the managing editor for IDK Magazine. Her work has appeared in In the Doorframe Waiting, HEArt Online and Atlantis Magazine.  She earned her MFA from Chatham University. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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.