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.

Hollow Mountain

by Wren Awry

At home, by the river, dishes pile up in the sink and the front steps are cracked and littered with Pall Mall cigarettes. It is chaos there: filthy with too many people living in too small of a space. Here, in the woods, it’s calm. At least it is in this stretch of twenty feet, with nettles and rhododendrons and tulip poplar leaves crunching underfoot. I chew on spicy sassafras, let it fill my mouth with the taste of this place: earth and green, unbearable green. Almost heaven.

Almost. Large portions of the mountain underfoot are hollow. Throughout the twentieth-century, it was mined out bit by bit, its coal shipped to cities like Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.

Ali Baba’s mountain held forty thieves; in the Grimm Brothers version, a girl attends an elven baptism in a mountain and learns that her three-day stay was actually seven years. Appalachian trickster Jack slips through a hole on a mountain slope. He finds a mirror world down there, with a house and a barn and a woman to wed.

This is not that kind of mountain. A few ridges over, billions of gallons of toxic coal sludge are stored in a slurry pond on the mountaintop. The pond is built over a network of abandoned underground mines. Massey Coal is blasting rock just two hundred feet away, further destabilizing geology. [1] For those who live downstream, the slurry pond is an ever-present threat: a dam break could send forty feet of water through the narrow Coal River Valley. [2]

(I do not live downstream, not really. I am a stranger here: an idealistic twenty-year-old trying to “save the mountains.” I will move back to New York as soon as it becomes untenable. I will take my memories with me, turn them in to metaphors.)

There’s an old mine entrance on the trail, a stone archway half-hidden by twisting rhododendron limbs. If Jack came along, I wonder if he’d skip right in, try his hand at tricking a giant and eating off of his subterranean table. Times have changed, Jack. You will only find darkness, bitumen, rusting tools, the occasional drip, drip, drip.


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] “Renewable Energy on Coal River Mountain.” Journey Up Coal River. Aurora Lights, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://auroralights.org/map_project/theme.php?theme=wind&article=14>.

[2] “Land Use: The Brushy Fork Slurry Impoundment.” Journey Up Coal River. Aurora Lights, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://auroralights.org/map_project/theme.php?theme=crm&article=2>.

Tiny Donkey and the brief fairy-tale essay

Tiny Donkey is an online journal of short-form fairy-tale nonfiction focusing on, but not limited to, undergraduate writing. Tiny Donkey will publish short essays (up to 400 words in length) that explore fairy tales through scholarly, personal and cultural lenses. Tiny Donkey has a strong focus on original thought and dexterous, polished writing, and will only consider writing that meets these standards.

You can write Tiny Donkey essays from a lot of different angles (our first three posts include a piece that analyzes a film in relation to Bluebeard, one that ties in wolf re-introduction in New Mexico to wolf tropes in fairy tales, and a personal essay about hollow mountains, Jack Tales and the coal industry in Appalachia). You might come up with an entirely new idea, or turn a class paper in to a polished micro-essay. We’re open to challenging and unique form and content, just get in touch!

Please send pitches to: tinydonkeyeditorial@gmail.com.