Sweet Confection

I was inspired to tap into this fairy tale country by Seanan Mc Guire´s novella Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third book of her Wayward Children Series. Mc Guire has a penchant for horror stories. In this series she describes a world where children who are unhappy find doors to other worlds and leave. Sometimes they stay there and sometimes they come back. When they are back all they want to do is leave again. Then the helpless parents send them to the Home for Wayward Children. There everybody understands what these children are going through.

What fascinates me most with this country Mc Guire aptly named Confection is that everything is edible and sweet. It is not the only fairy tale country that consists of edibles, but it is the only one that is exclusively made of sweets.

Beneath the sugar Sky

Fairy tales of abundance have a long history

The first stories featuring a Land of Plenty can be found in the Middle Ages, in the 1300s. Life was short and hard during these times. Famines were common and a lot of people starved. Naturally they were dreaming of a land of abundance!

In Germany there is a well-known fairy tale by Ludwig Bechstein called Schlaraffenland. The closest equivalent I could find in English for this is the Land of Plenty. Bechstein concentrates on describing this fairy tale country. I show you his historic Land of Plenty before I invite you for a behind the scenes look at Confection.

 

The Land of Plenty by Ludwig Bechstein

All you can eat

The Land of Plenty is reached by eating through a wall of rice pudding. The houses are thatched with pancakes and doors and walls are made of gingerbread. The fences around the houses consist of sausages and the wells are full of sweet wines. Freshly baked bread and cakes grow on trees ready for picking.

Fish swim fried and ready to eat on top of the water. When you call out to them they hop right into your hand. Fried Geese, doves and turkeys fly in the air and even straight into your mouth. Pigs walk around with a knife in their backs, so that everybody who wants to can cut off a juicy slice. Cheeses of all sizes are lying on the ground like stones and rocks. The rain consists of honey, snow is sugar and hail is a mix of lump sugar, figs, raisins and almonds.

Clothes and jewellery

In the forests the most beautiful clothes grow on trees: Skirts, jackets and trousers in all colours of the rainbow. Shrubs supply silk and velvet finery. Junipers carry golden jewellery and the berries on the bushes are pearls. Other plants furnish footwear and hats.

Everything you could possibly need is provided for in this country. Even money grows on trees. I don´t understand why you need money when you have everything that you could possibly want though.

People

When you are old you can bathe in the fountain of youth for a few days and climb out young and agile again.

People who like to work and do good deeds are expelled from the Land of Plenty. The dumb and bigheaded ones are noblemen. The ones who only sleep, eat, drink and dance are earls. The most lazy and useless person of all is the king of this country.

Schlaraffenland

Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted this land of abundance in 1567. It shows obese people sleeping on the ground while their food is walking around them.

The painting does not show happy people but depicts the sinful side of abundance: Sloth and gluttony, two of the seven deadly sins. I guess the reason for this negative presentation of the Land of Plenty is that in medieval times the church and gentry were dependent on hard working and obedient serfs and craftsmen. They needed the people to stay in their assigned places and obey the rules. There was no place for any kind of freedom or any form of idleness.

 

A behind the scenes look on Confection

How Confection was put together

The residents of Confection tell the following story about the way their country was built or rather baked:

Once Confection was an empty world. There was only light, air and an oven. The first great baker came here by accident and found the oven. Since she was hungry she baked all the bread she could eat. This means that there must have been some ingredients, too.

When she was not hungry any more she baked herself a bed, a house and a garden. Then she left. Her daughter was the next baker. She did not care very much for bread but she loved cookies. She added a layer of cookies to the bread that formed the garden and the house. She also baked paths and started to create mountains. When she had baked all she wanted, she left also.

The next baker was fond of cakes and fondant. He added many ornaments and details to the growing landscape. Another baker loved brownies. When he left, plants had started to grow on the rich brown soil.

After this there were bakers who specialised in sugar and syrup. They added bright colours to the growing country of Confection. Others experimented with marshmallows and jellybeans.

The great bakers came and went. Each baker added ideas of his own and layer upon layer of baked goods made the country bigger and more complete. Speaking in sweet terms: This country is like a jawbreaker or a gobstopper: It is a sweet made of many layers.

 

What Confection looks like

The blue jelly sky is dotted with clouds made of candyfloss. After a sweet rain slushy rainbows decorate it.

The landscape is diverse. Mountainous regions alternate with farms and wild forests. There are rivers, brooks, lakes and an ocean. Everything is edible or drinkable and, of course, sweet.

Mountains can have different compositions: Big rock candy mountains exist besides ones that consist of treacle tart and meringue or Graham crackers and shortbread. In the forests a lot of pyramid cake is used and many trees have gingerbread and fudge trunks. Spun sugar leaves on the trees surround clusters of gummy fruit and jellybeans. Cake pops grow there and you can pick them when you wander along. The grass looks like it has been piped from a frosting bag.

Juice and lemonade are flowing in the streams. The ocean is filled with fizzing strawberry soda. A big variety of bright jellyfish live in them. The beaches consist of brown sugar and cake crumbs.

There are no seasons; the climate is temperate all year round. But Confection also possesses a region with snow and ice. The baker responsible for this came perhaps from an Italian ice cream dynasty. The mountains there are covered with ice cream and sherbet of many flavours and colours. People ski down the mountains on liquorice skis or slide on toffee slides. For additional refreshments there are milk shake lakes and popsicles.

 

Why is this country illogical?

The most powerful person in this fairy tale country is the great baker. She is the main creator and she is responsible for the evolution. She is the local equivalent of the magicians in the other fairy tale countries. As you might have guessed, her magic works by baking.

When 20 different people bake the same cake using the same recipe and exactly the same ingredients each cake will taste different – even in our dimension. There must be a hidden ingredient: The personality of each baker.

Hundreds or even thousands of bakers created Confection. With their baking they also infused their personal energies into the country. These energies don´t always get along easily with each other. There is friction and this accounts for the turbulences and the illogicality of this country. For example, why don´t the ice cream mountains melt in the warmth?

 

A nurturing place

Confection is a nurturing place and it takes care of its inhabitants. They never have to go hungry and the baker takes care of maintenance. The natives are adapted perfectly to this country. They can even breathe the sea-soda when diving in the ocean. Eating a lot of sugar does not render them obese or hurt their teeth. They don´t get ill because of malnutrition.

The baked goods in this country never get stale or mouldy. Dairy products never turn sour. Sugar and chocolate do not melt in the sun. Obviously they don´t have to concern themselves with bacteria or fungi. This makes me a bit envious.

The world rearranges itself so that every place you want to go is within a day´s walk from where you are regardless how fast you travel.

cake-yoyolang

Farms

Most people live in the countryside on farms. The farmhouses and barns are made of gingerbread. Their windows are of the same toffee as the wings of the bees. Beehives are set up around the fields. Everything the great baker needs is produced on the farms: Flour, sugar, honey, eggs and milk. Since there are no seasons the crops can be harvested all year round. Everything smells heavenly of honey, sugar and vanilla.

 

Animals

Insects look very different from what we are accustomed to. Fat striped bees and butterscotch candies fly around. Flies are black jellybeans with legs of thinly twisted liquorice strands. Cows give milk in different flavours: Chocolate, vanilla or strawberry.

Hens lay eggs in all kinds of colours and flavours, ranging from dark chocolate eggs to hard sugar eggs. Somehow there are always enough normal eggs for baking.

But birds are not the only creatures laying eggs; rabbits and hares do too. Perhaps the absurd idea of Easter bunnies laying eggs comes from this fairy tale land or is it the other way round?

 

Relations to neighbouring countries

Confection is not isolated in the fairy tale dimension. It has connections to its neighbours, but there are some difficulties: It turns out that animals cannot survive very long outside of Confection because they need the specific energy of their home to thrive. When the neighbours tried to breed cattle and chickens imported from Confection, because they wanted to have their own supply of flavoured milk and chocolate eggs, the animals died.

Baked goods are traded for shoes and clothes. But these baked goods have to obey the laws of nature of the countries they are in and don´t stay fresh outside of Confection.

Visitors love to come and have a taste. But they can´t stay long because they start to feel uncomfortable soon. It is as if Confection rejects them. To stay longer they either have to contact the GrImporter and apply for a transfer to this fairy tale country or they have to be summoned by the country itself.

 

Tricky vocabulary

While writing this article I dove deep into the vocabulary of sweet foods. I discovered that my vocabulary needed some expansion.

I had an interesting chat with people on a British translator´s facebook page and learned that different English speaking cultures have different names for sweet foods. The British use the word sweets, the Americans candy and the Australians lollies, at least for loose sweets that you can put in bowls. Thank you for your tips, Lucy!

Dear readers from all over the world, please don´t be offended when I use words that sound all wrong to you. Feel free to add your favourite sweet-vocabulary in the comments. I am looking forward to your input!

 

© Inge Schumacher

Picture of Schlaraffenland by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. You can see it in the old Pinakothek in Munich – first upload in wikipedia on 22:18, 16. Jun 2003 by Stefan Kühn, Gemeinfrei.
Other pictures: pixabay and my own

 

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The Fairy Tale Country of the Merpeople

Merbeings, creatures that are half human and half fish, are fascinating. There are countless stories all over the world that prove this. We can find them in ancient fairy tales, in northern mythology or in modern TV adaptions. For example Oscar Wilde published a story The Fisherman and his Soul (1888). Even Netflix plans a fantasy adventure film that is based on Andersen´s story of the Little Mermaid in 2018.

Today I invite you to accompany me on the exploration of the country of the merpeople. I call it Mertopia. First we take a look at Andersen´s fairy tale The Little Mermaid and then we move on to the animated film Ariel. After this I want you to join me in a behind the scenes visit of the fairy tale land of the merpeople.

The Little Mermaid by Hans-Christian Andersen

The fairy tale The Little Mermaid was written in 1836 by Hans-Christian Andersen. It was probably inspired by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué´s fairy tale Undine (from 1811), which was very popular in the early 19th century. Undine is the love story of a knight and a mermaid.

Anderson´s story

Anderson´s merpeople don´t have souls and after a long life of 300 hundred years they turn into foam. Our little mermaid can only obtain a soul and thereby eternal life when a human being loves her, who willingly shares his soul with her.

She lives in an underwater kingdom with her widowed father, her grandmother and her five older sisters. She falls in love with a prince whose life she saves in a storm. She searches for a way to become human and achieves this with the help of a sinister sorceress. The price for her life on two legs is her beautiful singing voice. She will loose her life when her beloved prince does not marry her. Sadly her prince marries another girl, who, he falsely believes, rescued him from the shipwreck.

The mermaid´s family gives her another opportunity to return to them: Her sisters exchange their hair for a magic knife from the sorceress. When the little mermaid kills the prince with this knife she can come back. Of course she is not able to kill him. But instead of dying she is transformed again. She changes into another realm and joins spiritual beings, the daughters of the air. After doing good works for 200 years as a daughter of the air she has the opportunity to achieve an eternal soul.

In Anderson´s story the little mermaid goes through two transformations and lives in three very different places: First she lives in the underwater kingdom, then she becomes human and lives on land and finally she turns into a spiritual being. I don´t like this end very much.

None of the main figures in this fairy tale has a name. For me this makes them somewhat removed from the reader.

 

 

The Little Mermaid Ariel by Disney

little-mermaid peridotmaize

The animated film about the Little Mermaid Ariel (1989) is based on Anderson´s fairy tale. The original story was too tragic for writer Ron Clemens. That is the reason he rewrote it multiple times and modernised it.

Ariel´s Story

In the films and television series Ariel has bright red hair, blue eyes and a green fishtail. She is the youngest, seventh-born daughter of king Triton and lives in the underwater kingdom of Atlantica. Ariel is a rebellious teenager. She is so fascinated by the human world that she collects many human artifacts. Disney´s characters are never lonely: Ariel´s best friend is Flounder and she is watched over by Sebastian, a red crab from the Caribbean.

Ariel falls in love with prince Eric whom she saves from drowning when his ship sinks. To meet him again she wants to become human. The sea-witch Ursula agrees to turn her into a human in exchange for her voice. She has to make Eric kiss her out of true love within three days or she will belong to Ursula forever. Ursula does not play fair and prevents the kiss multiple times.

In the end Ariel does not manage to be kissed before the three days are over. She is changed back to her mermaid form and Ursula takes her away. Her father intervenes and trades himself for Ariel. In the final showdown Eric kills evil Ursula and thereby breaks her spells and saves Atlantica from destruction. There is a happy end and Triton transforms Ariel back into a human form. She then marries Eric and they live happily ever after.

In the next film Ariel has a daughter, she has started an interspecies family. With the help of her father she can change back and forth from being a mermaid to being a human.

 

A behind the scenes visit of Mertopia

The main theme of this country of merpeople is transformation.

A lot of the inhabitants of the fairy tale dimension are able to shape-shift. Depending on their roles in the different fairy tale countries they can change their appearance. But the inhabitants of this fairy tale country can do much more: They can morph into beings that can live under water or on land and also change into spirit-beings. This is why this country enables a wide variety of experiences that are not possible in others. As you can imagine this attracts a special breed of adventurous and playful people.

Mertopia has an equal measure of landmass and ocean. The landmass is divided into many islands. The islands are scattered throughout a blue ocean. There are a big variety of habitats in shallow and deep parts of the ocean and on flat and hilly islands.

Nobody has to farm or work for his food. There is enough sustenance in the sea and on land for everybody.

Since the main focus of this fairy tale is the constant change of body and living environment people can change their form easily after some practise. Newcomers are taught by magicians and supported by experienced shape-shifters.

Many different beings live in Mertopia. During our visit we see animals we know from our dimension like dolphins and many kinds of fish. There are also seahorses that are big enough to ride on. Other beings even offer places to live under water.

Mertopia is sparsely populated. There is no goverment and there are hardly any rules beyond showing respect for each other. The inhabitants form a very close-knit community.

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Villages and dwellings in Mertopia

On land peope live in organic houses made out of natural materials. When these dwellings are not needed any more they turn into compost. Some land-inhabitants prefer to live in tree houses or in caves that are natural or carved into mountains.

In the sea giant shells are the preferred dwellings. These mussels have a symbiotic relationship with their inhabitants: In exchange for offering a safe place to sleep they are fed by their dwellers and don´t have to hunt for their own food.

The spirit-beings live everywhere. They need the energy of the land: They thrive on the pleasure of exploration and the fun of playing. They don´t need any sleep or food other than the continuous energy input. When they want to meet as a group undisturbed by other creatures they use rainbows as meeting places. These beings can change from being totally invisible to being quite dense, which enables them to manipulate objects.

 

Life and adventures in Mertopia

People love to take part in dangerous adventures that involve heavy storms. These storms sink the organic ships that are manufactured here, similar to what we read in Anderson´s fairy tale and see in Disney´s Ariel. They die often in these adventures. But remember: Death is not the final thing it is in our dimension. You can come back immediately after you died and go on doing whatever you want to do.

Another favourite pastime beneath and above the sea is the fight against dragons. Dragons from Flitz´es home country love to play here. After a serious game of hide and seek which ends with either the slaying of the dragon or the brave knights being eaten by the dragon there are wonderful feasts that are famous far beyond the borders of this country.

Some adventures have really bad endings when the respective evil sorcerer´s magic gets out of hand and everybody involved is killed: Then the players just say: “Oooops! Here we go again!” and the story starts over.

 

Free flowing energy is the main resource in Mertopia

I visited this fairy tale country before the frequency change was finalised. My group and me did a healing circle there because the people were suffering more than in other lands. Now I understand why. The transformations the inhabitants of this country do all the time are based on intricate energy manipulations. When the energy does not flow freely for whatever reason this becomes very difficult.

With the frequency change not being finalised the inhabitants of Mertopia had massive problems and could not transform themselves and explore the way they were used to. Especially the spirit-beings were affected. Almost the whole country was falling into a depression and the magicians could only alleviate the worst symptoms. Now the energy flows freely again and everybody can enjoy the freedom of creation very much. In my opinion they are going a little overboard with celebrating at the moment!

Mertopia sounds like a fun place to be, doesn´t it? I chose the name Mertopia because this fairy tale country feels so perfect to me. The way the inhabitants here respect each other and how they treat their environment seems utopian.

How did you like our excursion? Are there aspects of this fairy tale country you want to know more about? Please post in the comments!

 

LINKS

Audiobook link to the Andersen fairy tale: The Little Mermaid.

Jennie Fitzkee writes in her wonderful blog a teacher´s reflections about her life as a preschool teacher. The link points to a recent blog article where she shares her personal view on her mother´s fairy tales.

 

Are you interested in more stories about mermaids? Heidi Anne Heiner has put together an impressive list with links on her website SurLaLunefairytales.

© Inge Schumacher