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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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