Friday, December 21, 2007

Dante's Heart Issue 1 is up!

Dear readers,

The first issue of Dante's Heart, "Water into Wine," is now available at Take a look - we have work there from some wonderful artists and writers. The title is inspired - besides the Wedding at Cana - by G. K. Chesterton's statement, in Orthodoxy, that "fairy stories make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water." That is an especially good thing to remember at this time of year amid the commercial rush and stress.

Take a look at our first issue, and drop us a comment here or a note at to let us know what you think. Enjoy - this is our holiday gift to you -


Daniel Fusch
Editor, Dante's Heart

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Names of Planets

A few years late, I am finally catching up on Gene Wolfe's
Short Sun trilogy - which is deeply poignant. Noticing that the two planets in the story are called "Blue" and "Green," I was shocked at the simplicity of the names. I imagined the first travelers to these worlds seeing their colors from far above them. "But that's nothing to name a planet," I thought with some irritability at those pioneers. Then I stopped and thought about the name of our own planet, and of all its companions. We have forgotten what most of the names in the solar system mean, and because we are not contemporaries of Caesar, "Mars" and "Jupiter" are names that sound very exotic to us. But actually, our ancestors, both ancient and immediate, have named the heavenly bodies, from the nearest to the sun to the farthest away: Messenger, Love, Soil (that's the one we're on), War, Father of the Gods, Eater of Children, Sky, Ocean, and Death. Are these names any more or less wise than "Blue" and "Green"? Or any more or less beautiful?

Love and War are understandable enough, from the physical appearance of those two worlds: one shining and radiant, the other brooding and red in our sky. These are names like Blue and Green, just with one further layer of symbol and meaning. Death is also a logical enough name, for a satellite so far from the sun that it must be cold and dead indeed. Scientists named Neptune for its ocean-like actually, we did name a planet Blue, except that we named it Ocean.

But I ask you: Saturn? The most beautiful of all our worlds? We named it He Eats His Children? What injustice. And yet...if it is true that those glorious rings that circle Saturn are the remains of tiny, tiny worlds pulled apart by Saturn's gravity, then our planet Saturn did eat its children.

I am still trying to decide if these were wise names or foolish ones. In either case, what we name our worlds does indicate a lot about us. I am glad, in any case, to be living on Soil, and not on a planet named Death or Eater of Children.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Guennol Lioness

From today's news:

"NEW YORK (AFP) - A tiny and extremely rare 5,000-year-old white limestone sculpture from ancient Mesopotamia sold for 57.2 million dollars in New York on Wednesday, smashing records for both sculpture and antiquities. The carved Guennol Lioness, measuring just over eight centimeters (3 1/4 inches) tall, was described by Sotheby's auction house as one of the last known masterworks from the dawn of civilization remaining in private hands."

A staggering price - though the sculpture is beautiful. It reminds me of the jaguar gods of Mezoamerica. See its grace and strength, and the beauty with which it was shaped. 5,000 years old, it is as old as the wheel: something that staggers the mind.

But who, in their astonishment at the beauty of this early, early piece of human art, spent over 57 million dollars? I was about to say "I hope the buyer knows the story behind this Guennol Lioness," only now that I look again, I realize it is beautiful enough to need no story.

Is 57 million dollars the monetary value of an ancient myth?


Monday, December 3, 2007

Mark your calendars!

Dear readers and friends,

The date is now official: Dante's Heart will go live on Friday, December 21: our Christmas present to you. We are excited about the first issue, and hope you are, too. I'll keep this blog post short because there is much to do and so little time between now and then, but we will try to check in and post a few things over the next couple of weeks - no radio silence.


The Editors,
Dante's Heart

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Arrivals

Disney's Enchanted is in theaters this weekend, and definitely recommended by our editors. Part parody and part inspired homage to Disney's long animated tradition of fairytale romance, Enchanted is clever, outrageously funny, and touching. Also, the scriptwriters get high marks from us: the fact that Disney is not afraid to laugh at itself reminds me of why we as children liked Disney in the first place: they just really have the knack for cinematic fun. The actors are very good, and given the premise of a fairy tale princess exiled by her wicked future mother-in-law to dreary New York ("where there are no happily ever afters") only to find herself falling for a divorce lawyer - well, what's not to like?

A favorite scene of mine: our heroine Giselle wakes to find the lawyer's house an untidy mess. She immediately does what any princess with a grain of sense does: throw open the window and begin calling the animals with her power of song. This is New York, and the sewer rats, cockroaches, and swarms of insects hurry to her aid; unfazed, she sings as she leads them in the housecleaning. The rats scrub the dishes with their tails; the cockroaches devour the scum in the bathrub. It's an inspired scene.

Prince Edward is great for laughs, but unlike his counterpart Prince Charming in the Shrek franchise, Edward is strangely sweet. My favorite line from him: in response to the wicked Queen's cry "Oh how melodramatic of you!" he rejoins: "I don't know what melodrama is, but...."

Other new arrivals worth checking on:

Marvel's graphic novel rendition of Stephen King's The Dark Tower is underway: the first issues have been anthologized in a hardcover volume, and I hope more are on the way. The volume portrays passages from The Gunslinger and Wizard and Glass, with Peter David giving a faithful and darkly poetic script and Jae Lee (whose Dracula chilled and thrilled) does dark and foreboding and very raw art: not to be missed. Moody and moody and mythic.

I borrowed the comic issues when they first came out from a good friend of our Dante's Heart art editor, who lent them to me on the strictest and most life-threatening injunction to do these precious, plastic-wrapped first editions no harm. Now I have the hardcover and can return the first editions, which I desperately hope that I have not bent or mauled in any way. The life-threatening injunction was extremely threatening - and I thought I was scary when I loan reading material....

Also, Gene Wolfe's Pirate Freedom, quick on the heels of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean success (hmm...another triumph for Disney), promises a grittier and deeply compelling take on pirates. In an interview with I forget whom, Wolfe claimed that he wrote The Wizard Knight in response to a young boy he met who was obsessed with knights and chivalry. Wolfe's quest to uncover the reason for the appeal of all things knightly led to the novel. (My personal thought is that Wolfe can never be trusted in his tales of how his books came to be, but everytime someone has the audacity to ask that hated question, "Where did you get the idea?" he tells a good tale in response.) Wolfe appears to have made a similar experiment here, digging into the mythos of the pirate captain. The epigraph that opens the book is H. L. Mencken's: "Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats."

I wonder if there is any equitable yearning for readers of the other gender? To hoist the black flag, strap on something outrageous, and damn all conventions and expectations, just sail out and enjoy the breeze, live fully and sink anything in her path? As one who is new to pirates (though not to knights), and who never cracked the cover of Treasure Island as a boy though I devoured Pyle and Malory, I look forward to interviewing other readers of both genders on the subject and digging into what it is about pirates that excites our cultural imagination. Captain Jack Sparrow and our fellow with the octopus beard boarded and captured my imagination recently, and I suspect that Gene Wolfe will complete the conquest. I picked up my copy of Pirate Freedom this afternoon.

Speaking of interviews, check out this one, conducted by Neil Gaiman. It's brilliant - Gaiman and Wolfe take on the interview as an art form itself, and have a laugh in doing so. The opening salvo of the interview:

"Gene Wolfe: I'm anxious to get our interview under way, so I've decided to answer your first three questions before you ask them—You can work out the questions at leisure.

1. Although I considered placing The Knight in the universe of the Book of the New Sun series, I soon saw that there were too many dragons.

2. The Knight is to some degree autobiographical, as all my books are. For example, Able falls off a horse. I have done that myself. One is encouraged to remount as soon as possible, but not by the horse.

3. I do in fact own a sword. It is possible, as you say, that it is under some subtle, obscure spell. That might account for a few of the things that go on around here.

Are these satisfactory? I can elaborate on my replies if you wish, but they are certain to get worse.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"My Best Friend Rusts"

I ran into this poem a year back:

Soft rains
My best friend

So evocative -

- and a skilled minimalist haiku (a haiku is like a drop of water on a pond surface: you catch your breath and, after a still moment, feel the ripples). But for the life of me I can't find out who wrote it. I suspect Tom Brinck. If anyone can help, please post a comment.

In the meanwhile, here is an intriguing website:

Goofy name aside, this manifesto for "scifaiku" is actually informed and very good. The samples of haiku offered are also very good, though most of what is currently written in this sub-sub genre isn't. The manifesto deserves a look, and cries out for more poets to discover it. An unexpected genre, and one dedicated to the celebration of the unexpected: and in its best moments (like that posted above) there is potential for staggering beauty.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Update: Journal deadline

Dear readers,

We are moving back the deadline for submissions for the journal to December 5. We have received quite a few submissions, several of them extremely good, and we are in the early stages of getting back to our writers and artists with feedback and selecting contributors. We are, in fact, ravenous for more submissions of lightning-in-the-night creativity. Thank you everyone who has already submitted! You will be hearing from us very soon.

Please spread the word - for the next few weeks we will continue accepting submissions for the December issue of Dante's Heart. We are very excited to bring you our first issue.

The Editors
Dante's Heart

Snow Leopard

In honor of the imminent arrival of New Line Cinema's The Golden Compass (Dec 7) I have returned to their website and retaken their daemon test. Evidently enough has changed in my life this year that I have gone from tiger to snow leopard:

I do not mind. Our art editor has taken this test twice as well, and emerged with a spider for a companion both times. She has a mortal terror of spiders.

The Golden Compass

New Line Cinema has released a longer version of the trailer for their adaptation of Philip Pullman's novel The Golden Compass:

Take a look! We are in awe of Pullman's imagination. And we like the armored bears.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Witch on a Rooftop

Happy Halloween, dear readers. I thought I'd share a very of-the-season artwork from a French artist at deviantart. The title of the piece is Halloween, and I love the perspective: reeling not quite dizzily high over the city; it looks as though the young witch has just landed there, and is looking quietly out over the night and very much enjoying herself. A peaceful night for her: secretive she may be, but so are children who slip away into the wood to find an abandoned hollow under a tree in which to rest for a while and think young and deep thoughts.

Isn't this a fresh view for Halloween?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Robert Borski's "Witch's Broom"

In honor of the approaching Halloween festivities, I want to feature a snatch of poetry from the current issue of Goblin Fruit, which is one of the best online journals for fairy tales; these are just a couple of phrases from Robert Borski's poem "Witch's Broom":

Only the best straw will suffice.

This is why she makes sure
to fertilize the field properly,
burying alive a dozen little boys
in the thick ground, just before
the advent of spring rains.

The handle -- which must accommodate
her legs in several different fashions --
she forges from wormwood and polishes
with bat grease....

Read the rest of the poem here. I am delighted at the creativity and playfulness of the piece. In fact I am jealous and wish that Dante's Heart had published it. The last few lines of Borski's poem are breathtaking in their humanity, so please don't be satisfied with the little bit I've included here, and go get the rest.

Happy Halloween, boys and girls -

The Editors, Dante's Heart

Soldier in winter

We have featured Venator_Somniorum's work on the blog before, but I just had to drop a note about this new piece, entitled Like I Promised:

Elegant! These days, anthropomorphic animal fantasy is difficult to pull off, but I have long been passionately in love with animal stories in folklore - deep roots there - and this just appeals to me on a level deeper than the intellectual.

Venator has a brief prose vignette to accompany the portrait, which you can read here, and from which I'll excerpt only enough words to use a breath on:

The snow still didn't stop, while the small team tried to reach their camp. Many wounds and scars covered them, those who survived the trap, to show the pride of The Alliance.

I am still trying to decide whether the alienness of the lynx's eyes is a flaw or a strength of the piece. In any case, worth the sharing. Venator has a gift for evoking something haunting, even in pieces that with only a few different brush strokes would have remained unremarkable. I will have to ask our art editor what she thinks of this particular one; I suspect she will dislike it, but there is something in the mood of the piece - perhaps only the sternness of the face against the bleakness of winter - that makes it difficult for me to draw my eyes away.

I fear I remain an entrapped and unrepenting fan of space opera and Star Wars (at least the older Star Wars) and of vast, outlandishly epic scenes with sweeping romantic scores that border on the sentimental or hyperbolic. Yet also I am still searching for that painting of the tiny baby dragon curled up on an autumn leaf, which was the subject of our first blog post. Caught between the desperate celebration of the Mahabharata (with its heavenly weapons and burning supernovas tossed so casually about a tiny battlefield) and the quiet of a haiku, I can only sing out my fascination for the violence of all those fantastical moments that strike us out of our chronos and make us see the world again as for the first time.

Mountain Thoughts

Dear readers,

Travel, fatigue, and the excitement of gathering submissions for our first issue of the Dante's Heart journal have kept me away from the blog too long. I'm back. I am reading Bill Buck's retellings of the Sanskrit epics, and had to share a passage - the prose is beautiful, the translation of Hindu mythwork into American English is stunning, an ennobling of our own native tradition and a great credit to the original. If you haven't run across Buck's and Mahabharata and Ramayana yet, this is very worth doing. Also Shirley Triest's illustrations are a wonder.


Once when Sanjaya had gone to get water, Dhritarashtra's holy fire tipped over in the dry leaves and grew to be a forest-fire, and Sanjaya at the river in the evening saw two sunsets through the trees, one to the west, one in the south.

Wild animals burst past then, yet Dhritarashtra and the two Queens could not move. The fire had cut them off on all sides; they met the flames in peace.

And after, Sanjaya rose from the water with the deer and bear and elephants and walked three times round where their camp had been. He poured some ashes into Ganga and went all alone up into the Hills, into the lonely Himalyas watched over by the gods.

Sanjaya's memories fell away like the dead ashes of a burnt-out fire--the bright stars of arrows in the sky, the rending sounds of the great bows, the sparks of shattered swords, the cries in the night, all were no more--and he thought to himself, "Earth my mother, how ungrateful and heartless were all those who rejected your bounty and instead chose to go to death. How could you appear to them as a mansion of sorrow, where no one could remain?"

How can one read this and not catch one's breath?

We are hoping to receive submissions for Dante's Heart that engage with many myth and fairytale traditions. The sanctus mundi that ripples beneath our cultural consciousness is rich and vivid, jungle and desert and dark deep all at once. Like Darwin and St. Francis, I am in love with the diversity of life. We become too used to encountering fairy tales and any accounts of marvels and wonders only within carefully bordered zoos and menageries - within encyclopedias of fairy tales, or children's carefully illustrated editions of Grimm. Even so with myth: we think of an almanac of Greek figures meticulously catalogued and distanced, rather than the vicious and vociferous bursting of myth into our daily lives. With Dante's Heart we will hope to break the zoo open a little bit more and try to catch glimpses of myth and fairy tale thriving in the literary and artistic wild.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Tears of a Dying Hope

Take a look at this artist's work at devianart - the artist goes under the attractive callsign Venator_Somniorum. I believe he hails from Scandinavia. The best of his work is desperately emotive and atmospheric. A figure weeping tears (unless it is a Virgin Mary) is difficult to pull off in art, but he has done it. Haunting: this feline thing stepping into the lake of hope under a chill moon. I have no words. It is beautiful.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Of the Night Land, and the End of Man

Recently, I stumbled into a website (with the above title) devoted to William Hope Hodgson’s bizarre and beautiful novel, The Night Land, with an array of art, fan fiction, timelines, maps, and essays. The site is very worth checking out, especially the art. For example, this painting of the ab-humans at their meal:

What a chill ran through me at this brooding image, at the looking about of these ghouls at some small sound, at their impending leap to their feet to chase fresh prey. For those new to The Night Land, the novel is set in a future so distant that the sun has burnt out and an eternal dark covers the earth. Humanity through its tampering with the natural universe has long since opened Doorways through which various predatory or malicious Forces have dropped into our existence. The remnants of the species live in the Last Redoubt, a pyramid refuge beset by the misshapen creatures that have populated our dying earth, some of those creatures having burst in through the Doorways which humans learned to open but not to close, and some of them (like those above) our own descendants. Here is one of the Forces, spinning angrily in the forever dark:

William Hope Hodgson at his artistic best presents us with mythic and terrifying nightscapes (never I will forget the screams in the dark and the patter of running feet as unseen and giant creatures chased the fleeing humans across a dry seabed). At his misogynist worst, his narrator makes James Bond and Buck Rogers appear staunch feminists by comparison:

And I shook her a little, for this naughty spirit which did not be gone from her. For I perceived that my manhood had but stirred the woman in her to that strange quick humbleness that had seemed to be only a quenching of her wayward unwisdom...and I to know that Mine Own did be a wondrous maiden, full of all life and spirit, and to be held wisely and to be loosed wisely, all as did be for the best to bring out the uttermost of her goodness which did be in all her being, and to be very lovely, and to make me feel as that I did be a giant that held a white flower very tender; but I to feel also that I did be her Master.

Even that would serve simply as an unabashed celebration of the d/s lifestyle, if, that is, there were any bondage in the book, and if it were not that the hero’s love interest has the intellectual and emotional awareness of a very young child.

But even given the flaws of the novel, the Night Land that Hodgson creates is difficult to forget. It is a hellscape that haunts the imagination long after the initial read.

In this, I realize I am only parroting the reviews of many writers and editors, from Lovecraft to this day. What I want to say separately from this is: the art! the art! It can’t be missed: much of it is as atmospheric and desperate as the novel itself. Also, the timeline and the assemblage of essays and scraps of reviews (on the pages called Night Thoughts and Night Voices) is a prodigious archival feat: the creator of the website is to be commended. Among the highlights are several discussions of The Night Land in relation to The Time Machine, reviews of Hodgson by other writers of science fiction, and extracts from biographical writings on Hodgson. There are also, as you might expect, debates over Hodgson’s treatment of femininity and the erotic. The website is updated with new materials and links a few times a month. If you have read The Night Land, definitely take a look. If you haven’t, view the gallery, and it may be inspiration to track down the book.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle is no longer with us

Returning from vacation to get my fix from the Endicott blog, I have just read the saddest news: of Madeleine L'Engle's death, at age 88. I cannot possibly write an obituary or memorial here that would do justice to our loss. Endicott has written the best memorial there will probably be. But now I find myself picking up my tattered old copy of A Wind in the Door with sadness, such sadness, and my insides are a winter day. Madeleine L'Engle was one of the great ones, and had the deepest heart and spirit - it shows in all of her work. She lived life kindly and fully, and knew, like the characters in Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, how to make the clock strike the right time:

Kairos. Real time. God's time. That time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy, that time we do not recognize while we are experiencing it, but only afterwards, because kairos has nothing to do with chronological time. In kairos we are completely unselfconscious, and yet paradoxically far more real than we can ever be when we are constantly checking our watches for chronological time. The saint in contemplation, lost (discovered) to self in the mind of God is in kairos. The artist at work is in kairos. The child at play, totally thrown outside himself in the game, be it building a sand castle or making a daisy chain, is in kairos. In kairos we become what we are called to be as human beings, co-creators with God, touching on the wonder of creation.

And she understood fairy tales better than anyone:

I am a writer. When I am grappling with ideas which are radical enough to upset grown-ups, then I am likely to put these ideas into a story which will be marketed for children, because children understand what their parents have rejected and forgotten.

She was the first great storyteller I met as a child, and she has been the one to whom I've returned many times as an adult to remind myself to listen to the heart's own music. Losing her is like losing a grandmother. I believe she is in a beautiful place, but she is not here, telling stories.

When I was thirteen, I started writing a letter in my horrible penmanship to tell her how much her books meant. I never finished or sent the letter.

Mourn with me. And celebrate her many books - novels, poems, plays, faith journals (such as Walking on Water, which is the source of the passages I've quoted) - which have taught so many young readers so many things about love, death, loss, faith, art, and hope. Long may her stories live in our memories.

Ciruelo 2008

Ciruelo's 2008 dragons calendar is available - take a look! The art is of uneven quality, but afew paintings are so breathtaking that one would have to be mad to miss out on them. Only Michael Whelan is a match for white dragons!

I seem to be on a dragons kick of late. Does anyone remember Patricia A. McKillip's Forgotten Beasts of Eld? The book appears to have become as forgotten as the magical beasts it celebrates; I have been blessed enough to know a medievalist who remembers it. These days you are only likely to find this book in the young adult section of the bookstore, though it may be a rare young adult who will enjoy it. But ah! what a book. I remember the dragon, Gyld: The great wings unfurled, black against the stars. The huge bulk lifted slowly, incredibly, away from the cold earth, through the wind-torn, whispering trees.

When the sorceress whom the dragon obeys consents to leave her mountain fastness for the sake of love, she and her beau try to figure out where to put the dragon. We can store it in the wine cellar, her beloved remarks cheerfully.

That poor, cramped behemoth with its wings tight around it, sleeping in the dark in the scent of wine.

Another book worth reading - this one more recent - Elizabeth Kerner's Song in the Silence, now a complete trilogy. I must warn you that to read Kerner's novel(s) you must be in the mood for a very starry-eyed romance, but the books are alive with a vibrant and desperate poetry, and a deep humanity. The dragons are truly both new and ancient to the reader, and desperately memorable. There is one scene in which Lanen, the woman who heroes her way dauntlessly through the novel, midwifes a dragon through a breach birth, though the heat of the dragon mother sears her arms almost to the bone. Kerner's imagination is both raw and elegant.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fairy Tale Statues, Part II

In one of my earliest posts on this blog, I said that I was undertaking to collect a list of fairy tale/mythic/fantastic statues around the world. Here is another for the list - from the Forbidden City. Isn't it startling! A dragon in a turtle shell: I have not seen an image of the Asian lung portrayed so before, though, admittedly, I have also not been to the Far East, and it may be that this creature is more common than I would guess. To my western myopia, this dragon is majestic; the sculpture suggests both the sacred and the otherworldly, and there is also a tremendous vitality in the arching of the dragon's neck and the poise of its toes: this statue does seem very much as though it might start breathing and walking, without warning: moving with surprisingly swiftness across the courtyard, like a komodo across an open field. It is like the stone-turned people in the Witch's Castle in Narnia - a puff of breath, and they swing into motion. Now that I have shamefully exoticized this particular figure, I bow my head. I hope my astonishment gives no offense. I long to know more about the context for this sculpture: comment if you know. Certainly dragons carry tremendous and ancestral importance in China, but what is the particular and unique story behind this one?

I am fascinated by that shell....

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A fresh poem on the dragon

A few lines from "Beknighted" by Jennifer Jerome, published this summer by Goblin Fruit:

I wait for you. Your bright foil

flames in the sun. Ancient scales
glitter in this dark cave; I hold
fire in my belly, long tail
coiled around my body to keep
the heat until you come....

Please visit the journal Goblin Fruit for the full poem - it is sweetly brief, and the last two lines are profound, which is something one says these days more often of speeches or of Academy Award-nominated films than of poems. Not since Beowulf have I felt so freshly introduced to a dragon. The slow pondering watchfulness (yet eagerness!) of the dragon on its hoard, as the fire builds in its body; the sun burning on the armor of the approaching knight.... Not that we haven't heard tales before from the dragon's perspective, but there is something vital and very true about this one. Sung from the wyrm to the knight, the poem is almost a love song, or almost a hunger song: perhaps those two are not always different. I love the first line: I wait for you.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fresh Gleanings from Deviantart

Have I mentioned how much I love Deviantart? It has thrown open so many doors for the sharing of wild, unprisoned, sometimes young imaginations. I find myself addicted to browsing there for mythical images and outbursts of ideas in color and pencil and photo. Here are a few that have recently caught my eye, and that I wanted to share - if you like them, please take a look at the artists' other work.

The first (above) is by the artist known on Deviantart as xlagartixax, and depicts the "selkelions," the artist's inspired tinkering with the selkies of Irish folklore. One of the fans on Deviantart quite rightly commented in admiration that this looks like an illustration in a children's book. It does! It makes me think of the wild beasts I concocted when I was eight. I miss those creatures! The winged tarns that would hunt my brother and I as we ducked between trees in the woods behind the pasture, or the otter-dolphin creature, the binen that would dash underwater down the creek faster than sound or sight. I love what this picture captures.

The other two here are from tavari's work, one an Artemis and the other an Emerging Deva. It was easy for me to say what I liked about the sea cats: they remind me of the buoyant inventiveness of childhood and the always nearness of wonder. It is more difficult for me to describe in words what I love about tavari: I am no art critic. But I post these here because I think them very worth sharing. This Artemis is not the sweating, racing through dark trees under moon, bowstring taut, vengeful and furious-at-Actaeon Artemis that I would imagine, yet in her calm and in the lightest halo about her outline, there is something indeed goddess-like, and the picture calms the soul. In Emerging Deva there is light, apotheosis, and maybe the same breathlessness Botticelli had in painting The Birth of Venus, and oh, the glorious color of those wings! Presumptuous, I have asked God many times in my prayers if it was not a terrible oversight that we homo sapiens were not created with wings. He has not seen fit to gift me with any yet. But I look at this painting and I am at once filled with mindshaking awe at its light and its glow and its poise, and at the same instant with an envy that runs deep. Tavari is worth watching.

Friday, August 10, 2007

So what did you think of Stardust?

(Spoilers included) (photo copyright Paramount Pictures)

Several of our editors saw Stardust tonight, and I doubt that we will all be in accord. For my own part, I began the movie skeptical - much of the charm of the book was lost, such as the beautiful transformations and witty enlivenings of old rhymes ("How many miles to Babylon?" or "The lion and the unicorn"). I began skeptical, but the movie won me over before long - with its wit, its swashbuckling flair, its wild balancing act between outrageous humor and poignancy. The half hour aboard ship that was added entirely out of nowhere - certainly not out of the book - is a perfect example: the poignancy of the star dancing on deck, shining gloriously with the heat of love in her heart, and the wild humor of Robert DeNiro as Captain Shakespeare, dancing in a frilly dress. DeNiro looked as though he was loving the part. There were so many wonderful scene-stealing moments, witty lines, and dashes of imagination. The lightning-ship spreading its net-wings is an image I will not soon forget. I can forgive the film for leaving out the dwarf, the rhymes, and for adding an extended battle in the witches' house and take the film for what it is: a different rendition of the fairy tale than the book was: extravagant, dashing, humorous, fun. Perhaps not as profound as the book - but the movie had me slapping my knee and laughing so hard and had my adrenaline rushing fast enough at other moments, that I didn't really mind. All that really irritated me was the voiceover at the start: that was a bit much. It takes a rare director to pull off a successful voiceover. This one didn't.

Some of my fellow editors at Dante's Heart will probably loathe the film (I already know what one in particular will say). I don't. I was too touched by the way the star began to glow and burn as she danced with her love on the deck of a ship sailing thousands of feet over the earth in a moonlit sky. It may be that I have given in, lowered my expectations of Hollywood, and traded (at least for this one evening) a priceless diamond for a gaudier gem, but ah! how that gem shines in the candlelight! The Stardust film has seduced me, and though the flaws of the film are glaring and pretty atrocious, and though I am sure some of the critics, at least, will slaughter the movie with their pens, I have to admit without embarrassment that I have not had this much fun at the cinema in a long time. This fairy tale, Stardust: go see it.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Fairy Tale Art of MBoulad

I wanted to quickly introduce our readers to the artist known as Mboulad, an Australian digital painter who has been exhibiting her work on deviantart for some time. There is a vibrant inventiveness and delight in her paintings - such as we find in the best old illustrations in books of fairy tales - but there is nothing childish in the paintings. The one to the right is based on the tale of Thumbelina, and the one below bears the wonderful title, Answer: They Grow Underground. In her commentary on the piece, Mboulad posted: "Question: Where do baby fairies come from?"

This, from the artist who said of one of her earlier works: "When I started digtal painting I swore I wouldn't paint any fantasy type stuff. Oops. It just sorta happened."

Definitely take a look at her gallery at deviantart: aren't these paintings delightful? They make me think of the best things about all the stories that were read to me when I was little. And if there is something disturbing about Thumbelina's troubled expression or the frog's fascination, well, there was definitely something disturbing in the Grimm story as well. In the hands of another artist, these pictures might be cute. In the hands of Mboulad, they are delightful and somehow full of insight, though one must glance twice to catch it.

These fairies, by the way, remind me of the legend of the barometz, or vegetable lamb - does anyone remember it? I think the vegetable lamb appeared in Topsell's Natural History in the early seventeenth century: a plant that instead of bearing a blossom, bore a bleating lamb instead. I saw a wonderful picture of one in a book when I was a child, and was so enchanted that I told a whole series of stories about a town of pixies high in the mountain valleys; they raised crops of vegetable lambs up there.

Raising my glass to Mboulad....

Unnerved by the Toadstool Farm

I rarely write negative reviews, and I don't mean this to be one - only a question. Occasionally I will google "fairy" just to see what comes up (it's like tossing a crabpot out into the fjord). Today, "My Fairy Baby" came up. It is one of the services/products offered by the Toadstool Farm: they will photograph (or paint) your baby with attached fairy wings, gauze, etc. I have to ask: is anyone else as disturbed by this as I am? This isn't celebrating an aspect of the baby, it's using the baby - like dressing a cat as Little Bo Peep. Except this isn't a cat.

Today I simply cannot put my finger on what is unnerving to me about this. And it may be that My Fairy Baby is actually cute and adorable, and I am missing the point somewhere. Interestingly, I find myself not unnerved by the advertised pictures of twelve-year old children with wings, but for some reason the baby troubles me. I thought I would ask for comments so that I can question this particular application of fairy tale in our culture, and gather the perspectives of others.

Connie Toebe's Boxes

Take a look, when you have the chance, at Connie Toebe's boxes, which reveal but barely contain fascinating and haunting dreamscapes. The pictures here are of the boxes called "Scheherezade," exterior and interior of "13 Days of Stolen Secrets," and "The Passenger." Her website includes galleries of 40 boxes. My own favorite, though I have not shown an image of it here, is "Night Visitors to the House of Solitude."

To me there is an eldritch quality to these boxes, a sense that the spectators both within and without the boxes are not quite safe from a beautiful or chilling eruption of wonder into their orderly rooms. Branches and strange objects twine about unstrange furniture. There is no true containment, no true boxing of our lives. Yet on second glance we realize that the images we see depict the uncanny vegetation of our own mind and psyche; as we are drawn to these images with both gasps of wonder and unease, we are driven to reflect on our own habitats, our own boxes, filled with what we consider ordinary enough furniture, filled also with the weavings and windings of bizarre and sometimes nightmarish growths that we ourselves have seeded there and tended, yet which we try to ignore. Toebe's boxes are fourth-dimensional, for we see images of spaces that erupt into the three-dimensional boxes from elsewhere, as well as images that are terribly suggestive of the uneven pressures and gaps of time. "13 Days of Stolen Secrets," from the outside, looks homey and houselike enough, if a little brooding - but on the inside, it stands revealed as no tamed, 3D space. Of which of our homes and boxes is this not the case?

Take a closer look at these unsettling boxes. I feel that I have given only a most imperfect suggestion here of what Connie Toebe has made.

Cobweb Forest

I confess I have come to Through the Cobweb Forest belatedly, but in case a few of our gathering readers are in the same position, I thought I would add a post about it here, as Cobweb is certainly not to be missed: to me, this is one of the most exciting artworks currently in progress, of those touching on the realms of faerie. In the form of a Flash multimedia presentation, comprising music, letters that scroll, video, and images both static and kinetic - I need to stop there and start the sentence again, as it sounds a little as though I am describing someone beautiful by telling that she comprises liver, kidney, pancreas, or rather, that she comprises hat, purple coat, shoes. I try again. Cobweb Forest is a beautiful poem/artpiece, very Victorian, very fantastical, and as a compelling tale it chronicles Helena's jumping offship while en route to her husband and her journey deep into the Cobweb Forest. Fragments of journal entry and letters to her still distant husband tell of her trials, her dreams by day and by night, and her awakenings. The project is a collaboration between the already well-established artists Connie Toebe, whose "boxes" are at once gothic, enchanting, and sometimes horrific, and Lisa Stock, who has developed some haunting independent films. To say nothing of the musician.

I will not include any quotes here from Cobweb, for reason that Cobweb is a journey of discovery as few other works are, tempting you with each click or scroll to pull another branch or fern from across your vision and take another step. But I did want to draw attention to the project, and suggest that it would be a terrible negligence not to go lose yourself in the forest for many hours. Since reading about the orchard of glass in the first letter, I have been hooked. This is a tale told with delicacy, wild creativity, and high spirit.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Like tears in rain

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

From the last death scene in Bladerunner. I just saw that again, first time in years.

Post a comment and share the quote that means the most to you, most recently, from a work of fantasy or fairytale. Let's make a collection together, a wunderkammern of curiosities and moments. We must keep passing such passages on, lest they be lost in time. Such poetry is our defense against the dark.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Enchanted gardens

Faithful readers,

With the adrenaline and dash of traveling this month, I've hardly had time to post to the blog - so I will drop a quote that I find quite beautiful, to give our blog's readers a bite to chew on while waiting for a more substantial post:

"(A spell there was, surely, in this garden. I could almost hear it humming over the water, voices chanting in a language I did not know but understood.) I think it held everyone, even Hildegrin, even Agia. For some time we rowed in silence; I saw geese, alive and content for all I could tell, bobbing a long way off; and once, like something in a dream, the nearly human face of a manatee looking into my own through a few spans of brownish water."

- Gene Wolfe, The Book of the New Sun

Hopefully you are all traveling, too.

If you haven't, take a look at the website for our journal - we are calling for submissions for myth, fairy tale, and the fantastic, in preparation for the launch of our first issue -

I will be posting more often, so stay tuned -


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Amantha the Tiger

Have you seen the website for the upcoming movie adaptation of The Golden Compass? It's both shameless and charming - beautiful Flash artwork with a host of features introducing viewers to Lyra's world -- explaining the basics for those who haven't read the books, while also flirting with old fans. For instance, you can take a personality quiz - no different than the thousands of others to be found on the Net, really - and discover what daemon you would have, had you been born in Lyra's world. (A daemon is the external soul, the physical manifestation of a person's soul in the form of a companion or familiar animal. One of our villains, for those who might be new to Philip Pullman, has a golden monkey for a soul.) The beauty of it is that at the end of the quiz you meet your companion, who leaps onto the screen in lifelike photographic verisimilitude, breathtakingly beautiful - along with code that you can embed in another site in order to import your daemon to a blog or online profile. I am deeply flattered to find myself paired with a tiger. I think I actually have more in common with a tree kangaroo, but a tiger is wonderful. Anyway, take the quiz - it's a million times more charming than most such quizzes - and peek around the website. The site itself is dazzling, the trailer is impressive (though very shameless - you will see why), and this certainly has me looking forward to the first film at Christmas. That, and - Tom Stoppard is writing the screenplay. Or I may just be praising the site because I'm flattered at the tiger. Still: this looks to be an exciting film.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Man with lobster claws - Denver Water

I will be away for the weekend for my brother's graduation, so I will leave a quick post before I go - driving through Denver recently, I have been noticing the billboards Denver Water has been coming up with, to illustrate that they "really know water." See the sample here. Isn't this brilliant? It definitely catches the consumer's eye, and of course in my own case it sparks long reflections and entire mini-narratives about what types of lives a mechanic with lobster claws or a water tester with tentacles might find and pursue. Perhaps some enterprising young writer ought to call Denver Water up and get the rights to start an anthology/contest of stories on that theme, so as to find out. I would, if I had more time. For now, we have this blog. Look at that advertisement - the keen focus of the man on his work, the immensity of the lobster claws balanced with their careful, almost delicate precision: this monstrosity has been gifted with the grace of a dancer. It's beautiful.

Corporate America is well aware of the power of wonder to draw a listener, delight, or shock someone into a wakeful attentiveness. Remember Microsoft's ad where the MSN butterfly weighs down one end of the seesaw, lifting the rhino on the other end into the air?


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Frog Prince

Bill Willingham's Fables series of comics may be old news to many of this blog's readers, but we've only just stumbled into it - by picking up a copy of 1001 Nights of Snowfall, a collection of fairy tale retellings and extensions - at times humorous, whimsical, tragic, nightmarish. The story "A Frog's-Eye View," for instance, begins with the princess' marriage to the frog prince. She and her prince find, however, that whenever the prince is excited or fearful, he pops back into his old froggish shape - as when he is told of his new wife's pregnancy:

"Good news, darling, I'm with child."
"Oh, joyous day! I-- ribbit"
"Oh dear, here we go again."

The story quickly takes a darker turn, however, which I will not spoil here for those readers for whom Willingham's Fables may be a surprise.

It is a worthwhile surprise. Told with remarkable wit and storytelling flair, the Fables address their fairy tales in the best of fairy tale tradition - using them to surprise, delight, and to confront the issues that bristle beneath our daily lives: the dysfunctionality of family, coping (or not coping) with trauma, and our knack for spinning tales to make meaning of our losses. I was especially delighted at Willingham's Snow.

Take a look at these extremely recent fairy tales, if you haven't already. And if you have, drop a quick comment here to let other readers know what you thought. We look forward to reading more of the series.


Sunday, June 3, 2007

Northern Lights

Again by accident - through greeting cards - I have discovered an artist worth watching: Monte Dolack. Finding the elk with the candles made me step back: and oddly, it made me think of the (very) dark forests behind my parents' little country home when I was a child. I remembered how when the wind rushed through the trees it sounded like the world was being torn up by the roots and taken away, and I remembered the dead quiet in the hours before morning, with neither electric lights nor any hum and adrenaline of cars, heaters, air conditioners, PCs - only the silence and the beautiful violence of winter stars against the sky broken only by the occasional rustle of the attic or creak of the old house's timber. I kept myself wrapped tightly in afghans my mother made, and kept the windows a crack open during the cold February so that I could listen for when the goats would begin birthing out in the pasture. I don't know why the elk with the candles brought that back in a rush, but they did: at any rate I think it is the most beautiful painting I have seen this week, and the fact that I saw it on a greeting card (until recently, looking for greeting cards was always a haste and a hassle) is still a wonder to me. I will keep exploring to see in what unexpected venues one might find fantastical and revitalizing images, or a source of myth.

Fairy tales on greeting cards

I was recently lucky enough to stumble on a greeting card display that was dedicated to Tree Free's "mystical fantasy" series of greeting cards. I hope some of you have seen these too: the art is enchanting and the cards are blank - no trite messages scrawled inside. I had never thought to look for greeting cards as a medium for fairy tales, but take a look!

The image to the left is "Dreamkeeper" by Sheila Wolk, which startled me when I saw it on the shelf, for I had never seen a baby mermaid before, or even thought that such a thing might be. Yet how else do you populate an ocean with merpeople? And it is a very beautiful baby.

Or look at Maxine Gadd's "Pot O' Gold" with its unusually charming leprechaun; most of the artists whose work appears on the Tree Free cards provide surprising and wonderful work. Browsing these cards inspired me to start searching the Net for other greeting cards that depict or transform fairy tales.

I've found Francis Tyrell's site (, where the images have a storybook charm - here, for instance, are "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod" and "The Princess and the Pea" -

Help me find more of these - post comments to tell where you have run into or know of other greeting cards that work through fairy tale or mythic images. I have a habit of buying greeting cards that I like and then never sending them; they sit propped open on my bookshelves as little reminders of wonder.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Nick Kosciuk

I have just discovered this artist's work -- his paintings are on display at the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder, CO -- and am left disturbed and haunted. Nick Kosciuk uses fairy tale imagery to expose the fetishization of children; there are no direct depictions of acts of abuse, but you can see the abuse in the eyes and postures of the children. There is some horrible knowledge and fear in the eyes in "Butterfly in Red." And the painting of the adolescent standing, eyes closed, with a forest in the back, reminds me terribly (though perhaps without the artist's intention) of the visual of Lavinia after her assault in the wood, in Julia Taymor's Titus. Kosciuk's paintings are of children in eastern Europe, and the money he makes from his sales goes to support orphanages in Belarus.

The idea that fairy tales allow us to explore, in safe ways, the ramifications and psychology of abuse, rape, and other forms of violence or cruelty is nothing new, but I rarely see a contemporary artist conducting just that exploration in such a vibrant and chilling manner. The two paintings I've posted here on the blog are not Rosciuk's most beautiful or disturbing, so take a look at the rest at

Fairy Tale Statues

I am interested in collecting a list of statues around the world depicting fairy tales. Besides the famous examples (Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens), here are some our editors have stumbled upon nearly or certainly by accident - to the left, the Troll under the bridge in Seattle. This one is an especial wonder to me, as I grew up on a small farm near Seattle - and my family did raise a number of billy goats gruff.

More wonders of wood and stone from Washington state: small families of Scandinavian trolls can be seen standing, brilliantly painted and four feet tall, by the streets in Poulsbo; someone on Hood Canal long since collected enough driftwood of the right shape to create a dragon or dragon-like sea serpent on a narrow spit of land, so that from a distance its coils appear to be rising from the water.

Are there other fairy tales in stone or wood or metal around America? Someone on our continent needs to make a project of creating something like the Sacro Bosco in Italy, which Vicino Orsini established in the sixteenth century.

The Sacred Wood is a garden-forest populated with fabulous creatures, some of them peering out from behind branches or small shrubs, many of them now clothed in moss or lichens -- a labyrinth garden where the lost might wander and wonder. You might sit in what appears a safe spot for a long hour before looking up to realize there is a stone dragon watching you through the branches.

Help us collect such sites.... Where have we made to carve fairy tales into the actual landscape on which we breathe and walk?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dragon on a Leaf

Some time back I stumbled across a painting on the Web depicting a red autumn leaf with an infant and extremely tiny dragon curled up in sleep on the leaf. The painting was beautiful, and (for me) captured something essential about the experience of wonder (finding, almost by accident, a dragon infant smaller than a thumbnail asleep among the leaves in fall: the painting is a haiku in color) - but for all of my quests on google, I am unable to learn the name of the painting or the artist, or find it again.

Maybe someone can help! Post a comment if the description of the painting sounds familiar.

Even if we don't find the painting, perhaps this post will spark a conversation on the evocation of wonder through small scenes, small details, small gestures toward the fantastic in art. No need to paint a Balrog in flames to produce awe....


Thursday, May 17, 2007


Welcome to the blog for Dante's Heart!

Dante's Heart ( is a biaunnual online journal that offers a venue for established and new writers and artists to share creative work that explores how myth and fairy tale define and are defined by the human experience(s). Check out our submission guidelines on the website. Issue 1 will launch in December 2007.

Dante's Heart also runs this blog as a forum for sharing thoughts and ideas on fairy tale, myth, and the experience of wonder. We look forward to hosting the Net's most active and thought-invoking forum on matters of the fantastic.

The Editors,
Dante's Heart