Tuesday, 31 March 2015


Welcome to ‘The Forgotten and the Fantastical’ Carnival This post was written especially for inclusion in ‘The Forgotten and the Fantastical’ carnival, hosted by Mother’s Milk Books, to celebrate the launch of their latest collection of fairy tales for an adult audience: The Forgotten and the Fantastical. Today our participants share their thoughts on the theme ‘Fairy tales’. Please read to the end of the post for a full list of carnival participants. ***

Your name flew to me when I was just a girl.
I watched the swallows swirl
In their graceful mid-air dance
And just caught a glance
Of your name.

Was it just my imagination
That saw in their migration
Those letters, in that order?
Or was that the promise of a daughter
Spelled out in the air?

You tell me you wish you could fly,
So much you even try
To fashion wings out of felt.
Your efforts make my heart melt
But it breaks a bit too.

Because one day you'll spread your wings
And do so many things.
You may fly away from me,
But that's just as it should be.

You are yours, not mine.

When I first read about the blog carnival being held by Mother's Milk Books, I was really excited at the prospect of participating. But when it came to thinking up a post I was stumped. Although fairy tales hold a great fascination for me, and I could probably write a lot about them, I didn't want to end up writing a literary essay, nor did I have time to. I racked my brains, scanning the prompts helpfully provided, until I thought again about one line; "Has anything 'fairy tale-like' happened in your own life?" And I suddenly realised the answer was - well, sort of.

When people ask how I chose Eleanor's name, I always say, "it's a name I've liked since I was a girl." This is a half-truth, because the truth makes me sound a bit bonkers. The poem above refers to two events, the first of which happened many years ago -  I'm not even sure how many. I can't tell you how old I was when it happened, sometimes I even wonder whether it happened at all or whether I dreamt it. All I can tell you is that I have a memory of looking out of my bedroom window at a group of birds making patterns in the sky as they prepared to migrate. For a split second, they seemed to spell out the name 'Eleanor'. Whether that really happened, or was just an embellishment from my mind, I'll never know. But I do know it wasn't a name I was familiar with; I didn't know anybody with that name at the time, I can't recall reading it in a book, I have no clue where I could have heard it from.

One thing (amongst many) that has struck me when reading fairy tales and folk tales is a recurring theme of childlessness. Babies are often born after the mother expresses a longing for a child, or in some stories, animals or inanimate objects become children to childless couples. This is something I'm drawn to in fairy and folk tales, and something I'd love to study further one day. When I read the above prompt for this post, I was reminded of this page from the start of the Ladybird version of Sleeping Beauty:

OK, so a frog didn't hop out and promise me a daughter, but when trying for a baby took longer than we'd expected, my memory of those birds (I don't know what kind really, my hunch is swallows but as a child I wouldn't have known) gave me hope that a child was part of my destiny. Whether real or not, it was very important to me at that testing time in my life.

The second event the poem refers to happened this week. Eleanor often talks about how she wishes she could fly like a bird, and again we were having this conversation as she bounced on the trampoline in our garden. She started to talk about getting wings and I tried to explain that it would be very hard to make wings that could make a person actually fly, but to her that was merely a challenge she had to accept. She ran inside, grabbed her scissors and a piece of felt and snipped some pieces out of it, then got upset because she didn't know how she could glue them onto her back. I gently told her that it wasn't safe to glue things to her skin, and those two small cuttings of felt would not work as wings even if they were stuck to her back. She was distraught. 

I was touched by the earnestness of her efforts, and saddened, obviously at her distress, but also by the thought of where that creativity and determination may take her as she grows - and it may take her far away. She shares her birthday with my brother who has travelled a lot in his life, and I sometimes wonder whether their shared birthday means she will be a globetrotter like him - she loves looking at maps and globes, longs to go on a plane and even talks about flying to the moon or Mars! Whether she was promised to me or not, I'm ever conscious she is not mine to keep. She's no passive princess, I can't keep her within the walls of a castle, I know one day she will start her own great adventure and I will just be a bystander.

So there you go, my own sort-of fairy tale. The tale of the girl whose name flew to me, and who might one day fly away from me, in the best possible way.


The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2015 book cover
The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2015 book cover

The Forgotten and the Fantastical is now available to buy from The Mother’s Milk Bookshop (as a paperback and PDF) and as a paperback from Amazon.
It can also be ordered via your local bookshop.
Any comments on the following fab posts would be much appreciated:
In ‘Imagination is quantum ergo fairies are real’, Ana, at Colouring Outside the Lines, explains why we should all believe in fairies and encourage our children to do the same.
In ‘Red Riding Hood Reimagined’ author Rebecca Ann Smith shares her poem ‘Grandma’.
Writer Clare Cooper explores the messages the hit movie Frozen offers to our daughters about women’s experiences of love and power in her Beautiful Beginnings blog post ‘Frozen: Princesses, power and exploring the sacred feminine.’
‘Changing Fairy Tales’ — Helen at Young Middle Age explains how having young children has given her a new caution about fairy tales. In ‘The Art of Faerie’ Marija Smits waxes lyrical about fairy tale illustrations.
‘The Origins of The Forgotten and the Fantastical — Teika Bellamy shares her introduction from the latest collection of fairy tales for an adult audience published by Mother’s Milk Books.


  1. I really enjoyed this, thank you - both the poem and the story behind it. I love the idea that your daughter's name could have been chosen for you so long before she was yours, and I share with you the melancholy of watching your child attempting something that is, at the moment, impossible for them, while knowing that you will eventually be watching them manage a proper flight of their own...sniff!

  2. What a wonderful post. :-)

    I think that these seemingly fantastical events are sometimes best left unexamined because it's quite easy to think/reason ourselves out of the magic! Maybe only the birds will ever know the truth behind that wonderful moment in time...

    And yes, it really is bittersweet to watch an enthusiastic young child try to do something that is not physically possible. But as long as you're gentle with her fledgling interests/passions (just as you are) then one day she may well be flying by herself. Perhaps parachuting, or piloting, or maybe even skydiving! Eeek!

  3. This is lovely, thanks for sharing. I love the symmetry of the name flying to you and the little girl flying away. Although it's a very specific experience, I'm sure a lot of people will relate to this.

    1. Thanks for your comment, it's good to know that people can relate to this even though it's quite unusual.