The Week of the Grendel(+1) Day 8: How Billy the Conqueror Took Back the Greenwood by Erzebet Barthold

And this is it! The last of the stories in this issue. The crowning jewel as it were, and by another fantastic writer of this kinda fiction. Erzebet Barthold- creator of great short stories, as well as the mind behind the beautiful Papaveria Press. Really, if you love books (especially folk and faerie tales- which they publish a lot of!) go and check them out. The quality is amazing, they are a thing to behold.

But like I said before- she’s not just a fantastic publisher. She’s also a great writer. This story I heard about on Facebook before asking her to send me a copy to read, and I’m really glad I did. This is a fantastic story! It made a beautiful endpiece to the first issue. You can check it out here-

One thing I absolutely love about this story is how it makes me smile, how it brings out this inner childlike quality, yet it works like all the best Victorian Fairy Tales work- not by talking down, or up, or whatever. It is not a child’s story per se, but it has a childlike quality. Just like you can’t just say Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass is only for kids (or even The Sylvia and Bruno stories Dodgeson wrote later). There is something enchanting, charming, wonderful, and yet it is even more so.

It’s a story that was the best ending to the magazine I could give it. After the darkness, the terror, the melancholy and the strange, here is a breath, here is a light, here is a glass of water. As Cocteau says, a glass of water holds the light to the world. To me, it is a lifting of spirits, and it shows all the different ways a folk lore/fairy tale can exist. The magazine is not just one thing, but many things, a multifaceted series of things.

And if anything, you should read this story after the others, to get the full effect of the magazine itself. This is the perfect end piece, the perfect whisper before night. It’s a story that makes me happy every time I read it and it does not feel like a cheat. So many upbeat endings, or stories that are told in a way that leave on an upward note feel like they’ve cheated, like they haven’t earned the emotion they were setting out to give you. They feel, instead, like a placebo, like a happy meal. Empty.

This story does not have that effect, not for me anyway. It feels like it earns the feeling that it evokes. And that is awesome, and not simple at all. I hear she’s writing more Billy stories and I really can’t wait to read them, wherever they are published.

As a side note- you can now buy copies of this magazine on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And, if you love what we’re doing and want to support us, check out the patreon. Support at 2.99 an issue and you’ll basically be subscribing, and getting the version of your choice delivered a week before it goes live on the internet.


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