Slovak Sleeping Beauty: Vodnik Chapter Thirty

When I set out to write Vodnik, I had no intentions of making it into a modern retelling of a fairy tale. I’ve read many of those, and I really enjoy them (particularly Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl and Orson Scott Card’s Enchantment), but this wasn’t One of Those Stories.

And so imagine my surprise when, during the revision process, I took a look at this chapter, and suddenly realized that I had somehow pulled a Sleeping Beauty without really meaning to. It’s not a strict retelling, by any means, but the basics are there. You’ve got the girl who pricks her finger–or gets it bitten, as the case may be. She falls asleep, and it takes true love’s kiss to wake her up. Heck–I even described Lesana’s house as “sort of what you’d expect Sleeping Beauty to stay in when she was slumming it as a peasant.” And I described it that way not once, but twice!

I swear, this was all my subconscious at work. If I’d tried to do all of it on purpose, I have no idea how it would have turned out. Probably with changing dress colors and some other awkwardly-handled allusions to the fairy tale.

I think the reason this all worked out how it did was that when I was writing Vodnik, I *was* trying to tap into fairy tale mentality. That was on purpose. I wanted to capture some of the feel of Slovak fairy tales and creatures, and in my efforts to do that, I ended up drawing on the fairy tale tropes I was familiar with.

In writing this scene, for example, I didn’t know what was going to happen when Tomas went down to find Lesana. (Remember, I was writing this without an outline, something I try not to do these days.) So when he suddenly decided to lean forward and kiss her–and when she actually came to life after he did that–I was pretty surprised.

And that’s a feeling that still happens to me now and then when writing. Something happens in the story that I wasn’t planning on at all, and I sit back and stare at the screen, stunned that it just happened. I always need to think it over after the fact. Sometimes, the surprise is perfect. It fits in with other things I was doing in the book without realizing it, and it stays as is. Sometimes it needs to be tweaked some, and sometimes I have to shake my head and hit the delete key. Not all out-of-the-blue ideas are created equal, after all.

But this one felt right, and I kept it–and I’m glad I did. At the same time, it makes me think back on the days when I was still actively studying film adaptations for my English Masters degree. As a scholar, it’s easy to sit back and point out all the things that are in a work that “prove” it’s an adaptation, or that it was inspired by a certain piece. And it all seems so definite. I mean, why would the author describe the house as being like Sleeping Beauty’s house, unless he was trying to wink at the reader and say, “See?” But as an artist, suddenly all that certainty flies out the window. Maybe the author’s subconscious was just playing around with him.

I don’t know. Interesting thoughts for an adaptation scholar, though I’m not sure how interesting they are to you. But I *would* like to know if any of you saw the Sleeping Beauty motif before I just pointed it out to you. What did you think? Please share.

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