Fairytales and Forests by Intisar Khanani | Guest Post | #WyrdandWonder

On this last Wednesday in May do I have another great guest post by an author for you. Intisar Khanani! I was quite pleased when she agreed to write a guest post for this years wyrd and wonder. As you know I quite enjoyed The Sunbolt Chronicles and love what she did with Thorn and a Theft of Sunlight. So when I was thinking about who I wanted to feature extra by these guest posts of course she came straight to mind.

Fairytales and Forests

In fairytales, forests are often places of possibility, of change and of danger. And really, isn’t change dangerous? Aren’t new possibilities also about the death of old realities? 

When Hansel and Gretel are taken into the forest, it’s a separation from the security and love of their old lives. They must face their greatest fears and fight their way through in order to return home. Similarly, in Little Red Riding Hood, Red passes through the forest on her way to her grandmother’s house—but danger intercepts her, infiltrates what should be her safe haven, and very nearly destroys her before its antithesis (a woodcutter!) comes to the rescue.

Forests are outside of human control, and so, therefore are the dangers that our beloved characters must face to survive. To do so successfully, they must bear out their will against the dangers of the forest, often violently. Just think of the witch being locked in her oven, or the woodcutter slicing open the wolf and filling him with stones so that he drowned when he went to drink from the river!

But that doesn’t mean that fairytales don’t also acknowledge the beauty of nature, its interconnectedness with humanity, or even its ability to serve as a haven when society fails us. In The Juniper Tree, an admittedly gruesome tale in which a stepmother cooks her stepson and serves him up to his own father, the little stepsister buries his bones beneath the tree where his mother is buried. At once, a beautiful bird flies out of the tree and alerts the town to the murder with its song. So, the mother’s soul is presented as a bird, the juniper tree providing a connection from which it emerges, and the little boy’s fate—and his murderer—are revealed. Further, it is the bird that then kills the stepmother. In a situation where society has failed these children, nature (arguably guided by a higher power) sets things to rights.

Similarly, in stories like Beauty and the Beast, when Beauty’s father fails in his role as protector and caretaker, she travels through the forest to the Beast. The forest creates a division that separates her from the evils of her home—when she does return home, her family contrives to keep her too long, and she must once more leave them behind to dedicate herself and her heart to the Beast who has not betrayed her trust. Admittedly, I’ve never liked the Stockholm Syndrome aspect of that story, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

I’ve always leaned more toward this more wholesome (though still mysterious) approach to forests in my writing—they are havens, they connect us to nature in a protective way, and they give us time to find our allies. But there is something to be said for recognizing the wild, unforgiving aspect of natural laws and the dangers of the natural world, and our oldest fairytales often reflect this.

About Intisar Khanani

Over the years, I’ve considered different occupations based on how my name, Intisar, has been mispronounced. There’s “Intistar” (Galactic Space Commander?), “Interstar” (Lowly Space Shuttle Captain?), and “Inastar” (Nuclear Fusion, here I come!), just to list a few. So how is my name really pronounced.

Pretty much how it’s written: In-ti-sar Kha-na-ni.

I was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and grew up a nomad, with multiple stints living in Saudi Arabia, boarding school in New Hampshire, and college split between Minnesota and Colorado. My family is from Pakistan, and I still have extended family there. My husband, two young daughters and I live in Cincinnati, Ohio. Until a few years ago, I worked with the Cincinnati Health Department on projects to improve community health, which was as close as I could get to saving the world. Now I focus my time on my two passions: raising my family and writing.

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About the Book

Title: The Theft of Sunlight (Dauntless Path 2) by Intisar Khanani
Release Date: March 23rd 2021
Tags: Young Adult | Fantasy | Fairy Tale Retelling | Child Abductions

I did not choose this fate. But I will not walk away from it.

Children have been disappearing from across Menaiya for longer than Amraeya ni Ansarim can remember. When her friend’s sister is snatched, Rae knows she can’t look away any longer – even if that means seeking answers from the royal court, where her country upbringing and clubfoot will only invite ridicule.

Yet the court holds its share of surprises. There she discovers an ally in the foreign princess, who recruits her as an attendant. Armed with the princess’s support, Rae seeks answers in the dark city streets, finding unexpected help in a rough-around-the-edges street thief with secrets of his own. But treachery runs deep, and the more Rae uncovers, the more she endangers the kingdom itself.

The Theft of Sunlight is a companion story to Thorn but can be read seperately. Its sequel A Darkness at the Door is coming out July 21st 2022!

4 thoughts on “Fairytales and Forests by Intisar Khanani | Guest Post | #WyrdandWonder

  1. Pingback: Quest Log the Last

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