Variations on a Theme.
Just like Tales from the Grave, this was another departure from the norm for me. Rather than writing on a particular subject, the idea behind Variations on a Theme was to take an old tale and rework it for the modern day.
Quite a task, as it turns out!
The first difficulty was in choosing which story to attempt to rewrite. There was a choice. Either Anton Chekov's 'The Huntsman' (click here to read the original story) or Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Tinderbox (the original can be found here).
I read both. Twice. But I already had an inkling of which I would choose before I began. It was the reason that I wanted to submit a story to the anthology in the first place. I remember my mother reading a Labybird book of The Tinderbox to my sister and I when we were tiny. I remember sitting on the old red and cream velvety sofa, facing the fire, and listening as the magical words were read aloud to me. I loved the story then, and I love it now, with its scary witch, murderous soldier, the trapped princess and, of course, the dogs with their eyes as big as teacups, as big as mill-wheels, as big as towers.
What images this story conjured up for me! I loved the idea of the soldier lifting these massive dogs out of the way to get to his treasure, I felt something tangible in the thought of him picking the coins, copper, then silver, then gold, of trudging up and down and getting richer and richer and greedier and meaner as he went.
I distinctly remember the wonderful illustrations of all the strange and unlikable characters in the story. And that is one of the strangest things about the tale; there are no nice characters. Everyone is unpleasant and greedy and although there is a happily ever after, of course, there is a foreboding tone to Andersen's words, and I always felt that there should be more, that the story was not finished.
So I chose it. And I changed it. I hope I have done it justice, as it really is a special story to me.
And I think I might - perhaps - attempt that sequel I've been wondering about for over twenty years. I think it's about time.
Find this book, and my others, here.