Roughing it up

Have I mentioned before that Richard Hugo House is the best place for writers in Seattle, probably in the U.S., and possibly in the world? I took another great writing workshop there, Very Short Tales taught by Angela Fountas, a chance to use some of the conventions of fairy tales to play around with our writing. Here’s a short piece I wrote in the class. The instructions were to take a beloved Disney-esque tale from childhood and “rough it up,” making it into a more classic adult style fairy tale. This is one you should definitely try at home! (NB: the story below was written by a vegetarian.)



There are no swans in this fairy tale, but I didn't have any pictures of bears or tigers. Or jungles.

One day a bear was out bathing in a stream. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a creature come toward him that he did not recognize as a usual resident of the jungle. This creature was a human child.


The bear sighed. He knew what would happen, having seen other small human cubs wander loose in the jungle.

Child, where are you going? he asked the little naked thing.

I’m running away, said the human cub.

You know you’ll be eaten in the jungle, said the bear.

Not me, said the child. I know how to take care of myself.

Do you, said the bear. He heard wolves howl in the distance and closer by he heard the purr of the tiger.

Yes I do, said the child, and growled a pitiful whining sound meant to frighten the other jungle creatures.

That won’t help you, said the bear. Shall I teach you how to protect yourself?

Would you? asked the child.

Certainly, said the bear. And without a second thought he ate the human cub.  You’ll be safe in my stomach, he said, spitting out the bones into a neat little pile by the side of the stream, and went back to his bath, humming contentedly.

The wolf pack leader came by. Have you seen a human cub? He asked. Yes, said the bear, and gestured with a claw at the pile of bones. There he is. The wolf pack leader shook his great ruff and turned to go back to his pack.

The tiger slinked out of the tall jungle grass. Did a human cub walk by here? he asked the bear, who was just getting out of the stream to dry himself off and get ready for his afternoon nap.

Yes, said the bear, I ate him and there are his bones, if you want to pick them over while I sleep.

Ah, said the tiger, and with the swipe of one giant paw he sliced the bear open and ate his entrails, full of delicate human cub flesh as they were. Now I need a nap, thought the tiger to himself, and rolled over to sleep in the tall jungle grass.

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