Oh, to Be Human

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As humans, we have a pretty sweet deal. We have books. And indoor plumbing. And opposable thumbs. No wonder all of the non-humans are trying to get in on this gig.

I kid, of course. But I do enjoy a good human transformation.

Whether it’s a little mermaid wanting a pair of legs or a crow turning in his wings, each character who wants to be human is in love with one. And what really draws me to these characters is their decision to sacrifice everything they’ve known in order to be with the one they love.

The little mermaid doesn’t just give up her tail. She gives up her family, her way of life, even how she breathes. Plus, you know, her voice. So she gives up everything for the man she loves, and can’t even tell him.

In Disney’s version at least, she manages to cope pretty well with the transition. She finds her balance moderately quickly and is eager to learn everything she can about life as a human. But at least she was already used to hands and whatnot.

In Tamora Pierce’s Trickster’s Choice, Nawat the crow falls in love with Aly the human. He takes on human form to be with her, giving up his feathers and his flock, but he has a much harder time with the transition. He tries to woo Aly as a crow would, with offerings of bugs and shiny rocks — which, unsurprisingly, she doesn’t go for.

But as he learns more about humans, the more torn he becomes between his crow self and his human self. Humans don’t think the same way crows do. Humans lie and betray and play with the feelings of others. Nawat ends up sacrificing more than he bargained for when he first became human.

His love, however, carries him through. He may not think much of humans in general, but he can still believe in Aly.

And that’s what’s so great about characters becoming human. There’s that culture clash between their old world and the human world (which, as an anthropology major, I love), but there’s also a deep undercurrent of love that drives the character. All of their sacrifices, all of their differences, none of it matters because they are able to be with the one they love.

P.S. Want to know why the post’s picture is a doe? Sign up for my free newsletter (to the right, there). One of the early stories is about a doe who becomes human to — you guessed it — be with the man she loves. Edit: my newsletter has changed and this story is no longer available.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

Grimmer Than Grimm

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You probably know that the original versions of fairy tales are much darker than their “modern” versions. I’m talking mutilations and cruel parents and everything else that makes you cringe. Cinderella’s stepsister chopping parts off their feet to make them fit the shoe, and the like.

You might not know that authors (including me!) are going back to those dark versions — or even darker with Grimmification.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Disney adaptations. Forever and always.

But the dark versions draw me like hot fudge to chocolate ice cream. Or something.

You already saw on my last post that I liked the original versions of The Little Mermaid and Rapunzel with their dead mermaids and blinded princes. And I like some of the newer, darker adaptations I’ve seen.

No Rest for the Wicked is a webcomic with a mash-up of fairy tales, and makes a good case study. Red (of Riding Hood fame) is a crazy woman with an axe, wiping out the wolf population in her woods and hanging the pelts in her cabin. The witch from Hansel and Gretel was actually their mother; she ate them, and then ate all of the children who stumbled upon her house.

If I’m horrified, I call it a success.

Not to terrify you any further, but I’m working on my own Grimmified fairy tales. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

P.S. Speaking of the Grimmification of Disney, check out the Twisted Princess series. It’s fantastic.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

Once Upon a First Blog Post

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It’s funny, because I had all these ideas for blog posts, but when I actually sat down to write one, I became paralyzed. I could only think, “this is my first post on my new site, my intro to the world – I’d better make it a good one! A great one!” And, well, that’s a bit intimidating.

So instead of putting forth something of dizzying intellect, I’m going to start things slowly with a list of my favorite fairy tales — which you’ll more than likely see in my anthology of re-tellings.

  • Beauty and the Beast: I always liked the idea of going off to live in an enchanted castle. Magic rings and curses are cool, too.
  • The Little Mermaid: The mermaid’s sacrifice of her voice and life resonated with me. To this day, I look at sea foam and think of dead mermaids. (I was a morbid little child.)
  • Little Red Riding Hood: Admittedly not one of my favorites, but I love the character I created from this tale, so here it is. I do like a few modern adaptations of it though.
  • Rapunzel: Again as a morbid little child, I liked the fact that the prince was pushed from the tower and blinded by briars. (I had a thing about children’s stories not being “real” enough with all their perfect happy endings.) But Disney’s version is now my favorite movie.
  • Princess and the Frog: I liked what Disney did with this tale, turning the princess into a frog as well, but the original is still good. I enjoy a good curse.
  • Princess and the Pea: I think I enjoyed this one because I could empathize with the princess. I have always had trouble sleeping, even without a pea to worry about.
  • Cinderella: It’s not just the classic rags-to-riches story I enjoy, but there are so many great adaptations. You can go so many places with this one!
  • Rumpelstiltskin: Just as I enjoy a good curse, I enjoy a good fairy deal. Tricky fairies and their one-up on humans are always fun!

There you have it! That’s my list of favorite fairy tales. What’s yours?


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.