Tunes for a Monday Morning
Built by books

The glassy hill

The Black Bull of Norroway by John D Batten

Today, two poems based on related fairy tales: "The Black Bull of Norroway," from England, and "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," from Scandinavia....

Norroway in February
Black Bull of Norroway by Anita Lobelby Hannah Sanghee Park

The glassy hill I clomb for thee

For surefooted step, hooves behoove the haver.
The sky redid blue, the woman wavered,

and the black bull (the vanquisher), vanished.
She called out to nothing, and in vain shed

tears until she reached the glass hill’s impasse.
Served her standard fairy tale penance, passim,

served her seven to be given iron
shoes to — at last — scale the hill, the earned

neared end. Each step conquered territory,
The Black Bull of Norroway by Anita Lobelat last, the sleeping prince-once-bull, torrid tearing

of clothes, tearing on one’s clothes, three nights of this
until the prince awakes. How she, exhausted,

must have felt in the at long last, the ever after.
Happily, I guess, but a long time until laughter.



- Published in the November 2013 issue of Poetry magazine.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Kay Nielsen

East of the Sun, West of the Moon by NielsenAn excerpt from
The Seven Pairs of Iron Shoes

by Tracina Jackson-Adams

The first pair of shoes I wore out
was for your forgiveness. Racked with guilt,
I pursued you with single intent,
barely ate or slept, accepted the heat,
the cold, the wet misery and stumbling weariness
as my due. I had failed you. It was only just.

Throughout the second pair, I hated you.
I followed you only because I forgot I could stop.

Many places looked familiar by the third pair,
and I found I knew the coming weather by the taste
of the wind. I was no longer afraid of snakes,
and I placed my feet with care
So as not to trample small things. By the fourth,
I moved silently and did not realize it.

From then on, I roamed for wonder alone,
and slipped through the years like a wolf
East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Kay Nielsenthrough tall grass. I had long since stopped counting
when I heard stories of a land east
of the sun and west of the moon,
and I thought, there's a place I haven't walked to yet....


- Published in Star*Line magazine, issue number 25.2, 2002, & reprinted in The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, Vol. 16,  2003.  The full text of the poem can be found online on various blogs such as this one -- though I don't know if it's ever appeared online with the author's permission, which is why I use an excerpt only here. I do recommend seeking out the full poem; it's a wonderful (and wonderfully sensible) reworking of the fairy tale theme.

The Black Bull of Norroway by John D. Batten

Art above: "Black Bull of Norroway" illustration by John D. Batten (1860-1932), two "Black Bull of Norroway"  illustrations by Anita Lobelthree "East of Sun, West of the Moon" illustrations by Kay Nielsen (1886-1957), and another "Black Bull of Norroway" illustration by John D. Batten.  All rights to Anita Lobel's art and the two poems above are reserved by their creators.