REWRITING MYTHS AND LEGENDS
Andrew Richardson is the author of The Footholder’s Tale, a re-telling of an ancient Welsh story where a maidenly Footholder (almost literally one who holds, or massages, an injured foot) is the only hope to save the king’s life and soothe his battle-injured foot. However, his nieces and nephews scheme to win over the Footholder… a plot that could cost the king’s life. Will the Footholder overcome the treachery and save the king? You’ll have to read and find out!
Here, Richardson tells us why he loves retelling old stories…
Rewriting Myths and Legends
By Andrew Richardson
I realised a long time ago that I loved reading retellings of ancient myths and legends. The books I enjoyed ranged from modern versions of the stories of Arthur and Merlin to the darker tales of the Aztecs in Central America. I’ve always been keen on history and I was fascinated by how writers retold the stories I’d already read in books of traditional tales.
Now, years later as a writer, I still find old stories fascinating and I get a buzz out of putting my own slant on them, for several reasons.
Firstly, I’m not very good at thinking up plots. One of the reasons myths and legends stand the test of time is because they are good, solid stories, so if I decide to rewrite one I know I’m starting off with the advantage of a strong plot.
Old stories don’t tend to be very long, although they have a developed plot. Most are short enough to be ideal bedtime stories for young children, for example. Expanding these takes to novel length gives the writer a wonderful opportunity to explore the settings and stories more deeply by throwing in the mix of sub plots that novels demand. One of the joys of doing this is accepting the challenge of keeping true to the story’s feel and the period’s history.
Another reason I get a buzz from retelling old stories is the fun I can have with the characters. The originals tend not to worry about characterisation, which gives the writer a wonderful chance to develop the details. For example, in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, we don’t know much about Jack’s mother, except that she is a widow and scolds Jack for being lazy. That gives great scope for expanding her. Is she still glamorous despite assumed middle-age? Is she on the lookout for a new husband? Maybe one of the reasons Jack climbs the beanstalk is to prove to his mother he’s brave enough to act as the man of the house instead of a possible new stepfather. The possibilities are endless, without straying from the original story.
These are points that made writing my Rebel ePublishers novel, ‘The Footholder’s Tale’, so much fun. It’s based on one of a collection of Welsh stories known as ‘The Mabinogion’, and the original is only a few thousand words long. I loved being able to flesh out the tale with sub-plots of my choice. The real pleasure, though, was the main character. Goewin – the current footholder who I made my heroine – is a minor player in the original and we know next to nothing about her, or even what being a footholder entails. I decided to tell the story largely through her eyes because I could give her any personality I wanted, and it was great fun moulding her and her footholding task to the needs of the tale I wanted to write.
While ‘The Footholder’s Tale’ isn’t my first venture into historical fantasy, it’s the first time I’ve tried a direct retelling of an ancient story. I enjoyed it so much I’m already drafting the next.