Clever and daring, the artful reimaginings in this delightful collection of ten new tales offer readers another look at the fairy tale villains they thought they knew. Whether they are helping instead of hurting or appearing in unexpected forms, you will never quite look at giants or ogres the same way again. Includes stories by Jessica Lee Anderson, Melanie Cole, K.L. Critchley, J.G. Formato, John Linwood Grant, Justine Cogan Gunn, Laura Keating, Laura Ring, Hope Erica Schultz, and Lisa Timpf.
About the Author
Madeline Smoot has edited several anthologies for kids and teens and is the publisher of CBAY Books. She lives in Dallas, Texas.
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Giants and Ogres
Fairy Tale Villains Reimagined
By Madeline Smoot
CBAY BooksCopyright © 2016 CBAY Books
All rights reserved.
The Call of Pele
Jessica Lee Anderson
* * *
I had imagined the theme for my trip to Hawaii would be "relaxing escape," not "the craziest experience of my life." When I thought of the island, I pictured palm trees, dancing dolphins, colorful flowers, and countless miles of oceans and rainbows. Minus the dancing dolphins and the exaggerated miles of rainbows, most of my expectations were spot on, though the haze blanketing everything limited visibility on the day I landed on The Big Island.
Aunt Genevieve greeted me at the mostly outdoor airport. The expression "my jaw dropped" is cliché, but that's exactly what happened when I first saw her. My aunt wore a black dress that swooped low to expose an expansive tattoo on her chest — a ring of red hibiscus flowers just above her cleavage which formed the base of a volcano erupting into flames up on her neck. Aunt Genevieve's cropped grey hair looked like a ring of ash. Tribal tattoos accentuated her bands of arm muscles. "Aloha, Dahlia!" she said, presenting me with a fragrant yellow and white plumeria lei that tickled my neck.
Several people in the airport stared at my aunt as they passed by, but she must not have noticed or cared. She hugged me so tight she nearly crushed the flowers. "I am glad you're finally here!"
"Me too. I can't believe I'm actually in Hawaii," I said.
"Just make sure you don't move here before you graduate high school, or your mom will kill me." Aunt Genevieve winked before she picked up my luggage as if it weighed a mere ounce.
I laughed. Before I departed San Antonio for the summer, Mom kept warning me that I better not turn into her sister after spending time with her. Aunt Genevieve is Mom's polar opposite, and the story goes that my aunt studied astronomy at the University of Hawaii and never returned back to the mainland. "And no tattoos either, Dahlia," Mom had joked.
"Too bad I don't turn eighteen for another ten months."
"Very funny," Mom had said, but she didn't have to worry because I'd never be brave enough to get as inked as my aunt. Wait until Mom saw a picture of her sister's latest chest tat.
My eyes burned from the Hawaiian haze, but Aunt Genevieve got the wrong idea as we walked to her car, a beat up Prius that Mom's suburban could've eaten for lunch. The windows were rolled down.
"I bet your mom is missing you like crazy too," she said.
A trip to Hawaii without a smothering parent? No tears here. Mom was probably too busy setting up shop as a writer-in- residence at some foreign university for the next six weeks to miss me much anyway. She'd arranged my summer plans so I wouldn't be alone while she was away, and Aunt Genevieve amazingly covered all my expenses.
"I know you're far from home, but I'll take good care of —" Aunt Genevieve started to say, but she stopped when I coughed.
"Ahh, I see. It's the vog," she said as if that made all the sense in the world.
"Volcanic air pollution. Vog. Madame Pele is showing her wrath today. It's just a coincidence with your arrival, I'm sure," she said and then mumbled something that sounded like a prayer.
I laughed again, but Aunt Genevieve's eyes narrowed as if I'd disrespected her, or worse, disrespected this Madame Pele she'd spoken of a moment before.
That was the second time I'd heard about Madame Pele in less than a few hours. The couple sitting next to me on our very long flight talked about island hopping to Oahu to snorkel at some popular spot and to see Pele's Chair. Supposedly, the chair was an enormous lava formation they said was Madame Pele's throne. I overheard them discuss how some missionary had tried to destroy the monument but never could.
"Is this Madame Pele a giant witch or something?" I asked as I looked around at my new surroundings. The area was nothing more than an endless bed of black lava, not the tropical version of Hawaii I had in mind.
"A giantess who can take on many forms, yes, but most importantly, a goddess. The goddess of volcanoes." Aunt Genevieve went on to explain how Pele is compassionate yet volatile and how there are many versions of the way her spirit came to occupy the Kilauea volcano. "The giantess created this destruction, this growth," my aunt said, pointing at the lava fields.
"Are you some kind of witch doctor to know so much?" I blurted out.
"Some of the people I know call me kahuna," she said as if that answered my question.
We stopped talking, and I surveyed the land. White rocks, coral actually, stood out against the fresh black lava. Some people had arranged the coral to form shapes like hearts and letters. TK & PC 4ever. Aloha. RIP Eli. And then I saw my name. Dahlia. Surely, it's not the most common name. I shrugged off the strangeness — it's not a totally uncommon name either.
The Prius groaned as my aunt drove to the uplands, passing some breathtaking sights including Mauna Kea, the tallest peak in all of the state. The tropical foliage became thick, but then the scenery shifted once again, this time to more like Texas countryside as we neared my aunt's home in Waimea. No joke, one of the signs said "Whoa" instead of "Stop."
"One night after a late shift at the observatory, I saw an old lady with long stringy gray hair standing over there alone," Aunt Genevieve said, pointing off in the distance near a narrow road. "I thought she was lost, so I stopped to help her. Her voice was gravelly when she asked if I had a light for her cigarette. I plugged my car lighter in for her, but when I turned around, she'd vanished." Aunt Genevieve snapped her fingers for effect.
"There's no way an old lady could've run off that fast or could've hidden. It was Madame Pele in one of her forms, testing me."
My skin prickled at the story or maybe it was because the temperature had dipped now that we were in the uplands. It was sixty something degrees, much cooler than the near triple digits back home. I kept my window rolled down though, enjoying the much fresher air in this part of the island.
"And no, I wasn't drunk or hallucinating," my aunt added as if she could read my mind. A short while later she pulled into a gravel lot in front of small shack. "Welcome to my hale."
I had imagined her place was like a hotel room at a fancy beach resort which was pretty dumb of me, I know, especially since I'd seen pictures before. A cattle pasture was nearby that once again reminded me of Texas, only much greener. The closest beach was miles and miles away.
Half of Aunt Genevieve's guest bedroom, where I'd be staying for the next several weeks, was full of envelopes of varying sizes from all over the mainland and a few foreign countries.
"Sorry for the mess. I plan on taking care of these right away," she said.
"Is this fan mail or what?" I asked, regretting I'd brought so many things from home with no place to put them. And why had I packed so many bikinis and not a single sweatshirt?
My aunt chuckled. "I have two jobs actually — one at the observatory as you know, and I recently started taking care of other's misfortunes."
I raised my eyebrows.
"Visitors take lava rocks home even though they're warned not to, or they'll steal some sand from the beaches. Bad luck follows them where they happen to go — the curse of Pele. They can send whatever items back to some visitor's center, but they'll just dump it without a care, or they can send it to me. For a small donation I'll return it with an offering to make peace with Pele."
"So you are a witch doctor?"
"Kahuna," my aunt said and left it at that. She showed me around her hale and pointed out gifts like a beautiful floral painting one of her satisfied clients had mailed her after her bad luck suddenly reversed thanks to my aunt's intervention.
"You up for a trip to the volcano tomorrow?"
I wasn't sure what I believed about Madame Pele, but going to Volcanoes National Park was on my Hawaiian bucket list.
My aunt gave me some time to unpack and encouraged me to contact my mom. Email was easiest given the difference in our time zones. When I got on the computer, the screensaver was a shot of the lava rocks with the coral tagging, identical to what I saw earlier today. There was my name again — Dahlia.
"Weird," Aunt Genevieve said, presenting me a plate of fried rice she'd heated up in the microwave along with a side of fresh sliced pineapple. "I wonder what happened to my photo of the comet?"
I shrugged. "I don't think I pressed anything."
My aunt went to grab me some water, and I wrote Mom a couple of lines to let her know my flights were all on time and I met up with Aunt Genevieve no problem. I held off on telling Mom about her sister's new tattoo plus her Madame Pele superstitions and witch doctor business. Mom was stressed out enough about the writer-in-residence gig.
After I finished my email and gobbled down my lunch, I lingered at the computer for a moment. The comet photograph screensaver had returned and there was no sign of the other picture. Weird indeed.
That night, I had a hard time sleeping, and I doubt it had to do with the fact that my internal clock was five hours ahead. I swear I heard the sound of chanting. I stepped out of the guest room to see if my aunt was doing some bizarre form of yoga in the living room, but the rest of the house was eerily silent.
I heard the noise again as I walked back into my room, almost like a whisper that grew louder the closer I got to the massive pile of envelopes. Exhaustion was playing tricks on my mind. It had to be. One of the envelopes was open so I glanced inside at the lava rock and read the attached letter.
Please accept my donation and apology for wrongfully taking this lava rock as a souvenir. I thought the park ranger had made up the legend about the curse of Pele to keep people from defacing the park. But once I returned to Virginia, I broke my toe, lost my job, and my boyfriend of seven years broke up with me. I'm tired of my bad luck.
Thanks for being an advocate of Hawaiian traditions and for helping me return the rock,
Several other packages were open, and I looked inside those as well to find many similar stories of bad luck, lost jobs, cancer scares, heartbreak, and regret. The chanting stopped, and I finally forced myself to get some shut eye.
Aunt Genevieve let me sleep the entire morning, and the place smelled like bacon and coffee when I woke up the next day. Her kitchen looked like a florist's shop given the piles of thick green leaves and fragile pink orchids scattered on the table.
"These are to make things right with Pele for my clients when we visit the volcano," my aunt explained.
"Okay, sure," I said, though I wasn't sure why or what or how. I debated about telling her about the chanting last night as I chugged down two cups of coffee and ate one of the best breakfasts, especially compared to the dry bran cereal Mom and I ate almost every morning. I decided against it to avoid confessing that I looked through the mail without her permission. I volunteered to clean up and helped my aunt grab the leaves, flowers, and packages which we set in the back seat of the Prius.
The national park was a couple of hours away, and Aunt Genevieve played tour guide for me, pointing out macadamia nut and coffee plants. She clearly loved Hawaii. I couldn't imagine belonging anywhere the same way she did, native or not.
The plants near the volcano park grew thick and lush and my aunt mumbled something, perhaps another prayer. She pulled over to the side of the road close to a military camp. "This is one of the spots where we'll return a lava rock," she said.
We walked behind a cabin, and then Aunt Genevieve wrapped a lava rock in one of the green leaves from the kitchen, a ti leaf for good luck she said, and set it on the ground with a beautiful orchid set on top as an offering to the giantess Pele. She chanted something in Hawaiian that sounded like an awful lot of vowels strung together, and then she patted the tattoo of the volcano on her chest. Her hand thumped against her ribcage.
Mom would've been seriously worried about her sister.
After we got back in the car, we made some small talk about how my mom was doing and what my life was like in Texas, but I kept thinking of all the recent strange happenings. My mind felt fuzzy the closer we got to the Halema'uma'u crater. A thick plume of smoke billowed from the gas vent, and sulfur tinged the air.
"We'll stop at the observation tower at dusk for an amazing view," my aunt said, and she drove us to a lava tube where she wanted to release two other bad-luck-stolen-lava-rocks.
The walk to the tunnel was otherworldly with giant ferns and other green plants towering over us. As I stepped on the wooden bridge to enter the tunnel, a bird screeched as if warning me. The ground vibrated.
"Did you feel that?" I asked my aunt.
"Feel what? The bridge is damp," she said, "be careful."
I walked on ahead into the darkness of the cave-like lava tube, imagining how molten hot lava pushed its way through the same spot hundreds of years ago to form this place. Electric lights hung from the top of the tube to illuminate the rock path.
"Why don't you go on and explore while I release these other rocks?" Aunt Genevieve said. "We can meet up by the bench on the other side of the tube."
I wanted to cling to her strong arms, but I felt a pull tugging me forward. I entertained the idea that it might be Pele but dismissed it. Then the ground rumbled again, and the lights flickered.
"It's okay," I said under my breath, hoping one of the nearby tourists didn't hear me talking to myself. They weren't phased by the light mishap or the ground quaking.
The texture on the wall looked like the lava rocks, yet smoother. The pattern was wavy in some spots and cloud-like in others. The shapes seemed to swirl and form a large gorgeous face. I went to rub my fingertips along the minerals on the wall to trace the shape of the face, but the lights went out completely.
My heart strummed, almost to the same beat as the chant I heard in the room last night. "Pele?"
The ground quaked, stronger this time.
"Have mercy on me," I whispered, still not sure what I believed, but my awe of this giantess, this goddess, had grown considerably.
The lights popped back on. I walked ahead looking around for my aunt or for any other tourists to check to see what they'd witnessed, but I was all alone.
I raced out of the tunnel, breathless, and stood near the bench waiting for my aunt, my nerves vibrating from the experience in the lava tube.
"Do the lights always turn off like that?" I called out as soon as I saw my aunt's crop of ashy hair. I nearly knocked her over out of relief.
She looked at me with surprise. "They've been on every time I've come here."
I explained what happened, sounding like I was high from the sulfuric air.
"Madame Pele is calling you," Aunt Genevieve said.
What in the world did that mean? Even my ultra-knowledgeable aunt had no idea. "I suppose you will find out, Dahlia."
So much for reassurance.
When we got back to the car, the chant sounded again, though my aunt claimed she couldn't hear it. I knew this time it was coming from the stolen rocks and sand. I ached to return everything in the back seat of the Prius — Pele's precious property.
We reached the observation tower at the Hale-ma'uma'u crater at dusk, just as Aunt Genevieve had planned. The view took my breath away as the sky cast a golden hue over the caldera. A massive stream of white gas vented from the crater as if it was taking part in an ancient dance. The earth throbbed with energy and life.
"Madame Pele's home," Aunt Genevieve said as if she felt the force as well.
We watched as the sun dipped below the horizon and darkness overcame the heavens. The gas vent was no longer visible — the crater now flamed red from the lava lake churning below. As I stared in wonderment, the shape of a woman appeared in the red glow, this time considerably larger than the image in the lava tube. Her facial features were more distinct and fiery hibiscus flowers crowned her head, much like the tattooed flowers on my aunt's chest.
My aunt gasped, and I knew she saw Madame Pele too. "We've witnessed what very few have." She whispered another prayer, and I bowed my head this time.
I wasn't sure what to do say or do. I called on her name. "Pele." The top of my foot burned for a mere instant. My nerves registered the pain, and then I felt a calmness I've never known before.
I sat on the rock wall and offered up a prayer of my own, for doubting, for judging, to know more. The words tumbled out from my soul.
"I'm impressed you studied so much Hawaiian before your trip," Aunt Genevieve said.
What in the world just happened? Had I actually spoken Hawaiian?
I traced my fingers against the rock wall, trying to understand. I still wasn't sure what all had happened, but I was determined to find out over the next couple of weeks and to understand my connection to the island, to the volcano, and Pele.
When I checked my foot when we got back in the Prius, the spot was singed a grayish black in the shape of a small lava rock. The mark felt painless and flat. Nor did it rub off when I tried.
"Pele has not only called to you, she's left her mark."
Dumbfounded. There's another cliché, but no other word describes how I felt in that moment. Did this make me a kahuna of sorts? I wanted the answer to be yes.
The mark is still there, even after a couple of trips to the beach. Aunt Genevieve thinks it might be permanent. Mom is going to freak out if it is still there when I get back to Texas. The reality is I'm still freaking out about my tattoo and the entire experience.
At least my other promise to Mom will be true — I will return to the mainland and finish high school in San Antonio, and then who knows? Madame Pele's calling continues to grow stronger, and I haven't even left the island yet.
Excerpted from Giants and Ogres by Madeline Smoot. Copyright © 2016 CBAY Books. Excerpted by permission of CBAY Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Contents1. The Call of Pele Jessica Lee Anderson,
2. A Requiem for the Fallen Lisa Timpf,
3. City of Giants Laura Ring,
4. What Verity Knew Justine Cogan Gunn,
5. Larger Than Life Hope Erica Schultz,
6. Hungery John Linwood Grant,
7. Bread and Bones Laura Keating,
8. The Catch Melanie Cole,
9. Giant's Song K.L. Critchley,
10. Watch J.G. Formato,