John Marco visits Fantastic Fables today with his thoughts on the fairy tale of The Steadfast Tin Soldier. His new novel The Forever Knight is the fourth novel in the Bronze Knight series and was released on April 2, 2013.
The Steadfast Tin Soldier
Fairy tales. I never realized quite how much they influence modern fantasy stories until Kristie invited me to submit a post for the Fantastic Fables event. Kings, princess, dragons.. modern fantasy fiction is littered with the trappings of fairy tales, so it was tough to settle on a subject for this guest blog. At first I was going to talk about Beauty and the Beast, because folks who’ve read my first book, The Jackal of Nar, might remember the character of Tharn, a horribly disfigured man who was in love with the beautiful heroine of the book, Dyana. I’ve found that I’ve come back to that “beauty and the beast” theme again and again in my storytelling. So in a way, I’ve already retold that tale.
But there is another, less familiar fairy tale that I love—that of the Steadfast Tin Soldier, written by Hans Christian Anderson back in 1838. Like a lot of old fairy tales, this one has a kind of tragic theme to it, which is exactly the kind of story that I love! It’s the tale of a little toy soldier made out of tin, but he only has one leg because he was the last solider cast, and I suppose the toy maker ran out of tin to complete him. The soldier falls in love with a beautiful ballerina made out of paper, because the first time he sees her she is standing in a ballet position that makes her look as if she too has only one leg. But love is never easy, of course, and in the story the poor Tin Soldier falls out of a window, encounters a mean rat, and gets swallowed by a fish. He’s eventually reunited with his beloved ballerina, but a boy inexplicably throws him into a fireplace. Then, a gust of wind blows the paper ballerina into the fire too. They die, obviously, but the tin soldier melts into the shape of a heart.
That’s how Hans Christian Anderson told it, at least. A bit bleak, certainly, but I’m always up for a good, grim fantasy story. My own character, Lukien, is a bit of a bleak fellow himself. He’s mostly referred to as the Bronze Knight (Tin? Bronze?), but in his latest story he takes on the name “the Forever Knight,” because he carries a magic sword that makes him pretty much immortal. Like the Tin Solider, Lukien also has a beloved. Her name is Cassandra, but unfortunately for them Cassandra fell into her own version of a fire a long time ago. Thankfully, she is still alive in another realm, and Lukien is able to communicate with her from time to time, but he’s not able to actually see or touch her. For that reason primarily, he looks upon his immortality as a curse, because it forever dooms him from being together with Cassandra.
Anderson’s tale of the Steadfast Tin Soldier has been retold several times already. For those who have seen Disney’s Fantasia 2000, there’s a fantastic animated sequence that re-imagines the story somewhat, and is definitely worth seeing (hint—it’s on Youtube if you want to check it out). Like Beauty and the Beast and my earlier books, I feel as though I’ve already retold the story of the Steadfast Tin Soldier in my own way. Lukien certainly has the Tin Soldier’s heart, and he certainly has the same devotion to the woman he loves. And, like Anderson’s original telling, there’s death and violence in my version. I remember someone posting a review of The Eyes of God (my first book about Lukien) in which they said the book should be read with a Valium, it’s that depressing. But it isn’t! Okay, it’s grim in parts, but it’s life-affirming too. Just like that melting heart in Anderson’s tale.
Love goes on, even when life doesn’t.
My name is John Marco, and I write fantasy stories. I’m also a husband, a father, and a proud, admitted nerd.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I have early memories of pounding the keys of my sister’s typewriter, writing my first stories and dreaming of the day I’d be published. I managed to reach that goal back in 1999 with the publication of my first book, The Jackal of Nar. Since then I’ve had six additional books published, and more are on the way.
I love blogging and spend a fair amount of time here talking about ephemera. So if you like movies, comic books, and retro, you’ll feel right at home. If you have any questions about my books or anything else, feel free to contact me.
Want to read more from John Marco?
Available April 2, 2013 from DAW/Penguin
About this Book:
Lukien is the Bronze Knight, beloved by his kingdom and renowned in battle throughout his world. After betraying his king and losing his beloved, he wishes only for death, but rather than die, Lukien is given a chance for redemption: to be the protector of the Inhumans—those fragile mortals who live deep in the desert, far from the prying eyes of their world. These remarkable individuals have been granted magical powers in exchange for the hardships and handicaps life has handed them. And Lukien, now immortal himself, must be their champion. But how can one man, even an immortal warrior, protect hundreds from a world of potential enemies?
Click HERE to read an excerpt
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