ellen datlow (ellen_datlow) wrote,
ellen datlow

Preface to The Beastly Bride edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Here's the preface to our new YA anthology The Beastly Bride.

Some time in the next few weeks Charles Tan will be conducting a series of interviewing with each contributor. I'm not sure yet where they'll be running, but will let you all know when I know and when they start.

Werewolves, vampire bats, fox demons, the Animagi in the Harry Potter books, and Beast Boy/Changeling in the Teen Titans comics. What do all these characters have in common? They are shape-shifters. More specifically, they are therianthropic figures, capable of transforming between human and animal shape. And as such, they are part of a mythic tradition as old as storytelling itself.
Although the werewolf is undoubtedly the best known human-to-animal shapeshifter in popular culture today, when we turn to world mythology we find that transformation legends are attached to almost every kind of animal--as well as to a wide variety of birds, fish, reptiles, and even insects. Shape-shifting can be voluntary, as in the many stories of witches who turn into hares, owls, or turkeys (yes, turkeys!). Or it can be involuntary, like the men The Odyssey who are turned into swine by Circe. In some mythic traditions, the Animal People (with human and animal characteristics intermingled) were the first inhabitants of the earth, from whom all two-legged and four-legged beings have descended. In other traditions, only certain special people can claim to such mixed-blood ancestry—Siberian shamans descended from swans, for example, or Irish wise-women with seal blood in their veins, or Malayasian animist priests who honor the tiger as their ancestral spirit. The therianthropic tales of myth can thus be divided into three (overlapping) strains: stories of gods, men, and supernatural creatures who shape-shift between animal and human forms; stories of those who have been transformed from one state to another against their will; and stories of animal-human hybrids, whose bodies and natures reflect both worlds.
In this book, you'll find brand new stories inspired by animal transformation legends from around the world, re-told and re-imagined by some of the very best writers working today. We're defining “animal” loosely here, for in addition to stories of bears, cats, rats, deer, and other four-footed creatures we have shape-shifting birds, fish, seals, and fire salamanders, and a yeti's child. In myth, many therianthropic tales involve the marriage of a human man or woman to an animal or animal-like monster...and so there are also some wonderful beastly bride (and bridegrooms) in the pages ahead.
The Beastly Bride is the fourth volume in our “mythic fiction” anthology series for Young Adult readers, each volume dedicated to a different aspect of world mythology. In the previous volumes, we've explored the legends of the forest, the folklore of faeries, and trickster tales. This time, we will follow deer tracks through the snow, wrapped up in cloaks made of feathers and fur. As the moon starts to rise, the edges of the world start to shift and blur....
Let's go.
Tags: the beastly bride


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