How did “The Turnip, or, How the Whole World Was Brought to Peace” originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
“The Turnip” is a re-telling of a fairy tale by the same name, which for my money is the single strangest story in the entire Grimm canon. The original “Turnip” has always been a source of fascination to me, because it is so clearly parts of two different stories cobbled together, and because one of those is clearly drawing on ancient Germanic mythology (the whole hanging-upside-down-from-a-tree-for-wisdom bit). It’s also a fascinating story in that it just abruptly ends, right in the middle of the story.
The original impetus for writing the story was an argument with a friend, who was trying to say that fairy tales don’t have secret morals and are sometimes just nonsense. He used “The Turnip” as an example and challenged me to do a rewrite of it. That was over fifteen years ago, but I am happy to have won the argument at last.
What was your process like writing this story?
Unlike the other stories in Tales of the Great Sweet Sea, I mostly left the structure of the original alone, both because I think it’s a pretty extraordinary structure and because it’s not exactly a well-known story, so I didn’t worry about boring my readers by repeating things that they already know. I also felt like I probably couldn’t get away with the original ending (which cuts off with the scholar hanging from the tree), so I added a third act with the invasion and so on.
Did you get stuck at any point while writing this? How did you get past that?
Yes! This story has been incredibly problematic. I was stuck on a bunch of language and structure issues for a very long time, mostly trying to replicate the flowery, nested language of Grimm. I got past it by taking around fifteen years to become a better writer.
Is there anything you want to make sure readers noticed?
This is the only story so far where Dusty Boots explicitly disavows responsibility for whether or not it’s true.
Spread the word!