This is for a possible Sirens presentation. The theme this year is "retold tales."

Can you recommend to me fantasy media or myth in which female characters, in some sense, alter reality by telling stories about it?

This "altering reality" doesn't have to be magic in itself; the ultimate example is Scheherazade, who changes the world by telling stories. There's also Martha's world-changing storytelling in Doctor Who.

The other examples I thought of were magical: Paperhouse (girl creates spooky new reality by drawing it), Fudoki (a dying princess of the Heian court writes a story about a cat who becomes a woman; she may or may not create a reality in which the story is true), The Secret Country (kids create a fantasy world, then travel to it and find that it is and isn't as they imagined), The Tricksters (characters from a girl's lush fantasy narrative show up, again not exactly as she pictured them), Voices (Annals of the Western Shore) (spoilery but sort of fits), Witch Week (the entire climax depends on a girl telling a story which alters reality.)

Can you think of others? Especially, examples from myth and folklore, and examples which aren't about white girls?

ETA: If you rec something, please explain how it fits.
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oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)

From: [personal profile] oyceter


I don't know how much this works, since there isn't much actual storytelling or writing involved, but I feel like Utena is very much about Utena trying to change the narrative of fairy tales by becoming the prince, and in the movie, she and Anthy literally break out of the screen via naked car forms. Kind of edge case, but mostly the frame of the episodes and the silhouette puppet narrator girls in each episode reminded of this.
Edited (is != isn't) Date: 2012-04-18 09:18 pm (UTC)
cereta: Silver magnifying glass on a book (Anjesa's magnifying glass)

From: [personal profile] cereta


I wanted to thank you for mentioning Fudoki here. I'm reading it right now, and am in utter bliss.

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staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)

From: [personal profile] staranise


Two white-girl examples: Widdershins by Charles de Lint (woman uses story to alter the landscape of fairyland) though now that I think of it it's a recurring trope in his stuff, like a painter in Memory and Dream; Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, where the protagonist has the ability to make things real by reading them aloud, then applies this ability to reading things she's written.

Actually, spoiler for Memory and Dream: the painter ends up painting a version of herself which comes alive and leaves the painting--with a similar version of another woman, to give them a chance at a romantic relationship real life denied them.
Edited Date: 2012-04-18 09:01 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


Man, I have about 987654321 actual books around here like this, only I am fighting a migraine and can't think. argh.
zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (read)

From: [personal profile] zeborah


Fire and Hemlock is about a white girl writing a story that becomes/turns out to be true.
dorothean: detail of painting of Gandalf, Frodo, and Gimli at the Gates of Moria, trying to figure out how to open them (Default)

From: [personal profile] dorothean


Another white girl example, heh: James Tiptree, Jr.'s "With Delicate Mad Hands."

It was noted before that CP had one total secret. The fact that she planned to steal a ship and fly out to her death she of course kept secret. But it was not her Secret...

"The Empire" was. The Empire of the Pigs.

The Empire was everything and nothing. It was basically only a story, a voice unreeling endlessly in her head. It had started before she could remember, and gone on ever since. It accounted for the inhuman sanity of her behavior, for her unshakable endurance under intolerable stress...
thistleingrey: (Default)

From: [personal profile] thistleingrey


Catherynne Valente's Orphan's Tales, I think, though it's hard to tell via all those layers to what extent the world is changed. Someone goes to hell and back, more than once, in more than one cultural context. I'd have to dig out the books to be more specific, sorry; perhaps someone else can help.
Edited Date: 2012-04-19 02:59 am (UTC)
rymenhild: gears from anime series Princess Tutu (The gears of the story)

From: [personal profile] rymenhild


Yes. The best example in The Orphan's Tales is the Girl in the Garden, the protagonist of the frame story and the first storyteller. The Girl goes from utter loneliness to having a great friend and an extended family through the act of reading/retelling the stories that have been written on her eyelids.

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rymenhild: A small toddler puppet carrying a bright red letter. (Uzura has a LETTER)

From: [personal profile] rymenhild


Both of the storytellers, the characters who are able to change reality specifically by writing it, in Princess Tutu are male. But the two primary female characters (and at least one secondary female character) have moments when they declare they refuse to act in the way the story and its tellers demand of them, and these refusals in themselves change the story's direction. When Duck says (rot13), "V ershfr gb inavfu!" at the end of the first season, and when Rue qrpynerf gung fur ybirf Zlgub, guhf serrvat Zlgub sebz uvf fcryy, jura Qhpx jnf fhccbfrq gb oernx gur fcryy naq inavfu vagb n fcrpx bs yvtug, near
the end of season two, they change and improve the stories in which they participate.
genarti: ([tutu] gears grind you down)

From: [personal profile] genarti


I was going to mention Princess Tutu -- the literal storytellers are male, yes, but several of the characters are very aware that they're living in a story shaped by a storyteller, and both Rue and Duck consciously choose not to go along with the story, but to take agency in their own lives instead. (Edit: and arguably Uzura, too. Who doesn't have a storyteller's role, but she still has story-related powers and choices.)
Edited Date: 2012-04-19 02:14 pm (UTC)
marycontrary: (Default)

From: [personal profile] marycontrary


Greenwitch, Susan Cooper, reasons here: http://lightreads.dreamwidth.org/126856.html

Solstice Wood, Patricia McKillip: the sewing and gossip circle stiches up the boundaries between our world and Farie, then the stories the Elf Queen slips out to them convince them to change how they defend the line. Actually, a whole ton of McKillip's stuff has storytelling as plot elements, though I won't swear that the majority are women.

Fushigi Yuugi, er, I forget who wrote it. An old shojo anime. The girls fall into a story, live it, change it/embody it, the readers interact with it.

House of Leaves? Admittedly, the only female storyteller voice is Poe's music. The story is such a gorgeous use of framing devices that you should read it if you haven't. Um, some time you're not going to need to sleep with the lights off any too soon.
mildred_of_midgard: (Default)

From: [personal profile] mildred_of_midgard


If drawing counts, one of the infinitely many books in the Richard and Kahlan series by Terry Goodkind has at least one female character who makes things happen by drawing them. Maybe someone else will remember which book, whether she was white, etc.

From: [identity profile] swan-tower.livejournal.com


Polly Whittaker in Fire and Hemlock. She and Thomas Lynn collaboratively tell a story that shapes the entire novel.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


Thanks! Perfect example.

I feel like DWJ did that trope more than twice, but I can't think of other examples.

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skygiants: mermaid; text, 'teach me to hear mermaids singing (teach me to hear mermaids)

From: [personal profile] skygiants


The recent anime Mawaru Penguindrum features a character (Japanese) who explicitly shifts realities by writing the change that she wants to make down in her diary. The penalties for making this kind of change are written on her body -- she saves the life of an animal, and comes to school the next day with a burn scar. Saving the life of another child carries a much more significant cost.

Would Princess Tutu count? I mean, technically the men -- Drosselmeyer and Fakir -- are the traditional storytellers, but Duck is the one who changes the narrative by insisting on the possibility of a happy ending.

Pretty much all of Catherynne Valente's books that I've read deal with this in one respect or another, but the most obvious fit is The Orphan's Tales, a pair of books in which the titular female orphan tells a complex and interwoven series of stories and, in the telling of them, makes the conclusion happen. In keeping with the Scheherezade feel, the frame setting is Middle Eastern, although I forget exactly what background the orphan turns out to come from except that it's EXTREMELY COMPLICATED.

In Labyrinth, Sarah tells a story about goblins taking away her brother, and they do. It's strongly implied that the Labyrinth itself sprang out of Sarah's imagination and all the influences around her; she escapes it by telling herself a story in which David Bowie and his terrifying tight pants have no power over her.

There is also Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters and Witches Abroad, which is kind of a different twist in that in both those books, a villain is altering reality with a false story, and the female protagonists re-tell the story in order to set the world straight.

DON'T GO AWAY, I'M SURE I'VE GOT MORE.

From: [identity profile] swan-tower.livejournal.com


Whatsherface in Death Note is also able to write changes into reality, though it's more limited than what you describe for Mawaru Penguindrum.

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From: [identity profile] sovay.livejournal.com


Both Greer Gilman's Moonwise (1991) and Cloud & Ashes (2009); although they can be read independently, there are ways in which the second book is entirely the fallout of the world-altering myth-telling climax of the first book.

From: [identity profile] justice-turtle.livejournal.com


This seems like kind of an edge case to me, and also I can't think of a good example, but how about the "wise old woman tells the protagonist a story that then has a crucial influence on the book's climax" story type? Oddly, most of those I can recall in detail have male storytellers (Cornelia Meigs did several books on this plan, all with male storytellers iirc) - except Elizabeth Enright's (non-fantasy) Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away, both of which feature a male and a female storyteller leading the child protagonists to explore their hidden town and eventually open it up to outside influence again.

(Whoa. I didn't realize the Gone-Away books would sound so mythical when I tried to describe them in terms of storytelling. Wow.) Anyway, the second book fits the pattern I just described more closely, iirc.

From: [identity profile] janni.livejournal.com


Although it's originally Drosselmeyer telling Princess Tutu's story, she does take some control of it and its outcome by the end. And even though her Tutu self has to play out the role assigned to her (turn into a speck of light and disappear) her Duck self heads off into her own story (hanging in the pond and with Fakir and generally being her own self).

I'd need to reread The Hero and the Crown to be sure, but isn't it Aerin's imagining herself as a hero and dragonslayer that sets her to working out ways to slay dragons?

And Tiernay West in Secret of the Three Treasures is totally about altering reality by telling her own stories about it. :-)

From: [identity profile] torrilin.livejournal.com


Pretty much all of Diane Duane's Wizards books. It's pretty literal in High Wizardry where Dairine and the entity that becomes Spot redesign a solar system by rewriting how it is described. But the idea is there in all of 'em. While I'm not sure the author intends it that way, I read Juanita and Dairine's mom as Hispanic (partly so Nita's name makes sense, and partly because otherwise she doesn't make much sense as an east coast Catholic mommy), and their dad as distantly Irish-Catholic, like Irish Potato Famine vintage for immigration. This has the nice side effect of making Aunt Annie's Irish immigration make a little more sense.

From: [identity profile] akamarykate.livejournal.com


In Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books, the idea that story shapes the world runs deep, and in I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany takes control of the story the Cunning Man wants to tell about her and twists it back on him by using folk customs. It's kind of a slantwise example of what you're talking about, but the underlying premise is there.

From: [identity profile] erikagillian.livejournal.com


Lots of ideas like this in Pratchett, he talks about urban legends that really happen in Witches Abroad, and stories as living things that try and twist people into their forms, rather than the other way around. Belief is so strong on the Discworld that it can create gods, so if you get a myth or legend or fairytale enough belief, it will become true. I can't think of specific incident off the top of my head except the ones already mentioned, but he talks about this kind of thing a lot.

From: [identity profile] marzipan-pig.livejournal.com


In one of Samuel Delaney's books there's a character who tells stories and then tells a ruler/king a story about himself that turns into an escape somehow, but it might not be a female character.

Then there's something else like that in either an Angela Carter book or Hesse's Steppenwolf (that I must have read at around the same time?) that is about a train taking people away but again, not sure of the gender.

This comment is almost totally useless unless someone else recognizes either of these stories and can identify them :)

From: [identity profile] sovay.livejournal.com


Then there's something else like that in either an Angela Carter book or Hesse's Steppenwolf (that I must have read at around the same time?) that is about a train taking people away but again, not sure of the gender.

Without trains, I would count the way the Chance sisters tell their lives (and the lives of others) in Carter's Wise Children (1991).

From: [identity profile] idiosyncreant.livejournal.com


Margaret Mahy's work involves some of this kind of thing -- The Changeover particularly involves a girl's internally constructive narrative changing reality. In Alchemy there are shades of this, as well.

From: [identity profile] idiosyncreant.livejournal.com


"internally constructED narrative" is what I meant.
She dreams/creates her initiation as a witch, though the latent ability is there, so that she can then oppose the villain.

From: [identity profile] movingfinger.livejournal.com


Doesn't this happen in Unquenchable Fire? I haven't read it in a long time, so I could be misremember what becomes of ?Valerie.

From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_swallow/


bookmarking this post for all the fascinating recommendations!

From: [identity profile] innocentsmith.livejournal.com


Well, the first thing that occurs to me is Burnett's A Little Princess which is all about the power of storytelling to give a person strength and affect the lives of the people around them: one of the pivotal plot moments is the heroine, while starving herself, sharing bread with another starving girl because she feels it's what the princess she imagines herself to be. And then the world "magically" changes when her imaginings are overheard and her neighbors decide to make them real.

In the "slightly more of a stretch" category, there's Georgette Heyer's Sylvester, Or: The Wicked Uncle, where the plot centers around the gothic novel the heroine writes, and its uncomfortable (but misleading) resemblance to real world people, including especially the hero, who she's cast as the villain of her plot.

You could also maybe class the folktale The Robber Bridegroom/Mr. Fox and its variants as part of this tradition, as the climax centers around a woman telling a story and the man denying its truth until it's revealed as truth.

From: [identity profile] evalangui.livejournal.com


"Liar" by Justine Larbalestier. Plus Micah is half white, half black. She narrates the story and keeps going back and fixing it since she admits 'she lied a little bit' or 'didn't tell it exactly' or 'forgot this one teensy detail'. Although you could argue all 1rst person POVs work like that, the fact that she keeps fixing it keeps you really aware of how *she* shapes her own narrative. Hope that works :)

From: [identity profile] marfisa.livejournal.com


Although in "Liar," by the end of the book there seems to be a distinct possibility that Micah is at least intermittently insane, instead of (or as well as) suffering from the particular "illness" to which she ultimately attributes most of the teen-angst-bullshit-with-a-body-count that she's been involved in one way or another. So the fantasy element that supposedly explains much of what happens (in different ways depending on the different ways she retells it) may be just a delusion on her part, which could make this story somewhat problematical for Sirens purposes.

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From: [identity profile] mikeda.livejournal.com


Mercedes Lackey's "Five Hundred Kingdoms" series sort of fits. The series is set in a world that's basically run by stories. What the good sorcerers, witches and (especially) godmothers try to do is nudge events onto a more pleasant (or less unpleasant) story and sometimes to tweak an existing story into a more favorable form.

From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com


I'm not sure if the lead character in Millennium Actress counts or not; as Chiyoko tells her story, the videographer and reporter get integrated into the flashbacks and the world, and she basically chose to create her own reality in her life.
ext_6355: (Default)

From: [identity profile] nenena.livejournal.com


(late comment it late)

Bill Thomson's Chalk is a wordless picture book for young children, but I think it definitely fits here. It's about three kids (two girls and a boy) who discover a magic bag of sidewalk chalk. Anything that they draw with the chalk becomes reality - i.e. drawing the sun makes the rain stop, drawing butterflies causes real butterflies to appear, etc. Then boy in the group draw a dinosaur, which, of course, creates a real disaster. I think it was one of the two girls who figured out how to make the drawing that caused the dinosaur to disappear, but it's been a long time since I read the book so I could be wrong about that. Anyway, it's not about girls telling a traditional "story" in the sense that there's a beginning middle and end, due to the nature of the book - there are no words at all - but it's definitely about girls creating their own reality through visual story-telling. It's the girls who find the chalk, the girls who discover the chalk's power, and the girls who save the day in the end.
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