First of all, thank you, Shelley, for giving me this opportunity to talk about food and how it fits into the fantasy universe. After all, even fantasy characters must eat to live. But what are the foods available to them? I usually try to keep it simple so that food becomes a component of world-building.
In 2018, Lee French asked me to write a story for an anthology called Swords, Sorcery, & Self-Rescuing Damsels. In my heart, I knew it had to be set in the Tower of Bones world of Neveyah, and I wanted my heroine to be as complex and inventive as women are in reality. I had wanted to do a story featuring the minotaur soldiers of the Bull God, and this provided an opportunity to show them as human.
My protagonist is a slave, a woman whose tongue was cut out in her childhood. She uses a hand language to speak to the other slaves. In the Bull God’s world of Serende, all boys are taken to the priests at age fifteen and remade into minotaurs. Many don’t survive the remaking. Many minotaurs are left mute in the process, so all people of Serende are bi-lingual and use the hand language to communicate.
My protagonist meets a priest of the Goddess Aeos who has been taken prisoner. Against her better judgment, she agrees to carry his sword out of the lands claimed by the Bull God. She must carry it to the Goddess’s city of Braden to tell the Temple what had happened to him.
She walks out of her master’s domain and into the vast thorn forest with nothing but a sewing kit and carrying a weapon she has no idea how to use. When she leaves the Shadow Castle, she leaves her slave name behind.
She must forage for food, and in the thorn forest, there are some resources for those who know what to look for. The few yar blossoms and noe roots at the edge of the shallow creeks will keep me alive, but hunger is my companion. With my mutilation, I must chew carefully, chew and chew until they’re soft enough to swallow without choking.
She rescues a wounded minotaur soldier, Kerk. He gives her the name of Thorn Girl, and she embraces it.
Over the next few days, Thorn Girl tends Kerk’s wounds. Despite his terrible injuries, he guides her to the safer paths. She can forage but doesn’t know how to hunt, and Kerk is too ill. In the first days, he is able to fish, serving her raw fish, which she eats but isn’t sure she enjoys. They don’t dare have a campfire, so raw fish, yar blossoms, and noe roots are the sum of their diet but they don’t starve.
“Thorn Girl” is not a romance or a tale of sword-swinging prowess, but it does explore true strength and endurance. It is a tale of faith in the face of tragedy, bravery in the face of the unknown, and loyalty to the end.
I was so honored to have this little story appear with the amazing works included in Swords, Sorcery, & Self-Rescuing Damsels. Each and every tale in that volume celebrates the resourcefulness and resilience of women in all walks of life.
Again, thank you, Shelley, for this chance to discuss fantasy food and how acquiring food and what the characters eat helps to show the world in which a story is set.
Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Connie!