Friday, August 10, 2012

Atalanta Retold: TCWT's August Blog Chain

The theme for this month’s blog chain is…
“Write a retelling of your favorite fairytale, myth, or legend.”

My favourite fairy tale type stories have always been unconventional retellings (ie. Dealing with Dragons, Wicked), so this was a difficult prompt for me.

But then I remembered the story of Atalanta from the "Free to Be... You and Me" tape I listened to ALL THE TIME as a kid. That was already a reimagined story, retold with a slightly utopian feminist message. When I read the original (spoiler alert: the 'hero' is a cheater) I got so steaming mad I knew I had to give Atalanta back some power - and maybe some less than honest skills of her own. 

The Goddess Knows Best
When I was born, the king cursed Artemis for three days and three nights. It didn't change anything, and my mother sighed and told him, "the goddess knows best."

My father eventually agreed, deciding that my birth was a sign that he was allowed to choose his successor - in the form of my husband.

And so from the moment I could open my eyes I was groomed to attract the best and strongest of princes. I had dancing lessons, deportment lessons, music lessons and every other kind of lesson imaginable. Mother convinced Father I should be able to converse as well, so I had tutors enough to spin my head teaching me a bit everything a prince would know.

I didn't mind the lessons too much though. I even missed them when they ended on my sixteenth birthday, because that was the day the parade of suitors started. Tall princes, short princes, handsome princes, ugly princes... all of them good fighting men, strong as oxes - and plenty about as smart.

For three years I drove my father to despair, rejecting every prince for one reason or another. Mother had told me not to settle - I was a jewel befitting any crown. And while she meant for me to find the best prince possible, the comment had sparked other ideas.

But after three years Father grew tired of waiting and proposed a contest to settle the matter once and for all. We would hold a footrace, and the winner would win my hand in marriage as well. Since I would have rather cut off my own hand than give it to some of the princes I knew wanted it, I made some conditions of my own.

The race would occur - but only if I could determine the course, announce it when I pleased, and race it alongside the men. Since I had never been an athlete of any sort, Father was happy to humour me. But I wasn't counting on strength to win.

We announced the race, and princes flocked from every corner of the earth to compete for my hand. By day I watched them train; I flirted and flounced, as empty headed as you please. By night I ran laps of the ballroom, honing my speed as best I could over its hundred yard length.

Come race morning, I still had not shared the details of the course with anyone but Mother. I told her I was arranging for a special someone to win, and she was only too happy to help me.

As we lined up on the starting line, the men grumbled that they still did not know the course.

"But of course not!" I simpered at them. "If I told you, you'd all run off and leave me back here!"

They laughed and agreed not to abandon me.

"Oh good," I said. "I'll tell you the course as we run." It was, after all, technically true.
We set off and I gave the men directions as we ran, playing the bumbling fool. After a few minutes, I started making a joke of the race, sprinted ahead and laughing when they followed me. By the fourth time they knew better and let me get ahead, knowing I would have to stop to catch my breath - and let them catch up.

But each time I ran ahead a little further. Soon, we approached the palace again. I saw Mother in the distance, and slowed down a little. 
When there were only a hundred yards between her and us, I took off sprinting again. The princes laughed.

They stopped laughing when I yelled that the finish line was the Queen. I was already a quarter of the way there.

I heard them cursing and panting behind me, but I crossed the line Mother had drawn in the dirt still easily ahead of everyone. When she realized I had rigged the race for myself, she doubled over with laughter. I did the same - of out exhaustion.

But when I spotted Father approaching I quickly straightened up.

"What is the meaning of this?" he bellowed.

"I won," I said, unable to stop myself from grinning. "My hand is my own." And I was very glad not to have to cut it off to make my point.

Father drew himself up to yell again, but then he looked at all the princes who had tried to catch me, staggering around or collapsed on the ground, and he shrugged.

"I guess you outwitted us all," he said slowly.

I nodded.

"Then... I guess... the crown is yours."

I laughed aloud with delight, laughter that turned near hysterical when Mother looked Father straight in the eye and said, "See? The Goddess knew best."


For more information on various versions of the Atalanta story, click here.

Want to follow our blog chain? Here are the participating parties, day by day:
August 4 – – Musings From Neville’s Navel
August 5 – – Crazy Red Pen
August 6 – – Lily’s Notes in the Margins
August 7 - Olivia’s Opinions
August 8 - – Snippets, Slices, and Scenes
August 9 – – Mark O’Brien Writes
August 10 – – One Life Glory
August 11 – – A Story of a Dreamer
August 12 – – Life, Among Other Things
August 13 – – Blog of a (Maybe) Teen Author
August 14 – - The Teenage Writer
August 15 - – Scribbling Beyond the Margins
August 16 – – Dragons, Unicorns, and Other Random Things
August 17 – – Kirsten Writes!
August 18 – –The Zebra Clan
August 19 – – Miriam Joy Writes
August 20– – All I Need Is A Keyboard
August 21 ––The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer
August 22 – Teens Can Write Too! (announcing next month’s chain)


  1. Nice job! I've never heard of Atalanta before. I'll have to go check out the original.

  2. Oooh, nice! Welcome to the chain!

  3. Ah, that's cool! I'm reminded of the new film, Brave. Although I haven't seen it yet, there's a bit in the trailer where she says that she's shooting for her own hand :D