The Princess and the Apple Witch

The Princess and the Apple Witch by Elle Carter Neal
The Princess and the Apple Witch by Elle Carter Neal

The Princess and the Apple Witch is now ready for download directly from either of the following links:

The Princess and the Apple Witch A4 Format (PDF file, large print, 12 pages)

The Princess and the Apple Witch Eco Format (PDF file, smaller print, 3 column landscape setup, 3 pages when printed back-to-back)

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For Parents and Teachers: Author’s Notes

Firstly, here are some general discussion-starter questions you might like to share with your child:

Capability and Self-Sufficiency

In The Princess and the Apple Witch Princess Rosebud learns the value of self-sufficiency and the price of allowing others to control aspects of her life.

  1. What does it mean to be self-sufficient?
  2. What are the advantages of being able to do certain things for yourself?
  3. Is it really important to try to do everything yourself, or are there times when it’s okay to rely on others?
  4. Are there things that you can’t do (yet) that make you feel frustrated?

The Princess and the Apple Witch – Author’s Notes

This was the first story I wrote with the idea of taking a kernel from popular Disney or Brothers Grimm stories and developing characters who demonstrated certain ideals, such as the princess who rescues herself. This story is based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, where I wanted the princess-protagonist to have loving parents who actively engaged with her and respected her choices. The dead-mother-disengaged-father-evil-stepmother trope is almost ubiquitous in fairy stories, so it was the first concept I wanted to throw out. I did still want to explore the idea of a princess lost in the forest, but making her own choices and finding her own way out. With no evil stepmother to set events in motion, and no reason for Rose to flee her home, I brought in a different reason for her to choose to leave the safety of the castle and venture into the forest. The villains are clever and use Rose’s one real flaw against her: she has always trusted and relied on her servants. So, when they attempt to kidnap her, Rose must finally rely on herself to escape.

Faery Armour

When my mind starts developing a story I come to a point where the plot and characters seem to have minds of their own and I’ve sometimes found my stories veering off in directions I wasn’t expecting. Somehow a bit of faery lore crept into this one. The “evil witch” is another trope that I wanted to turn around, so, instead of sheltering with seven dwarves, I decided to give Rose a mysterious mentor who could help her explore the lessons she’d learnt from her narrow escape. I needed a reason Apple Annie herself was unable to do any of the tasks she requested of Rose, so I “tied” her to a project – spinning iron-thread* and weaving it into a chain mail vest. This left Rose with the frustration of not being attended to when she expected it, and earning the reward from doing things for herself and for using her instinct to navigate the contradictions and subtext with which she was presented. She was not rescued by Apple Annie; she had to work for it, and there was every possibility she might prove herself unworthy of receiving the chain mail that would ultimately save her life.

This section may be a little confusing for children. Rose asks for help, but she has to ask in a specific way. She’s not exactly polite to Apple Annie at one point, but, once she realises she is dealing with a member of the faery, she also has to be cautious about being too polite. Some faeries take offense at being thanked, seeing it as a dismissal of their deed. In Western civilisation we would probably expect Rose to behave a bit differently in someone else’s house, especially when that person is an elder. I liked the fact that this highlights how some cultures may differ from ours.

Rose worries about whether she was foolish to accept food and drink. In Snow White we get the message that accepting something from a stranger is dangerous, and this is obviously a good message to remember. But, sometimes, accepting help from someone who is different to us can lead to something good. It comes down to being able to listen to and trust our instincts. Sometimes our own anxiety for our children’s safety can mean that we drive home messages that teach them to question their instincts if they differ from the “rules”, rather than trusting their instincts and questioning the rules. “Always obey your elders” is one such rule that can prove dangerous if internalised.

*Faeries cannot touch iron, so Annie had to wear gloves, but the resulting chain mail would destroy malicious magic. This is why Violet’s magical dagger disintegrates, but the non-magical arrow only breaks, giving Rose a weapon she can use.

Here are the other questions included in the book.

  1. Why do you think Rose and her parents felt it so important to be polite and diplomatic towards Violet, despite their misgivings?
  2. Why do you think Apple Annie wore leather gloves while spinning the chainmail for Rose?
  3. Why do you think Apple Annie appeared to grow younger as she completed her task?
  4. Rose did not thank Apple Annie directly. Do you know why?
  5. Why do you think Rose saw only a ruin when she finally left Apple Annie’s cottage?
  6. Why do you think Violet’s dagger disintegrated when it touched Rose’s chainmail, but the arrow only bounced off?

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