The Troll’s Belt vs. The Blue Belt

Given that The Troll’s Belt is essentially a retelling of Hansel and Gretel—albeit with a good, strong twist—you might imagine that the fairy tale was my inspiration. Oddly enough, it wasn’t!

My starting point was a blue belt featured in one of the Norse Folk tales collected in East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

I could see that blue strap of leather with its ornate buckle so clearly in my mind’s eye, along with the young lad who found it, picked it, and put it on.

Here’s the opening of the folk tale.

The Blue Belt

Once on a time there was an old beggar-woman, who had gone out to beg. She had a little lad with her, and when she had got her bag full she struck across the hills towards her own home. So when they had gone a bit up the hill-side they came upon a little Blue Belt which lay where two paths met, and the lad asked his mother’s leave to pick it up.

“No,” said she, “maybe there’s witchcraft in it;” and so with threats she forced him to follow her. But when they had gone a bit further, the lad said he must turn aside a moment out of the road; and meanwhile his mother sat down on a tree-stump. But the lad was a long time gone, for as soon as he got so far into the wood that the old dame could not see him, he ran off to where the Belt lay, took it up, tied it round his waist, and lo! he felt as strong as if he could lift the whole hill.

The folk tale continues from there in an elaborate sequence of events featuring betrayal, lions and man-eating horses, a princess, a dancing bear, and the King of Arabia.

My own story goes in an entirely different direction. I didn’t want to simply retell The Blue Belt. The Blue Belt is a cool narrative, but I was getting to know my character Brys Arnsson, and I wanted to tell his story.

Brys lives in my North-lands, so it seemed clear trolls—or, a troll—would be involved. From there, my muse swept me away.

I’m not going to say much more, just in case you are reading this post before reading The Troll’s Belt instead of after. But I’d love to chat more about it in the comments. That way any spoilers can be easily avoided by those who wish to.

I will note that the belt of the folk tale is described as “little,” whereas the belt of my story possesses quite a thick strap of leather. Additionally, the folk tale’s belt is tied about the waist; mine has an ornate buckle. And, of course, Brys’s sole parent is his father rather than his mother.

So there are differences from the get-go. The Blue Belt inspired me, but didn’t constrain me.

Have you read The Blue Belt? What did you make of it? It’s the only story in East of the Sun and West of the Moon that names a specific geographic region of our world—Arabia—which seems an anomaly to me. All the others simply speak of the King and his kingdom. Why is The Blue Belt more specific?

I do find the quaint use of capitalization and italics in the folk tales to be quite charming—the King, the Belt, the Horse, the Troll, and so on. It would drive me wild in a novel (or even a novella), but as part of the authentic voice of the Norske Folkeeventyr, I love it.

For more about The Troll’s Belt, see:
The Writing of the Belt

For more about the magic of the North-lands, see:
Magic in the North-lands
Radices and Arcs

 

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A Bundle of Fairies

My story The Troll’s Belt is in the Here Be Fairies bundle along with 12 other titles.

I’m excited about it, because some of the other participating authors are amazing. I’ve enjoyed the works of Leah Cutter, Anthea Sharp, and Kristine Kathryn Rush for several years now. But this bundle also features two of my newest favorites: Alexandra Brandt and Leslie Claire Walker.

Here’s a little bit about the bundle:

Fairies, fair folk, imps, trolls, and pixies—they haunt our myths from Ireland to Iceland and everywhere else. Join in the fairy fun, or fairy fear, as good, bad, and mischievous they show themselves. Dare you take the trip to Fairyland? No one who returns is ever quite the same.

And here’s a quick rundown of the titles that especially caught my interest:

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FUNERAL DIRECTORS DEAL with everything at a funeral, but only a few must handle an influx of flower fairies. Or worse: the arrival of a flower fairy child, alone and unsupervised.

Flower fairies are unpredictable…except when they get angry. And then they become terrifying.

So, what will they do if they think one of their children faces danger?

 

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~ USA Today Bestselling Urban Fantasy ~

WHAT IF A HIGH-TECH computer game was a gateway to the dangerous Realm of Faerie?

Feyland is the most immersive computer game ever designed, and Jennet Carter is the first to play the prototype. But she doesn’t suspect the virtual world is close enough to touch—or that she’ll be battling for her life against the Dark Queen of the faeries.

Tam Linn is the perfect hero, in-game. Too bad the rest of his life is seriously flawed. The last thing he needs is rich-girl Jennet prying into his secrets, insisting he’s the only one who can help her.

Together, Jennet and Tam enter the Dark Realm of Feyland, only to discover that the entire human world is in danger. Pushed to the limit of their abilities, they must defeat the Dark Queen… before it’s too late.

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ON GULL ISLAND in the cold North, Eithni awaits Winter Solstice with pride, resentment, and fear. All signs point to a Taking year. And Eithni, chosen to enter the chamber of the gods, prepares to leave her human community forever.

On the other side of the Stone Door, Sable stands guard in anticipation of a successful solstice, when the veil between worlds will lift…and when her liege, a lightlord of the fae, will claim the human woman who willingly steps across into the Summer realm.

But everything changes when Eithni breaks the rules.

Everything changes when Sable hears a voice from the stone.

A fantasy love story set among the Picts in Iron Age Scotland.

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A faery sword — A haunted mermaid — A fallen angel

WHEN THE FAE SWORD named War transports Amy to the scene of a magical crime, she finds more than a dead man. The oldest Watcher, Shadow, newly reborn, saw the murder. The victim isn’t innocent, and the killer remains on the loose.

Haunted by the past, Amy wields a powerful weapon. But the source of her mermaid magic—her wild, untamed feelings—frightens her. She’s no hero, and yet the fight comes down to her.

She must learn to trust her her magic, her emotions . . . everything, or she and Shadow have no chance of stopping the killer.

If they fail, enchantment—and with it, all the worlds—will never be the same.

A story about awakening magic and lighting the fires of hope.

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THE GREATER OREGON Fairy Kingdom hides beneath the Pacific Ocean cliffs. Between their own lost dreams, battles with the dwarves, and the encroaching humans, the kingdom continues to diminish. Only two young humans can save them now.

Will Dale, the young human Tinker, answer their dreams? Can he repair the malfunctioning clockwork of the kingdom? Help them finish their great machine? Can they make him care enough?

Or will Nora, his twin sister and a human Maker, align herself with the hated dwarves and destroy the fairies instead?

The Clockwork Fairy Kingdom—the first novel in this exciting New Adult trilogy—combines fast-paced action with magic and modern day clockwork. A delightful read for all ages!

Be sure to read the other two books in the trilogy, The Maker, the Teacher, and the Monster and The Dwarven Wars.

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And here’s a little about my own contribution to the bundle, along with some kind words by reviewer James J. Parson.

YOUNG DECEIT sprouts timeless trouble.

Motherless Brys Arnsson digs himself into trouble. Bad trouble. Tricked by a troll in J.M. Ney-Grimm’s richly imagined North-lands, Brys must dig himself and his best friend back out of danger. But that requires courage … and self-honesty. Traits Brys lacks at depth.

A twist on a classic, The Troll’s Belt builds from humor-threaded conflict to white-knuckle suspense.
 
 

The writing style is fantastic. It’s somehow youthful (as it’s through the eyes of a twelve year old) and mature at the same time. Normally, it would be a challenge to discuss…responsibility, loyalty and forgiveness with such a young ‘voice,’ but Ney-Grimm does so easily. The result is a thought provoking tale…” —James J. Parsons

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The Here Be Fairies bundle (including The Troll’s Belt and 12 other titles) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.

For more about other bundles, see:
Here Be Dragons
Spring Surprise
Immortals
Remembering Warriors
Winter Warmer
Mythic Tales
More than Human

 

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The Troll’s Belt in Paperback!

Another paper release to announce: The Troll’s Belt is now available as a trade paperback. I’m thrilled!

Portrait of Brys in front of Ryndal's hillcot

Young Brys Arnsson digs himself into trouble.

Bad trouble.

Tricked by a troll in J.M. Ney-Grimm’s richly imagined North-lands, Brys must dig himself and his best friend back out of danger. But that requires courage . . . and self-honesty. Traits Brys lacks at depth.

A twist on a classic, The Troll’s Belt builds from humor-threaded conflict to white-knuckle suspense.

The Troll’s Belt as a trade paperback:
5″x 8″ trim size • 102 pages
ISBN-10: 0615896294
ISBN-13: 978-0615896298
Amazon.com I Amazon UK I Amazon DE I Amazon ES I B&N I CreateSpace

The Troll’s Belt continues to be available as an ebook:
Amazon.com I Amazon UK I Amazon DE I Amazon ES
B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords

The following review has been on Goodreads for quite a while, but it’s so glowing I can’t resist excerpting it here. 😀

“The writing style is fantastic. It’s somehow youthful (as it’s through the eyes of a twelve year old) and mature at the same time. Normally, it would be a challenge to discuss…responsibility, loyalty and forgiveness with such a young “voice,” but Ney-Grimm does so easily. The result is a thought provoking tale… Heartily recommended, and it’s made me look forward to reading more of her work!”

 

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The Writing of the Belt

The Troll's BeltI had no idea I’d be retelling a renowned folk tale. All I had was the really vivid mind-picture of a wide leather belt, dyed brilliant blue and studded with golden metallic stars, nestling in the reindeer moss of a pine forest. That and the knowledge that a boy would find it.

So, how did I build my story? I almost always start with questions. Who is this boy? Oh, he lives with his father, but there seems to be no mother on the scene, and I have the sense that she’s been absent since he was a baby. Okay. Then how did his father manage? Ah . . . his brother’s wife took care of the boy when he was really little. The two brothers, when they were very young men, purchased a timber claim from Silmaren’s Queen Anora.

My notes show that I digress into examining the nature of the timber claims and fishing claims offered by the crown at this point in the realm’s history. Then I pull myself back to the boy and sketch out a quick account of his childhood. Next my thoughts leap to the skeleton of my story’s plot: the boy finds the belt, he gets in trouble with it, and he only achieves some wisdom in the course of overcoming his trouble.

Hmm. This is the North-lands. If there’s trouble, then of course there’s a troll involved. Surely the belt belongs to this troll. And . . . suddenly, I just know that the troll lives in a rustic cot hollowed from a massive glacial rock.

Naturally, the boy encounters the troll, who wants his belt back. And, oh my, he wants the boy for dinner. Oh! I’m telling Hansel and Gretel. Cool! I think I like it.

copy of actual manuscript notes for The Troll's BeltSo the boy is imprisoned and that mad old troll is going to devour him. Then the boy’s cousin arrives on the scene, and things get even more complicated. Now I need some names. I can’t just keep saying: “the boy” and “the boy’s father” and “the wood-town.” What all do I need? Boy, cousin, father, uncle, aunt, town, troll. This time, for this story, the names just fly into my head without much searching for inspiration.

Then I realize I need to know what the town of Glinhult looks like. At first I think everyone lives in tree houses, but that doesn’t feel quite right. Ah! The older houses are indeed tree houses, remnants from the time when the lumberjacks needed a cheap way to raise their homes off the ground for safety’s sake. Packs of wolves and other predators roam these parts, the wilds of west-lying Gosstrand. Once the work on the timber claim was more advanced and everyone had more money, they could afford to build the more convenient stilt-homes.

So what did Brys’ home look like? I draw a quick floor plan. And make some notes about its idiosyncrasies: the straight door at the bottom of the stairs and the trap at its top. Then I think about what Brys and Jol look like: Brys with shoulder-length red hair; gangly; shorter than his cousin; Jol a bit larger and with long, curly, dark hair pulled back in a horsetail. What chores do the boys do? Suddenly I know that Brys and his father Arn will have an argument about chores. And the specifics of the plot unfold in my mind. I’m there. Time to start writing. On October 20, I begin: “Brys slammed the door behind him and stomped across his room in fury.”

Copy of handwritten list of scenes for storyEach day thereafter I write another installment of the story. Sometimes the scene is so clear, it pours out of my pen (yes, I was writing longhand, ink onto paper) like an enchanted spring welling from sacred ground. Other times I make notes or mini outlines in my margins to get my inner storyteller going: “skip to meeting Jol who is impressed with his daring, but also pretends to object to the tunic borrowing;” or “clasp belt, sudden urgency as body joins mind, leap up, know just what to do.”

On November 4, I write the final words: “’Huh, yourself!’ And Brys aimed a friendly punch at his cousin’s ribs.”

I’d done it! Written the story I would use to test the intricacies of uploading computer files to electronic bookstores. Best to encounter all the error messages and to search for fixes on a short piece of fiction, not a novel!

Of course, I was not finished. I sent the story off to my first reader, who quite liked it. I would work on the cover while she was reading. Then I must make corrections and put the whole package together. Yes, there was work to do. But that moment of triumph at the close of the first draft was special.

Just in case The Troll’s Belt has suddenly catapulted itself onto your must-read list (grin!), here are the links:

Amazon.com I B&N I Diesel I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords I Sony

For more about the stories behind my stories, see:
Writing Sarvet
Notes on Chance
Dreaming the Star-drake

 

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