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breeden
ursulav

Loathly

I think about folk music more than I should.

I listen to a lot of it, you understand, and being me, I find myself wondering about all the bits around the edges—did Lord Donald marry again? Who was tithed to hell instead of young Tam-Lin? Did William Taylor’s bride have anything to say when his jilted lover showed up and shot him at the break of day?

Child Ballad 32 is a loathly lady story. The only popular version I know of is Steeleye Span’s “King Henry,” on Below the Salt. I have had this album for well over a decade, and occasionally I found myself wondering about the monstrous lady in the story, and even more about King Henry, who agreed to kill his horse and hawk and hounds to feed her. I don’t know that I’d easily forgive someone who forced me to kill my dog.

This had been kicking around in my head for the better part of a decade, and then I was privy to a very odd conversation in a bookstore about people with extreme forms of body dysmorphic disorder, and then I drank a lot of coffee and drove for about forty-five minutes and “King Henry” came on the CD player and I went home and wrote the story in one long jag, which probably explains a few things about it.

I cannot tell you if it’s good, because it may not be. It was painful to write, and I can’t say I enjoyed doing so, and I didn’t feel like I fit back into my skin quite right afterwards.

One could, with justice, write this story from any number of points of view. This is the one I wound up with. If it reads anything like it wrote, then it will be a sad story and a bitter one, and I don’t know that you’ll enjoy reading it. (And if it does not read like it wrote, and is merely overwrought and gloomy and plagued by adjectives, then you will not enjoy reading it for entirely different reasons. So there’s that.)

Still, I think I feel on some level that if I throw it at the blog, I can be done with it, and rather like having your ears finally pop after a plane flight, I will fit between my skull bones properly again, and need not worry about it anymore.

If you are fond of trigger warnings, take a handful from the bowl.


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