Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman, 1995
The magic trick:
Writing a fairy tale that sits nicely with the classics
I write songs. Used to produce a lot more music than I do now, but once a songwriter, always a songwriter, right? Maybe? Anyway, my songs tend to take on a particularly melodic bent, which would frequently inspire a backhanded compliment, something like, “Yeah, that’s a catchy little song.” It’s as if something catchy or poppy is somehow easier or less substantial than some stab at artsy drone music or something. And that’s fine. I don’t relate this to vent some long festering songwriter’s bitterness. It just reminds me the same kind of “compliment” that often is leveled at short stories that, you know, actually have a story. I’m probably guilty of such criticism, so I get it..
But case in point, “Cinnamon” is a catchy little story, shall we say. We don’t have to worry about complex literary devices. It’s plot-based, fairy-tale fiction. And that ain’t easy to do! Gaiman manages to reference a very old storytelling form but carve out his own territory for this story. He’s not taking an old story and applying it to modern times, either. No gimmicks. No magic tricks, haha. It’s just a really good story, told simply. And that’s quite a trick on Gaiman’s part.
It was bright morning when the child and the tiger walked out of the room together. Cymbals crashed, and bright birds sang, and Cinnamon and the tiger walked towards the Rani and the Rajah, who sat at one end of the throne room, being fanned with palm fronds by elderly retainers. The Rani’s aunt sat in a corner of the room, drinking tea disapprovingly.
“Can she talk yet?” asked the Rani.
“Why don’t you ask her?” growled the tiger.
“Can you talk?” the Rajah asked Cinnamon. The girl nodded.