For this week’s episode, Lucy and Charlotte thought they’d take the opportunity to talk about something they have a passion for: folklore. In particular, the ballad of the Singing Bone, which is Aarne Thompson index number 780

To give it its full name, the Aarne Thompson Uther (shortened to ATU) index was created to try and classify fairy tales and folklore, gathering together stories within defined categories.

The general gist of The Singing Bone is that a girl is killed and an instrument is made from her bones which, when played, reveals her murderers. One variation of this is the well known ballad, The Twa Sisters.

But the wonderful thing about the ATU is that there are often several variations on the motif. While Lucy’s novel, Sistersong, is based on the main part of entry 780 and The Twa Sisters, Charlotte is currently writing a piece that is based on variation 780B classed as The Speaking Hair. In this version, a stepmother buries her stepdaughter alive. The girl’s hair grows as wheat and sings of her misfortunes. The girl is dug up alive and the stepmother is buried in the same hole. This is going to be published as part of Charlotte’s Forsaken Fables series, so it seemed the ideal time to chat about a folktale that inspired both of us, and how exactly we’ve interpreted it.

Don’t forget that Patreon supporters will have access to extra exclusive content from the episode!

Mentioned in this episode:

  • Sistersong by Lucy Holland
  • Ever After (1998)
  • Minor Mage by T Kingfisher
  • Dragon Age

Lucy Holland is the author of The Times bestselling Sistersong, which reimagines the folk ballad ‘The Twa Sisters.’ The book was a finalist for the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award and the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2022. As Lucy Hounsom, she wrote the Worldmaker Trilogy. Her first book, Starborn, was shortlisted in the 2016 Gemmell Awards for Best Fantasy Debut. She worked twelve years in corporate account sales for Waterstones Booksellers before becoming a full-time author. Lucy co-hosts the intersectional feminist podcast ‘Breaking the Glass Slipper’, which won Best Audio in the 2019 British Fantasy Awards. Her next book, Song of the Huntress, is due in March 2024. She lives in Devon.

Charlotte Bond is an author, freelance editor, and podcaster. Under her own name she has written within the genres of horror and dark fantasy, but she’s also worked as a ghostwriter. She edits books for individuals and publishers, and has also contributed numerous non-fiction articles to various websites. She is a co-host of the award-winning podcast, Breaking the Glass Slipper. Her micro collection The Watcher in the Woods won the British Fantasy Society’s award for Best Collection in 2021.