One of the most bleakly beautiful Hunger Games AU fan fiction stories self has ever read is mejhiren’s “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.”
Mejhiren is a fan fiction writer who bases each of her stories on a fairy tale. Sigh. The writing is so luscious, on every level.
In this story, a woman dreams constantly of a white bear. Then, a man clad in a white bearskin comes to take her to live with him in a house by a lake. She doesn’t know what is expected of her. Her every need is tended to by a servant with no tongue whose name is Lavinia (Titus Andronicus redux!)
Little does she know, but the woman has just landed the equivalent of the Lotto jackpot, because the man in a white bearskin is named Peeta, and he is an excellent cook. So, about 1/2 of the narration is taken up with detailed descriptions of the food he prepares for the woman (whose name is of course Katniss).
Every night, “when the candle is blown out,” she feels the other side of her mattress dip and feels a presence. But she’s too scared to turn around and look, so she keeps quiet until she falls asleep. The next morning, the bed is made and there’s no sign of the mysterious “other.”
Things go on like this for a month, by which time the young woman is almost driven crazy with curiosity.
(See, this is what’s so crazy-making about fairy tales in general: it would be so easy for the woman to just turn around and look at her silent companion, thereby solving the mystery. But she never, ever does. That would be violating the rules of the fairy tale, in which people act out some non-rational desire for order and simplicity, and exhibit the most acute psychological reticence — which is just self’s fancy way of saying that the people in fairy tales behave as if under a spell. Which they kinda are, as they’re operating in a universe where almost all agency is suspended in favor of — magic?)
Back to mejhiren and her “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” This multi-chapter story is simply one long tease. At first, self longed (acutely) for the woman to discover the identity of her mysterious sleeping companion. But as the story proceeded, self began to want the opposite. That is, she began to dread a “solution.” She realized that the tension in the story is the absence of explanation (Why doesn’t that presence — if indeed it is a human presence — simply reach out and grab Katniss? Who made the apparent rule that these two must sleep side by side every night, without touching?), and that she looks forward to being tantalized, over and over again, with each succeeding chapter. In other words, self wants the mystery to last forever.
Here’s the beginning of Chapter Ten: “The Moon is a Huntress”
I wake in darkness, exquisitely warm and peculiarly happy. I dreamt something last night, something long and elaborate and wonderful, but at the moment, all I can recall of it are strange, beautiful flashes. Snow. Fur. Baked pumpkin and roasted nuts; the most delicious things I’d ever eaten. A boy’s hand filled with breadcrumbs. Soft yellow curls. My body, small and — feathered? — resonating with another’s heartbeat. Two speckled eggs in a nest lined with dandelion petals and willow catkins.
How many Hunger Games references are woven into that one paragraph? There are many.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.