In Charming the Moon, Emily Snyder presents two tales from the early history of her world of the Twelve Kingdoms, which is the setting for her novel Niamh and the Hermit: A Fairy Tale.
"Brigglekin the Dwarf" tells how Brigglekin came to possess a glowing silver sphere containing a radiantly beautiful woman named Mira and what he does with it. The world is in twilight when the story begins, a time "when the Titans slept in punishment for their infidelities, and there was no more Day or Night, and all the land lived in a Perpetual Twilight." The referenced Titans are the Sun and the Moon. The sphere containing Mira is the Moon. Brangwenn, a goddess who acts as guardian of the world and often appears as a flaming-winged bird, leads the dwarf to the lake in which the moon sleeps and helps him find it. When Brangwenn leaves him with the silver sphere in his hand, she tells him: "Brigglekin, this gift is not for thee. Through selfishness was she lost, and if thou provest likewise selfish, she will be lost again." Brigglekin, who has always been a seeker of silver, can think of nothing better than to hoard this new treasure, but as she leaves him, Brangwenn bids him to release the prisoner and find an even greater reward. Brigglekin cannot break open the sphere with his pickaxe, and seeing no way to release the beauty inside, takes it to his home inside the roots of an ancient sycamore. For days he stares at the sphere, entranced by its beauty, until some other dwarves arrive looking for him. They try to take it, to give it to the king of the dwarves, but Brigglekin prevails and sends them away empty-handed. The dwarf decides to return the sphere to Brangwenn and sets out on a long journey to the north where he encounters dragons, the sea, and a reward beyond his imagining.
"Ostrung the Giant" recounts the Sun's quest to reunite with the Moon, which has returned to the sky thanks to Brigglekin. The Sun travels on foot across the land in the form of a child, trying in vain to capture the attention of the Moon soaring overhead. All his attempts fail and no one will help him until he meets Ostrung, a kindly giant and an outcast. This story provides some much needed background information on the banishment of the Sun and Moon which adds context to Brigglekin's story. The first paragraph in "Ostrung the Giant" explains the troubled relationship between the Sun and the Moon and provides an example of Snyder's tone.
When last the Sun ruled in the sky, he saw within her Citadel the girl called Mira, whom men now call the Moon. And as he looked on her, he loved her; and as he loved her, he could not bear to part with her; and when he would not part with her, his radiance turned her valley all to gold, and his passion left the land as dark as his desire. The warnings of his brothers he would not heed, nor the pleas of those who worshiped him as a god. For as long as his beloved delighted in his company, the Sun would not stray from her side; and the girl named Mira loved her man of beauty and of light.
Snyder tells her tales with a serious tone befitting mythic lore but also mixes in comedy. The "battle" scene between Brigglekin and the other dwarves approaches slapstick. It is difficult at times to follow who some of the characters are since the reader is dropped into stories without having the full context. Readers of J.R.R. Tolkien's Silmarillion will know what I mean. Of the two tales, I found the longer story about Brigglekin the most rewarding. Brigglekin faces internal and external conflicts and must step beyond his comfort zone to resolve them. Snyder introduces a rich world in these tales and I am looking forward to a longer sojourn in Niamh and the Hermit.