Bone Gap

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

BY EMILY



BONE GAP IS A MODERN 'STOLEN BY THE FAIRIES' story set in a small rural town in the U.S. Though a cozy children's fantasy, learned readers will notice how it mirrors the grim truth that hide behind such fairytales: child abduction and rape. (If the painting above seems harmless to you, read The Kissed Mouth's piece on its foreboding symbolism and the origin of 'babes in the woods'-type fairytales.)

What I appreciated most from Bone Gap was that its European roots weren't severed and boiled into a melting pot of a vague 'Old World-inspired retelling set in America'. The magic is distinctevely Polish thanks to Roza who brings it, and though our stolen fairytale girl is somewhat of a damsel in distress, I found that the archetype was subverted with her refreshing wit and common sense. 

The story doesn't suffer either from the typical nostalgie de la boue many writers have for small towns. Bone Gap is imperfect with its small-mindedness and gossip. (“The nice part about living in a small town is that when you don’t know what you’re doing, someone else does.”)

“He gestured to a painting hanging over the fireplace. It took her a moment to understand that it was a portrait of her. She was standing in the middle of a verdant field, one blossom threaded through her fingers, another threated in her long, coiling hair. A ring of girls danced around her. In the picture, an invisible wind pulled at her white gown, outlining her body so vividly that she didn’t seem to be wearing any clothes at all. Roza edged away from the fireplace, from the horrible painting over it, like an animal sidesteps a snake.

He didn’t notice, or if he did, he didn’t care. He peered down at her from his great height, those icy eyes on fire. She fought for breath, as if that stare was incinerating all the oxygen in the room, as if she would be consumed along with it.

He said, “You’re very beautiful.”

Roza had heard this many times before, but it had never scared her so much.

“I want to marry you.”

Her lips worked. When she finally spoke, she didn’t say, “No one is so beautiful.” She didn’t say, “You’re a kidnapper and a criminal and a madman.” She didn’t say, “I’m in love with someone else.” She didn’t say, “Please don’t hurt me.”

What fell from her numb lips was what she’d said to a foolish boy she’d left in Poland. “I am only nineteen.”  


Cover: John Roddam Spencer Stanhope. Robins of Modern Times. 1857. Private collection.

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