Sunday Shorts – “The Witch of Tarup,” by Claire Humphrey

I could probably write a massive post on my thoughts about the Hugo Awards and the end result of the whole sad/rabid puppy thing, but – as is often the case – Chuck Wendig does a brilliant job and has way more insider insight, and, well… yeah. Go read that.

As a vague after-the-fact amusement, I couldn’t help but decide to revisit Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History for today’s Sunday Shorts. It’s a collection edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, and is exactly as labeled on the box. It’s also freaking good and I’ve been enjoying my trek through the pages.

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“The Witch of Tarup,” by Claire Humphrey

Tarup, Denmark in 1886 isn’t exactly a place I daresay I’ve visited before in any fiction or literature, but I’m glad I came. The setting in which Humphrey weaves a lovely story of a new marriage, an old magic, and – potentially – something new and unique coming from an unexpected place.

The narrative seems straighforward: Dagny, a woman newly wed to a man who has since suffered apoplexy, is trying to make the windmill turn before they run out of the flour they’ve managed to grind. The wind does not blow, the wheel does not turn, and the only solution that presents itself to her is – despite her husband’s obvious agitation at the suggestion – to go find the town’s witch.

There’s a gentle folklore at work in this story that I found rich despite the soft touch. I fell easily into the world, and as Dagny tries to uncover who might have the ability to help her in this new (to her) town, the slow untangle left me with a huge smile on my face. If it’s possible to write a short story that is mystery, speculative historical fiction, folklore, and romance, I’d Humphrey succeeds.

I’ve read quite a few of Claire Humphrey’s stories now, in various anthologies, and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by how varied the voices of her characters are. This is no exception. I can’t wait to hear the next member of her chorus.

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