In this original tale, there were several classic fairy tale tropes that I wanted to include. It carries out these classic elements in that its plot’s foundation is magical, the characters undergo transformation, and there is a parental absence. In many fairy tales, the main premise involves some kind of magic. In “Cinderella”, the fairy godmother is the figure who allows her to attend the ball and meet the prince. In “Beauty and the Beast”, the beast was cursed by a wicked witch. In this story, the curse and the evil sorceress are the big magical components. Also, the specificity of the curse seemed like a classic fairytale (in “Beauty and the Beast”, the curse has a time limit, and if he does not fall in love/is not fallen in love with by his twenty-first birthday, he will remain a Beast forever). In this tale, Anhedonia (the villain), and Cadence (the protagonist) undergo character transformations. Anhedonia becomes a kind character who apologizes for her misdoings, and Cadence transforms from an indifferent child to a passionate, soulful, and strong teenager. In addition, her main transformation takes place in an environment deep within the woods, which occurs in many fairy tales. In many classic fairy tales, there is a lack of parenting altogether, or almost always at least one parent is missing. In this tale, Cadence’s mother dies in childbirth; however Cadence connects with her mother through music. Similar to the Grimms’ version of “Cinderella” where the tree serves as a representation of the Cinderella’s mother, the Fantasy Cadence and her mother write is a symbol of the maternal-daughter bond they share. In addition to trying to incorporate the thematic elements of classic fairy tales, I wanted to write in the tone of a classic tale. Although the writing does a lot of telling and not showing, and the dialogue is far from realistic, this is meant to evoke the plain writing style of older tales. Although the tale has a lot of classic elements, there are also elements that do not typically appear in most fairy tales. For example, Cadence and her mother are the strongest characters in the story. I wanted to emphasize the creative genius in these characters. In many fairy tales, the last scene comes down to which patriarchal figure has the most physical strength (in “Sleeping Beauty,” the dragon has to be slain by a strong man). I wanted to emphasize the fact that musical acuity also has the ability to save the day. In addition, I wanted to make the victor of this story a woman, who was inspired by another woman. Fairy tales all too often feature the classic “damsel in distress” woman who needs a man to come and save her. Thus, I wanted to defy this patriarchal convention by writing a story without any type of romance and without any reigning male force. The names Cadence and Anhedonia also both have allegorical value. Cadence, meaning “the flow of rhythm” was fitting for her, because her musical talent is defined by her ability to play from her heart. Specific musical Anhedonia is the inability to experience pleasure from music, which also seemed fitting due to Anhedonia’s initial lack of appreciation for music.
I wanted to write a tale that serves as an ode to the wonders and complexities of music. Throughout the story, Cadence and other characters constantly experience waves of emotions due to different musical themes. Fantasies are musical pieces with their roots in the art of improvisation. Thus, they are romantic, highly emotional, spastic pieces. This type of piece perfectly fits this tale due to its complexity and unpredictable evocation of emotions. Many classic fairytales lack complex emotions, so I wanted to use music to fill the story with intricate feelings. Lastly, this piece was an ironic attempt to explain music, an art thought to be strictly audible, in words.
Once upon a time, in a far away land, there was a small village by the name of Kaleo. Contrary to its ordinary appearance, this was not just any small village. Kaleo was known by people all across the kingdom as the most musically talented village there was. People travelled from all over the kingdom to hear the spectacular symphonies and the beautiful melodies played by the most talented and passionate musicians and singers in the world. The children were immersed in classical music from the time they could hold an instrument or sing: this town would only produce the best.
One day an evil sorceress by the name of Anhedonia came to the town to view a Requiem performed by the children’s choir. When she heard the magnificent, high-pitched harmonies emerge from the vocal chords of the small children, she was overcome with jealousy. All she wanted was to be able to sing or play an instrument with any proficiency. She stormed out of the musical hall with volatile anger. The faint sound of the harmonies she heard from all of the surrounding concert halls only filled her with more rage and envy. She paced and she paced and she devised a horrid curse to place upon the village.
“I will make this village regret that they ever played music!” she announced angrily. “They think their children are so talented and bright! Well, what if I deprived all of the small children in this village the gift of music?” She smiled and let out an evil cackle. The small crowd waiting outside of the music hall looked away in fear of the hideously intimidating figure. People were racing out of their homes to hear the commotion, for they were not used to loud sounds other than that of music.
“No child will ever be able to hear or play music until they are thirteen-years-old!” And with these words, the curse was enacted.
The village people outside of the concert hall were terribly upset. The crucial time for learning music was at the youngest age possible. Thirteen-years-old felt like an entire lifetime of missed musical knowledge. Especially horrified by this curse was a newly-married couple of pianists who were expecting a baby girl. They were two of the best pianists in all of Kaleo, and all they wanted was to have a baby girl who loved the piano and could play as marvellously as they could. This new reality saddened them more than any other family.
The wife shouted back at Anhedonia, “How can we escape this misery?” The villagers were taken aback by the woman’s bravery. Anhedonia chuckled.
“The only way to undo this curse is to write a piece so spectacular that it pleases me! You will have three chances. If you cannot please me by the third try, then every single villager will lose the ability to hear and play music altogether!” The villagers gasped. How could they write a piece so wonderful that it could please someone so wicked? Many of them thought that this would not be possible, and that giving up music altogether was much worse than depriving their children of it. Although many felt this might be an impossible feat, a few brave villagers were not afraid. They knew that one of the talented musicians could compose a piece beautiful enough for Anhedonia.
Unfortunately, this task was going to be harder than they thought. Two of the villagers, (one was the best clarinetist in all of the land, and one the was the best opera singer) tried with all of their might to compose a piece which would meet Anhedonia’s standards. However, when they performed their pieces in her castle, she rejected them both almost instantly. The people were now on their last chance before music was going to be taken away altogether. The Chief of the Village did not feel that trying for the last chance was worth the risk.
Despite the general consensus that pleasing Anhedonia was a lost cause, the two pianists held out hope. The wife worked every day composing a Romantic piece of music so beautiful that the husband often cried when the wife began to work on it.
As the birth of the baby drew near, the wife felt less and less inclined to work on the piece. When she finally had the baby, something tragic occurred. She died in childbirth, and now the piece was left, only halfway completed. The husband and the village (who had heard that the piece might have been beautiful enough to end the curse) were left devastated. Although the husband was heartbroken by the sudden loss of his wife, he was still happy to have a precious new baby whom he named Cadence, after his wife.
Cadence and her father grew extremely close as Cadence grew older. He was an excellent father who loved Cadence unconditionally and tried everything he could to provide for her. It still broke his heart that she could not hear music until she was thirteen-years-old. However he made sure to tell her about the magical gift of music. He tried as best he could to explain about harmonies and rhythm and melodies and every musical phrase he could think of.
“Music can flow as powerfully as the wind, or sound as soft as a hummingbird chirping,” he explained.
He knew though, that an explanation of music would never actually compare to the moment when she would hear it for herself, and Cadence did not seem to understand or care about this mysterious phenomenon he would not stop describing.
When the time finally arrived for Cadence’s thirteenth birthday, her father could not contain his excitement. Although Cadence was a curious young girl, besides her curiosity, she was not enthused by the thought of hearing music for the first time. In fact, she was quite nervous to hear these mysterious sounds. As she stood in line at the entrance to the magical cave where she would hear the sounds for the first time, she expressed her fears to her father.
“Will the music cause me pain?” she inquired of her dad.
“Of course not, darling. It will cause you great joy,” he responded comfortingly.
“How will I know how to get to the cave? I cannot see it from here.”
“Just relax and let your ears guide you,” he told her confidently.
When the time came for her to begin her venture, Cadence took a deep breath and began to wander into the woods, turning back only once to see her father’s smiling face. She wandered deeper and deeper into the woods. All she could hear was a faint sound, that initially sounded like birds chirping. As she followed it, she realized it was much more than that. She came closer and closer to the sounds that all of a sudden began to fit together. She finally could spot a cave in the distance, where she assumed the sounds were coming from. As she approached, she could not believe her ears. Each tone she heard complemented the other one. Each set of complemented pitches exuded a specific emotion, although she could not quite pinpoint the exact feeling the notes gave her. She felt an overwhelming joy, followed instantly by an acute feeling of sadness, followed by excitement. Despite her oscillating emotions, this combination of harmonies made her feel an inexplicably unique feeling, that triumphed anything she had felt before. Her eyes filled with tears and her heart ached with a desire to be able to produce something so beautiful.
When Cadence returned home, all she wanted to do was play music. Although she did not know how (and her father warned her that for all of its beauty, music had rigors as well), this did not stop her. She immediately devoted all of her time to this newfound activity. Her dad taught her about how to read music, how to sing music, how to play music, and how to compose music. He could not believe how quickly she picked up the piano. Not only could she read and play beautifully, she understood it. When she played the piano, she poured out her heart and soul onto the keys. She played with such passion that after only two months, her father decided it was time he showed her her mother’s unfinished piece.
As he played it for her, as best as he could, Cadence could not believe its level of beauty. She had never heard another piece of its kind before.
“This kind of piece is called a fantasy,” Cadence’s father explained.
“It is the hardest kind to write, but the most beautiful to play.”
The notes were deliberate, yet legato. The pace was rushed, and then relaxed. Suddenly, as the dynamics were rising to a peak, they stopped.
“Why did you stop?” Cadence asked her father.
“That’s the problem: the piece is not finished.” He explained to her the issues with the sorceress, and how there was only one chance left to please Anhedonia.
“You have picked up on this art so quickly,” he explained. “I think that you can finish the piece.” Cadence looked at him with wide and scared eyes.
“Please, Cadence. I beg you, you are the village’s only hope to save our children.” Although she was at first hesitant, Cadence decided that this was her chance to give children what she and her fellow friends were deprived of. And so she began working. Day and night, she tried to find an ending, but she could not. At times she would lock herself in the room with the piano and just think. She became malnourished, weak, and frustrated.
It had been a year since Cadence’s thirteenth birthday. The piece was still incomplete. She had tried for months to find an ending to the piece. Along with her father, she began to lose hope. She often wept in her room, for she knew that this piece had power, she just could not figure out a way to find an ending that had as much beauty and power as the beginning. As her fourteenth birthday approached, she felt so despondent that she did not want to even step outside on this day, for it marked that she had been working on the piece for almost a full year.
Just as she began to give up altogether, something changed. One day after a tough time at school, she sat down to play piano in order to feel better. When she played, however, she did not play from a sheet of music, or even from her extensive base of musical knowledge. She instead played from the deepest place in her heart. And then she realized: she was trying to finish a piece with notes, but she needed to finish it with her heart.
And thus, the day had come. Cadence and her father had informed the Chief and Anhedonia that Cadence was going to try one last time to please her. As Cadence and her father walked up to Anhedonia’s castle, they shivered at the sight of it. Its muted green exterior was made darker by the shadow of the ominous thunder clouds above. She knocked hesitantly at the chipped wooden door, which immediately creaked open. She entered slowly and before she could get a view of the rest of the mansion, the magnificent grand piano immediately caught her eye. Directly in front of the grand piano stood Anhedonia. Cadence could not help but gasp at the grotesque creature standing before her eyes. Anhedonia looked at Cadence with wide, condescending eyes.
“You may begin when you’re ready,” she scoffed.
Cadence’s heart was beating so loudly that she wondered if Anhedonia could hear it too. She slowly brought out the bench from under the piano, her mind full of racing thoughts about the tragedy that could ensue after her playing. But as she looked back to see her dad’s smiling face, she felt a sudden rush of confidence and hope. She took three deep breaths to calm her shaking and sweaty fingers.
“Just remember, the fate of Kaleo is in your hands,” she chuckled. And then, Cadence began, in a fit of anger, fear, and excitement. She played the first part just as it had been written down, and then at the rest, she took an exceeding pause that caused her father’s heart to jump. She played from her heart. All of those months she spent waiting for an ending resolved in her mind and she simply played out her emotions. She played her love of music, she played her fear in the moment, and she played her mother’s bravery and her own. She felt invincible.
When she finished, Anhedonia was shocked. She could not believe the child could play like this. Instead of her normal jealousy, she felt inspired. Instead of anger, she felt joy.
“That was…” Cadence’s heart raced. “Beautiful!” Anhedonia exclaimed. Cadence and her father were overwhelmed with euphoria: Cadence had actually saved the village!
The curse was lifted, and because the piece of music was so extraordinary, Anhedonia was an altogether changed person. She make a public apology to the entire village, and the people of the Kaleo, being the kind and accepting musicians they were, pardoned her. When Anhedonia attended concerts, she was full of happiness.
As for Cadence, she was praised by the townspeople for the rest of her life, and grew to become one of the best improv musicians Kaleo had ever seen. Instead of playing from a page, she played from her heart. Music made her, her friends, and her father happy for as long as they all lived.