The Alps are the inspiration and setting for my fantasy world, the Kingdom of Vendale. To me, these majestic mountains represent everything magical and wonderful about family and nature.
My father is originally from an alpine town, and we visited my grandmother there every few years for long holidays. Those visits were always filled with excitement, fun, laughter and lots and lots of walking in the mountains (or skiing, depending on the season). Snowcapped mountains always bring with them a nostalgic surge - a combination of remembered emotions and smells that just bring peace and calm with them. This is why the mountain setting for Elisabeth and Edvard - The Siblings’ Tale came so naturally to me. In my mind, it was the only possible choice for this fairy tale retelling.
Among my fondest memories are days spent hiking in the high mountains. Having a picnic in a bright green meadow, speckled with myriad flowers, the intense blue sky above with puffy white clouds drifting by lazily and the cool breeze of clear, fresh air; Swimming in icy lakes, beautiful emerald (and having my technique improved by my grandmother, who didn’t think much of my swimming skills); feeling the gentle sun on my skin (it is much more forgiving in Europe, than in my African home) - the Bavarian Alps really are my happy place.
For winter visits, it is Christmas, more than anything that has a place in my heart and mind. Unlike my mother’s family events which were very ritualised and structured, the Alpine Christmases were a lovely, messy, family affair. Yes, of course there was tradition, but somehow it seemed less important than the simple fact of spending time together, eating incredible amounts of great food, and singing German carols. Candle light and a Christmas tree decked out in straw stars, wooden figures and walnut shells - simple beauty. And if we were lucky, on Christmas day, we would walk out into a white wonderland full of glittering sparkles. Just enchanting! (Do remember, I come from a place where snow is the stuff of legends, so actually experiencing the “white Christmas” really made an impression).
The little valley Kingdom of Vendale is therefore, my mythical safe haven, the home of my heart and the place where good memories are made; but, as you’ll find out soon enough, not all is well in this mountain kingdom. Trouble is brewing...
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