Gingerbread House Lit Mag

Rules for Heroes


It all comes to this:

If you are a large man, but kind, you will die.

If you are a nursemaid of any sort, you will die.

If you ever help the princess escape the castle, you will die.

If you are a maiden, seen first in a brown cloak, then in blue, you will die. If it is brown, then blue, then red, you will die quicker.

If you are a hermit you will stay a hermit. If you are a prince you will stay a prince. If you are a baker you will stay a baker. If you are a young queen you will stay a young queen and then not a young queen and then a young queen again. If you are an old queen there is no hope for you.

Of course, if you are ugly, you will die. But first you will suffer monstrously. This is the price you pay for your crime. If you are beautiful, you will suffer beautifully. You will only sometimes die.

If you are sensible you might make it to the end. Might. A thin word.


The sisters love you, all of them, in their own ways. Remember this. One of them is simply also brave. Brave or beautiful. It counts the same.

[If you are beautiful, it is sensibility. If you are ugly, it is cowardice.]

The elder brothers will marry their common wives and be happy.  There is still some grace to this.

If you ever wear bear skin you will never fully recover.
Winter is cold



There is not poison in the cup                                                                           You will die anyway

All witches are barren. We know this.

Question: Are witches barren or are those who are barren witches?

Answer: Don’t think about it too hard.

The swans always wish they were swans again. Always. There is no grace here.

There is a ball, and drinking, and dancing. Sometimes the prince takes your hand.

You are kind. You are clever. You are cunning.

And yet.

This is where you learn: No matter how you love the prince, the slipper never fits.

I’d run if I were you

The forest is                                        sharp



Question: Is it a Red Shoe or Glass Slipper?

Answer: Try it on.

Answer: Start dancing.

Question: Is it a Beast or a Man?

Question: Does the widow know her son will return?

Question: Why does the fairy godmother not come sooner?

Question: What will we do if we make it out alive?


Some bodies fall in the forest and lay


Whoever told you you were a hero?

There is no love that can brave the tower.

It takes more than honor to run a kingdom. Pay your sorceress well.

Your mother lied.

The Prince                  becomes                      The King

Answer: There is not enough straw in the treasury to outweigh what you’ve done.

Answer: Her eyes have been pecked out by birds. She will never find him.

Answer: Your son is being raised by the hermit in the woods. If they leave now, your men can make it there before dark.

Jessie Ulmer

Jessie Ulmer is a graduate of Western Washington University where she studied creative writing and developed a fondness for fog. She uses magic and fantasy to enchant her writing with themes of identity, transformation, struggle, wonder, and dissonance. She is the Fiction Editor for the Sweet Tree Review, and her work has been included in Syntax & Salt, the Corvid QueenPins and Needles: A Journal of Contemporary Fairy Tales, The Yellow Chair Review, Washington’s Best Emerging Poets Anthology, From Bellingham with Love, and WWU’s Labyrinth and Jeopardy Magazines. She currently delights in living across the street from an abandoned statuary in the small, rural town of Naches, Washington.

Artwork: Sarah Ann Loreth


This entry was published on January 31, 2020 at 12:09 am and is filed under 40 (January 2020), Archive, Poetry. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.
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