The Fiery Prince

“Prince Yvan and the Grey Wolf” is from a collection of fairytales by Alexander Afanasyev and it was this tale that I focussed on when developing my own Prince Yvan’s back story for “Cry of the Firebird.”

Firebird fairytales can be found all over the world but there was something about the Russian Prince Yvan’s tale that I was particularly drawn to. Prince Yvan is the youngest of three brothers and being the younger sibling I know what it is like to be in the position of not being able to what the older kids are doing because I am ‘too young.’ As a typical younger sibling though Yvan has a thing or two to prove. I love his tenacity to get the job done even with the dubious help of the wolf. Death at the hands of his brothers couldn’t stop him and he still sees them made into servants by the end of the tale. I really wanted to keep that tenacity in my Yvan, he is the cool headed one of the group even when he’s angry, and that’s important in a Hero.

b7d74795182d43caf4a4f60cce122c86   koshchey

One of the few things I changed in the story was to have Koschei the Deathless in disguise as the wolf. Koschei can be quite ambiguous and villainous in Russian tales and is a lot like Baba Yaga in that he has power over the elements, he can either help the hero or damn him (or just steal his wife). Originally I had Koshcei play a much larger role, it was he instead of Tuoni that gave Anya the firebirds egg. As I wrote on and various plots unravelled (sorry no spoilers) I knew that I had been writing Tuoni and not Koschei all along. He was good to keep in Yvan’s back story still but it was what happened after the events of “Prince Yvan and the Grey Wolf” that I was particularly interested in.

What would you do with an impossibly magical creature when you had no magic of your own? Surely people would come for it, wanting it and its power for their own. Apart from being lazy murderers in the original tale, Yvan’s brothers are shadowy, unknowable characters. For antagonists not a lot is said about them. This allowed me to really make Vasilli my own creature. The firebirds power would be so tempting to a dark magic using middle child with a huge chip on his shoulders and secret plans of his own. Of course he wasn’t going to settle for not getting what he wanted and would be eager on revenge.

Yvan is the fairytale prince in my story but I didn’t want him to be the stereotypical dream boat or immediate love interest. He has to earn his often trying friendship with Anya, being her champion even if he’s angry or frustrated with her and without any obvious reward for his trouble. To me being a Hero doesn’t mean only being there when there is a battle to fight, but being there for the everyday dramas as well.

The firebird was interesting to write as it not only gives Yvan magical abilities he didn’t have before by also created a duality to his character. Often times the firebird will give voice to what Yvan doesn’t want to think about, or worse the things he actually thinks but never says. They are stuck together against their will, remade as one and inseparable. It is something they are forced to get use to so they have a bickering sibling type relationship.


Prince Yvan was one of the most enjoyable characters for me to write, to use this relatively obscure fairy tale prince and make him my own was such a pleasure. Some characters will start jumping up and down shouting “look at me! Listen to me! This is who I am talk about me!” but Yvan sat there quietly and patiently and made me work for it every step of the way. I hope you enjoy him as much as I do.


First Things First

To celebrate my first blog and the release of my first novel “Cry of the Firebird” I thought it might be appropriate to talk about inspirations over the next few posts. “Cry” is the first book of my Firebird Fairytales Trilogy and like many of my story ideas it was started by a random series of thoughts that spiralled out of control.

In 2008 I was on a plane coming back from training in Townsville for a management role in retail that I had just accepted. I had bought a copy of Neil Gaiman’s “Smoke and Mirrors” from the airport book shop in an effort to cheer myself up and set about devouring it on the flight. “Chivalry” is a story in the collection about a woman who finds the Holy Grail in an Oxfam Shop and has Galaad arrive on her doorstep, offering her rare and wonderful treasures in exchange for the chalice. One of the gifts he produces is a phoenix egg. I loved the story (and I highly recommend this collection to anyone in need of a magic injection) but the phoenix egg stuck in my mind leaving only one lingering question…what would happen if it hatched? Would it burn the house down? Would people come looking for it?

I can cheerfully admit that I have been obsessed with fairytales all my life so I knew many concerning firebirds. “The Golden Bird” by the Brothers Grimm is perhaps the most well known but is draws from an older Russian tale about Prince Yvan. The latter is the one I ended up choosing during my ravenous search for all things firebird.

Legend 2

Originally I thought I would write a short story about a girl who is given a firebirds egg that hatches, but as soon as the Lord of the Underworld made the delivery it spiralled into a novel, which then blew out to three. I had always wanted to write a story that had characters from Russian mythology in it; Baba Yaga, her chicken legged cottage and fierce Riders had been clacking about in my head for many years. Being Finnish I had found the Kalevala in my early teens, a collection of folk takes much loved by Tolkien, and I was fascinated how the magic was portrayed in it. Väinämöinen, the Great Shamanic Hero used the power of words to construct his spells. He has a great knowledge of the origin of things and his rune singing commands the power of nature and people. I really wanted my protagonist Anya to be able to wield this kind of magic, with some variations, to touch on her (and my own) Finnish roots.


Over the next few weeks I am going to share some of the fairytales I’ve drawn on with you all. It’s my hope that I will introduce you to tales that you have never heard of before and point you in the direction so you can discover this amazing and relatively untapped source of magic.