Original name: Askeladden
Original tale: Rødrev og Askeladden
“You’re the Third Brother. The Youngest Son, the Ne’er Do Well who is always underestimated by all and yet always outwits everyone…”
Thus can Ash be described in few words, a unique character among the other members of the group and the protagonist I chose for the narrative of Happily Upon a Time. The archetype is known and recurrent in tales the world over: The good-for-nothing who, thanks to his cunning and purity of character, always ends up being more successful than his stronger brothers of more handsome love rivals. In academic terms, he is the individualist, the non-conforming free thinker who is capable of abstract, analytical thought and can conceive paradigm shifts. Thus, the ideal character to understand that something is very wrong with the world he’s living in, even though everyone else seems to think that nothing untoward has transpired and that things simply are the way they are.
“Ash” is the shortened form of “Ash Lad”, as per the role the lad plays, similar to that of Cinderella, his better known female counterpart. The original Norwegian name concerns the task of blowing the fireplace’s embers so they wouldn’t go cold – traditionally, the task of the weakest, most useless member of any given family – which would inevitably leave one covered with ashes, much like Cinderella, who slept close to the fire so she wouldn’t be cold.
Details aside, it was mostly the idea of having a physically inept lead which appealed to me, as I felt a change of tone was in order after years of writing about muscular swordsmen. For that reason, with or without analytical thought and/or paradigm shifts, my choice would likely always have been Ash when the time came to choose a lead for Hapily Upon a Time.