Today is my stop on the Fierce, Fearless and Free blog tour and I am delighted to be sharing an exclusive extract from the book for you all to enjoy!
Thank you to Faye Rogers for allowing me to be part of this blog tour.
Once there was a khan who led the largest tribe in Siberia. He described himself as an unfortunate man, because he had no sons. But the unfortunate person was really his one daughter, Altyn Aryg, because the khan never stopped moaning about how much happier he would be if he had a son instead of a daughter.
It didn’t matter how hard Altyn Aryg trained to become the tribe’s fiercest warrior, most skilled horse-rider and strongest sword-fighter. Her father just kept saying, ‘But who will lead the tribe after me? How unfortunate I am to have no worthy heir…’
It didn’t matter how many lost lambs or calves Altyn Aryg found and returned to the herd, nor how many tribal disputes she resolved with wisdom and diplomacy, nor how many thieves she tracked and caught. Her father still kept saying, ‘Even one hundred girls wouldn’t be equal to one boy…’
Eventually Altyn Aryg realised that her father would never be impressed with mere human deeds. She needed to do something superhuman.
She said to her father, ‘I will show you what one girl can do!’ Then she grabbed his favourite sword and marched out of the tent to hunt for a snake.
She wasn’t hunting for an ordinary snake; she was hunting for the giant snake that had been terrorising Siberia for years.
This snake was so enormous that a horse would take a day to gallop along its spine and a tribe could pitch fifty tents in a line across its neck. Its fangs were longer than ten men are tall, and its mouth was wide enough to swallow a tribe in one gulp.
The monstrous snake demanded that each tribe pay tribute of one thousand cattle a year. If any tribe refused, the snake ate the whole tribe. In one gulp.
When khans ordered heroes to defeat the snake, the snake devoured the heroes too.
Altyn Aryg hoped that if she could defeat the snake, her father would finally respect her.
She tracked the monster, following the trail of crushed plants, cracked earth and weeping relatives. She found a snake as long as a river, as high as a hill, with a grass-green belly and a sky-blue back.
Altyn Aryg rode all the way up to the monstrous head, jumped off her exhausted horse and stood in front of the snake.
‘Have you come to pay me tribute?’ asked the snake.
‘Why would I pay tribute to a monster? You don’t deserve my respect or my tribute.’
‘Then I will eat you.’ The snake opened its massive mouth.
‘No need to eat me,’ replied Altyn Aryg. ‘I’ll jump right in!’
And she did. The khan’s daughter leaped between the snake’s fangs into the snake’s mouth. She ran down the snake’s throat, towards the snake’s belly.
And the snake’s jaws snapped shut behind her.
Altyn Aryg looked around the long belly, which was full of people, their animals, their tents and their lamps.
The snake’s digestive juices worked slowly, so while there were many gently dissolving corpses at the far end of the belly, there were also herds of cattle, tribes of people and one hundred heroes, all sitting sadly at the other end, waiting to die.
Altyn Aryg marched up to the one hundred heroes and said, ‘I’m here to help.’
‘No one can help,’ said one of the swallowed heroes. ‘There’s no way to escape and no way to kill this beast.’ He pointed to the left side of the belly. ‘Its heart is so hard, none of us can pierce it.’
Altyn Aryg said, ‘Give me your swords!’
The heroes handed her their one hundred swords, then she stabbed and slashed at the heart. It was like hitting a rock, and she couldn’t pierce it either. However Altyn Aryg was so strong that every sword she swung against the snake’s solid heart shattered into a dozen pieces.
Finally she only had one sword left: her father’s favourite sword.
Fierce, Fearless and Free by Lani Don
Published by: Bloomsbury
Released: 5th March 2020
A brilliant, inclusive collection of traditional tales from around the world featuring amazing women and girls. Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince who – no, that’s not right! Once upon a time, there were strong, fierce women who plotted, schemed, took action, showed kindness, used magic and trickery, and made their own destiny. From the long-haired Petrosinella who escaped the tower and broke the spell that the ogress had cast over her and Nana Miriam who beat a hippo using politeness and magic, to Kate Crackernuts who tried to save her stepsister from her mother’s curse, these are stories of girls doing it for themselves! With stories drawn from all over the world, including China, Scotland, Armenia, Italy and Nigeria, Lari Don presents heroine stories that don’t leave girls sitting around waiting to be saved by the handsome prince.