Maiden, Matron, Crone
edited by Kerrie Hughes, Martin H. Greenberg
From the back cover: Maiden, Matron and Crone – the three aspects of the Triple Goddess – have long been a topic of great fascination for those interested in ancient cultures, religions and mythologies, and for feminists as well as followers of Wicca.
Now thirteen of fantasy’s most fertile imaginations offer us tales that draw upon these classic archetypes in whole new ways. From a teenager who has come to a crucial crossroad in her life…to Tanya Huff’s memorable Ms. Ruth, a Toronto bag lady who is the embodiment of the Goddess’ senior Aspect…to a folk singer given the chance to truly communicate through music…to a queen who must try to find the one solution that can save her people from a devastating war, here are truly memorable tales set in both fantasy realms and our own modern-day world. They are all unique, yet they all share the common thread of Maiden, Matron and Crone, each Aspect powerful in her own right, yet all of them inevitable at some point in every person’s life.
I was expecting the stories to be centered on triple goddess figures from mythology, ala the Fates from Greek/Roman mythology, or the Norse Norns, or triple-faced Hecate. Since the book was categorized as fantasy, I thought there’d be stories about goddesses in mystical lands, or modern
Clothos and Atropos running around New York City. These stories were there, in some measure. But I had not realized that the Triple Goddess was a major part of Wicca (I really don’t know anything about Wicca) so I was surprised that Neo-Paganism and witchcraft were such strong themes. I guess my ignorance is showing, there.
As with most short story anthologies, the tales found in Maiden, Matron, Crone were a mix of good and bad...but they trended toward the mediocre. I found that I most favored the stories that were set in the "real" world, with only a whiff of magic in them, rather than the fantasy-heavy tales set in other worlds and mystical kingdoms. I think this is because in a short story, the author has a limited number of pages, and if he/she must give several of them over to setting up a fantasy world character development or action often get sacrificed.
I think my favorite story in the lot was Strikes of the Heart by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Kishi is a plantwife - she's married the plant Old Man on the Ground (a wild cucumber...commence immature jokes here!) and has a special relationship with herbs and plants. Her grandmother’s the Kingdom’s greatest wizard, but she’s starting to lose her mind, and the spells she casts are causing havoc in the palace. Between Kishi, her mother and her grandmother we have the three aspects of the Goddess represented, each woman embodying the strengths of her stage of life. My least favorite story by far was Misery and Woe by Jean Rabe, in which a witch with the world's greatest tits attempts to settle down in a small village, but her amazing rack distracts the men and causes the jealousy of other women to erupt. A particularly cruel woman nicknames the boobies 'Misery' and 'Woe'. When Elspeth (the witch) notices a drought will come soon, she attempts to warn the villagers, but no one listens to her because her fabulous twins drown out all other concerns. It was just…lame. If it’s such a problem, Elspeth, you could just button up your shirt instead of flashing your boobs at the world. Just sayin’.
By the ninth or tenth story in the collection, the theme of ‘Maiden, Maid, Crone’ was starting to wear a little thin, so I ended up skipping the last few stories. Sorry.
This book doesn’t always show up on the bibliographies of the men and women who contributed to it, so here’s a list of the authors included in this anthology: Kerri Hughes, Brenda Cooper, Tanya Huff, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Jean Rabe, Charles de Lint, Jody Lynn Nye, Devon Monk, Rosemary Edghill, Fiona Patton, Russell Davis, Alexander B. Potter, Jane Lindskold, and Michelle West.
2.5 stars out of 5