Links to fic
Here's some of the plot of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon", the Norwegian fairy-tale, courtesy of this fairy-tale's Wikipedia page. "The White Bear approaches a poor peasant and asks if he will give him his prettiest and youngest daughter; in return, the bear will make the man rich. The girl is reluctant, so the peasant asks the bear to return, and in the meantime, persuades her. The White Bear takes her off to a rich and enchanted castle. At night, he takes off his bear form in order to come to her bed as a man, although the lack of light means that she never sees him.
When she grows homesick, the bear agrees that she might go home as long as she agrees that she will never speak with her mother alone.. ..her mother insists that the White Bear must really be a troll, gives her some candles, and tells her to light them at night, to see what is sharing her bed.
The youngest daughter obeys, and finds he is a highly attractive prince, but she spills three drops of the melted tallow on him, waking him. He tells her that if she held out a year, he would have been free, but now he must go to his wicked stepmother, who enchanted him into this shape and lives in a castle east of the sun and west of the moon, and marry her hideous daughter, a troll princess.
In the morning, the youngest daughter finds that the palace has vanished. She sets out in search of him. Coming to a great mountain, she finds an old woman playing with a golden apple. The youngest daughter asks if she knows the way to the castle east of the sun and west of the moon. The old woman cannot tell her, but lends the youngest daughter a horse to reach a neighbor who might know, and gives her the apple. The neighbor ..does not know the way.., but lends the youngest daughter a horse to reach a neighbor who might know, and gives her the carding-comb. The third neighbor.. lends the youngest daughter a horse to reach the East Wind and gives her the spinning wheel.
The East Wind.. takes her to the West Wind. The West Wind does the same, bringing her to the South Wind; the South Wind does the same, bringing her to the North Wind. The North Wind.. takes her there.
[Some stuff that doesn't seem relevant to the fic] The prince and his bride free the prisoners captive in the castle, take the gold and silver within, and leave the castle east of the sun and west of the moon."
1. The set of fairy-tales that KnifeEdge has used fits Spuffy wonderfully. It’s mostly "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" , related to the story of Cupid and Psyche, which KnifeEdge mentioned in the final author’s note and which is also referenced in the Wikipedia article I just linked). The obvious reason why this is so great is the Beauty and the Beast aspect with Spike starting out as a monster. But trust is also a central theme in these fairytales – the characters create it, break it, rebuild it - and so do Spuffy, both in canon and in the fic.
2. So the fic is pretty much built on a fairytale, and it really reads like a huge, epic, marvellous fairytale (although there’s plenty of mundane stuff mixed in). There's a real sense of wonder and big binding, destiny-shaping magic, and outlandish adventures that I loved. I felt the fairy tale vibe most of all when Buffy went on a quest to the winter dimension and various helpers gave her significant items. In a sequence of four chapters (“The East Wind”, “The West Wind” and so on), Buffy met previous Slayers, Drusilla, and Spike's mother, who showed her aspects of Spike that she needed to understand and accept in order to continue the journey. Buffy got a token of passing each of these challenges – Spike's coat, Xin Rong’s sword, a railroad spike, and a song that Spike’s mother loved. I love the hell out of the fact that KnifeEdge made these mystical talismans out of Spike's history. (The pattern actually started in the human world. Xander gave Buffy some camping supplies, survivalist handbooks, and his lucky charm from “The Replacement”, and Willow and Tara charmed a necklace for her so it would light up, let her find Spike and find her way home and let her become unnoticeable and unfindable.)
3. It's not JUST the fairytales. All sorts of wintery and Northern creatures show up in Sunnydale. The mare, Krampus, Jack Frost, Svartalfar in the winter world… I think the mare was especially awesome. We got to see it attack waking people, too (I guess it would resort to that if someone tries to, you know, slay it).
4. Giles thinks the Northern monsters are migrating in because of the drop in temperature, and if that's not awesome fantasy worldbuilding, I don't know what is. (He turns out to be wrong, but still.)
5. The winter creatures don't only have an ecology, some of them also have a culture and religion. A way into the story, the Scoobies find out Jack Frost belongs to a certain race of demons that worship Hel. And Jack mistakes the hell goddess that comes to Sunnydale for Hel, and that's why he serves her. Complex motivations for minor bads, yayy!
6. It's season 5, but there's no Dawn and no Glory, BUT it is still remarkably season-5-shaped . The mare replaces the Queller demon SEAMLESSLY. There's also opportunity for Spike to say “It’s always blood” and also to get tortured by a hell goddess while resisting her plan to hurt Buffy and those she cares for. That's because there's a hell goddess! I don't want to mention her name, because the suspense is a big deal in the fic (kind of like with Glory, actually), but she's winter-related and older than Hel. Speaking of building fantastical elements on canon, "shut up, Spike" will NEVER sound the same.
7. There's deep winter in Sunnydale, Buffy bundling up in the warmest gear that will still let her slay, and a Spuffy snowfight. This was just damn cute.
8. There's poetry, which always makes Spuffy better. In this story, it continues some themes and images that also appear in other ways, like the ying/yang imagery with Spike as the moon to Buffy's sun. Also, "dead can dance" (e.e.cummings reference) really is a pretty good description of Spike.
9. What made me happiest of all: it's not just a fusion with one fairytale plot, it's a bunch of them, all reinforcing the themes from different angles AND making a reread like an Easter egg hunt.
From “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”, there's the POLAR BEAR (Jaws) that helps Buffy and Spike escape the hell dimension. So much bear goodness! It worked wonderfully with Spike’s strong feelings about bears (“Pangs”). In “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”, the bear is the bridegroom; here, the bear turned out to be Spike’s spirit guide (like Buffy’s mountain lion in “Intervention”). I just noticed that Buffy's insistence they *freed* the bear, not stole it, echoes the ending of the fairy-tale.
I really love that Buffy nicknamed her mystery vampire Mr. Gordo, thus joking about sharing a bed with an animal. At least one of the fairy-tales of this type does involve a pig as the mysterious bridegroom (“The Enchanted Pig”, thanks, Wikipedia).
Given that all this is going on, when Buffy told Spike she loved him and he lost his game face, all I could think of was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (which is based on a French fairytale, of course).
10. In the imagery and themes of the fic, there are countless versions of yin/yang motifs. Sun/moon, fire/ice, love/hate, human/monster, Slayer/Vampire. Spuffy complement each other and become stronger together. (There’s a ritual towards the end of the fic that is all about this. Not exactly a claim.) Since the big bad of the fic was going to tip the world into perpetual winter, but Buffy and Spike thwarted her plan and restored normal weather, it's almost like a Spuffy solstice story. Thanks to Vampire/Slayer love and understanding, the warmth will return after winter and the world will go on...
There's more stuff I could babble about, like whether or not the not-a-claim ritual has any significant resemblance to the wedding of Eros and Psyche, and how neat it is that Psyche means Soul, and stuff from the synopsis that has obvious ties to the plot of the fic (Willow as the distrustful mother), but I might never stop, and also, the phone already ate one draft and is now refusing to do backspace, so this is what you get. End babble.
Now that you know some of what went through my head...
“COOL DATE IDEA” Tumblr post by peach94 and nobodyontheice (used both at the top and bottom of the board): seananmcguire.tumblr.com
Yummy Sushi pajamas: thecatspjs.com
Mr. Gordo: buffyfannumerouno on SlayAlive forums
“shut up” hearts drawing: sadellite.tumblr.com
“Checkpoint” and “Touched” screencaps from wishmemonsters.net
Shut mouth: joanswan.files.wordpress.com
Moon&Sun necklace by Hairy Growler (second photo)
Tale as Old as Time by TheLagunaCollection on Etsy
Eros and Psyche via Pinterest (supposedly by David Vance)
Campfire photo by Elena Shumilova via mnn.com
“East of the Sun, West of the Moon” fairytale illustration by William Stout via indulgy.com
Spiral staircase photo by Tom via donaldsweblog.blogspot.com
Icy cave photo by John Mitchell via southdakotamagazine.com
Polar bear tracks photo by Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir and/or Mark Wilson via polarlab.anchoragemuseum.org