Selected Writing

Flint and Tinder

— PAGE 1

Panel 1

An exhausted Danish SOLDIER marches down a muddy wooded road in the rain, using his bayonet as a crutch. From the forest, a WITCH watches him pass.

(The soldier’s clothes are filthy; he’s been fighting for a long time. The witch is hardly visible—just two bright eyes in the shadows by the side of the road where the trees get thick. Perhaps there’s a glimpse of the lightning-scarred tree ahead before we’re supposed to know it’s important.)

Panel 2

The witch emerges from the trees and waves after him.

WITCH (waving): Weary soldier, spare a moment.

The soldier looks over his shoulder.

Panel 3

The soldier turns around, grateful for a rest.

SOLDIER: What is it, old witch? I have a revolution to fight.

WITCH: Yes, you have a sharp sword and a resourceful eye, and you fight for grand Napoleon, but you are also poor are you not?

SOLDIER: I would not be here if I were rich. If I had all the gold in the world I would never fight again.

(the witch supplicates herself; she is hunched and warty, the picture of the evil fairy tale witch.)

Panel 4

CLOSE ON: The witch smiles to herself.

WITCH (VOICEOVER): Good. Do you see that hollow tree by the road?

Panel 5

A scary looking tree, scarred black by lightning, leans over the path. The soldier is climbing it.

WITCH (VOICEOVER): Inside it lies all the riches you can carry, but be warned…

(the tree is large and treacherous, with stark white and black bark like the scales on a log half turned to charcoal.)

Panel 6

A branch snaps off in the soldier’s hand. He almost falls.

WITCH (VOICEOVER): The treasure is protected by a hellish guardian, one of the devil’s own hounds.

(the soldier hangs on by a single arm and stares in fright at the snapped-off branch in his other hand. bits of bark cascade down to the distant ground. Shot from below, with him dangling like a marionette.)

— PAGE 2

Panel 1

INSIDE THE TREE: The soldier, his sword out, faces the hound, lava dripping from its jaws like saliva. Above them, daylight barely shines down the trunk of the tree. All around them is riches and wealth.

WITCH (VOICEOVER): The creature cannot be defeated by force, poor grenadier. You must use your wits to distract it.

(like a hobbit hole or a house from wind in the willows, but twisted and dark, and full of gold. Light streams down weakly from the tree-trunk chimney and emanates, red and smoldering, from the hellish hound.)

Panel 2

The soldier throws the broken branch away from him and the hound bounds after it enthusiastically in a spray of coins.

WITCH (VOICEOVER): For this advice I ask not a penny, but that you return with your plunder one object precious to me, but worthless to a weary soldier. It is a simple box of tinder and flint.

(the hound is cowed, its eyes excited and ears up, in stark contrast to the flat, mean monster of the previous panel.)

Panel 3

The soldier’s hands around the box.

SOLDIER: What use is a tinder box to an arthritic old witch?

(the box is simple, but perhaps stands out from the norm by being engraved with crude runes or by being notched and weathered from many owners over the centuries. this is the One Ring of the story.)

Panel 4

The soldier is back in the rain with the witch. On the ground are sacks full of gold. He holds the tinder box out of the witch’s reach as she grasps for it.

WITCH: Give me the box, then I will tell you.

SOLDIER: (seriously) I do not trust you. Say now, or I will draw my sword and sever your evil head.

WITCH: I will not.

(almost comic: the witch as the child reaching for a wanted thing, the soldier withholding. the soldier’s threat is meant to sound empty and fairytale-esque before the next panel…)

Panel 5

The witch jumps forward and the soldier hacks at the her head.

(the witch is the aggressor, but the soldier’s willingness to follow through and just cut this defenseless creature down should be a little disturbing, I think)

Panel 6

The witch’s head hanging from her neck by a thread.

— PAGE 3

Panel 1

LATER… the soldier looks down on a sprawling fairy-tale city: pennants waving and domes gleaming. In the center is a forbidding castle.

COURTIER (VOICEOVER): How far have you traveled, that you have not heard of our most famous romantic plays? Or eaten cherries with carrot and mutton cutlets? Or heard about the beautiful princess?

(the sun is shining for the first time here. this might be the end of a simpler fairy tale.)

Panel 2

The soldier, now in fine clothes, sits at the head of a lavish table full of food, surrounded by wig-wearing nobles. He stares out the window at the forbidding castle.

COURTIER (at the table): They say she was imprisoned for questioning the King.

(this is an ornate dinner party, with silverware and frosted wine glasses and heaps of grapes and roasted fowl. it’s meant to represent the soldier’s newfound wealth, and that he’s willing to let everyone stay in the dark about his history as a soldier. he’ll have changed out of his uniform of course, perhaps into an open-necked stringy thing with pantaloons.)

Panel 3

The courtiers raise their wine.

ANOTHER COURTIER: Never mind that. A toast… to a certain foreign gentleman who gives generously to his many friends, is kind to the poor, and is not above giving his servants the day off! Hear hear!

(also, this shows that some time has passed, and that the soldier has loads of friends.)

Panel 4

The party is over, the table empty, the window dark. The soldier stoops over the fireplace, holding the witch’s tinder box.

(this is the soldier giving his servants the day off, and reminds us that he’s still a practical soldier at heart. I imagined it as kind of a mirror image of the banquet, where you get that contrasting effect of before and after, when all is ruins.)

Panel 5 (small)

CLOSE ON: The soldier strikes the flint with the steel.

(a small spark, like you’d expect from flint and steel.)

Panel 6

The spark roars into life, singeing his hair, and forms into —

The HOUND from the bewitched tree. The soldier gapes in terror!

(more of a tableau featuring the spark, turning into an angry fireball which arcs away from the soldier and encompasses the hound. The soldier is splayed out, his mouth open and eyes wide in dismay.)

Panel 7 (small)

HOUND: What orders, my master?

(close up of the hound’s lava-dripping mouth.)

Panel 8 (small)

The soldier’s gape curls into a subtle smile.

(mirror shot of the soldier’s; juxtaposition)

— PAGE 4

Panel 1

Daylight in the city. A CITY GUARD nails a WANTED poster to the side of an inn. It says:

“King’s dottir ESCAPED leaving onlee this marke: (here is the black footprint of a dog). A KNIGHTHOOD to ye hero who returnes her.”

(a slight relief from the previous page. Nice lacy writing on a vellum scroll. Perhaps the guard who nails it up has wrist frills.)

Panel 2

From the window above, the soldier looks down on the city guard. A delicate hand rests on his shoulder.

SOLDIER: Stay away from the window, my love, that they may not see your beauty.

(a wider shot at what was happening in the last panel. just the princess’s arm and hand so the audience can make the connection. Perhaps she’s wearing a lacy dress that creeps up her forearm.)

Panel 3

PRINCESS: My beauty is not what they are afraid of.

She is indeed beautiful. Behind her, there is a KNOCK at the door.

(this is the only time we get to see the princess, so it’s got to convey a couple things: 1) she’s a fairy tale princess, so staggeringly beautiful. 2) that she also has an edge. we don’t know this yet but she’s a revolutionary, and one that’s willing to kill for her cause. perhaps this is in her eyes, or perhaps she has just the hint of a scar on her face.)

Panel 4

The soldier opens it, and is surprised: in the foyer are two MEN in soldiers’ uniforms and the KING and QUEEN themselves, crowned. The Queen holds a handkerchief to her nose.

SOLDIER: My lord and lady. To what do I owe this pleasure?

In the background, the queen sneezes: HACHOO!

(some comic relief meant to show that the king is not the evil tyrant we might have perhaps been imagining. their clothes are festive and puffy.)

Panel 5

KING’S SOLDIER: Sir, you are sentenced to death for assisting in the princess’s escape and for harboring a convicted revolutionary.

The king’s soldiers seize him.

(the soldier is indignant here. he still thinks he’s the good guy.)

Panel 6

SOLDIER: But my lord, I love your daughter, and I came here to escape the revolution.

KING (sadly): You will discover, as I did, that one cannot have both.

SOLDIER: What do you mean?

KING’S SOLDIER: It means we are all lucky the Queen could track her here. You see, she is allergic to dogs.

QUEEN: HACHOO!

(this is where the audience gets the chance to guess that the princess has more backstory than we expect, and that the situation in the kingdom is not just a normal fairy-tale scenario.)

— PAGE 5

Panel 1

KING’S SOLDIER (VOICEOVER): For your crimes, you will be held at the royal gaol for forty hours, and then brought to the guillotine.

The soldier is held roughly by two guards at a guillotine in the city. Citizens throng around the edges, shaking their fists and shouting. The King and Queen observe from a dais. An operator has his hand on the lever.

(classic French revolution scene. perhaps some of the paintings of the time would be good reference?)

Panel 2

KING’S SOLDIER (VOICEOVER): The King will offer you one last request, as he is a kind King, which if it is not too onerous he will oblige.

The operator offers the soldier a pipe, while the guards allow the soldier to pull the tinder box from his pocket.

(the crowd watch, vindictive but respectful of this tradition.)

Panel 3

CLOSE ON: The soldier strikes the flint with the steel.

(like the scene at the fireplace on page 3)

Panel 4

KING’S SOLDIER (VOICEOVER): Then the execution will begin …

The spark forms into the horrible hound. The crowd is taken aback, but fascinated.

HOUND: What orders, my master?

(this is the calm before the storm. the last panel that is not blood and guts and chaos.)

Panel 5

KING’S SOLDIER (VOICEOVER): … for the good of the people.

The hound sets upon the King and Queen, over the corpses of their guards and citizens. Muskets go off in various directions.

(so that the audience can guess what the soldier’s orders were. I imagined this was a pretty large panel so that we can see the scope of the carnage.)

Panel 6

KING’S SOLDIER (VOICEOVER): And our lives will then carry on happily ever after, as they always have, one generation after another. The end.

The soldier proudly lowers the Queen’s bloody crown onto the beautiful princess’s head. The hellhound sits nearby, entrails scattered at his feet, and stares at us.

(right at us, with flames coming out of its fucking eyes. because I think we’re meant to be a little culpable for rooting for this soldier, who turned out to not only not be a pacifist after all, but to have participated willingly in the slaughter of hundreds for power and wealth and a princess.)