excuse me i would like MORE magic dustpans
June 23, 2017 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Fantasy where people who do housekeeping/domestic/child rearing activity are awesome because of it, and not in spite?

I loved the first part of the first Tiffany Aching book, where she is keeping an eye on her little brother and whacks a lake monster with a frying pan, and "A Handful of Ashes," the Garth Nix short story from "To Hold the Bridge" about scholarship girls at a magical university who work as servants to earn their tuition. And one of my formative influences was Dealing with Dragons, where Cimerone runs away from being a princess to organize dragon hoards and cook feasts in magic cauldrons.

I'm reading Howl's Moving Castle right now, and it's an absolute delight. I also really like T. Kingfisher's short stories.

Characters grousing about having to scrub pots or watch babies are totally fine. Male protagonists are totally fine. The author devaluing characters who perform stereotypically female work is not OK.
posted by joyceanmachine to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
The science fiction novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow makes minor mention of the fact that in their society almost all jobs have been automated, and the few jobs that can't easily be done by robots are now coveted by the vast unemployed population. This leads to janitors and bartenders being the most wealthy and respected members of the civilization, and they hang on to their jobs zealously throughout the centuries. (There is no death, either.)
posted by seasparrow at 8:08 AM on June 23, 2017

Have you read Pratchett's Unseen Academicalsl? I think you might like Glenda, Queen of the Night Kitchen.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:23 AM on June 23, 2017

Soonie And The Dragon. The title refers only to the first of three stories about Soonie, a young woman in a vaguely fairy-tale-ish neverland. She starts out as a carefree undisciplined young girl being cared for by her grandmother, who dies early on and leaves Soonie alone with a broken-down caravan, a dog, and a horse. And after a couple paragraphs of Soonie feeling sorry for herself...she then realizes that wait, this is kind of a broken-down caravan, and she'd never lifted a finger to help out with the sewing and mending and cleaning and stuff. So she dives in and cleans and paints and repairs and mends everything, finishing by painting the caravan, and then gets it looking awesome and basically realizes "hot damn, I think I'm gonna be okay after all" and sets out with the dog and horse to seek her fortune, and she then turns into a sort of one-person traveling show caravan, camping out in the meadows outside town and busking for money which she uses to buy a little food each day and that's it.

The first and second stories are thereafter about her rescuing princesses from a dragon and saving herself from a fairy king, and she comes across as witty and practical in all cases (in the story with the dragon, she gets herself trapped with the princesses and when she finds that they're all bewailing their fate, she lectures them for being helpless and not trying to suck it up and think their way out to safety). But the third story also has an element of housework - she's been starting to wish that she had a sweetheart, and pitches camp by a town for a while hoping to check out the dudes. Each night she goes to the dance in the village square, and each night she meets some cute dude and is checking him out and hoping she'll see him again the following night- but then each day she heads in to town to make some money doing odd jobs, and is hired by one or another little old woman asking for help with the cooking or the washing or the laundry or something, and when she's finishing up she then discovers in each case that the dude she met the night before is related in some way to the little old woman she's been helping, and was just being a lazy slacker, so she then tells him off for being a lazy jerk and heads back to her caravan in a huff. (She ultimately does find a guy, though.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:39 AM on June 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'd consider Lifelode, by Jo Walton.
posted by jeather at 8:55 AM on June 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

A Tale of Two Castles, by Gail Carson Levine. Girl runs away to be an actress and gets a job as a housekeeper/assistant for a dragon detective.
posted by gideonfrog at 9:03 AM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, Starry River of the Sky, by Grace Lin. Rendi runs away from home and gets a job as the chore boy at the village inn.
posted by gideonfrog at 9:07 AM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States
posted by aniola at 9:25 AM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Song of Sorcery by Elizabeth Scarborough is about a hearthwitch, who, while awesome anyway, is even more so because of her domestically oriented magic.
posted by Tabitha Someday at 9:32 AM on June 23, 2017

It's been a long time but I remember domesticity playing a big part in some awesome magic in the Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:46 AM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I really love The Interior Life, by Katherine Blake. This is actually written by Dorothy Heydt, but she published it under The Interior Life.

I think it's only available used, but it's an amazing book - I first read it in high school, and recently found a copy at a used bookstore and reread it.
posted by needlegrrl at 10:06 AM on June 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Angela Carter's Nights At The Circus has a lot of domestic work and child-rearing, also cooking and catering. (Watch out for the bombe surprise!)

I caution that the wikipedia entry's literary analysis sections are not good readings of the novel and were clearly written by someone not that familiar with socialist feminism. (An individualist novel indeed, when it's entirely structured by gender and class solidarity in a very, very blatant way?)
posted by Frowner at 10:06 AM on June 23, 2017

Also, it's worth looking at the search term "domestic fantasy," because it is a thing. Oh, and Robin McKinley's Chalice is about a beekeeper.
posted by gideonfrog at 10:22 AM on June 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you consider gardening a domestic activity, Ursula Vernon is worth checking out. Try The Dryad's Shoe, The Tomato Thief and Razorback.
posted by fifthpocket at 10:26 AM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

McKinley is great for this--Spindle's End is almost entirely a fantasy of domesticity. Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane is a sideways take on this: the MC and her love interest both have difficult and complex relationships with their own domesticity, but it's valued in the book and it's the only fantasy of middle age I can think of.
posted by peppercorn at 10:57 AM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Castle Waiting series doesn't focus on domestic magic, but certainly explores and values the domestic life in a fairytale fantasy world. What happens when the story doesn't end badly, or well, because the main characters just hie off on some other adventure? The rest of the characters go on living their lives.

I just went through the T. Kingfisher books, and back through Digger and wow.
posted by peripatetron errant at 12:06 PM on June 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. Every ten years, the sorcerer protecting Agnieszka's valley chooses a girl (the prettiest or most talented or "best") to keep house for him. At the end of ten years, he gives the chosen girl a goodly amount of money, and she leaves the valley to live elsewhere. Everyone knows that Agnieszka's beautiful best friend will be chosen next, until, of course, Agnieszka herself is chosen.

Deservedly won the Nebula for best novel.
posted by JawnBigboote at 12:53 PM on June 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh my god, I LOVED the cooking and cleaning in Dealing with Dragons.

If you haven't read any other Diana Wynne Jones, housekeeping is a very important part of most of her worlds. My favorite is one of the griffons in The Dark Lord of Derkholm who loves cooking the same way her (human wizard) father loves designing magical creatures.

For some reason I think the story "The Return of the Fire Witch" from Elizabeth Hand's Errantry might scratch this itch. There's two witches, and one of them really just wants to be left alone with her house and psychoactive fungus and related harvest/brewing chores.
posted by theweasel at 2:49 PM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding Lifeload.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 2:58 PM on June 23, 2017

Did you know Dealing With Dragons had sequels?
posted by corb at 1:50 AM on June 24, 2017

If you like Howl's Moving Castle, you might like House of Many Ways. It's also Diana Wynne Jones, and while I haven't read it in a little while, there's a lot of domesticity.
posted by linettasky at 10:41 AM on June 24, 2017

It's been a long time but I remember domesticity playing a big part in some awesome magic in the Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce

Yup! There's a subset of magic users whose powers are related to ordinary or domestic things: cooking, gardening, sewing & fiber arts. Some of the protagonists have flashier powers involving weather or metal work or dancing, but all of those are still considered ambient magic (to contrast with academic magic in that universe).
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:58 PM on June 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yes, as mentioned above, I just started reading Lifelode by Jo Walton and it's allllll about this.
posted by exceptinsects at 3:41 PM on June 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

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