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The Emerging Queendom: New Fairytales to Unleash Women's Power

Stitching together a new narrative to empower women.

Two page spread from The Little Mermaid of mermaid in sea

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was a 1968 edition of The Little Mermaid, by Hans Christian Andersen, published by Golden Books. It had a psychedelic lenticular cover (those crazy plastic pictures that shift when you move them) and spooky dolls illustrating the inner pages. Long before Disney colonized the story, this book mesmerized me.

Make no mistake. It’s a brutal story. She is a mermaid for Christ’s sake – my dream job – and she gives up not only her fish tail but her actual voice to be with a guy who dumps her in the end.

Heartbreaking. Relatable though. Like a lot of women, I shape shifted through my younger years, seeking the form most attractive to a given man at a given moment. Now, I wonder what I might have done if I’d had a different narrative about women's power in my head. Because myths and fairytales are more than mere entertainment. Fairytales are “a magic mirror,” to borrow Bruno Bettelheim’s phrase, that can show us our deepest selves and highest possibilities.

But what happens when the mirror stops working?


Cross stitch pattern from the book The Emerging Queendom

War, the ascent of authoritarian leaders, mass extinctions and extreme weather – these are just a few of the juicy challenges it's our privilege to face.

When I look at this landscape, I see old stories petering out, their last gasp also their most poisonous. The myth of human dominion over the earth for example – we’re clearly in the end game of that one. The rugged individual fighting to protect his own against all odds. The warrior avenging the death of his comrade with more death. These stories are so deeply embedded in our collective psyche that they seem like truth.

  We forget that we made them up. And that we can make up new ones, better suited to the times.

  Into this maelstrom drops a new book.

The Emerging Queendom is an intriguing collaboration between Japan-based writer Paige Baldwin Ando and Estonian cross stitch artist Maria Imasheva. Together they are forging a new narrative that centers on women.  

In 13 interwoven original fairytales, the book explores – through words, illustrations, and cross stitch designs – the nature of feminine power. What is it? Where does it come from? And where does it go when it gets suppressed?  

  “It's not, you know, revised Cinderella,” says Paige during a delightfully deep conversation we had over Zoom.

Instead, it's a rich, nuanced world populated with archetypal women at different ages and stages in their development – the queens of this queendom.

Each story has an accompanying cross stitch pattern that Maria designed, so you can sew as you read. “Sometimes,” Maria says, “when you do something with your hands, you are able to remember what you were thinking about more clearly than when you were just reading or listening to it.

  Maria taps into the divine feminine to create her cross stitch patterns. “I work with mythological themes, with folktales, fairytales. And I'm very much interested in goddesses and all the divine feminine aspect of mythology. I try to make my designs so that they will feel traditional to any kind of any part of the world, actually.”

  She wanted to do a book of her designs, but when she imagined it initially, it felt flat. Then she realized what it was missing: Narrative. For that, she turned to her friend Paige. In addition to being “a writer from birth,” Paige is also a creativity coach, hosts a podcast, and practices intuitive image making. She's also a Certain Age author, with a piece on jumpstarting creativity.

  “I'm really, really committed to the intuitive path of self-reflection and self understanding,” she says. “And it's actually a huge theme of this book as well.”


Quote from The Emerging Queendom book, new fairytales for women's power

So what is women's power, anyway?

“As women, we bring life into this world,” Maria says. “So our power is very creative. When you actually reclaim your power, your female power, you would do it differently, not just recreate how men do it.”

What would that look like, I wonder. “Well,” she says, “We would ask for a friend's help. We would try to talk instead of getting into a fight. We would look for a peaceful solution first because that's the way we are, right?”

Paige chimes in, “One thing that has come through to me throughout this process is that our power is never gone. The idea that it's possible for somebody to abscond with our power, that it's like a jewel that can be taken – that is false. There's no part of our power that can be taken away from us. It's in there. We can excavate it.”

She pauses, thoughtful, then goes on. “But this misconception that it can be taken lays the foundation for every kind of oppression. Because fundamentally that's what oppression is. It's an attempt to use the life and the energy, the time, the intelligence, the body of other human beings for one's own purposes, rather than letting those human beings live as they want to live.”


The Emerging Queendom cover shot

What can story do in the face of these deep societal patterns and the long-held perquisites?

Both women agree that fairytales, able to penetrate the subconscious realm, are especially needed right now.

“Working together, building creating – these are the strategies,” says Paige. “And they're not new. They're very old strategies, but they have been placed in a position of inferiority for a very long time.” She goes on to site the relative peace of the last 80 years, since World War II as evidence that these strategies work. “It’s not perfect, of course, but we’ve prevented a lot of bloodshed.”

Maria adds that with the Internet, people are constantly bombarded with input of all kinds. “It's really hard to navigate when you have that much information thrown into you. And our book is something that will help. It provides structure to help you find your own ideas of how the world would work.”

“Multiple people have told us, I wish I'd had stories like this as a girl," Paige says."And honestly, I wish I had had stories like this to read to my own daughter.”

Now they will. But first they need our help.

To bring the book into the world, Maria and Paige are raising $5000, which will allow them to publish a beautiful, hardbound edition. If having new stories to usher in a more harmonious, connected and creative era appeals to you, consider supporting this project.

Help make The Emerging Queendom a reality with a contribution to their crowdfunding campaign.

What stories do you tell yourself? How would they be different if your power were active and available? Tell us in the comments below!


 Jean Shields Fleming is founder and editor of Certain Age. She spoke with Paige Baldwin Ando and Maria Imasheva via Zoom on June 12, 2024.

Images from The Emerging Queendom courtesy of Maria Imasheva and Paige Baldwin Ando

Little Mermaid image by Jean Shields Fleming

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1 Comment

I just r-eupped my email since, Certain Age hasn't shown up yet. I really loved this. I see why you're so kind as an editor. You have your own exquisite prose that you're clearly faithful to. Many editors, at least those I've encountered, are resentful since, they want to be writing too. That's the secret. To be faithful to your art that is truly such a grace. You write beautifully Jean.

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