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From wicked step-mothers to fairy god-mothers, from stock phrases such as “once upon a time” to “happily ever after”, fairy-tales permeate our culture. Disney blockbusters have recently added another chapter to the history of the fairy-tale, sitting alongside the 19th century, saccharine tales published by the Brothers Grimm and the 17th century stories written by Charles Perrault. Inspired by Marina Warner’s Once Upon a Time, we asked OUP staff members to channel their inner witches, trolls, and princesses, and reveal who their favourite fairy-tale character is and why. Do you agree with the choices below? Who would you choose?
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“The outlook is not promising for my favourite fairy-tale character, Kai, towards the end of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. With splinters from the troll’s mirror in his eye and his heart (that have turned him evil), Kai is a prisoner of the Snow Queen being forced to spell out the word ‘eternity’ using pieces of ice, in the manner of a Chinese puzzle. And he does it all for the childish promise of a pair of skates. Knowing the author’s penchant for unhappy, complicated endings, I was greatly relieved when the story ends with Kai’s childhood love Gerda coming to the rescue!”
— Taylor Coe, Marketing Coordinator
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“Though I have many favorite characters, the one that has been consistent throughout my life is Ariel/The Little Mermaid. I have always been fascinated by the ocean so her story stood out amongst the other fairy-tales when I was growing up. I admire her ability to recognize what she wants, and her courage to change her circumstances, no matter the consequences. She is curious and always seeks out new experiences, which I relate to. Ariel’s story reminds us to question our surroundings and create adventurous lives.”
— Molly Hansen, Marketing Associate
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“Baba Yaga. She has long been my favorite mainly because of the sound, rhythm, and cadence with which my mother (who first told me the story from a children’s book of fairy-tales) said ‘Baba Yaga, the boney-legged’. All sorts of possibilities lay within those five words. (I later learned my mother was mispronouncing ‘Baba Yaga’.) I think what her story distinct is that Baga Yaga was an individual. Normally fairy-tale characters, especially villains, are nameless : a witch, a wicked stepmother, etc. (this was before I learned it simply means ‘old woman’). Baba Yaga had a home (with chicken legs!); she didn’t live in some random cottage that inept children could find. Baga Yaga belonged in the (fairy tale) universe just as much as the heroes. (I have no idea what the hero’s name was supposed to be.)”
— Alice Northover, Social Media Marketing Manager
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“Mine is La belle au bois dormant – or Sleeping Beauty. Just the thought of sleeping in peace for 100 years sounds like heaven to me. I’m not so fussed about being awoken by a kiss from a prince – I’d rather he came with a large cup of tea!”
— Andrea Keegan, Senior Commissioning Editor
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“My favourite fairy-tale character is one I can’t actually pronounce: Snegurochka. For those who don’t speak Russian – and I modestly include myself among that number – Snegurochka (or Snegurka) is known in English as The Snow Maiden. It’s about a girl made of snow, by a poor, childless couple, who unexpectedly comes to life. Most versions of the story end relatively tragically, but I love the mixture of fantasy and real life. It’s very poignant, and lends itself to many different retellings.”
— Simon Thomas, Marketing Executive
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“I have always been a fan of the Brothers Grimm fairy-tale Snow White and Rose Red. Since one sister shares a name with the other fairy tale princess, I think these young ladies often are overlooked. I love that they are brave enough to be generous and kind even to those who are different or intimidating. And someone who is ungrateful for their help gets eaten by a bear—a good lesson for us all.”
— Patricia Hudson, Associate Director of Institutional Marketing
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“My favourite fairy-tale character is Puss in Boots because he is such a cunning feline. Ever the loyal cat, he uses his tricks and deceptions to aid his master in pursuit of love and fortune. He is part of a long tradition of the ingenious sidekick, whose skills far outweigh those of their counterpart – in this case his master – who inevitably reap the benefits of the sidekick’s wily ways. It’s got everything really: brains, adventure, romance… and rather adorably, a cat who thinks he’s people.”
— Jennifer Rogers, Team Leader (GAB Operations)
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“Peter Pan because he is selfish and charming, earthly and ethereal, vulnerable and bold; he boasts “Oh, the cleverness of me!” and also fearlessly announces “To die would be an awfully big adventure”. He inhabits a dream-world and delights in enticing us to join him; to leave off adulthood and rekindle our childhood spirit & imagination.”
— Suzie Eves, Marketing Assistant
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“I’ve always loved the tales of Fionn mac Cumhaill, the Irish warrior. He’s a shape-shifter in mythology; sometimes a man, sometimes a descendant of magic people, sometimes a giant. As a giant, he built the Giant’s Causeway to give him a stepping stone to Scotland. During a feud with a Scottish giant he dug out a clump of earth to throw at his rival; the hole where the earth had been became Lough Neagh, the earth (which fell short of Scotland) became the Isle of Man. It is said that he never died, but lies asleep underground, and will wake to protect Ireland and the Irish people when they need him most. I love these tales, as they speak to me of the places of my childhood, and when I visit the Giant’s Causeway, I almost feel like I could round a corner to find Fionn stepping in his giant boots across the Irish Sea.”
— Cathryn Steele, Assistant Commissioning Editor
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“My favourite fairy-tale character is the old shoemaker, who worked very hard and was very honest, but who couldn’t earn enough to feed his family. He unknowingly receives the help of the nocturnal elves, who themselves have nothing, not even clothes on their backs, but who work all night to turn leather into beautifully crafted shoes. The eventually success of the old shoemaker did not change him and he repaid the elves kindness with Christmas presents of fancy shirts, bright pantaloons, and teeny tiny clogs, and the elves went away happy and dancing. A lovely lesson not to forget those who helped us get where we are. It also reminds me of what parents say when they’ve performed a thankless task, “the elves must have done it!”. Perhaps it’s really a hint that they deserve a nice present at Christmas!”
— Alison Jones, Managing Editor (Open Access)
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“My favourite fairy-tale character is the horse Dapplegrim. I always loved how he was the brains and also the brawn in his fairy tale, and how the story was really about him, instead of about the prince and the princess who usually feature so centrally in fairy-tales. With his help his master was able to complete the tasks he was set and marry the princess, but Dapplegrim never asked for his own reward. His story had everything – magic, shape-shifting, seemingly-impossible tasks, a beautiful princess/sorceress to win, and a battle. Dapplegrim always came out on top.”
— Jenny Nugee, Administative Assistant
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“As a child I remember being horrified and fascinated by the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The more horrible the story, the more I loved it. Yet, it was not until I was a full-grown adult that I discovered my favorite book of fairy-tales. It was in the mid-90s when I was in my late 20s, living in Hoboken, NJ. My bedroom window looked out the back onto the backroom of a local pub, The Shannon Lounge. It was in the backroom of the Shannon Lounge that I witnessed a strange puppet show inspired by Heinrich Hoffmann’s Der Struwwelpeter. Here are wondrous tales of kids catching fire for playing with matches, and tall lanky men snipping off the thumbs of thumb sucking minors, or what would happen if you tipped in your chair at the dinner table, and many other cautionary tales for obstreperous brats that paid little heed to the wisdom of their parents and elders.”
— Christian Purdy, Publicity Director, GAB Marketing
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“I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the lesser-known but very sweet Brave Little Tailor. He becomes king because of a series of calculated heroic actions, including clever wordplay (he kills “seven at one stroke,” he claims, referring not to men but to the seven flies he killed at breakfast) and defeating giants without even touching them (he turns them on each other, instead). He moves up the social ladder and marries the princess all due to his wit and cleverness—and maybe some white lies here and there…”
— Georgia Brodsky, Marketing Coordinator
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“The best characters are almost always the evil ones! I love the Queen in Snow White, particularly in the Brothers Grimm telling of the story. Her impressively creative attempts to kill Snow White are fascinating, and I’m pretty sure that I can relate to her demise: dancing in red-hot shoes until she drops dead.”
— Caroline James, Editor
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“I’ve always had a soft spot for the Ugly Duckling. As a very sensitive kid, I agonized with the baby bird at every step of his journey and was elated when he found his true family. Then, as a typically insecure teenager, I dreamed of having a transfiguration of my own. Now, as I tell the story to my daughter, it reminds me how important it is to treat even the scruffiest of ducklings more like potential swans.”
— Beth Craggs, Communications Executive
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“One of my favourite fairy-tale characters is the dog with the eyes as big as saucers in The Tinderbox. I like him because even though the treasure he guarded was the least valuable, he is no less intimidating as a character. As a child I wished I had a dog, so the idea of having three big dogs you could summon at any time also had great appeal!”
— Iona Argyle, Programme Administrator
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“My favourite fairy-tale character has to be Roald Dahl’s feisty Little Red Riding Hood. Dahl’s ability to challenge traditional roles and inject any story with a wicked spark of fun made his books a mainstay of my childhood. As a feminist, and someone who has watched the obsession with ‘perfect princesses’ with increasing dismay, the killer lines in this poem feel like a perfect antidote:”
‘The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead’
I have read a lot of fairytale retellings recently, many of them sci-fi, a lot of them doing very interesting things with the stories they are retelling. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one, but I was excited for a science fiction story that did something different with the Snow White tale. I will be honest: Stitching Snow was not the book for me. Stitching Snow is about Essie, the princess of Windsong, the planet that rules the galaxy. She runs away to the mining planet of Thanda after her step-mother tries to kill her and lives there somewhat peacefully for eight years until a mysterious boy, Dane, crash lands near her home. Also, she is something called an Exile, an otherwise normal human with the genetic quirk that she can enter another person’s consciousness and know everything they’re thinking. The premise was interesting enough, but I found... Read more »
Everything about the origins of Prague, from the castles, the river, the cobbled streets of the old city to Charles Bridge, almost everything has a story, a myth or a legend associated with it.
Prague’s origins are said to go back to the 7th century and the Slavic Princess Libuše. Not only beautiful and wise, she also possessed prophetic powers. Libuše and her husband, Prince Přemysl, ruled peacefully over the Czech lands from the hill of Vyšehrad. According to legend, one day Libuše had a vision as she stood on a cliff overlooking the Vltava. She pointed to a forested hill across the river, and proclaimed: "I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars." She instructed her people to build a castle where a man was building the threshold (práh in Czech) of a house. "And because even the great noblemen must bow low before a threshold, you shall give it the name Praha." And so Prague was born.
The Old Square
The Arch to Charles Bridge
I won’t recount all the myths and legends associated with the city, because there are so many. There are tales of tragedy, of love, of valour and of sacrifice. Here are but a few titles in case you wish to look them up.
The Iron Man, The Silver Fish, The Headless Templar, The One-Armed Thief, The Ghost of the Miller’s Daughter, The Begging Skeleton, Karbourek the Water Sprite, The Golem of Prague, The Murdered Nun, The Mad Barber, The Legend of Dalibor, Prophecies of the Clock.
Chair of Nails
Surreal urination at the Franz Kafka Museum...
Modern day declarations of love
If you run out of books...
Prague was a great source of inspiration to me. It was as if I were stepping back in time. Sadly I missed out on a Ghost Tour of this magical city. Oh well, I’ll just have to go back...
There is a quarrel inside me about fairies, and the form of literature their presence helps to define. I have never tried to see a fairy, or at least not since I was five years old. The interest of Casimiro Piccolo reveals how attitudes to folklore belong to their time: he was affected by the scientific inquiry into the paranormal which flourished – in highly intellectual circles – from the late nineteenth century and into the twentieth. But he also presents a test case, I feel, for the questions that hang around fairies and fairy tales in the twenty-first century. What is the point of them? What are the uses of such enchantments today? The absurdity of this form of magical belief (religious miracles are felt to be different, and not only by believers) creates a quarrel inside me, about the worth of this form of literature and entertainment I enjoy so much. In what way am I ‘away with the fairies’, too?
Suspicion now hangs around fairy tales because the kind of supernatural creatures and events they include belong to a belief system nobody subscribes to anymore. Even children, unless very small, are in on the secret that fairyland is a fantasy. In the past, however, allusions to fairies could be dangerous not because belief in them was scorned, but because they were feared: Kirk collected the beliefs of his flock in order to defend them against charges of heterodoxy or witchcraft, and, the same time as Kirk’s ethnographical activities, Charles Perrault published his crucially influential collection (l697), in which he pokes fun, with suave courtly wit, at the dangerousness of witches and witchcraft, ogres and talking animals. Perrault is slippery and ambiguous. His Cinderella is a tale of marvellously efficacious magic, but he ends with a moral: recommending his readers to find themselves well-placed godmothers. Not long before he was writing his fairy tales, France and other places in Europe had seen many people condemned to death on suspicion of using magic. The fairy tale emerges as entertainment in a proto-enlightenment move to show that there is nothing to fear.
The current state of fairy tale – whether metastasized in huge blockbuster films or refreshed and re-invigorated in the fiction of Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme, Margaret Atwood or, most recently, Helen Oyeyemi (Mr Fox, and, this year, Boy Snow Bird) does not invite, let alone compel, belief in its magic elements as from an audience of adepts or faithful. Contemporary readers and audiences, including children over the age of 6, are too savvy about special effects and plot lines and the science/magic overlap to accept supernatural causes behind Angelina Jolie’s soaring in Maleficent or the transmogrifications of the characters. Nor do they, nor do we need to suspend disbelief in the willed way Coleridge described.
Rather the ways of approaching the old material – Blue Beard, The Robber Bridegroom, Hansel & Gretel, Snow White and so on – opens up the stories to new meanings. The familiar narrative becomes the arena for raising questions; the story’s well known features provide a common language for thinking about families and love, childhood and marriage. Fairies and their realm allow thought experiments about alternative arrangements in this world. We are no longer looking for fairies at the bottom of the garden, but seeing through them to glimpse other things. As the little girl realises in The Servant’s Tale by Paula Fox, her grandmother through her stories ‘saw what others couldn’t see, that for her the meaning of one thing could also be the meaning of a greater thing.’ In the past, these other, greater things were most often promises – escape, revenge, recognition, glory – but the trend of fairy tales is turning darker, and many retellings no longer hold out such bright eyed hope.
Featured image credit: Sleeping Beauty, by Viktor M. Vasnetsov. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
I’m writing from Palermo where I’ve been teaching a course on the legacy of Troy. Myths and fairy tales lie on all sides in this old island. It’s a landscape of stories and the past here runs a live wire into the present day. Within the same hour, I saw an amulet from Egypt from nearly 3000 years ago, and passed a young, passionate balladeer giving full voice in the street to a ballad about a young woman – la baronessa Laura di Carini – who was killed by her father in 1538. He and her husband had come upon her alone with a man whom they suspected to be her lover. As she fell under her father’s stabbing, she clung to the wall, and her hand made a bloody print that can still be seen in the castle at Carini – or so I was told. The cantastorie – the ballad singer – was giving the song his all. He was sincere and funny at the same time as he knelt and frowned, mimed and lamented.
The eye of Horus, or Wadjet, was found in a Carthaginian’s grave in the city and it is still painted on the prows of fishing boats, and worn as a charm all over the Mediterranean and the Middle East, in order to ward off dangers. This function is, I believe, one of the deepest reasons for telling stories in general, and fairy tales in particular: the fantasy of hope conjures an antidote to the pain the plots remember. The street singer was young, curly haired, and had spent some time in Liverpool, he told me later, but he was back home now, and his song was raising money for a street theatre called Ditirammu (dialect for Dithryamb), that performs on a tiny stage in the stables of an ]old palazzo in the district called the Kalsa. Using a mixture of puppetry, song, dance, and mime, the troupe give local saints’ legends, traditional tales of crusader paladins versus dastardly Moors, and pastiches of Pinocchio, Snow White, and Alice in Wonderland.
Their work captures the way fairy tales spread through different media and can be played, danced or painted and still remain recognisable: there are individual stories which keep shape-shifting across time, and there is also a fairytale quality which suffuses different forms of expression (even recent fashion designs have drawn on fairytale imagery and motifs). The Palermo theatre’s repertoire also reveals the kinship between some history and fairy tale: the hard facts enclosed and memorialised in the stories. Although the happy ending is a distinguishing feature of fairy tales, many of them remember the way things were – Bluebeard testifies to the kinds of marriages that killed Laura di Carini.
A few days after coming across the cantastorie in the street, I was taken to see the country villa on the crest of Capo d’Orlando overlooking the sea, where Casimiro Piccolo lived with his brother and sister. The Piccolo siblings were rich Sicilian landowners, peculiar survivals of a mixture of luxurious feudalism and austere monasticism. A dilettante and dabbler in the occult, Casimiro believed in fairies. He went out to see them at twilight, the hour recommended by experts such as William Blake, who reported he had seen a fairy funeral, and the Revd. Robert Kirk, who had the information on good authority from his parishioners in the Highlands, where fairy abductions, second sight, and changelings were a regular occurrence in the seventeenth century.
Casimiro’s elder brother, Lucio, a poet who had a brief flash of fame in the Fifties, was as solitary, odd-looking, and idiosyncratic as himself, and the siblings lived alone with their twenty servants, in the midst of a park with rare shrubs and cacti from all over the world, their beautiful summer villa filled with a vast library of science, art, and literature, and marvellous things. They slept in beds as narrow as a discalced Carmelite’s, and never married. They loved their dogs, and gave them names that are mostly monosyllables, often sort of orientalised in a troubling way. They range from ‘Aladdin’ to ‘Mameluk’ to ‘Book’ and the brothers built them a cemetery of their own in the garden.
Casimiro was a follower of Paracelsus, who had distinguished the elemental beings as animating matter: gnomes, undines, sylphs and salamanders. Salamanders, in the form of darting, wriggling lizards, are plentiful on the baked stones of the south, but the others are the cousins of imps and elves, sprites and sirens, and they’re not so common. The journal Psychic News, to which Casimiro subscribed, inspired him to try to take photographs of the apparitions he saw in the park of exotic plants around the house. He also ordered various publications of the Society of Psychical Research and other bodies who tried to tap immaterial presences and energies. He was hoping for images like the famous Cottingley images of fairies sunbathing or dancing which Conan Doyle so admired. But he had no success. Instead, he painted: a fairy punt poled by a hobgoblin through the lily pads, a fairy doctor with a bag full of shining golden instruments taking the pulse of a turkey, four old gnomes consulting a huge grimoire held up by imps, etiolated genies, turbaned potentates, and eastern sages. He rarely left Sicily, or indeed, his family home, and he went on painting his sightings in soft, rich watercolour from 1943 to 1970 when he died.
His work looks like Victorian or Edwardian fairy paintings. Had this reclusive Sicilian seen the crazed visions of Richard Dadd, or illustrations by Arthur Rackham or John Anster Fitzgerald? Or even Disney? Disney was looking very carefully at picture books when he formed the famous characters and stamped them with his own jokiness. Casimiro doesn’t seem to be in earnest, and the long-nosed dwarfs look a little bit like self-mockery. It is impossible to know what he meant, if he meant what he said, or what he believed. But the fact remains, for a grown man to believe in fairies strikes us now as pretty silly.
The Piccolo family’s cousin, close friend and regular visitor was Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the author of The Leopard, and he wrote a mysterious and memorable short story about a classics professor who once spent a passionate summer with a mermaid. But tales of fairies, goblins, and gnomes seem to belong to an altogether different degree of absurdity from a classics professor meeting a siren.
And yet, the Piccolo brothers communicated with Yeats, who held all kinds of beliefs. He smelted his wonderful poems from a chaotic rubble of fairy lore, psychic theories, dream interpretation, divinatory methods, and Christian symbolism: “Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.”
Featured image credit: Capo d’Orlando, by Chtamina. CC-BY-SA-2.5 via Wikimedia Commons
Very Little Red Riding Hood
by Teresa Heapy; illus. by Sue Heap
Preschool Houghton 32 pp.
9/14 978-0-544-28000-7 $16.99
In this re-imagining, Little Red is a toddler. She’s affectionate, stubborn, imperious, and has no time for the intimidation techniques of the wolf. “No touch my cakes!” She hugs him, calls him Foxie, and proceeds to order him around. Grandmama has her doubts, but Little Red insists that Foxie be invited inside for tea and an exhausting round of preschooler activities. When Little Red succumbs to homesickness, the wolf demonstrates unexpected child-minder skills. Was he ever really a threat or did he just come with a bad rap and a sweet tooth? The sprightly, scribbly watercolor illustrations particularize the characters: Red with her every emotion front and center; game Grandmama in her yoga pants; and the wolf, stylish in a mohair overcoat and polka-dot scarf and increasingly confused by kindness. Varied type sizes give the reader-aloud lots of performance hints. Tantalizing red endpaper maps, locating the houses of Very Little Goldilocks and Very Little Cinderella, expand our knowledge of this fairy-tale world.
Once upon a time, there were parents who wished upon every shooting star for their kids to turn out okay. Shiny pennies were tossed into fountains and wishbones pulled, in hopes that their children would grow up to be joyful and productive citizens of the land. Imagine the parents’ sorrow and dismay when they did not.
Is this your family’s philosophy? Are you sure? Check out these 10 clues to see if your family’s faith is like a fairy tale:
1. Your children have no idea where the location of their Bibles. However, you keep your copy under the seat in the car, just in case you need it one Sunday.
2. A Bible isn’t used at home for individual study or for a family time of devotions.
3. Someone says a blessing before meals, but only when company is present.
4. The only time you pray with your kids is at bedtime—when you remember—and actually, that’s your child praying her usual list.
Is Your Family's Faith Like a Fairy Tale?
5. At Christmas, discussions are mainly about being good for Santa and about presents. At Easter, the focus is more about emptying a plastic egg than the miracle of Christ’s empty tomb.
6. Quite often, your family chooses to attend to many things on Sunday, except church.
7. When you do attend church, you focus more on what’s in it for you than how you can serve others.
8. At home, there is more talk about reality shows than the reality of God, His love, and His will for your lives.
9. When sin occurs in your home it is often justified rather than dealt with it in a just manner.
10. Family members’ speech and behaviors are vastly different outside the church walls.
The true story is families are not living in a fairy tale world. God is real. And so is Satan. We can’t live out our days haphazardly, hoping our sons eventually turn into knightly men and our daughters don’t become damsels in distress.
We live in a sinful world. How are you strengthening your family for spiritual battle? A fairy godmother is not going to show up and make your troubles disappear with the wave of a wand. It requires standing firmly on faith and living by the Sword of Truth. Gather your family and get back to basic training. Actively participate in a church that teaches and practices God’s Holy Word. Make your testimony real to your children.
You either make-believe or you do believe in Jesus Christ. One belief leads to chaos and the other leads to a joyfully ever after.
Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty
by Christine Heppermann; photos by various artists
High School Greenwillow 106 pp.
10/14 978-0-06-228957-5 $17.99 g
e-book ed. 978-0-06-228959-9 $9.99
For this poet, there is no dividing line between fairy tales and reality: “You can lose your way anywhere,” claims the poem with which she begins this collection of fifty pieces on the devastating conjunction of girls’ vulnerability, the rapacious beauty industry, and fairy tales. Caustic, witty, sad, and angry, Heppermann (a former Horn Book reviewer) articulates what some of her readers will no doubt perceive already but what may be news to others: the false promises, seductions, and deathly morass of popular culture’s imagery of girls’ bodies. What makes Heppermann’s poetry exceptional, however, is not the messages it carries but the intense, expressive drive that fuels it. In “The Anorexic Eats a Salad”: “Mountains rise, fall, rise again. / Stars complete their slow trek into oblivion. / A snail tours the length of China’s Great Wall / twice. / All those pesky cancers — cured…She has almost made it through / her first bite.” Or, in “The Wicked Queen’s Legacy”: “It used to be just the one, / but now all mirrors chatter. / In fact, every reflective surface has opinions / on the shape of my nose, the size / of my chest…” These poems dwell fiercely and angrily within the visual and verbal cacophony heard and seen by girls, offering an acerbic critique, mourning, and compassionate, unrelenting honesty.
Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life. ~ Johann Christoph Friedrich v. Schiller, German Poet (1759-1805) Using fairy tales, fables, and other story forms to guide and nurture our children. I’m very excited to announce the launch of my publishing site […]
Please give a warm welcome to special guest Deborah Blake. Deborah’s book, Wickedly Dangerous, hits stores next week. I’ll have a review soon over at Romance at Random, but until then, find out a few items that you will never find in protagonist Baba’s magical Airstream. I asked where I could get one of my own, too, so I’d be styling at the horse shows. Unfortunately, I think I’m out of luck.
5 things you’d never find in Baba’s Airstream:
1. A bag of Cheetos
2. Cleaning supplies (since she can do it all with a snap of a finger)
3. A copy of TV Guide
4. A pair of Birkenstocks (she’s strictly boots or bare feet…but you might find them in her sister Baba Beka’s magical school bus)
5. A cat (Chudo-Yudo would never allow it, alas)
And sadly, Barbara’s Airstream only exists inside my head, and I don’t think you’d want to live there. It is a very confused and messy place!
Plopping his hat on over his dark blonde hair, Liam strode up to the door of the Airstream—or at least, where he could have sworn the door was a couple of minutes ago. Now there was just a blank wall. He pushed the hair out of his eyes again and walked around to the other side. Shiny silver metal, but no door. So he walked back around to where he started, and there was the entrance, right where it belonged.
“I need to get more sleep,” he muttered to himself. He would almost have said the Airstream was laughing at him, but that was impossible. “More sleep and more coffee.”
He knocked. Waited a minute, and knocked again, louder. Checked his watch. It was six AM; hard to believe that whoever the trailer belonged to was already out and about, but it was always possible. An avid fisherman, maybe, eager to get the first trout of the day. Cautiously, Liam put one hand on the door handle and almost jumped out of his boots when it emitted a loud, ferocious blast of noise.
He snatched his hand away, then laughed at himself as he saw a large, blunt snout pressed against the nearest window. For a second there, he’d almost thought the trailer itself was barking. Man, did he need more coffee.
At the sound of an engine, Liam turned and walked back toward his car. A motorcycle came into view; its rider masked by head-to-toe black leather, a black helmet, and mirrored sunglasses that matched the ones Liam himself wore. The bike itself was a beautiful royal blue classic BMW that made Liam want to drool. And get a better paying job. The melodic throb of its motor cut through the morning silence until it purred to a stop about a foot away from him. The rider swung a leg over the top of the cycle and dismounted gracefully.
“Nice bike,” Liam said in a conversational tone. “Is that a sixty-eight?”
“Sixty-nine,” the rider replied. Gloved hands reached up and removed the helmet, and a cloud of long black hair came pouring out, tumbling waves of ebony silk. The faint aroma of orange blossom drifted across the meadow, although none grew there.
A tenor voice, sounding slightly amused, said, “Is there a problem, officer?”
Liam started, aware that he’d been staring rudely. He told himself it was just the surprise of her gender, not the startling Amazonian beauty of the woman herself, all angles and curves and leather.
“Sheriff,” he corrected out of habit. “Sheriff Liam McClellan.” He held out one hand, then dropped it back to his side when the woman ignored it. “And you are?”
“Not looking for trouble,” she said, a slight accent of unidentifiable origin coloring her words. Her eyes were still hidden behind the dark glasses, so he couldn’t quite make out if she was joking or not. “My name is Barbara Yager. People call me Baba.” One corner of her mouth edged up so briefly, he almost missed it.
“Welcome to Clearwater County,” Liam said. “Would you like to tell me what you’re doing parked out here?” He waved one hand at the Airstream. “I assume this belongs to you?”
She nodded, expressionless. “It does. Or I belong to it. Hard to tell which, sometimes.”
Liam smiled gamely, wondering if his caffeine deficit was making her sound odder than she really was. “Sure. I feel that way about my mortgage sometimes. So, you were going to tell me what you’re doing here.”
“Was I? Somehow I doubt it.” Again, that tiny smile, barely more than a twitch of the lips. “I’m a botanist with a specialty in herbalism; I’m on sabbatical from UC Davis. You have some unusual botanical varieties growing in this area, so I’m here to collect samples for my research.”
Liam’s cop instincts told him that her answer sounded too pat, almost rehearsed. Something about her story was a lie, he was sure of it. But why bother to lie about something he could so easily check?
“Do you have some kind of ID?” he asked. “Your vehicle didn’t turn up in the database and my dispatcher couldn’t find any record of a permit for you to be here. This is county property, you know.” He put on his best “stern cop” expression. The woman with the cloud hair didn’t seem at all fazed.
Deborah Blake is the author of seven books on modern Witchcraft from Llewellyn Worldwide, including The Witch’s Broom (2014). An eighth book, The Everyday Witch, will be out in 2015.Deborah’s first fiction series, The Baba Yaga books, are coming out from Berkley in 2014; they include a prequel novella, Wickedly Magical, as well as Wickedly Dangerous and Wickedly Wonderful. She is represented by agent Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency.
When not writing, Deborah manages The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and makes gemstone jewelry. She also is a professional tarot reader and energy healer. Deborah lives in a 120 year old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with five cats who supervise all her activities, both magickal and mundane.
Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…
Older than she looks and powerful beyond measure, Barbara Yager no longer has much in common with the mortal life she left behind long ago. Posing as an herbalist and researcher, she travels the country with her faithful (mostly) dragon-turned-dog in an enchanted Airstream, fulfilling her duties as a Baba Yaga and avoiding any possibility of human attachment.
But when she is summoned to find a missing child, Barbara suddenly finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and an unexpected attraction to the charming but frustrating Sheriff Liam McClellan.
Now, as Barbara fights both human enemies and Otherworld creatures to save the lives of three innocent children, she discovers that her most difficult battle may be with her own heart…
I love fairy tale reworkings. At the same time their popularity of late has resulted in a lot of mediocre ones and so when I come across one I’m both excited and wary. Is it going to be a goofy-movie-Shrek-imitating-like thing or more in the vein of Michael Buckley’s Fairy Tale Detectives, Christopher Healy’s Hero’s Guides, or Adam Gidwitz’s Grimm series? And if YA dark is it going to be lame bodice-ripper or something with heft, like Tom McNeal’s Far Far Away? And so seeing a description of Katherine Coville’s debut novel The Cottage in the Woods on Edelweiss, I requested it on a whim and began reading it with very low expectations. And so what a lovely surprise when it turned out to be completely engrossing, a book I read steadily until I was done. In other words, reader, I liked it very much.
The story is a unique melding of a Regency Romance/Victorian Gothic set within a fairy tale world. Our heroine and narrator is Ursula Brown, a very proper young bear who has come to the Cottage in the Woods, the wealthy Vaughn family’s estate near Bremen Town, as their young boy’s governess. The three Vaughn bears live an elegant and refined life and Ursula slips into it without much difficulty, tolerating Mr. Vaughn’s stern admonitions, appreciating Mrs. Vaughn’s kind gestures, and falling very much in love with her sweet young charge, Teddy. But life in the area is not easy. The Enchanted — those animals who talk, dress, and act as humans do — are struggling with envy, prejudice, racial hostility, and out-and-out vigilantism from some of their human neighbors.
The publisher indicates that this is a reworking of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” It is indeed, but I don’t wish to give away just how. I will say that I found it an enormously clever rethinking of that particular story, very much in keeping with the literary tradition Coville is working in, that of the Victorian novel. I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of them these days and so I was very impressed with how well Coville used those tropes in her story. Ursula is very introspective, the various Enchanteds in her world are as proper and polite as anyone in an Austen, Bronte, Eliot, or Trollope novel. There is plenty of drama here, but not the swashbuckling sort of some of the other fairy tale workings. And while somber on occasion it isn’t as dark as some of the YA ones around.
There are so many clever fairy tale/nursery rhyme touches that also allude to the Victorian novel tradtion. For instance, Teddy’s nurse is an illiterate tippling badger who is quite jealous of our heroine and an amusing contrast to the cozy cute ones of Potter and others. Best of all is the Goldilock’s plot thread — it is a brilliant rethinking of the story within a classic Victorian Gothic setting. And I love the representation of the doctor who comes to examine her at one point with his Freud-like Viennese accent.
So keep an eye out for this one. I can’t wait to see what others make of it.
I first met Frances Hardinge as part of an intrepid SAS contingent that stormed the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton in October 2013. We had a great time, although there were fewer costumes than I'd hoped, and no centaurs galloping through the plenary session...
Myself, Teresa Flavin and Katherine Roberts do the costume thing...
I recently read and reviewed Frances Hardinge's new book, Cuckoo Song, for ABBA reviews (you can find the review here). I loved it - and I wanted to ask Frances some questions about it, and about her writing in general, of which I am great admirer. So I thought I would hijack my ABBA post this month to interview her. Luckily, she is a very accommodating person, and was happy to allow me to grill her. As we live at opposite ends of the country, this had to be by email: but let's pretend we met in a chippy in Brighton for this conversation...
Waiting for fish and chips
So, Frances, unlike in previous novels, Cuckoo Song is set in a real historical period. How did you find that compared with setting your stories in secondary worlds where you are free to make it all up?
Writing a book set in a specific real world time period is much harder. There's always the fear of getting some detail wrong, and being caught out. One becomes obsessed with checking historical minutae, even for details that probably won't make the final cut. In a way it's a lot of fun, and you discover lots of new things during the research, but you can go quite, quite mad. In spite of my checking, I'm sure there are still lurking errors.
I did find myself making some compromises. Sometimes to preserve the pace of the book, you can't afford to detour into lengthy explanations of historical context.
And I had to compromise when it came to the dialogue. At first I really wanted to have my characters using plenty of slang from the time. Then I started looking at the things people actually said in 1920s Britain.
I say! Rather! I should think so! Jolly decent. A good sort. Old thing. Old bean. Old man. Ragging. Blighter. What rot! What a lark! That's torn it!
Nowadays we can't read these phrases without hearing them in the voice of Bertie Wooster or Billy Bunter. They sound flippant, innocent, comical and bit twee. When one is trying to build suspense in a tale of psychological horror, that's the last thing you need. The characters might as well be exclaiming:
“Oh well, never mind, old girl. What ho! Ginger beer!”
Yes - that would have ruined the atmosphere for sure! It's a bit like the dilemma of using Shakespearian language in an Elizabethan setting - the odd words and phrases give a sense of a different time, but too many 'thee's and 'thou's and it starts to sound like a send up. Of course, in Cuckoo Song it's not only a case of real-world historical details, because you are also depicting another world - the fairie realm. I loved the idea of fairies as these strange bird-like Besiders who lurk in out-of-the-way places. How much did you draw on particular details for myths and folktales as inspiration when developing your otherworld characters?
In the case of Cuckoo Song, I drew quite heavily on the old changeling folktales. These tales make for a disturbing read, not just because of the nightmare scenario of a malignant imposter taking the place of one's child. In the stories, the human hosts usually rid themselves of the changeling through utter cruelty - leaving them on a dunghill, flinging them into deep water, hurling them into the fire, etc. (It's particularly unpleasant because there's evidence that in past centuries some children with severe disabilities really did die from such brutal treatment, because they were thought to be 'changelings'.)
The nature of the changeling varies from one folktale to another. Sometimes it's a fretful, sickly fairy child, swapped for a healthy human infant by envious fairy parents. Sometimes it's a full-grown adult fairy, infiltrating the mortal cottage so that it can be pampered and fed. Occasionally, however, the changeling nothing more than a doll, fashioned from leaves, wood or wax, and enchanted to look like an ailing child. It was the third type that started to fascinate me.
The journey of Triss and Pen into the Underbelly is inspired by a particular folktale called "The Smith and the Fairies". After his son is stolen by fairies, a smith is advised by a wise man to go to the green hill on a certain night, armed with only a dirk, a Bible and a crowing cock. The way into the hill will be open that night. He must drive the dirk into the ground to make sure the hill does not close behind him. The Bible is protection. It is the rooster, however, that will most upset the fairies...
In some ways, however, I deliberately deviated from traditional fairy lore. The fairies of folklore tend to be vulnerable to cold iron, but also to trappings of the church - Bibles, prayers, blessings, church bells. In my book, the Besiders are twilight creatures, inhabitants of the in-between and unmapped places, and their great enemy is certainty. Most iron will not hurt them, but they have a horror of scissors, which cleanly and cruelly divide, leaving nothing in between. Religious faith is dangerous to them, but so is faith and certainty of all kinds.
I found the idea of the scissors as a symbol of dividing everything neatly into one side or the other quite chilling - as you make clear, so much cruelty comes from that kind of black and white thinking. The book is very good at delving into the grey areas between, and showing how mixed-up most people's characters are. I especially liked your portrayal of the relationship between the two sisters, Triss and Pen. As one of two sisters myself, I totally recognised that combination of fierce hatred and love - the way your sister can be both your worst enemy and the one person you can always rely on. Do you have sisters, or was that an impressive feat of imagination?
I do have a sister. I was older, but by only eleven months, and it always felt as though we were basically the same age. We constructed elaborate imaginary worlds together, tried to set up a detective agency (we never got any cases), wrote plays with songs, invented codes and fought like fury. The first time one of my milk teeth came out, it was because I was biting my sister.
Ha, ha. I knew it! I was also the eldest and my sister was thirteen months younger, so a very similar gap. And yes, we fought bitterly, but also collaborated to create imaginary worlds and games, write letters in code, make maps and search for hidden treasure (we never found any). It's a great apprenticeship for writing children's books!
One of the things I also like about your books is that you never really hurt or destroy your main characters - they may have some heart-stopping or tearful moments, but they are generally put down gently on safe ground at the end. Are you conscious of that, and is it related to the age you write for, or is it just part of who you are as a writer, that you don't have a desire to take your readers to very dark or unhappy places? (Or do you secretly nurse a desire to write a book with a massacre in it?)
Funnily enough, one of my books does have a massacre in it! It's my third book, Gullstruck Island. I won't say any more since it's an important plot event, and I wouldn't want to commit spoilers.
Ah - I haven't read that one! (Orders it from the library immediately...)
My books tend to have a bodycount, and for the course of the story I like my readers to be in real doubt about whether my main character will survive. Most of them live in quite unforgiving worlds. I suspect that in fact I probably do take my protagonists to some dark and unhappy places... but then allow them to find a way out again, through their own ingenuity, courage and strength of will.
My books don't often have neat or straightforward 'happy endings', but hope generally triumphs. That isn't because I'm softening my books for a younger audience, but because I'm naturally quite a hopeful person. I'm a cynical optimist.
I think that's what I meant, really - not that there aren't dark times or places, but that as a reader I feel safe. I know that somehow it will work out, the main characters will find a way. I like the idea of being a cynical optimist - I think I'm probably one, too.
I'd like to finish by asking you a bit about the nuts and bolts of how you write. Your language is wonderfully inventive - your descriptions always fresh and original. Is that something that just flows from your pen or do you refine a lot in subsequent versions?
I am not one of those authors who manages to produce the same number of words each day (though I admire the discipline of all those who do). I have spurts of productivity where I turn out a lot of text in a day. Afterwards I go back and fiddle with it neurotically, and usually the 'fiddling' takes the form of cutting. I have a terrible addiction to metaphors, so when I revise my own work it usually involves the gentle patter of snipped metaphors and similes hitting the floor.
That's interesting - so the first draft has even more of that inventive figurative language! I'd love to see a Frances Hardinge text before it's been pruned, all overgrown and tangled with trailing metaphors. What a treat! But your stories aren't just beautifully described, they have cracking plots. Do you work these out beforehand, or follow leads as they come up? In other words, are you a plotter or a pantser?
I always plot out my books before I write them. For my first book I even had a chapter by chapter outline. I haven't gone into quite that much detail in plans for my later books, but I always map out the main incidents, and know what the ending will be.
However, there's always some room for making things up on the fly. A book should be a journey of discovery for the writer as well as the reader, otherwise the writing process can become dull and leaden. My stories surprise me. Characters develop in unexpected ways. Just now and then, I change my mind about my plot structure halfway through writing the book. It's still useful to have that first plan, though, even if I decide to deviate from it. I need that trellis, even if I can't full predict how my story-vine will grow.
What do you do when you get stuck? How do you get the ideas and words flowing again?
I seldom reach a point where I can't write. Instead, I get a form of writers' block where I write the same chapter over and over again, and can't get the text to 'work'. It lies there on the screen like a stunned weasel.
If you're sitting alone in a study for too long you can get hypnotised by your own screen. Sometimes I go for a ten-mile hike, just so that I can work through some plot knots in my head.
I find it a lot easier to write, however, if there is a deadline looming, even if it's an artifical one. I belong to a couple of writers' groups, and I find that I become a lot more productive just before the sessions...
I think that's probably enough. I could happily carry on all day, but we need to get started on those chips! Many thanks for answering my questions, and good luck with the next book! It's been a pleasure. Pass the ketchup!
I hope everyone's enjoyed this conversation as much as I did - and if any of you haven't come across Frances's books, do go and seek them out. They are among the most inventive, delightful and original books for older children I've read.
C.J. Busby writes funny fantasy for 7-10. Her latest book, Deep Amber, is out with Templar. The sequel, Dragon Amber, will be published in September.
Have you watched Adventure Time? Maybe you have seen the comic or the graphic novel or some of the merchandise. It's a phenomenon, not least because of the age range it seems to appeal to. It is a show on the Cartoon Network, which the network claims tops its ratings and is watched by 2 million 2–11 year old boys – but I know many older kids, including students, who watch it avidly too.
When I first saw it I must admit I was surprised that something as violent, surreal and bizarre – and sometimes with such horrific and sexual content – was being aired for young children. It has a PG rating but that does nothing to keep it from young children's impressionable brains.
I think it's brilliant (but then I have a degree in Dada and Surrealism), and its freshness is perhaps partly because it's not written in the conventional sense (by a writer or writer team) but produced by artists using storyboards that are then developed by a team, even going so far as deliberately to employ surrealist techniques such as the Exquisite Corpse game in order to come up with ideas. It's also hand-drawn, each 11 minute episode taking 8–9 months to make.
Now: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" This was the line that introduced the American radio show The Shadow in the 1930s (it later became a film, comic book series, etc etc). One answer is (besides the eponymous detective) – that children do. Children are far more preoccupied with questions about what adults call the dark side of human nature than many adults give them credit for. The best children's writers know this.
Adventure Time is therefore in the same ballpark as Where the Wild Things Are...
... and the darkest of nursery rhymes and fairy stories....
... the kind that were explored by Angela Carter in her novels about growing up such as the Magic Toyshop and the Company of Wolves...
...stories where grandmothers turning to carnivorous beasts, the bedroom is populated by monsters, and the house next door contains versions of your own parents but with buttons for eyes (thanks, Neil)...
There is a genuine sense of beauty, spirituality and awe in many of Adventure Time's episodes or scenes, that is also shared by children who are viewing the world for the first time. It's as if the creators have been able to access their own infantile selves to identify with the way that children see the world.
My reference to The Shadow was chosen for another reason: the parts of the personality satisfied in its fans by Adventure Time and these other stories can be seen as parts of the 'shadow self', as described by the poet Robert Bly in his A Little Book on the Human Shadow. The Jungian theory of the human shadow, itself part-derived from myths and old stories, is that babies and young children have what Bly calls a 360° personality. But much of this compass of human potential is socialised out of their behaviour during their upbringing. By the time they are around 20 years old just a slice remains. This is the socialised personality that becomes fixed as an adult. The remaining portion is buried – the shadow – but it emerges in odd ways: our obsessions, the imaginary traits we project onto situations and other people, particularly our partners, the things we are frightened of, particularly in ourselves. Bly says that after the age of 40 or so – the age of the midlife crisis – adults often start to unpack their shadow. Their reaction to this process determines the rest of the course of their lives. The shadow is not bad, nor evil. Those are labels that adults put onto things. The shadow contains just what was suppressed, punished or ignored during the socialisation or upbringing process, and depends on the values held by the parents and the culture they belong too. And this, I think, is why Adventure Time appeals to young adults as well as children. Young adults are struggling with those aspects of themselves which adults want to repress. In young adults there is a sense of nostalgia for their childhood self, that remains as a fading echo before the responsibilities of adulthood unkindly snuff it out altogether and they forget forever what being a child is like. They know this is going to happen, they regret it and they try to cling on to its last vestiges as long as possible. The shadow is important, vital, necessary, and it is dangerous to repress it or ignore it. The makers of Adventure Time, and the Cartoon Network that commissions it, cannot be unaware of this. It is a liminal gate to the subconscious, the place where creativity thrives. If I seem to be making rather grand claims for what is after all a children's cartoon I make no apologies. We all, as writers, are gatekeepers to this realm, aren't we? And each of us, in our own unique way, delves beyond the gate to do our work.Add a Comment
What makes a villain a villain? I’ve always been a fascinated—and a little bit terrified—of villains, especially in fairytales. As a child, I couldn’t get enough of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs even if the old witch sent me diving into our couch cushions to hide my eyes.
I’m very proud to announce the first instalment of my new column at Luna Station Quarterly. The column title is “What’s in a Fairy Tale.” My first essay is “Dark Side of the Fruit,” which takes a closer look at the evil queen’s poisoned apple. LSQ has a brand new format. I hope you’ll stop by […]
Sarah Mlynowski is the New York Times bestselling author of the Whatever After series as well as Gimme a Call, Don’t Even Think About It, Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have), How to Be Bad (along with E. Lockhart and Lauren Myracle) and the Magic in Manhattan series. Originally from Montreal, Sarah now lives in the kingdom of Manhattan with her very own prince charming and their fairy-tale-loving daughters.
Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin. 2013. Random House. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
What a fun book! I really, really enjoyed Liesl Shurtliff's Rump which boasts of being, of course, the TRUE story of Rumpelstiltskin. From page one, Rump makes a delightful hero in this middle grade fantasy. Here's the first paragraph: "My mother named me after a cow's rear end. It's the favorite village joke, and probably the only one, but it's not really true. At least I don't think it's true, and neither does Gran. Really, my mother had another name for me, a wonderful name, but no one ever heard it. They only heard the first part. The worst part." Rump lives in a world where your NAME leads to your destiny, so, you can imagine that Rump struggles with what destiny has in store for him since it "blessed" him with a name like that. Rump is NOT friendless, however. His two biggest supporters are his Gran, who has raised him from his birth, and Red, his best friend and sidekick who has a Granny of her own in the forest. The situation is relatively bleak when the novel opens. Rump lives in a poor community that is easily oppressed by the king. The local miller dispenses food to the community based on how much gold the person (family) has contributed. So hunger is a part of life for many. One day, however, Rump discovers something in his Gran's woodpile: his mother's spinning wheel. His Gran is NOT pleased that Rump wants to keep it, to learn to use it. Rump gives it a try, and, he discovers the magic within. Yes, he learns he has the magic inside him to spin straw into gold. But what does NOT come naturally is the wisdom on when to use and when NOT to use magic. He has NOT learned that all magic comes with a price. That his oh-so-delightful talent might come with a big, big price that he won't want to pay.
Melisande. E. Nesbit. Illustrated by P.J. Lynch. 1901/1988/1999. Candlewick. 48 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
When the Princess Melisande was born, her mother, the Queen, wished to have a christening party, but the King put his foot down and said he would not have it. "I've seen too much trouble come of christening parties," said he. "However carefully you keep your visiting book, some fairy or other is sure to get let out, and you know what that leads to. Why, even in my own family the most shocking things have occurred. The Fairy Malevola was not asked to my great-grandmother's christening, and you know all about the spindle and the hundred years' sleep." "Perhaps you're right," said the Queen. "My own cousin by marriage forgot a stuffy old fairy when she sent out the cards for her daughter's christening, and the old wretch turned up at the last moment. The girl drops toads out of her mouth to this day."
Don't you just love stories that start out like this?! I know I do! E. Nesbit's Melisande is practically perfect in every way. It's pure delight through and through. The premise is simple: a king and queen are so sure that a christening party is a bad idea that they decide to skip it all together. But in their eagerness to escape everything-you'd-expect, they didn't take into account every possible scenario. Seven hundred not-so-happy fairies turn up! All thinking that there had been a christening without them! Malevola is the loudest and boldest. She declares that the new princess will be bald. The king shows his cleverness and the remaining fairies are dismissed; he asserts, only ever ONE fairy is forgotten and since that ONE fairy has already given her ill-wishing gift, the others can all go back home.The King lessens his wife's sorrow, to a certain extent, by promising to give Melisande, his daughter, a wish he never used himself. (His fairy godmother gave him a wish for his wedding.) He wants to WAIT until Melisande is all grown up and can decide her own wish.
The Queen strongly influences Melisande's wish when the time comes. Melisande's wish has consequences!
I wish I had golden hair a yard long, and that it would grow an inch every day, and grow twice as fast every time it was cut...
Poor Melisande! Within a few weeks, she has realized how HORRIBLE and TERRIBLE this wish of hers was.
When it was three yards long, the Princess could not bear it any longer, it was so heavy and so hot, so she borrowed Nurse's scissors and cut it all off, and then for a few hours she was comfortable. But the hair went on growing, and now it grew twice as fast as before so that in thirty-six days it was as long as ever. The poor Princess cried with tiredness, and when she couldn't bear it any more she cut her hair and was comfortable for a very little time. The hair now grew four times as fast as at first, and in eighteen days it was as long as before, and she had to have it cut. Then it grew eight inches a day, and the next time it was cut it grew sixteen inches a day, and then thirty-two inches and sixty-four inches and a hundred and twenty eight inches a day and son, growing twice as fast after each cutting.
Soon Melisande and her parents are desperate for help! Is there a way to stop the madness?! Will she ever be happy again?!
I definitely recommend getting an illustrated edition of Melisande. The illustrations by P.J. Lynch are WONDERFUL.
We have all been lost in the woods at some time in our life either literally, metaphorically or both.
It is the same for children.
Being lost in the dark forest is a recurrent theme in children's literature, fairy tales, folklore and mythology.
Being lost in the woods, where there is no clear path to follow, and the light is fading, is a serious and frightening matter.
Wild beasts, dangerous people, and invading armies cannot be seen in the dark forests. But they are there, in the mind of the author, the teller of tales, the animator...and in the mind of the child, until the story or myth brings light, escape and salvation...
Lost In the Woods with the Moomins
The Moomin Forest Comes to the Museum...dangerous but safe. The Ateneum Art Museum, the national Finnish art museum in Helsinki, is celebrating the fantasy world of the Moomins as part of the100th year anniversary exhibit of artist Tove Jansson. Jansson wrote and drew the wonderful Moomins stories.
"The stories often contrast the warmth of home with the threats of nature, or familiar safety with the scary unknown. At the end of dangerous adventures the characters always find their way back home, and the stories always have a happy ending." I found this description from the exhibit guide about Jansson's writing to be a most accurate description of the stories. However, I found nothing that fully described Jansson's extraordinary imagination and I was swept away by her delightful drawings, watercolors and gouache renderings of the fantasy world of the Moomins.
The nine books and comic strips have been translated into nearly 50 languages and reinvented for stage productions, theme parks, radio plays and TV films. Personally, I prefer the stories to the comic strips, as her writing is so imaginative.
In Japan, life -size Moomins in Tokyo's Moomin Cafe keep people company if they are eating alone.
Nature in the form of dark forests, mountains, water, and storms all play a major role in the Moomin adventures. Snow and cold weather take on a life of their own
Philip Pullman said: "Jansson is a genius of a very subtle kind. These simple stories resonate with profound and complex emotions that are like nothing else in literature for children or adults: intensely Nordic, and completely universal."
Danger in the Woods...
The classic tale ofLittle Red Riding Hood's dangerous journey in the woods has been traced back at least 10 centuries. Here is an excerpt from an interview by Rachael Hartigan Sheain the National Geographic Daily News with Jamie Tehrani, an anthropologist at Durham University, UK, who has been studying the orgins and evolution of Red Riding Hood. Appropriately, the interview is entitled, What Wide Orgins You Have, Little Red Riding Hood.
What are some of the theories about the origins of "Little Red Riding Hood"?
"It's been suggested that the tale was an invention of Charles Perrault, who wrote it down in the 17th century. Other people have insisted that "Little Red Riding Hood" has ancient origins. There's an 11th-century poem from Belgium which was recorded by a priest, who says, oh, there's this tale told by the local peasants about a girl wearing a red baptism tunic who wanders off and encounters this wolf.
My results demonstrate that, although most versions that we're familiar with today descended from Perrault's tale, he didn't invent it. My analysis confirmed that the 11th-century poem is indeed an early ancestor of the modern fairy tale."
Here is an excerpt and link to the 17th century version of Little Red Riding Hood written by Charles Perrault
...Little Red Riding Hood set out immediately to go to her grandmother, who lived in another village.
As she was going through the wood, she met with a wolf, who had a very great mind to eat her up, but he dared not, because of some woodcutters working nearby in the forest. He asked her where she was going. The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stay and talk to a wolf, said to him, "I am going to see my grandmother and carry her a cake and a little pot of butter from my mother."
"Does she live far off?" said the wolf
"Oh I say," answered Little Red Riding Hood; "it is beyond that mill you see there, at the first house in the village."
"Well," said the wolf, "and I'll go and see her too. I'll go this way and go you that, and we shall see who will be there first."
The wolf ran as fast as he could, taking the shortest path, and the little girl took a roundabout way, entertaining herself by gathering nuts, running after butterflies, and gathering bouquets of little flowers. It was not long before the wolf arrived at the old woman's house. He knocked at the door: tap, tap...
"We don’t really know when fairy tales originated", said author and scholar
Jack Zipes in a Smithsonian interterview by K. Annabelle Smith..."I’ve tried to show in my most recent book, the Irresistible Fairytale, that in order to talk about any genre, particularly what we call simple genre—a myth, a legend, an anecdote, a tall tale, and so on—we really have to understand something about the origin of stories all together. What the Greeks and Romans considered myths, we consider fairy tales. We can see how very clearly the myths, which emanated from all cultures, had a huge influence on the development of the modern fairy tale."
Here's the link to read all the interview, including Zipes reaction to Snow White and the Huntsman:Smithsonian
If only Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and Red Riding Hood had a dog with them in the woods, their stories would have been totally different. Imagine having a fearless protector, who can "see" in the night, offers unconditional love, and if you ever get lost, knows the way home.
China...The stories are the same , but the illustrations are new for the Planet OF The Dogs Series in China.
This blog is dedicated to the power of story and the worlds of wonder and imagination that are the world of children's literature. And to therapy dogs, that help reluctant children banish fear of reading.
Therapy dogs help change children's lives and open the doors to possibilities through reading. In the Planet Of The Dogs books the dogs teach people about courage, loyalty and love.
LitWorld Takes Children Out Of The Forest of Illiteracy
LitWorld's Mission Statement: LitWorld empowers all children to author lives of independence, hope, and joy...LitWorld engages students and families around the globe by providing opportunities for them to explore and learn from their own narratives and voices, and builds sustainable communities for literacy where knowledge and empowerment break the cycle of illiteracy and give all people a chance to pursue every dream.
Here's a link to Pam Allyn, the founder of LitWorld , being interviewed on AlJazeera, about reading problems and illiteracy in the USA and around the globe.
If you have kids in the family, or have a soft spot for dogs, check out the lovely annimated song,On Dog, by Nat Johnson. Here is the link: Educating Alice, the website of author, school teacher and book loverMonica Edinger.
Ms Edinger also posted a review ofRush Limbaugh's book for kids about thePigrims:..."So I was curious when one of my students brought in Rush Limbaugh's Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims for me to see. After all, I had heard that the author was a finalist Children's Book Week Author of the Year Award due to its high status on the best seller list (and this week was dubbed the winner). And so I was curious --- what was the book like?
Sadly, I have to concur with both the Kirkus review and editor Vicky Smith's closer look at it (and its sequel); the book is not good. The history offered in a fictional form is the standard take on the Pilgrims and so very familiar to me. The writing is incredibly poor, cringe-inducing in spots as are the digital illustrations. There are a few older looking images scattered throughout with citations at the end; unfortunately, these are muddled without proper identification. It would not be something I'd want to add to my curriculum, that is for sure..." Here's the link: Monica Edinger
Life With a Dog: You Meet People
Jane Brody, the highly respected health news writer for the New York Times, after four years as a widow, has "adopted a 5-month-old puppy, a hypoallergenic Havanese small enough for me to pick up and carry, even into my ninth decade, when I travel to visit family and friends." Here are excerpts from her informative and personal article on her new life with Max, as well as the health benefits of owning a dog...
"More American Households have dogs as pets than any other type of nonhuman companion. Studies of the health ramifications have strongly suggested that pets, particularly dogs, can foster cardiovascular health, resistance to stress, social connectivity and enhanced longevity...
Yes, he’s a lot of work, at least at this age. But like a small child, Max makes me laugh many times a day. That’s not unusual, apparently: In a study of 95 people who kept “laughter logs,” those who owned dogs laughed more often than cat owners and people who owned neither.
When I speak to Max, he looks at me lovingly and seems to understand what I’m saying. When I open his crate each morning, he greets me with unbounded enthusiasm.Likewise when I return from a walk or swim, a day at the office, or an evening at the theater.
But perhaps the most interesting (and unpremeditated) benefit has been the scores of people I’ve met on the street, both with and without dogs, who stop to admire him and talk to me...Read it all by following this Link: JaneBrody The photo of the Havanese is courtesy of Jenny Kutner at the Dodo.com
“The Barking Planet series of illustrated kids' books full of mythic fairy tale dog heroes is unabashedly humane, uplifting, and morally improving, which may not be everybody's cup of tea (or bowl of kibble), but it does make for interesting relief in a kid lit world increasingly obsessed with violence, family dysfunction and personal trauma.”-Barbara Julian, Animal Literature Blog
The Power and Profit of a Retold Fairy Tale
Frozenhas become a major financial triumph for Disneyreports Brooks Barnes in the New York Times (excerpted below). Perhaps stockholders, Disney executives and children who have seen the movie should all thank Hans Christian Andersonfor creating the original Snow Queenfairy tale -- the inspiration for the film.
"According to Robert A. Iger, Disney's chief executive, 'No single business or entertainment offering was responsible for Disney’s overall spike in profit, although the runaway success of “Frozen' may have been the largest contributor. An animated princess musical, 'Frozen'has taken in $1.18 billion dollars worldwide since opening in November...
The Frozen soundtrack, released by Disney and distributed by Universal Music, has become the biggest hit of the season, selling nearly 2.5 million copies in the United States alone and ranking No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart 12 times.
Mr. Iger, speaking during a conference call with analysts, said “Frozen” now ranked as one of the top five franchises in terms of revenue, putting it up there with the likes of “Toy Story” and Winnie the Pooh in terms of importance.
“Passion for these characters and for the film is so extraordinary,” Mr. Iger said, noting that “Frozen” was coming to Broadway and that Disney was working to increase the presence of the film’s Nordic characters in its theme parks.
Here is an excerpt from the 1872 English Translation by H.P. Pauli. The Snow Queen is one of 168 fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson. The original tale is in seven parts and included a great deal of darkness, danger and evil characters. Nevertheless, it had a very happy ending as the pure heart of Gerda overcame the powers of the Snow Queen, the develish troll and the broken mirror. The original illustration of this edition are by Vilhelm Pedersen.
The original story concerns Gerda's quest to rescue Kay, a neighbor boy and dear friend, who has been lured to the Snow Queen's palace. Here is an excerpt...
he walls of the palace were formed of drifted snow, and the windows and doors of the cutting winds. There were more than a hundred rooms in it, all as if they had been formed with snow blown together. The largest of them extended for several miles; they were all lighted up by the vivid light of the aurora, and they were so large and empty, so icy cold and glittering! There were no amusements here, not even a little bear’s ball, when the storm might have been the music, and the bears could have danced on their hind legs, and shown their good manners. There were no pleasant ...
...Just at this moment it happened that little Gerda came through the great door of the castle. Cutting winds were raging around her, but she offered up a prayer and the winds sank down as if they were going to sleep; and she went on till she came to the large empty hall, and caught sight of Kay; she knew him directly; she flew to him and threw her arms round his neck, and held him fast, while she exclaimed, “Kay, dear little Kay, I have found you at last.”
But he sat quite still, stiff and cold.
Then little Gerda wept hot tears, which fell on his breast, and penetrated into his heart, and thawed the lump of ice, and washed away the little piece of glass which had stuck there. Then he looked at her, and she sang..."
Gerda's good heart and courage ultimately prevail over turmoil, evil and danger,
and , once again, all is happy in the end.
The Early Days of Fairy Tales...
"The fairy tale grew, as a literary genre, out of out of the folk stories of the European past. We like to believe that they have no real authors, that they have been orally transmitted, and that they remain flexible in their details and their telling. Like Aesop's Fables, fairy tales come in famous groups with well-known characters: Beauty and the Beast, Hansel and Gretel, the Snow Queen, Rumplestiltskin, the Little Mermaid and the like. But fairy tales, as we know them now, are really the creation of literate collectors, editors, and authors working from the late seventeenth until the nineteenth century...Charles Perrault emerged in the last decades of the seventeenth century as the best and most widely read of these story tellers..." from the chapter, Straw Into Gold, in Seth Lerer's book,Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop To Harry Potter.
Maria Tatar has written several brief, pithy, descriptions of classic fairy tales. Here is one of them from her blog, Breezes from Wonderland.
Frog Prince: Sweet guy who is always ready to lend a helping hand. Tends to overshare and can become clingy at times. Willing to change for the right woman. Big supporter of sustainability movements and eco-friendly solutions.
Dog Lovers...if you care about cruelty and animal abuse, but don't have time to spare, or you find the internet difficult to use...read this excerpt from John Woestendiak's insightful review of CA Wulff's How to Change the World in Thirty Seconds as seen on his outstanding website ohmidog!
Wulff, who speaks from experience, shows how something as big and untenable as the Internet can, with relative ease, be used to make life better for individual dogs, and the species as a whole. How to navigate the Internet, with an eye towards helping dogs, is clearly and concisely explained in Wulff’s handbook, which should be required reading for animal shelters, rescue organizations and anyone else interested in doing something more about the problems than complain." Here is the link to read more of the review: ChangeTheWorld
Lost On The Yellow Brick Road -- When Reimagining a Classic Fairy Tale Fails...
Based on the reviews, The Legend Of Oz: Dorothy's Return which opened in many theaters on May 9th in North America, will soon be forgotten. Here is an excerpt from Peter Hurtlaub's review in the San Francisco Chronicle:
"Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return" returns the heroine who inspired a billion Halloween costumes back to the yellow brick road - this time in search of a plot.
The long journey is filled with action and familiar characters, but ultimately falls short of success. All the brains, heart and courage in the world can't save a movie that doesn't have a third act...Mostly, the film reaffirms how hard it is to make a movie as unforgettable and enduring as "The Wizard of Oz." Good chance you'll forget this one on the way home from the theater."
The Planet Of The Dogs series of books are available through your favorite independent bookstore or via Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's...
Librarians, teachers, bookstores...Order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.
Therapy reading dog owners, librarians, teachers and organizations with therapy reading dog programs -- you can write us at email@example.com and we will send you free reader copies from the Planet of the Dogs Series...
Author Claire Legrandsent us this information on the Kids Author's Carnival
The goal of the KAC is to provide an opportunity for young readers to interact with authors up close and personal in a fun, party-like atmosphere...All ages are welcome and encouraged to attend. But please note that the kids will take center stage at this particular event!
WHEN: Saturday, May 31 from 6pm to 8:30pm. Doors open at 5:30pm. WHERE: Jefferson Market Library |425 Avenue of the Americas (at 10th Street), New York, NY 10011
The folks at Brigadoon Service Dogs care about helping and healing people who have serious life problems. The dog lovers at Brigadoon know through experience that these difficult and often painful problems respond to the canine connection. In their own words...
"We train dogs to provide assistance to Veterans, children and adults with physical, developmental disabilities, anxiety, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury...
We have opened our doors to several youth groups such as a camp for autistic children, the Parks and Recreation Youth Camp, Girl Scouts and home-schooled kids. We also participate in helping high school seniors with their culminating projects. We’ve trained dogs for children with seizures, young adults with hearing impairments, visual impairment, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, autistic children, etc."
Provacative and Clear Analysis of:Teens Today! They Don't Read!
Elizabeth Burns is a librarian, author and blogger, who is passionate about reading and the world of books. I rarely post about teen readers, but was very taken by her article which analyzed the flaws in recent writings on NPR, Time, and, especially, Common Sense Media's research on Children, Teens and Reading.
Here is an excerpt that leads into her many questions regarding quetionable research and heavy handed conclusions..."Disclaimer the first: long time readers of this blog now I'm suspicious of Common Sends Media, dating back to the early biased reviews. I'm skeptical of a set that says, if you don't agree with their ratings, or research, you don't have'common sense'..."
Here is a link to read it all: Liz Burn's Tea Cozy Photo of Seattle library by Gregg McCarty
If you need help to choose a guard dog
Way Cool Dogs, always filled with good articles and insights for dog lovers, posted this helpful information regarding Guard Dogs. Here is an excerpt...
"The guard dog is a security or protection dog. His or her job saves thousands of dollars of property damage and saves many lives every day. In a way, they are considered a hero dog.
If you need help to choose a guard dog, here are a few top-notch breeds to choose from. Each has its own behavior and personality. Remember. A dog whose purpose is guarding helps protect your property and your family from danger. A bad one will not.
Choosing the perfect security dog for you, your business, and your family requires two things...Here's the link to read more: Guard DogsThe illustration by Stella McCarty is from Castle In The Mist
Dog Owners interested in Pet Products and Giveaways...
Check out Ann Staub at Pawsitively Pets. Ann is knowledgeable and caring and has ongoing pet product reviews and giveaways ...Ann is a "stay at home mom of 2 girls and former vet tech (she graduated from college as a veterinary technician in 2007). Afterwards, she worked as a vet tech for 5 years... working with all kinds of animals including cats, dogs, birds, small mammals, and reptiles."...Ann is also the owner of a pit bull, Shiner, seen on the left reading Planet Of The Dogs...Her website "is not meant to diagnose pet health problems, treat conditions, or replace veterinary care. All opinions shared here are our own and may differ from yours"...She has over 2,500 followers.
What should you do, what can you do, if you see an injured dog or one in distress?
For answers, examples, true stories and more, visit Sunbear Squad...Let the experience of compassionate dog lovers guide you...free Wallet Cards & Pocket Posters, Informative and practical guidance...Visit SunBear Squad -
Every dog should have a man of his own. There is nothing like a well-behaved person around the house to spread the dog's blanket for him, or bring him his supper when he comes home man-tired a night." Corey Ford (1902-1969)
Fairy Tale Review is thrilled to announce the debut of an annual contest, beginning this year with Prose & Poetry awards. We’re interested in poems, stories, and essays with a fairy-tale feel—mainstream to experimental, genre to literary, realist to fabulist. Sarah Shun-lien Bynum will judge prose; Ilya Kaminsky will judge poetry. Both contests will award $1000, and all submissions will be considered for publication in The Mauve Issue. Reading fee: $10.
Fairy Tale Review, c/o Kate Bernheimer Department of English University of Arizona Tucson AZ 85721
Deadline: July 15th, 2014
Awards: $1,000 each
Eligibility & Procedure
All submissions must be original and previously unpublished. For prose, please send works of up to 6,000 words. For poetry, no more than five poems and/or ten pages per entry. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but please withdraw your manuscript immediately upon acceptance elsewhere, and note that the reading fee is nonrefundable. Multiple submissions are acceptable, but please note that you will need to pay a reading fee for each submission.
Reading Fee: $10.00 Ten percent of your reading fee will be donated to Tucson Youth Poetry Slam as part of Fairy Tale Review’s interdisciplinary outreach efforts. (Fairy Tale Review has no official affiliation with Tucson Youth Poetry Slam.)
CLMP Contest Code of Ethics
CLMP’s community of independent literary publishers believe that ethical contests serve our shared goal: to connect writers and readers by publishing exceptional writing. We believe that intent to act ethically, clarity of guidelines, and transparency of process form the foundation of an ethical contest. To that end, we agree to 1) conduct our contests as ethically as possible and to address any unethical behavior on the part of our readers, judges, or editors; 2) to provide clear and specific contest guidelines—defining conflict of interest for all parties involved; and 3) to make the mechanics of our selection process available to the public. This Code recognizes that different contest models produce different results, but that each model can be run ethically. We have adopted this Code to reinforce our integrity and dedication as a publishing community and to ensure that our contests contribute to a vibrant literary heritage.
Fairy Tale Review Annual Contest Selection Process
1st Round of Judging: Non-Blind Read by Genre Editor and Editor. Finalists (approximately 15 poems, 15 pieces of prose) will then be forwarded to the contest judges for the 2nd Round of Judging. 2nd Round of Judging: Blind Read by Contest Judges. Judges change on a yearly basis. Conflicts of Interest: Students, faculty, staff, or administrators currently affiliated with University of Arizona are ineligible for consideration or publication. Anyone with a substantial personal or professional affiliation with a judge is ineligible to enter in that category; if you have questions as to your eligibility, please contact ftreditorial (at) gmail (dot) com, and we will assess the situation together. Upon learning the Judges’ selections, the Editor will assess any potential conflict of interest before finalizing the result. We ask that past winners of our contest refrain from entering until three years after their winning entry was published.
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum is the author of two novels, Ms. Hempel Chronicles, a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award, and Madeleine Is Sleeping, a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award and winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. Her fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including the New Yorker, Tin House, the Georgia Review, and the Best American Short Stories 2004 and 2009. The recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and an NEA Fellowship, she was named one of “20 Under 40” fiction writers by the New Yorker. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Otis College of Art and Design.