Tuesday, May 23, 2017

From the Archives-The Evolution of Rumpelstiltskin

Although the significance of names is a topic of interest in the tale Rumplestiltskin, Jack Zipes sees the main connecting point in versions of the story to be their connection to spinning. Not all versions even have the famous name guessing scene, but all reveal common attitudes towards spinning. A good spinner could gain a reputation that would result in a better marriage, so spinning was very important to many women; however, the tales also reveal that the spinners may long to end their monotonous task if possible. Many of the stories "were probably originally told by women in spinning rooms [and] reveal how the spinners would actually like not to spin anymore, but use their spinning to entangle a man and to weave the threads and narrative strands of their own lives."

Basile's story "The Seven Pieces of Bacon Rind" from 1634 feature a girl who is lazy and a glutton. Her mother gave her seven pieces of bacon to make into soup, but the hungry girl ate all the bacon, and put old shoe leather in the soup to cover up what she had done. Her mother was furious when she found out and was beating her when a merchant walked by and demanded to know what would cause a mother to beat her daughter. The mother claimed that her daughter was so industrious, she had filled seven spindles, despite the fact that it was harmful to her health. The merchant offered to take the daughter home as his wife, where he would be happy to allow her to spin so enthusiastically.

The merchant bought twenty rolls of flax for his wife, expecting twenty rolls of spun flax from his wife when he returned from the fair in twenty days. His wife did no work whatsoever, but ate the merchant's food. Finally she realized she had nothing to show for the time her husband had been gone, so she squirted water onto passersby until a group of fairies were so amused they did her work for her. When her husband returned, she feigned illness because of her hard work, and her husband declared he would rather have a healthy wife than a sick and industrious one and told her not to do anything to exhaust herself. 

In this version, though the main character is lazy, she can be at least credited with being clever. This may not have resonated with the Victorian values of hard work and industry, but modern audiences are probably more sympathetic towards someone who can figure out a more efficient way to get the job done by thinking outside of the box. Also, the husband is very kind compared to the future cruel King who threatens his new bride with death.

L'Heritier's "Ricdin-Ricdon" of 1705 is bogged down by descriptions of how beautiful and perfect the heroine, Rosanie, is, and how everyone else at the palace is jealous of her. Rosanie is not lazy and a glutton like her Italian predecessor, but simply a slow spinner with an abusive mother. Later it turns out there was a whole switched-at-birth thing and Rosanie is actually royalty although she was raised by simple folk, (actually kind of like Villeneuve's backstory for Beauty in her 1740 version of Beauty and the Beast). But here Rosanie is granted a magic wand that will spin for her, and if after three months she can remember the name which Ricdin-Ricdon told her, she would be free and out of his power. She forgets, and is all distressed until the prince reveals that he overheard a demon disguised as an old man telling him how he traps women who don't know that he is Ricdin-Ricdon. She safely returns the wand and has a "perfect union" with the prince and "extreme happiness." 

The Grimms have multiple versions of spinning tales in their collection. Most people are familiar with "Rumplestiltskin," which lays the blame on the father who claims his daughter can spin gold, and the King who demands gold or death from the maiden. 

"The Three Spinners" is closer to the earlier French and Italian stories-a mother tells the queen her lazy daughter can't stop spinning, and she is expected to turn out more spun yarn than she can possibly manage. Three odd women offer to do her work for her, as long as they are invited to her wedding (she will win the Prince for her work). As they arrive, the groom is horrified by the girl's "ghastly looking friends," and asks how they came to have such a flat foot, drooping lip, and immense thumb; the three women reply it was from treading, licking, and twisting thread. The Prince declares his bride shall never spin again. 

"The Lazy Spinner"  shows a wife trying to trick her husband into getting out of spinning, first by scaring him (becoming a voice in the woods who calls, "He who chops wood for reels shall die in strife. She who winds yarn shall be ruined all her life") and then by substituting the skein of wool with a clump of tow, and allowing her husband to think it was his fault because he had done something wrong, so he doesn't mention it again. 

I think "The Three Spinners" is my favorite, which is yours?

Illustrations by Charles Folkard, Warwick Goble, and John B. Gruelle. Information from Jack Zipes' The Great Fairy Tale Tradition

Monday, May 15, 2017

Tales of Superhuman Powers

I'm a big fan of the blog Multicolored Diary, run by storyteller Csenge Virag Zalka. When I heard about her book, Tales of Superhuman Powers, I was immediately intrigued and put it on my wishlist. For anyone who wants to learn more folktales, and also enjoys a good superpower story, this book is SO MUCH FUN.

Which is not to say that all the tales it contains are "feel good" stories- there's a good mix of happy endings with tragic tales and chilling warning tales. But the concept is so enjoyable-she has the tales organized by superpower, so you can choose to read about people with superhuman strength, speed, invisibility, elemental manipulation, etc. Before each tale, Csenge includes information on the ability, the source of the power, origin of the tale, teachings, age groups it's appropriate for, information on tale variants, and a list of popular heroes with that same power from Marvel, DC, etc. After each tale she provides comments, which I especially like. So often a tale will have really bizarre, or disturbing, elements and you're left wondering what to make of it. With her vast storytelling experience, I'm beginning to see that often, stories with puzzling or hard to read parts are the ones that lead to better discussions afterwards-something that has been lost as our own fairy tales have become printed in books or translated to the screen rather than told orally. Many tales were probably meant to prompt the listener to say "that's not fair!" or ask questions, not to be its own neat little morality guide as many printed fairy tales around the Victorian era were.

All the tales are interesting, but so far some of my favorites are the ones about the power to make drawings come to life-not a power you run into often! I highly recommend this book to anyone-it's great for those that know nothing about fairy tales beyond pop culture, because superpowers are a pretty universal interest, but it also contains really unique tales that are probably new to all but those who have thoroughly researched world folklore. Almost every single tale in the book was completely new to me (although some are familiar from being referenced on Multicolored Diary).

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Karl Simon BATB Concept Art

Weekend eye candy, found via Megan Kearney. Concept art for the 2017 Beauty and the Beast by Karl Simon (go to the linked site for larger, and more, pictures-).

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Around the Web

Fairy Tale Roundup Newsletter-have you signed up yet? Get monthly highlights from Enchanted Conversations, World Weaver Press, Timesless Tales, and Once Upon a Blog delivered right to your inbox!

Fairy Tale Footnotes-everyone's favorite fairy tale news hound, Ink Gypsy (of Once Upon a Blog), has started another blog with more of her personal reflections and day to day encounters with fairy tales! Lots of great posts are already up. I particularly enjoyed reading about C.S. Lewis and Tolkein's thoughts on Disney Dwarves, and seeing the matroyshka doll based off of Koschei's hidden heart!

At Multicolored Diary-I've been loving Csenge Zalka's series on folktales around the world-she brings her impressive knowledge to shed light on folktale collections from all around the world, lots of fascinating stories and patterns of stories! She also just finished her A to Z challenge, WTF, Weird Things in Folktales. Some really bizarre, and very amusing, tales to read about!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sleep in Fairy Tales

With my son Pearson almost 2 months old now, I have never been more sleep deprived in my life. Sleeping during the day when the baby sleeps, the advice you're usually given, is not as easy as it sounds-especially when you've always had a mild case of insomnia. I always used to think the main character in "Princess and the Pea" was too unrelatable-who wants to be a Princess who's too pampered and sensitive? But when I started to think of the pea as being the thoughts that keep me up at night, or a brain that takes a long time to relax, I now think of it in a whole new light.

Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov

I also find it very ironic that "Sleeping Beauty" begins with the desire for a child and then involves a supernaturally long sleep. By now, the mere thought of getting a full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is a longed-for fantasy, so rather than seeming like a curse, the idea of a 100 year's nap sounds wonderful.  Maybe the sleeping princess isn't a way to condition little girls to be passive, but sometimes simply the parents telling a story expressing their own desire for sleep after that beloved baby finally arrives.

Yet, sleep functions very differently in other tales. In Animal Bridegroom stories, such as "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," the heroine disobeys the warning not to look at husband while asleep, and must go on a journey to find him. In many versions, she often then finds him engaged to another woman, where she finds a way to come to him at night but he is in a drugged sleep. Sleep is a source of temptation and an obstacle to be overcome in these instances.

Sleep can also be a dangerous, unguarded time, for heroes and villains. In "Hop o' My Thumb," the titular main character tricks the ogre into killing his sleeping daughters instead of himself and his brothers, and they use the rest of the night to escape. Many protagonists must escape a villain's house during the night, under the cover of darkness-so what is risky for one character is protection for another.

In the "Twelve Dancing Princesses," their lack of sleep part of an ambiguous curse; it's the Prince's avoiding sleep that allows him to find the truth. Same with Hansel and Gretel-they overhear what their parents intend to do to them overnight, and Hansel gathers the pebbles while their parents are sleeping. Later, it's while they sleep in the forest that their parents abandon them, sleep once again functioning as danger.

What other fairy tales are there that feature sleep/lack of sleep?

Illustration-William de Leftwich Dodge, 1899

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Basile's The Seven Doves

The "Wild Swans" tale type, mostly known now through the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimms, has an older literary precedent in Basile's "The Seven Doves" (1634-6).

Adam of Fairy Tale Fandom had done a post not too long ago on Basile's Tale of Tales and how they are much cruder than fairy tale versions we're usually familiar with, which is certainly true (for example, at one point in this tale a cat doesn't just put out a fire, it pisses on the fire to put it out). But I never really realized how Basile is often very funny, in his specific yet delightful imagery. Some of my favorite examples:

   -The tale opens: "Once upon a time...there was a good woman who gave birth to a son every year so that, when the number reached seven, the boys resembled the flute of Pan with seven holes each a little bigger than the next. As soon as the sons had grown and lost their first set of ears..." (Zipes notes that this implies that children lose sets of ears like they do teeth)

   -"Finally, one morning, when the sun was using his penknife to scratch out the mistakes that the night had made on heaven's papers..."

   -[the heroine] "felt like a plucked quail for the mistake she had made"

   -"...the sea was beating the rocks with the stick of the waves because they did not want to do the Latin homework that had been assigned them"

   -"she arrived at the foot of a killjoy mountain that poked its head through the clouds just to annoy them"

Basile seemed to have an imaginative, almost childlike way in which he viewed the world with humor and personification.

The tale itself begins with the seven brothers demanding that their mother, who is again pregnant (Heaven help her), give birth to a girl this time, or else they will leave. This element of the tale always perplexes me-in the Grimms' "Twelve Brothers," they changed their original plot in which the King threatens to kill his wife is she gives birth to a girl, to the King desiring a daughter and threatening to kill his sons if he doesn't get one. And here we see the brothers themselves determined not to have an eighth boy. I'm not sure what the intention of each author was in each of those strange and sad scenarios, but I'm beginning to wonder, given the extremity of each threat and how different each one is, if maybe this scene could represent the foolishness of putting pressure on a woman to give birth to any gender?

Anyway, the mother does give birth to a girl, but it's the midwife who was distracted and gave the boys the wrong signal, so they left. As the girl grew up, she demanded to go find news of her brother, and went on a journey. She finally found her brothers, who had taken up residence with an ogre who was friendly towards them, but hated women, since a woman had blinded him. So they put her in a room and instructed her to never show herself to the ogre.

Yet, one day, her fire was put out by her cat companion since she didn't share half of a nut that she ate with it (she usually gave it exactly half of all of her food), and she went to ask the ogre for fire. When she realized the ogre was going to harm her, she barricaded herself in her room, and when the brothers returned, they shoved the ogre into a pit, where he died. They scolded their sister for neglecting her instructions, and told her never to gather grass near the spot where the ogre was buried, or else they would be turned into doves.

But of course...one day the sister, Cianna, came across an injured man, and used rosemary from that spot to make him a healing salve. The brothers-turned-doves came and berated her, going on and on about how foolish she had been and how there was no hope for them unless she found the Mother of Time.

So Cianna went on another journey, this time to find the Mother of Time. She came across many creatures who all pointed her in the right direction, if in turn she would ask a favor of the Mother of Time for them-a whale, a mouse, an army of ants, and an oak tree. Eventually she came across the same man she had helped with the rosemary from the ogre's resting place, who gave her final instructions and then decayed away as soon as he told her everything she needed to know.

This time Cianna followed the instructions perfectly, although the Mother of Time tried to deceive her. She received an answer for all of the friends who helped her along her journey as well as the solution for her brothers to regain their human form-they must "make their nest on the column of wealth," which they unintentionally did anyway when they landed on the horn of an ox, since the horn, Basile tells us, is a symbol of plenty.

From there they journeyed backwards. The oak told them to take the gold treasure that was buried underneath him in thanks, but theives took their gold and tied them all up. The other animals all helped rescue the siblings and get them their treasure and to safety.

Although on the surface, the tale seems to have a strong message about Cianna learning to follow instructions, the plot seems to contradict this a bit. And frankly, just reading the tale, there are so many sets of specific instructions she gets, it's almost tiring to read them. If she hadn't showed herself to the ogre the brothers wouldn't have become the lords of his castle (and she would never have been free). And the old man she helped heal with the rosemary was instrumental in freeing her brothers later, although that was helping to solve the problem she created by helping him-but clearly compassion was credited to her as a virtue and not a weakness, both in her desire to help him and then all of the other creatures who repaid them with help. In fact, the story ends: "Thanks to Cianna's goodness, they enjoyed a happy life proving the truth of the old proverb: Good things happen to those who forget the good they've done."

The text of this tale can be found in Jack Zipes' The Great Fairy Tale Tradition. There is an online text at Surlalune although some of the translation is different

Illustrations-Giambattista Basile (from wikipedia); "The Seven Doves," Warwick Goble

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Runaway Pancakes

Sarah Allison at Writing in Margins had referenced the Runaway Pancake family of tales a while back and I realized, other than the classic "you can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man" line, I'm not familiar with these stories at all (although my brother and I did used to love saying the line from Shrek, "Not my buttons! Not my gumdrop buttons!"). I wasn't even sure how the classic tale even ended (a fox caught the Gingerbread boy and ate him). So I went over to the list of Runaway Pancake tales at D. L. Ashliman's site and had myself a virtual pancake brunch (no Saturday morning is complete in the Tales of Faerie Kingdom without pancakes and coffee!).

It seems the story tends to go like this: A pancake escapes its original maker, and as it makes its getaway, encounters lots of other animals who express their desire to eat it. Not surprisingly, the pancake doesn't grant their request and keeps on running. It isn't until an animal, usually a fox (but sometimes a pig), claims that he doesn't want to eat it, that he is able to trick the pancake into getting into its mouth. So it's a strange, depressing tale that seems to encourage deception, unless you look at it as cleverness, depending on if you have sympathy for a talking pancake. It's that strange tension again that exists in the fairy tale world, in which characters have to eat, but even food has the potential for being anthropomorphized and given its own desires. Yet especially in a world where food was more scarce, you might feel less sympathy for a pancake whose sole purpose is to be eaten, as opposed to animal tales (in which a character might be rewarded for compassion for an animal, and yet also eat meat, sometimes of the same animal!) And although most of the breakfast pastries that are consumed, at least on Ashliman's page, are pancakes or loaves of bread, it also makes sense that the American Gingerbread Boy would be seen as sentient, since he is at least modeled after a human.

Some notable exceptions: In the Scottish "Wee Bunnock," the bunnock (small loaf of bread) is caught not because it was tricked, but simply because it became dark and it fell in a fox's hole. And the compassionate "Thick Fat Pancake" from Germany allowed itself to be eaten because it came across three hungry children.

And some slightly less related tales: the English "Dathera Dad" is about a fairy child trapped in a pudding. The Russian "Devil in the Dough-Pan" is a warning about the consequences of failing to bless your food while making it, because otherwise a demon can inhabit it-and if you bless it after the demon is there, he'll be trapped! (Although the woman still lost her loaf, it was the demon who regretted entering the bread in the first place).

Illustrations by Robert Lumley
...is anybody else hungry now?

Monday, April 3, 2017

From the Archives: Juniper Tree Variants

Juniper Tree Variants

The Juniper Tree seems to have a deep appeal to many fairy tale lovers, despite its darker elements. The traditional version is found in the brothers Grimm.

Kay Nielsen

The Rose Tree is an English variant, by Joseph Jacobs, in which the children are gender-reversed -which struck me as odd when the bird gives the brother a present of red shoes. Having the mother hate her daughter seems so predictable in fairy tales, but in Rose Tree some of the elements are especially reminiscent of Snow White.

In "Juniper Tree", the mother has no reason to hate her son other than the fact that he came from her husband's first wife. In "Rose Tree", the hatred comes from jealousy. As the wife combs out the hair of the daughter, she "hated her more for the beauty of her hair." She sends the girl to fetch a comb, then a billet of wood, then " 'I cannot part our hair with a comb, fetch me an axe...now, lay your head down on the billet whilst I part your hair.' Well! She laid down her golden head without fear; and whist! Down came the axe, and it was off. So the mother wiped the axe and laughed."

Later, the mother cooks the heart and liver of the girl, which is reminiscent of Snow White's stepmother's attempted cannibalism-only this evil mother is successful.

As monstrous as this mother is, the mother in the Scottish tale "Pippety Pew" has no reason at all to murder her son-who is her full blooded son, not a stepson-other than to hide the fact that she tasted the stew she made for dinner "till she had tasted it all away, and she didn't know what to do for her husband's dinner. So she called Johnnie, her son, to come and have his hair combed. When she was combing his head, she slew him, and put him into the pot."

Warwick Goble

Then as the father unknowingly eats his son, the scene is more disgusting than the other variants. The father comes across the different body parts, saying, "surely that's Johnnie's foot" and "That's surely my Johnnie's hand" and yet still eats, implying this father is either incredibly stupid to confuse a human foot with a hare's, the explanation given by his wife, or knowingly feasts on his son.

In the Grimms' version, the bird is transformed back into a boy at the end. In neither the Scottish nor English counterparts does the bird ever regain human form. But I personally like the idea that there can still be redemption and hope in ugly situations, despite the fact that things won't magically be the same again-it's almost more comforting in its realism. Which ending do you prefer?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Teas

I'm sure that special Beauty and the Beast themed products are nothing new these days, but knowing I'm really into tea (as well as the fairy tale) my friend sent me this link to the limited edition Twinings tea in honor of the Disney movie:
"English tea company Twinings has debuted special-edition Beauty and the Beast packaging($15 for 4) on some of its herbal tea blends, and it's sure to bring a smile to any Disney-lover's face.
The Lemon and Ginger tea features Emma Watson as Belle in her blue dress, while Belle in her iconic yellow dress adorns the packaging of the Camomile, Honey, and Vanilla flavor. The Pure Peppermint tea features the famous scene of Belle and the Beast dancing. Lastly, the Orange and Cinnamon Spice Tea features our favorite teapot, Mrs. Potts. Luckily for us, the teas will be available in the US in leading grocery stores and specialty stores until December of this year."
The boxes would be fun to collect, but they just put a new graphic on basic teas that already existed. I would have loved to see special blends created in honor of the fairy tale. A rose tea would be an obvious choice; I can imagine a flavored black tea called "Enchanted Castle" and a calming chamomile blend in honor of Mrs. Potts. If you could create a BATB themed tea, what would it be?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Fairy Tale Forum and Giveaway!

There's a wonderful new fairy tale community being started over on Facebook by authors Shonna Slayton and Ashlee Willis! It's meant for authors, bloggers, Etsy sellers, or any fairy tale fans in general to discuss and geek out over fairy tales. Be sure to stop by to check out the posts there already, and to enter the giveaway!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Our Little Prince

Announcing our new arrival here in the Tales of Faerie Kingdom!  Our son Pearson entered the world February 23. (Pearson is my mom's maiden name, so he is honoring some of the kings and queens who ruled before him). Everyone is healthy but we're still in recovery mode/figuring out our new responsibilities as parents. I'll return to posting...at some point...but for now trying to rest when I can and savor every moment of him being so small!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Alison Larkin's Fairy Tales of the Fiercer Sex

Fairy tale collections featuring female protagonists have gotten more popular recently in our little world of fairy tale lovers, but those stories sadly still remain elusive among the more general public who still tend to think that fairy tales promote the stereotype of the helpless female waiting around to be rescued by a man.

I was recently notified of a new audiobook release that features 20 tales, narrated by Alison Larkin, all of which feature strong female protagonists! Description for Fairy Tales of the Fiercer Sex:

 These are not stories of helpless females shut up in high towers waiting around for a handsome Prince to rescue them. These are tales of strong, independent, brave, at times irreverent girls and women who take charge of their own lives, go on their own adventures and rescue themselves and the ones they love. 

 The clever serving maids, brilliant princesses and other females in this collection have far more to distinguish them than the fact that they end up happily married to a prince! 

 Title and End music by Emmy award-winning composers Gary Schriener and Curt Sobel. Introduction by Alison Larkin 

1. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen 
2. Molly Whuppie and the Double-faced Giant by Flora Annie Steel 
3. A Pottle of Brains by Joseph Jacobs 
4. Cap O’ Rushes by Joseph Jacobs 
5. Hansel and Grethel by the Brothers Grimm 
6. Mr. Fox by Joseph Jacobs 
7. Clever Grethel by the Brothers Grimm 
8. Kari Woodengown by P.C. Absjornsen 
9. The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brothers Grimm 
10. Felicia and the Pot of Pinks by Madame la Comtesse d’Aulnoy 
11. The Iron Stove by Miss Mulock 
12. The Hedley Kow by Joseph Jacobs 
13. The Six Sillies by Monsieur Lemoine 
14. Baba Yaga a Russian folk tale re-told by Verra Xenophontovna Kalamatiano De Blumenthal 
15. The Old Woman in the Woods by the Brothers Grimm 
16. The Idle Spinner by the Brothers Grimm 
17. The Twelve Brothers by the Brothers Grimm 
18. Frederick and Catherine by the Brothers Grimm 
19. Little Red Cap by the Brothers Grimm 
20. Beauty and The Beast by Marie Le Prince de Beaumont
"Snow Queen" illustrations of Gerda's journey by Amy Chipping

There are a few standard fairy tales on the list, but it's good to be reminded that even the fairy tales culture is familiar with often feature clever women who actually do a lot more than sitting around dreaming helplessly of love (even in the cases of the worst offenders for most helpless princesses, you can usually make a case for them not being quite as passive as some have made them out to be anyway). There are also quite a few tales I'm not familiar with at all, so it seems like it would be a good mix for both the casual fairy tale fan as well as many of the readers here who are already familiar with more tales than the average person!

Another cool thing about this collection: Promoting awareness is also translated into action, because for every downloaded audiobook ($20), $5 goes towards helping girls and women in need around the world. That's a cause I would happily support!

Other similarly themed books:

UPDATE: Adam reviewed the audiobook over at Fairy Tale Fandom, check out his review!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Fairy Tale Nursery Ideas

It's February 19, which means two things: 1. It's been 7 years since Tales of Faerie's first post ever! I always like to take a moment to attempt to express my thanks for all the support from readers over the years. Being part of the fairy tale blogging community is amazing and has helped me learn so much!

And this year, this particular date also means we are now only 6 days away from the due date of our little Prince! In fact I'm scheduling this ahead of time so it's even possible I could be a mother by the time this goes live...(!!!!!). (By the way, congratulations to Megan Kearney who also just gave birth to a baby boy!). So, if it gets really quiet around here for a while you can probably assume I'm on maternity leave but I'll eventually come back with a birth announcement.

Tony and I had considered doing a fairy tale themed nursery, but decided to go with a Disneyland theme instead, which can incorporate fairy tales as well as a lot of already easily accessible products. I'm not especially into decorating and our nursery looks nothing like these, but I had fun browsing! It's actually hard to find fairy tale nursery ideas that aren't super girly (even if we were having a girl I'd want something gender neutral that could be used for potential future kids too), and that are actually inspired by fairy tales themselves rather than the general aesthetics of "ornate/vintage", or "woodland creatures/trees". But here were some of my favorites:

SWAN CRIB-Pamela Copeman

Not technically for a baby but-WOW