Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jack and the Beanstalk Jewelry

Today I am sharing surprising finds, Jack and the Beanstalk related jewelry, either direct or indirect through design or marketing. I say surprising because this tale tends to be considered more of a "boy" story and thus isn't often interpreted for jewelry. (No arguments about stereotypes, just stating the facts!) I provide links to sources but by no means do I endorse any of these sellers having no experience with them. I'm simply sharing the images and links for the curious. And because with some, such as the Etsy designers, I'm inspired by their work.

These make me wish allergies didn't prevent me from having pierced ears. Sigh.... These were also available several places online, but I liked the description at this site best.

Jack and the Beanstalk vine accent earring: Relive your childhood when you wear this whimsical ear Jack and the Beanstalk ear cuff and it's vine accent earring. The designer suggests that you wear the vine accent earring on the right ear to compliment the Jack and the Beanstalk ear cuff or consider ordering a pair of the vine earrings for a more elaborate statement. This does not include the ear cuff pictured.

These Jack and the Beanstalk earrings --handmade and offered on Etsy by amoronia--feature illustrations by Walter Crane. (She has some other surprises like Cinderella, Frog Prince, and Little Red Riding Hood, too. Love!)

3D JACK & THE BEANSTALK Charm: Currently available on Ebay in silver or gold. Once again, available a few places on the internet, but this time I prefer Ebay as a more reputable resource.

Another Etsy find, a beanstalk pendant, this time from juliespace.

Wonderland Exhibit

Found at Fairy stories come to life at Museum of Childhood:

KIDS saw their favourite stories come to life as an exhibition of contemporary artwork showing fairytales, myths and legends from around the world opened at the Museum of Childhood.

The exhibition includes work by East End-based printmakers inspired by well-known European tales, including much-loved favourites like Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm, and the Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen.

Around 50 artists from Hackney-based East London Printmakers are exhibiting their work at the museum in Cambridge Heath Road and visitors are able to create their own interpretations of fairytales to add to a mural.

You can read more about the exhibit and related activities at the Museum of Childhood website. There are workshops and activities planned for children, adults, and pairings of both.

According to the East London Printmakers website:

Our touring exhibition about fairytales, myths and legends from around the world has returned from the German Fairytale Museum in Bad Oeynhausen and the Brothers Grimm [Brueder Grimm] Museum in Kassel and will include work by 10 new artists.

The Printmakers site had a link for a catalogue but the PDF file was corrupted. I'm trying to learn more--perhaps get some imagery to share--and will post more if and when I learn more.

And this is yet another reason why I wish I was traveling to England this year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jack and the Beanstalk Illustrations

One of my sorrows with SurLaLune is that I can only showcase older illustrations of fairy tales, not the more recent ones due to copyright restrictions. However, the wonder of the internet means that several of the artists post samples of their work for portfolio work.

Today, I offer a collection of some well-known and lesser knowns from their online portfolios. Click on their names to go to portfolio sites or on the images to see the pictures full size (Blogspot crops and crops again).

This collection is by no means comprehensive or necessarily of my absolute favorites. They just happened to catch my eye as I was preparing for Jack and the Beanstalk Week.

I am always fascinated by the age choices for portraying Jack.

by Elizabeth O Dulemba from Paco and the Giant Chile Plant/Paco y la planta de chile gigante (Bilingual English/Spanish) by Keith Polette

by Wendy Berry

by Scott Gustafson from his Classic Fairy Tales

by Fiona Sansom

by Carol Newsom

by Lindy Burnett

by Patricia Cantor Okay, this one captures the terror of the chase without being graphic better than almost any illustration of this moment I've seen. Brava!

Fairy Tale Economies Conference: Oct. 1 & 2, 2009

This is very late notice--I only learned about it a few days ago and Once Upon a Blog beat me to posting it first (Hi Gypsy!). However, I want this blog to be a place to learn about these events and since it's only a few months old, three actually, I don't feel too badly. Still, if I had known earlier, I probably would have made a trip down to Mississippi since I am in Tennessee and such a trip would be driveable for me.

And I've always wanted to visit the de Grummond Children’s Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. Really. It's been on my list for almost two decades now since I first learned about it as a precocious undergraduate student who studied Children's Lit at much as possible. I'd go crazy in there. My hubby would go along just to watch me be excited like I was in the Reading Room of the British Museum several years ago. I think he took more pictures of me wandering around, reading names and looking at first editions (behind glass) than of the actual place. But I have really digressed...

Anyway, USM is hosting the Fairy Tales Economies Conference this Thursday and Friday. Here's an article. Here's a press release. Here's an official site. Here's a schedule.

The list of papers to be presented is not on the schedule. I'll print one here if anyone has a list to share. I wish there was an online repository for fairy tale related conference papers that are never formally published. I'd host those on SurLaLune if I saw a true interest. (I have an old moldering one about Nancy Drew I presented years ago at a conference so I know they disappear just as often as not. More often actually.)

Keynote speaker Dr. Jennifer Schacker, author of National Dreams: The Remaking of Fairy Tales in Nineteenth Century England, will deliver a highly visual presentation about Victorian fairy tale pantomime theatre. Schacker is an associate professor and director of undergraduate studies at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

And the exhibit of tale artwork, titled "The Alphabet of Fairy Tales," developed by Ellen Ruffin, curator of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at Southern Miss, will be available for viewing during the reception. Another treat.

Attendance is free, a boon to those who are in the area and can attend.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Jack and the Beanstalk Mural

The Main Library of the Pine Bluff / Jefferson County Library System in Pine Bluff, Arkansas has a wonderful Jack and the Beanstalk Mural near one of its elevators that I wanted to share. The mural was painted by Dr. Henri Linton, Chair, University of Arkansas Pine Bluff Art Department and student Ariston Jacks in August 1998 when the library was remodeled.

Since most of us will never visit the library itself (myself included), I'm thrilled that the library has included great pictures of the mural on the website to share with the rest of the world. You can read the story illustrated with studies from the mural at: Jack and the Beanstalk Mural with Story.

There is also a page with more pictures that provide a better perspective on the entire project at Jack and the Beanstalk Panoramic View.

And speaking of wonderful library murals, one of the top ranked libraries in the country, Richland County Public Library in Columbia, SC, has The Wild Place at their main library, a children's room decorated with wall murals from Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. (With the Spike Jonze movie out soon, I thought this was a nice crossover.) I have visited there--I lived in Columbia for one year long ago--and it's wonderful to see the Wild Things in big-as-life size.

There aren't many images on the web but I found these on Lee County Public Library - SC's Flickr page. Sendak gave special permission to RCPL to use the images which are also included in some of their marketing materials. Makes me want my own Wild Thing for my desk. But I'm refraining. For now.

Faerie Magazine: Summer 2009 Issue

The Summer 2009 issue of Faerie Magazine should start appearing on newstands today and in the coming weeks. (Yes, it has been delayed due to multiple reasons, but it is coming slowly but surely.)

My contribution to this issue is an article about Jack and the Beanstalk, a rather summery tale to me but still quite lovely for autumn harvest time, too. As always, I discuss the history of the tale and modern versions.

The issue also includes a feature on Paul Kidby, the illustrator to Terry Prachett; the unique vision and fantasy art of Jasmine Becket-Griffith; an article on Glastonbury Abbey: King Arthur's last resting place and Charles Vess' Midsummer's Play.

And since I wrote about Jack and the Beanstalk, I will be offering extra Jack and the Beanstalk posts this week. Let's call it Jack and the Beanstalk week. I'll continue the newsy and current events posts, too, but add some extra posts of my favorite Jack and the Beanstalk related work.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

'Princess and the Frog' Controversy

Here's a short and quick article about the controversies that have surrounded and will continue to surround Disney's new film, months before the public has even seen the final cut of the film: Does Disney's 'Princess and the Frog' Deserve the Controversy?

Many of the articles I've seen so far have been more biased than this one by Kevin Polowywhich I consider much more even-handed.

Are the criticisms warranted? Or are the reactions excessive? Depends on how you look it at. There are some reasonable questions being asked: In a film set in 1920s New Orleans, where most of the characters are black, why isn't the prince? Why make the princess clearly culturally definable, yet the prince ambiguous? After 70 years of white princes, doesn't the black community deserve a prince to call their own? (And no, we count neither Prince Akeem nor the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in this argument.)

But at the same time, shouldn't we credit Disney for diversifying their portfolio and promoting interracial relationships? Won't this scenario help teach our kids about racial tolerance? Aren't we all just overreacting here? After all, this is an animated movie for kids about people who transform into frogs; the main characters even spend most of their screen time as reptiles. So should race even be an issue here?

I'm admit I'm curious as to the choice of princes for the film, racially ambiguous is a questionable choice. Should we say, boo, no black prince from Disney yet? Or hooray for tolerance of interracial couples? Very, very curious.

Then again, I'm fascinated with the entire interpretation of the story. Disney isn't known for sticking to the originals very well, but this one perhaps wins the prize for their most wildly interpreted fairy tale.

In the end, I am curious to see how well the movie does at the box office and with merchandise sales. I imagine they will be fairly strong although I wonder about Christmas sales since the movie isn't getting a nationwide November release. I'm not understanding all the marketing choices for this film, to say the least.

In the end, I predict those who always support and love Disney will continue to do so and vice versa with those who don't worship the Mouse House. So far, I'm most surprised there aren't more non-Disney Frog Prince related books and such being released to ride the Disney wave.

Either way, I expect lots of conversation. The article I reference above is just a few days old and already has over 1,500 reader comments on it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Short Film: Brother and Sister

Brother & Sister Trailer from Lisa Stock on Vimeo.

Lisa Stock just completed work on a short film, "Brother & Sister", adapted from both the traditional fairy tale and contemporary poem by Terri Windling. I've embedded the trailer above and you can also visit the official website.

A screening will take place in NYC next week on Sept 30th and will coincide with an online screening for out-of-towners. Lisa's other mythic film, The Silent Nick and Nora, and clips from her Titania will also be shown. Check the Events page for more details.

You can read the original tale on SurLaLune at Brother and Sister. It's one of my favorite tales and I added it to the site years ago although it remains mostly obscure and ignored. It's not highly trafficked on SurLaLune either so Huzzah to Lisa and all for bringing a little more attention to it.

You can read Terri's poem at Brother and Sister. Terri's poem originally appeared in The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors and again in The Poets’ Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimms Fairy Tales, two collections I highly recommend. They are both out of print unfortunately, but used versions are available or I recommend trying interlibrary loan. In my experience, neither book is very common in smaller libraries. These are the times I'm grateful for the internet but I also look forward to the day when no book is out of print whether through ebook readers or other means such as print on demand sources.

Won't that be loverly? (Saw My Fair Lady again last week and I'm still recovering. And laugh with me because originally I typed My Fairy Lady. Someone write that ASAP, please. I'm too busy translating Rapunzels. More about that soon.)

Vivian French's Tales of the Five Kingdoms

Vivian French's Tales of the Five Kingdoms series isn't new, but it is currently ongoing and new to me (and perhaps you). French is a British author and so these books are published first in the U.K. by Walker Books and then reprinted stateside by Candlewick Press. So far two are out in the U.S. and three are available in the U.K. There are plans for at least five books in the series at this point, so there are more to come that will be brand new to all of us. The series is for middle readers but can be enjoyed by older kids and grown-ups, too.

These are the types of books that also helped inspire this blog. I find books like these and they never fit very well into the book galleries on SurLaLune proper. The first book in the series uses the Frog Prince (princes turned into frogs) and Cinderella (wicked stepsister), for example. These mish mashed elements make the books fun to read as one searches for the fairy tale influences while enjoying the original story. They deserve some publicity.

So on to the books...

The Robe of Skulls: The First Tale from the Five Kingdoms is the first book in the series. (The hardcover is also currently bargained priced on, making it cheaper than the paperback, but that can change within hours, days or weeks according to inventory. And here's the link, too.)

Review from Booklist: Prolific British author French (Once Upon a Time, 1996) serves up a charmingly witty adventure peopled with all manner of fairy-tale archetypes: a bad prince who is really not the least bit evil, a beautiful but nasty stepsister, a beleaguered but brave little girl named Gracie, and a talking bat. Lady Lamorna, an aging, evil sorceress, sets off to buy herself a grotesque gown, while at the same time Marlon the bat rescues Gracie from her cellar prison and leads her into the wilderness and the eventual safety of a group of old crones. Meanwhile, Prince Marcus has been left at home for bad behavior and is thus happily passed over by Lady Lamorna’s wicked and calculating spell that turns his twin and the other princes and princesses into frogs. French is a deft storyteller who keeps all the plotlines crisscrossing as beautifully as the web the crones must keep straight and true. Devotees of fractured fairy tales will be as pleased as Gracie with the results.

And another positive one:

Review from Kirkus: Conceiving a burning desire for a new gown - black velvet, decorated with poison ivy, spider webs and skulls - wicked Lady Lamorna decides to pay for it by turning all the local princes into frogs and extracting ransoms from their royal parents. She gets help on the way from the considerably more clever Foyce Undershaft, a young lady of stunning beauty and "a heart as hard as a frying pan," who is also the evil stepsister of kindly Gracie Gillypot. Enter Marlon, a bat who addresses young folk as "kiddo" and is forever flitting off with a "Ciao!" to deliver messages or orchestrate some dodgy deal. Thanks to his efforts Gracie hooks up with Marcus, a scruffy prince missed in the general amphibious transformation, to rescue the other princes and to trick Foyce into entering a magical sort of rehabilitation program. Lady Lamorna even gets her gown, in the end. Larded with stock comical characters and illustrated with Collins's gangly, Beardsley-esque line drawings, the story will slip down like the bonbon it is.

The second book is The Bag of Bones: The Second Tale from the Five Kingdoms ( link).

Publisher's description: When the quill writes GO GO GO frantically on the wall, and the House of the Ancient Crones heaves Gracie Gillypot outside onto the path, it can mean only one thing: there’s Trouble in the Five Kingdoms. This time it’s in the form of a beady-eyed, green-tongued witch named Truda Hangnail, who with her banished Deep Magic has vowed to succeed Queen Bluebell on the throne. Now that her horrible spell has shrunk the good witches of Wadington to the size of, well, rats, can anything stop her? Will the strengths, smarts, and charms of a spunky trueheart, a sweet-natured orphan, a scruffy prince, a substantial troll, and two squabbling bats be enough to foil her insidious plot?

And finally, just released in the U.K. and not yet available in the U.S. (except as an import), we have The Heart of Glass: The Third Tale from the Five Kingdoms.

Publisher's description: It is a fine day for dwarf watching -– at least that is what Gracie Gillypott and Prince Marcus think when they set out, quite unaware that Princess Marigold of Dreghorn has set her sights on Marcus, and decided to "follow him to the ends of the earth" -- fan, frilly petticoats and all. All is not well; the dwarves are overworked and underpaid, having been expected to produce extra gold for wedding crowns for the wedding of Fedora and Prince Tertius; to deal with the problem, the Chief of Works sends for a couple of trolls who have an agenda of their own -– to find a princess for their leader, who believes True Love will melt his heart of glass. Gracie is mistaken for a princess, Marigold gets in everyone's way, Gubble is forced to make a terrible choice ... but fortunately Marlon and Alf are there to save the day.

The reader reviews are just as strong as the professional reviews, praising the writing by French and the illustrations by Ross Collins that have definite Aubrey Beardlsey and Edward Gorey influences. I would have devoured these as a kid and still enjoyed the first book (the only one I have so far) almost as much as an adult.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More Alice Hoffman and Fairy Tale Memoirs

A few weeks ago, I linked to an article about Alice Hoffman that included Q&A with Hoffman about her fairy tale influences, see Alice Hoffman and A. S. Byatt in the News. She's busily promoting her new book, The Story Sisters, so another article, Alice Hoffman In West Hartford Sept. 23, has appeared with more discussion about fairy tales, quoted below:

As a little girl growing up in what she calls "an unhappy situation," Alice Hoffman found great solace and truth in the fairy tales she loved to read.

"I felt almost moved to tears by fairy tales. They felt so psychologically true," the author says in a recent phone conversation. "They seemed very real to me."

What's more, her Russian grandmother often told her tales of the old country that seemed just like fairy tales to young Alice.

"Grandmothers telling stories is what women always did, just naturally," Hoffman says. "The meaning rises up and comes from a psychological place."

I always enjoy reading about the fairy tale experiences of readers, be they well-known or living out of the spotlight of life. Kate Bernheimer has edited two collections of personal essays from writers discussing how reading fairy tales impacted their lives: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales and Brothers and Beasts: An Anthology of Men on Fairy Tales. They are both excellent and I highly recommend them if you, too, enjoy reading about the commonality of experience through specific recollections.

Just this year, Maria Tatar published Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood which also includes the adult memories of childhood reading.

All three books are highly recommended especially since they were written and/or edited by leaders in the field of fairy tale studies.

PS: Hoffman's The Story Sisters uses fairy tale motifs--one of the sisters creates a fairy tale fantasy world as a coping mechanism to deal with her sexual abuse. There's an excerpt and plenty of reviews on the book's Amazon page.

The Adventures of the Gingerbread Man

My next trip to Atlanta will include a visit to The Center for Puppetry Arts. I have driven by but have never been there at the right time to go inside. I'm a big puppet fan thanks to my own collection as a child as well as my continued collecting as an adult. It doesn't hurt that I'm part of the original Sesame Street and Jim Henson generation either. I grew up with puppets, muppets, etc. permeating my childhood existence. If I were to ever be on one of those "live your dream, try an alternate career reality shows," I would choose to be a puppeteer. That's how much of a fan I am.

Showing this weekend (Fri-Sun) in the rain-flooded city, The Adventures of the Gingerbread Man!

Enjoy a batch of lighthearted fun for the whole family in this whimsical adaptation of The Fisherman's Wife, The Three Wishes, The Little Red Hen, and The Gingerbread Boy. You'll meet Redina, a mixed-up chicken with a passion for chocolate chips; Gripe and Bicker, two monstrous friends who together must decide how to use three wishes; and a greedy wife whose plans don't quite pan out.

by David Stephens, All Hands Productions, Atlanta, GA

There is also a Create-A-Puppet Workshop in which you can make your own Gingerbread Man Shadow Puppet.

Atlanta is very much underwater right now with its rare flooding, to think that it was drought ridden only a few years ago. (Nashville is getting more than its fair share of rain, too, but not to the flood levels experienced further south.) The Center is open year round and a great stop right on the edge of downtown Atlanta if you happen to be in the city. Many more fairy tales are listed in the Upcoming Performances including The Shoemaker & the Elves, A Woodland Cinderella and The Three Billy Goats Gruff and Other Tales.

Okay and this just made me laugh when I was deciding on imagery for this post:

Buy at

Maison Martin Margiela Glass Slippers

Well, if you have $20,000 to burn, you can get your own exquisite glass slippers. It's also possible to buy only one if you prefer. Not sure if they are actually wearable. I wouldn't risk it--just thinking of the possible pain involved if one where to break makes me cringe. Besides, one's toes would look quite crunched, good pedicure or no. Stilettos aren't really slippers, of course, but they are what most fashionistas imagine as such.

But they are lovely to look at.

Found via Cool Hunting. Which is much easier to navigate and enjoy than the horribly designed Maison Martin Margiela website. (I'm married to a web designer. I can say these things with impunity. Art should never overpower functionality where commerce is concerned.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bryan Singer to Direct 'Jack and the Giant Killer'

Okay, this could be fun: Bryan Singer to Direct 'Jack and the Giant Killer' which is reporting from the fresh Hollywood Reporter announcement.

Jack is a slight reworking of (shocker!) Jack and the Beanstalk with a dash of The Brave Little Tailor. It dispenses with that "I'll sell you some magic beans, and some oceanfront property in Arizona" trope, and is instead set in motion when a giant kidnaps a princess. Obviously, that premeditated action is unacceptable, and it threatens the longstanding peace between men and giants. A young farmer named Jack is given the task to lead an expedition to the giants' kingdom in the hopes of rescuing her. Mark Bomback and Darren Lemke penned the script, which is reportedly a more mature take on the fairy tale than you or I might expect. I don't think that means any rampant sex, violence, or cussing but rather that it'll feature the kind of unblinking action that Lord of the Rings did. I mean, Jack's fighting giants. That's hardcore when done realistically.

And there's more about other versions of the tale at Bryan Singer Tackles Jack the Giant Killer For New Line, the only article I saw that admits that Giant-Killer is different from Beanstalk Jack. It even mentions the story's occasional ties to King Arthur. I'm impressed by a fully researched article!

Hopefully there will be some women actually doing stuff in the movie instead of waiting around to be rescued. The movies always seem to be weakest at updating women's roles.

This one is now slated for a 2011 release, so don't hold your breath or anything, but a change of directors is a pretty good sign it will go into development and actually appear on a screen somewhere, someday.

I enjoyed the first two X-Men movies Singer directed, but Superman Returns not so much although that was from script issues more than directing. (And I'm really picky about Superman. And I was disappointed that we got that movie instead of a better X-Men 3.) So I'm hopeful this will be a fun take on the fairy tale whatever the final storyline.

Oh, and if you want to read the original tale--kidnapped daughter included--try here at Jack the Giant-Killer.

Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures

I just received an email about this new journal and definitely want to share. (I edited the email a little to generalize it for public consumption.)

Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, is an interdisciplinary, refereed academic journal whose mandate is to publish research on, and to provide a forum for discussion about, cultural productions for, by, and about young people. Jeunesse often publishes academic work on fairy tales, which may be of interest to SurLaLune's visitors.

In our Summer Issue 1.1, we included an article by Lisa Orr entitled "Difference That Is Actually Sameness Mass-Reproduced": Barbie Joins the Princess Convergence," which discusses Disney princess culture.

In our upcoming Winter Issue 1.2, we will be including an article by Pauline Greenhill and Steven Kohm, entitled "Little Red Riding Hood and the Pedophile in Film: Freeway, Hard Candy and The Woodsman."

We would love to be a resource for those interested in fairy tales and a venue for those who would like to consider publishing an academic article on fairy tales.

So here's another resource for those studying children's literature and issues as well as fairy tales at times. That's always good news!

I'm interested in the Barbie article since I haven't read much about this obviously lucrative line for the Barbie franchise. Not that there are always fairy tales used--the latest is Barbie and the Three Musketeers--but I've been amused by them all. I never associated Barbie with classical literature or folklore before these lines began. I'm not exactly comfortable doing it now, but I prefer Barbie this way than the traditional way if I must have her jumping out at me every time I shop for toys or DVDs. (And don't get me started on Bratz...)

And I admit to being impressed that at least Mattel chooses less popular or less used fairy tales when they use fairy tales--Rapunzel and Twelve Dancing Princesses have definitely received a boost of recognition thanks to Barbie as Rapunzel and Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses. How about Barbie in the Wild Swans next?

Fairy Tale Sisterhood

In Why sisters can't escape the Cinderella curse, columnist Leah McLaren discusses sister relationships, pulling material from Cinderella, Deborah Tannen's You Were Always Mom's Favourite! Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives and well-known sister pairs in pop culture. There isn't much about Cinderella, but the article reminded me of my own searches for strong sibling pairs in fairy tales over the years. My searches have been mostly unfruitful.

In many fairy tales, folklore and myths, the most successful pairings are of siblings of opposite genders, think Hansel and Gretel, Brother and Sister and others. There has even been a collection, The Barefoot Book of Brother and Sister Tales by Mary Hoffman, of positive brother and sister pairing tales which is now out-of-print.

On the other hand, when siblings of the same gender are presented, they are most often rivals. One of the few exceptions is Snow White and Rose Red which is more of literary origin than oral with very few variants. Most often we are given the good and bad girls like in Diamonds and Toads or the plucky third child (male or female) who triumphs--sometimes saving the lives of the other siblings--despite lack of support or esteem from the family. There aren't collections of positive sisters tales or brothers tales, by the way. Not that I've ever discovered. If I ever find enough to warrant a collection, I just compile one myself!

I credit some of Snow White and Rose Red's popularity to its rare celebration of sisterhood. Sisters embrace it. Mothers embrace it. I'm still surprised at the picture book version, Rose Red and the Bear Prince, which eliminates one of the most endearing elements of the tale--the sister! It tried to be feminist but for me failed in neglecting the power of sisterhood that is inherent in the tale.

Of course, there is also Twelve Dancing Princesses, but they are even less developed and are operating under a curse in some versions. A true sisterhood isn't really visible. Their limited interaction can even be rather hostile, such as when the youngest sister is ridiculed for sensing something isn't right.

Some of this stereotyping and story development comes from the demands of abbreviated storytelling, quick constructs are necessary to bring about opposition and conflict. However, it doesn't promote family harmony very well. And why are opposite gender pairs still portrayed so well overall while same genders are almost always rivals? How well do these constructs mirror reality?

I'm eight years older than my only sister and we've become friends as adults, but the age gap didn't lend itself towards too much outright rivalry over the years. Still, we share a bond that does not include our brother, one that is important to me.

And here's some modern thoughts on sister relationships from the article that inspired the post in the first place. From the article:

In her new book You Were Always Mom's Favourite! Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives, U.S. linguist Deborah Tannen looks at all aspects of sisterly communication, from the reverent to the rivalrous, and the effect it has on female sibs throughout their lives. Sisterhood is one of the closest human relations, she writes, but also one of the most fraught – marred as it so often is by the trap of Cinderella-style competition.

“Women's closeness often has to do with confidences, where as for men it's more often about doing things together,” she told me over the phone from her office in Washington, D.C. “Because many sisters tend to talk more often and for longer periods of time and about more personal topics than most brothers, you've got more opportunity to connect but also to say the wrong thing and step on toes. It's possible that, because sister relations are more complicated and fraught, it may make it harder to work together.”

So that's food for today's thoughts...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Little Red Riding Hood's Zombie BBQ

'Little Red Riding Hood's Zombie BBQ' (NDS) Coming to Europe. The game was released in North America a year ago--long before this blog came into existence--and I thought I'd give it a post at least since I admit that video games using fairy tales fascinate me, even though I am not a gamer.

Our story begins with the invasion of this fairy tale land by hordes of ravenous zombies. And they won’t stop at anything: from the succulent legs of ham of the Three Little Pigs to the sawdust brain of Pinnochio, they are all tasty morsels for the living dead. Grotesque aberrations plague the enchanted forests. Prince Charmings wake up Sleeping Beauties with a real love bites and ferocious wolves die when they attack abandoned little girls. Only one heroine can stop this babbling army. Her name is Red, Little Red Riding Hood, and now she’s armed and dangerous!

But she will not be alone: Momotaro, the peach boy who’s recently arrived from Japanese folklore, will join her on this dangerous crusade. But… what powers and secrets does this legendary character hold?

Zombie BBQ is a really fun shooter for NDS, where you have to move forward by shooting down every living (or dying) creature in your path! Use the great arsenal of weapons at your disposal to do away with the savage hoards of zombies. Shoot, blast, massacre, bombard and burn your enemies to the bone with a simple touch of your stylus on the console screen. Can you save fairy tale land or will you let its creatures live an unhappy-ever-after-life?

You can view the game trailer on YouTube here. I'm not embedding it since it is rather more graphic than I usually show here without warning.

You can also read more about the game on Amazon at Little Red Riding Hood's Zombie BBQ. Alas, it is only available on Nintendo's DS platform.

And, yes, Little Red Riding Hood makes the rounds in the video game world. She's in Fairytales Fights, The Path and this one. If she were real, she'd be rich with how often she appears in products. She's rather the publicity hound of the fairy tale realm.

And what is up with the zombie trend these days? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith or The War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies by H.G. Wells and Eric S. Brown? I can understand the vampires and werewolves more--at least they converse--but zombies, well, they are just icky. I do understand the humor, but I cannot imagine this trend going on as long as the others.

I infinitely prefer steampunk which I am just beginning to delve into myself. More about that soon, too.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fairy Tales and Psychology

No, I'm not bringing out Bettelheim or Jung or von Franz today. I wanted to offer a link to this article: HUMAN MATTERS: Failure to trust own knowledge, instincts can lead to catastrophe by Steven Kalas.

Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor with a regular column and a book. In this week's column, he uses fairy tales to illustrate his points about trusting our instincts. Little Red Riding Hood is the star of the examples and I appreciate the article and its message. I wish I could just quote it all right here, right now. But here are some key parts:

The Brothers Grimm are sometimes criticized for being, well, grim.

See, children suffer in these fairy tales at the hands of cruel parents and witches and sometimes the teeth of wild animals. Sometimes the children are rescued by fairy godmothers and other assorted providence. Sometimes they escape to freedom by their own wits and resourcefulness. Other times they don't. Sometimes they die.

Just like in real life. Which is why I dig the Brothers Grimm. Classic fairy tales are so human. So real. And they do more than entertain. Classic fairy tales teach us, young and old alike. They ask us to look at ourselves and our culture.

Wonderful. I want to borrow that well-worded answer every time I'm asked about the suitability of fairy tales for children. But the article isn't really about children's but more about women's issues.

The classic "take" on Little Red Riding Hood is as a morality play about the dangers of naivete. But, I suggest that Little Red Riding Hood's problems are far worse than that. Here's the deeper question: Hey Red! What is it in you that keeps overriding your own senses! Keeps overriding your own experience.

It ain't your grandmother! Run!

I'm thinking of buying several copies of "Little Red Riding Hood," so I can have them on hand to give to patients in therapy. Especially female patients. I can't explain why, but most therapists (including myself) will tell you they encounter a higher number of women than men who consistently don't and won't believe their own eyes, their own ears and their own felt experience, especially as it regards love relationships with wolves. Er, some men.

And that's all I'll quote but there's at least twice this in the article itself, including more food for thought and some examples from his practice. Click through and read it.

The article reminds me of what The Path video game is trying to accomplish, using Little Red Riding Hood to explore women's dangers and fears in the world. Kalas is discussing less physically dangerous relationships, but the message applies to more.

In a related vein of thought, I had a great conversation this past weekend with Brian Hull, a professional puppeteer (more about him in days to come!) who regularly adapts fairy tales and other stories for children's theatre. He told me that of all the fairy tales he performs, Hansel and Gretel always receives the most resistance by parents and teachers for multiple reasons, one being that the witch is not redeemed but destroyed. Hull explained his reasoning that redeeming the witch, giving her a change of heart, negates the cautionary aspects of the tale. "The witch is the stranger in the park with candy," he said. "Why would we want to make the stranger a good person?"

When one equates the witch with the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood (or even Three Little Pigs), it's more scary to consider making these tales less scary, to negate their messages that the world is dangerous and to be savvy and aware. Unfortunately, the message is an important one and feeds into everyone's deepest fears whether they be child or adult. But it is one that cannot safely be forgotten or ignored.

So keep reading the fairy tales. Perhaps not at bedtime but during family time when life lessons are taught with love and a hope for safety. And I'll borrow from Kalas' article again, quoting a wise woman:

"When people show you who they really are, believe them." -- Maya Angelou

C is for Fairy Tale Cookies

My sweet tooth was inspired by these cookie stamps. They are retired but most are still available at Artistic Cookies. (I am not affiliated and do not vouch for this seller. I'm linking because I fell in love with these.) Really, the stamps themselves are charmingly designed. Alas, my favorite, The Frog Prince, is already sold out since this set is discontinued. I will have to be satisfied with a picture.

I admit I don't bake so I'm not sure why I'm always charmed by cakes and cookies. One of my dear friends does bake and works well with cookie cutters and decorating cakes.

I am actually surprised that the set did not include Cinderella, at least not from what I have discovered. Cinderella is so rarely left out that I was surprised she was usurped by Puss in Boots and Frog Prince.

However, all of the stamps themselves provide rather gender neutral designs for the cookies which perhaps explains the absence of a glass slipper. But I also find myself wanting a Gingerbread Man.

Aren't you craving a cookie by now? I'm as bad as the with in Hansel and Gretel today, aren't I?

If your preferences run to cookie cutters instead of stamps, here's a nice set that should do the trick. They are also much more reasonably priced!

And, don't forget an apron...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hansel and Gretel Movies

Film School Rejects reviews films and occasionally offers Foreign Objects (foreign films). Last week, Rob Hunter reviewed a Korean version of Hansel and Gretel which is due to be released on DVD in the United States in November.

Eun-soo has a car accident while passing through a forest late at night and awakens to find a young girl in a red cloak offering him assistance. She leads him deep into the woods to her house where he meets her parents and two siblings. The family appears happy, especially the children, even if the parents do seem a bit apprehensive and nervous. The house is garishly decorated in holiday themes and kiddie designs, dinner is a plateful of cupcakes and cookies, and no one seems all that interested in helping Eun-soo find his way out of the forest and back home. Every attempt to leave leads him right back to the house and to the children. Soon the parents have gone missing, a mysterious new couple has arrived, and Eun-soo discovers the dangerous and tragic secret behind it all.

It’s not entirely accurate to call Hansel & Gretel a straight horror film as it’s interested in far more than simple scares. There’s a general sense of creepiness and dread and a handful of jump scares throughout, but the movie’s atmosphere extends well beyond the horrific. Like any fairy tale worth it’s weight in morality and metaphor the movie explores real world cruelty in a fantastic setting for maximum effect. The original Brothers Grimm story serves as a starting point, but the film is more interested in where brutality and lost innocence can lead if left unchecked.

You can also read more about Hansel and Gretel at IMDB, of course. There's another lengthy review from a viewer there who also argues against classifying the film as horror.

I'll admit I'm a wimp when it comes to horror films, even if two different reviewers state that this isn't true horror, they don't deny its creepiness. So I probably will never see it. But I do find it interesting that Hansel and Gretel hasn't been used more often for horror film scripts, at least not directly. Yes, the idea of children in danger is not as popular, but Hansel and Gretel can very easily be teenagers or young adults. This is one of the scariest of the popular tales with just as much potential as Little Red Riding Hood which has been used in this manner much more frequently.

And if you noticed the plural in the post's title, well, there is another Hansel and Gretel film in development apparently: 'Hansel and Gretel' Getting Ready To Kick Ass, With or Without Will Ferrell.

“We have a great first draft turned in on that, and we’ve already done notes and we’re actually having artist illustrations done of the look and the monsters and everything,” McKay revealed, saying that the project is full-steam ahead for his Gary Sanchez Productions. “We’re looking at turning that into Paramount pretty soon; we want to get that going because it’s really, really cool.”

Based loosely on the Brothers Grimm tale of two poor children, a house made of candy and a really scary oven, the live-action and heavy-effects film will pick up where the Grimms left off.

“The idea is that [Hansel and Gretel] fought off the witch, chucked her in the oven, and now they’ve grown up, it’s 15 years later,” explained McKay, who most recently produced “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” with Jeremy Piven. “They’re witch bounty hunters now, and they’re badasses.”

“There’s really clever stuff in it, like Hansel is diabetic from all the candy the witch made him eat,” McKay said of Wirkola’s script. “He has to do insulin shots every few hours.”

Now I don't even know what to think about that one...but I admit the description made me smile. Bounty hunters, huh? I rather hope that one is produced.

New Book: Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Here's another book that slipped through the radar until a few days ago. Fortunately, it was also just released a few days ago, so I'm not months behind this time! My dream is for when more authors (or their publicists or their publishers) send me information and possibly even advanced reading copies. And occasionally copies for a SurLaLune Giveaway--reminder that the current giveaway of Fairy Tales Reimagined ends two weeks from today. Thank you again to all who send me nice informative emails! And books! Helps me keep SurLaLune as comprehensive as possible...

But back to the post:

Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted is a YA modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I haven't read it. I haven't touched a copy yet. I haven't even added it to SurLaLune's Beauty and the Beast pages yet, but I know there are fans out there who hunger for this type of fiction. It sounds like a great companion book to Beastly by Alex Flinn.

Here's the publisher's description:

In an explosion of his own making, Lucius blew his arms off. Now he has hooks. He chose hooks because they were cheaper. He chose hooks because he wouldn’t outgrow them so quickly. He chose hooks so that everyone would know he was different, so he would scare even himself.

Then he meets Aurora. The hooks don’t scare her. They don’t keep her away. In fact, they don’t make any difference at all to her.

But to Lucius, they mean everything. They remind him of the beast he is inside. Perhaps Aurora is his Beauty, destined to set his soul free from its suffering.

Or maybe she’s just a girl who needs love just like he does.

Intriguing, yes? There is also a PDF of the first chapter to read, if you are interested.

BTW, I have a list on Amazon of Fairy Tale Influenced Fiction 2009. In fact, I've already started one for 2010 (Fairy Tale Influenced Fiction 2010) which is how I stumbled across Crazy Beautiful.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sleeping Beauty on Broadway

There are several articles with this latest news but this article was the most informative however brief: Regina Spektor To Write Music For Broadway Show

The singer-songwriter will write the music for a planned Broadway musical called Beauty, based on the fairy tale classic “Sleeping Beauty.”

Spektor is set to collaborate with the lyricist Michael Korie (Broadway’s Grey Gardens) and the director Tina Landau (Superior Donuts).

Beauty is tentatively planned for the 2011-2012 Broadway season after an out-of-town tryout.

Beauty is being presented as an expansion of Landau’s 2002 one-act play produced by the La Jolla Playhouse. The updated Beauty uses the 1812 Grimm fairy tale Sleeping Beauty as a jumping-off point for a ‘contemporary and hauntingly provocative story of beauty lost and beauty found,’ according to a press release statement.

I love that the number of larger budget film and theatre productions of fairy tale interpretations is increasing again...

Fairy Tales and Theatre

More Fairy Tale theatre events around the globe:

New London Theatre Presents Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood: "New London Theatre [in Gwinnett, Georgia] will present 'Cinderella/Little Red Riding Hood' opening September 18th and continuing through September 27th, 2009.

"'Cinderella' is the story of a girl who lives unhappily with her stepmother and two silly stepsisters and dreams of meeting the prince. Cinderella makes it to the ball, meets the basketball-crazy prince, but has to rush out at the stroke of midnight, leaving behind her high-top basketball shoe. The prince searches for the girl who knows all about basketball, but can Cinderella answer the basketball question? It's magic!

"'Little Red Riding Hood' is a mixed-up fairy tale where she meets the seven singing dwarves, a bashful wolf as well as a confused stagehand on her way to Grandmother's house. And there's only minutes until they turn out the lights!"

PANTO COMPETITION: Design costumes for the Ugly Sisters: "Panto season is approaching and the Maidenhead Drama Guild (MDG) [in the UK] is busy preparing for its version of the classic fairy tale Cinderella.

"Cinderella’s ugly sisters have a major part to play in the pantomime and will need suitable costumes to fit their part.

"MDG has teamed up with the Advertiser to give two local young readers, aged 16 or under, the chance to design costumes for the wicked stepsisters."

The Snow Queen is being performed as a ballet in Brisbane, Australia. There are other performances like Sleeping Beauty listed on the same page.

The Brave Tin Soldier is being performed with shadow puppets and other multimedia in Eisenach, Germany.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Finding Lost Books

One of the most common types of emails I have received over the years are from readers desperately searching for the particular collection of fairy tales they grew up with, the exact volume that held the particular stories and illustrations that first sparked their imaginations and began their love of the fantastic and wonderful.

Alas, only a very small percentage have been identified. While I have acquired an extensive knowledge and personal library of Golden Age illustrations (dating roughly 1880 to 1920), most searchers are looking for books published later, usually within a decade or two of their births. There are literally hundreds of possibilities since fairy tale collections have been a staple of many publishers great and small for decades. There are high quality collections with well-known illustrators but there are many more obscure collections that were more generic in nature with little known illustrators, many collections published with a "pulp" attitude of churning them out at low pricing for high profit margins with little concern for quality or accuracy. I'm not insulting these collections--they have contributed to the continuing popularity and availability of fairy tales. They are just very, very hard to identify and track down because they were not intended to be timeless, but rather disposable children's books.

The collection that I grew up with was Best Loved Fairy Tales Published By Parents' Magazine, pictured at the top of this post. Mine has a very important inscription:

April 1979 Easter

Heidi dear:

There are some of the stories you requested at Christmas. I know you will enjoy them as your mother and I enjoyed them.

Love, Grandma

I had requested Beauty and the Beast (not as commonly anthologized as one would think) and we spent much of the Christmas holidays trying to track it down. Grandma didn't give up and finally found it in this collection and mailed it to me. I devoured it many times over the years. Then let it capture dust for many more until I returned to it a few years after I started SurLaLune. I then realized that my love for the Golden Age Illustrators (many represented on SurLaLune) began here since the collection reproduces their work--not in high quality, but in grainy, flat images.. The Beauty and the Beast illustrations are by Walter Crane and thus remain some of my favorites to this day and rather explain why I was compelled to build a site like SurLaLune. So I understand the yearning and searching for lost fairy tale books. I am fortunate that mine wasn't given away, lost, destroyed or otherwise reacquired by the fair folk.

I suspect another popular collection is The World's Best Fairy Tales, A Reader's Digest Anthology since Reader's Digest books have been rather ubiquitous to many households over the years.

Another series is Andrew Lang's Colored Fairy Books, twelve in all, from the Blue to the Lilac. This series has rarely been out of print, thanks to Dover Publications, but the editions including the full color illustrations and not just the pen and inks are rare and expensive. For this reason, fans should rejoice that Dover is publishing Maidens, Monsters and Heroes: The Fantasy Illustrations of H. J. Ford in February 2010.

However, hands down, the most commonly sought collection has been The Golden Book of Fairy Tales by Adrienne Segur. Other Golden Books have also been popular including The Giant Golden Book of Elves and Fairies and The Snow Queen and Other Tales. (I didn't have any of these in my childhood, but Golden has been important in some way to almost every reader I have met. My personal favorite from Golden is still The Monster at the End of this Book.)

The Giant Golden Book of Elves and Fairies was reprinted last year after selling used for crazy prices but it is not guaranteed to stay in print so if this is one of your cherished memories, get it soon. The Golden Book of Fairy Tales by Adrienne Segur has been in print again for a while now, but it isn't guaranteed to stay that way either. When it does, its prices will skyrocket, too. It's that precious to so many.

Alas, The Snow Queen and Other Tales was reprinted not long ago, but it is already out of print again and selling for astronomical prices.

This post isn't just a walk down memory lane. I wanted to recommend some methods for finding "lost" books, be they fairy tales or not. The best location on the web for finding helpful and knowledgeable book sleuths is BookSleuth boards on AbeBooks. If the book is fairy tale related, you can also post on the SurLaLune Discussion Board.

If you do post your question on the board, please give as many details as possible to help others identify your tale. The following information is usually very helpful:

1) A rough estimate of the year you remember reading the story such as the actual year or at least a generalization of a decade.

2) As many details of the story--such as characters, setting, and plot--as you can remember. If there were illustrations, were they in color or black and white? Any details about the cover are sometimes helpful, too.

3) Try to remember if the story was in a collection of stories or a picture book, in other words a single story book with many illustrations. If it was in a collection, what were some of the other stories?

BookSleuth also has its own tips for using its boards. Read them!

Finally, please, don't email me with your requests but use the above methods instead. I will see your post on the SurLaLune boards. My email load is massive and I don't have the resources to answer every email, let alone to research each question sent to me. (I'm not a walking encyclopedia and most questions require time to answer. Even if I know the answer without research, I usually find ways of verifying it in the email.) Too many times I have felt generous and spent up to an hour searching for an answer or writing a response, sent it and never received a reply to know if my efforts even helped. My approach after 11 years of running this website single-handed is that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. I allocate my time to providing information to all with website updates and now writing this blog. If a question is easily answered or sparks my interest, you may get personal service, but the chances are slim. Try these other methods instead. And good luck!