Monday, April 5, 2010

Diamonds and Toads Week: Introduction

Hear ye, hear ye! As monarch of this tiny, tiny realm, I declare this week Diamonds and Toads Week!

Within the next few weeks, perhaps as early as next week, the next issue (#20) of Faerie Magazine will be on newsstands or your mailbox if you subscribe. Inside you will find my more recent column on Diamonds and Toads. Also, last week, was the release of Heather Tomlinson's new novel, Toads and Diamonds. Look for a post tomorrow about the book.

To get us started, here are the first few paragraphs from my article:

While Cinderella is lauded as one of the most widely dispersed fairy tales with hundreds of variants around the world, another tale type rivals her in its quiet popularity. In the academic world, the tale is classified as ATU Type 480, “The Kind and the Unkind Girls,” although this is not the title of the best known variants. Savvy fairy tale readers will more easily recognize titles such as “Mother Hulda” (Frau Holle), “The Fairies,” “Diamonds and Toads” (Toads and Diamonds), and Father Frost.

There are over 1,000 documented variants of the tale with over 900 alone listed and categorized by Warren E. Roberts in his ground-breaking dissertation, The Tale of the Kind and Unkind Girls, first published in 1958. More variants have been discovered since, but Roberts’ research of the tale and accompanying conclusions are still upheld today over fifty years later, a testament of his painstaking work.

The basic plot of these tales tells of two sisters, one hard-working and generous and the other lazy and mean. The kind-hearted one is often a stepsister and is forced to do all the drudge work by her mother and sister, similar to Cinderella in her plight. One day she encounters several tasks, usually three and domestic in nature, to which her response is cheerful helpfulness. She then spends some time serving a powerful being until she is sent home with a reward for her great disposition. The reward is usually some type of material wealth. When she returns, her mother and sister are jealous. The other sister sets out along the same path but fails to do any work or does so with complaints. Eventually she is sent home with a horribly just reward for her terrible disposition, one which makes her even viler in appearance and attitude. A few of the tales include a good marriage for the kind sister, but marriage is not always the reward. Overall, the primary message of the tales is a simple didactic one: Goodness is rewarded and the opposite behavior is appropriately punished.

To read the rest, you will need to hunt down a copy of the magazine, alas. But to celebrate all things Diamonds and Toads, I will feature the tale in posts every day this week.

Of course, if you can't wait, there is much to explore at the Annotated Diamonds and Toads on SurLaLune.

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