Monday, August 31, 2009

Little Bits of Randomness

I've been hit by the flu train and am not very coherent at the moment. So I'm going to just offer a few links today without much exposition. (I ended up with more than I intended.) Then I plan to go imitate the above painting to the best of my ability for the rest of the day.

First, Anne Fine has responded to the brouhaha over her comments about hope in childern's literature that I used as a jumping point last week for another post. Her letter to the Times is here. My thoughts have mirrored hers many times. I do not think grittiness or realism should be avoided--I wouldn't embrace fairy tales if I did--but I prefer a sense of hope to pervade at some point.

One of the greatest ironies of my life is the pop culture definition of "fairy tale" versus the reality. Just do a news search to see that fairy tale in general means a fantasy, happy story while the real ones, the tales that have been around for centuries tend to be about horrible things happening until the final paragraph when good triumphs over evil. And not always--just usually and in the most popular tales. I grow weary at times of trying to explain to casual acquaintances that I work with fairy tales. Folklore is a little more acceptable. "Fairy tales" as a term gives the impression that I eat dainty little pink cupcakes, dance around in rainbow shimmery tulle skirts and wish I inhabited Never Never Land. It's enough to make one claim bookkeeping so that eyes will go dull and rapidly move on to the next topic. :)

Next, please don't miss Once Upon a Blog's Science of Fairy Tales series. I'm enjoying it and wishing I'd thought of it myself. I've always loved the debunking of movie physics in classes and on tv. (Doesn't hurt that I started out as a physics major long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.)

Also, Diamonds and Toads: Enchanted Conversation has an interview with Jack Zipes. Don't miss that either.

Finally, the nail polish giveaway has ended. The results on the contest machine box are WRONG. I used to select winners throughout the month until the end of the contest due to the limitations of the contest application. I will announce a new giveaway for September tomorrow, so stay tuned. This one will be open internationally as promised.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Nail Polish Giveaway Winner Week 4

Announcement coming soon...

Just For Fun: Cinderella looks for missing shoe

I'm trying to decide on a name for these short posts linking to funny, amusing, quaint, etc. articles I find. This one is about a woman in the UK who lost one of her leopard-print Christian Louboutin heels and is offering a £50 reward: Cinderella looks for missing shoe.

Glass slippers have changed a bit in our modern age, haven't they? And these were apparently given to her by her prince (i.e. husband) instead of her fairy godmother...

(And no, I don't know if the image is of the exact style she lost. They are just for a visual. And although I am not a heel wearer--my funky and fun shoes run in the tennis shoe line--I have always enjoyed seeing the red soles of Louboutins. They rather remind me of Little Red Riding Hood, I admit.)

Snow White: A Twist in the Fairytale

Since this week has for some reason been about Snow White in a good percentage of the entries, I thought this was quite fitting for Friday. A twist in the fairytale is an article about a different rendition of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs performed by students in Malaysia. In the end, the article describes a very interesting mish mash of cultures. The event was for students learning English through drama, but I think we English speakers can learn a little about how tales can be perceived and interpreted by another culture.

The play, based on the children's fairytale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, showed the length Snowy, the disaffected princess and child of King Edward of Attinsmoor, goes to overcome her feelings of inadequacy after the death of her mother, the queen.

Bitter at her father, the king and his new wife, Snowy, unleashes a series of evil acts, some of which result in the death of the new queen and her baby.

The largely sombre mood of the play was punctuated by comical displays involving the guards of Attinsmoor and Reim over the hand of the kingdom's handmaid.

The play also showed how the embittered Snowy easily fell into the trap of evil witches, whose deception causes the princess to kill her lover, the prince from another kingdom, and eventually her father.

The hair-raising shrieks, screams and antics of the witches were truly something to behold.

King Edward, a round and portly figure amused and surprised the audience with varied displays of emotions.

The play ended with Snowy regretting her misdeeds.

Definitely not your mother's Snow White. More like your grandfather's darkest Shakespeare. Or a Greek tragedy a few thousand years late....

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Article: Why children’s stories should have happy endings

Found this article at yesterday: Why children’s stories should have happy endings. This blog is mostly newsy in nature, but sometimes the opportunity arises for more thought or even discussion. You, dear readers, will decide that with your responses to this post, if there are any at all. This is my quick release of some festering thoughts of late, not well-organized and somewhat reactionary. That's my disclaimer. :)

First blockquote:

MODERN children’s stories rarely end with lashings of ginger ale and an assurance that everyone lived happily ever after.

The blue-skied Britain of Enid Blyton may bear little resemblance to modern Wales, but Welsh authors yesterday backed a call by former children’s laureate Anne Fine to balance realism with hope.

Speaking at the Edinburgh Book Festival, Ms Fine stunned an audience by suggesting that the backlash against children’s stories of the 1950s may have gone too far.

She said: “Books for children became much more concerned with realism, or what we see as realism.

“But where is the hope? How do we offer them hope within that?”

And her questions struck a chord with authors.

And, just to show that the article is even more pertinent to this fairy tales blog, it also offers this:

[The Rev Lionel Fanthorpe] said fiction should shine a “lantern of hope” into young lives and present “a hero who will be able to fight her way out” of crises, in the tradition of essayist and author GK Chesterton (1874-1936) who powerfully argued that parents should not stop telling fairy tales for fear of frightening their children.

Chesterton wrote: “Fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already because it is in the world already. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey.

“The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St George to kill the dragon.”

(And please, the second page of the article almost ruins the tone and message of the first page which has some interesting points. The "revisions" of the famous tragic stories, well, miss the entire point of the first page and come across as condescending. Especially since some of the originals offer the exact hope the authors are mentioning. Charlotte's Web is hopeless? Not to me. Sad, yes, hopeless, I don't think so. Romeo and Juliet as children's literature? Not on my planet. On another side note: One of my early influences, Madeleine L'Engle, managed to write some of the earliest hard-hitting stories for YA long before it was the trend and still infuse the stories with the hope that is missing so often today.)

I have more of Chesterton's thoughts on Fairy Tales on SurLaLune. And for those of you who are unaware of Anne Fine, stateside she is best known for penning Mrs. Doubtfire although she has many gems that have been popular in the UK, just not here. I met her briefly at Simmons College years ago and she was one of the most grounded and perhaps even jaded children's authors I've met as her body of work also illustrates. She is not one to hide in fantasies although humor is one of her favorite tools of the trade. So when she says our children's literature needs more hope, she's not into simple wish-fulfillment.

And just to be balanced here's already a rebuttal article that disagrees with Anne Fine and company: Children can handle much more realism than Anne Fine thinks. Granted, I've not seen Fine's full speech but I interpreted her words as a call for hope even in the bleakest stories. It's all up to interpretation, really, as any author can tell you happens once her words are sent out into the world. We all bring our own experience to our interpretations. Overall, I want more hope in my reading.

Now I've said before--and most of the readers here are sitting in choir seats--that traditional fairy tales are not happy little tales served Splenda-sweet--or popular with many detractors, Disney-style--even if most offer the hope of a happy future once trials are overcome. The tales are dark, violent, gruesome, unfair and often horrendous right up to the end. Then the end is overcome and "happily ever after" is offered up. This can be just as much as a storytelling device ending as "Once upon a time..." is a beginning. But the tale also shows how the hero(ine) overcame great adversity with mixtures of cunning, kindness, virtue, perseverance, penitence, serendipity, luck and help from others. The final "happily ever after" comes from knowing that even future adversity can be overcome with variations of the same recipe. There is hope offered up with the ending. (Cardinal rule of storytelling: Leave them smiling.)

Or at least that's the way I see it.

All this and fairy tales still remain controversial for being too dark, too light, too violent, too happy, unrealistic, magical, unfeminist, etc. And then there are the ones who think fairy tales begin and end with the Disney versions and condemn those as fantastical wish-fulfillment. Yes, fairy tales can hit so many sore spots and then the next tale can soothe the same wound into healing. That's their beauty and their curse.

I prefer the happy endings, especially in times like these when economic and other woes have caused more stress and heartache of late than most years of my life have seen. This time, too, shall pass. And isn't it nice that we have several fairy tales entering the pop culture awareness again through film and other sources?

P.S. More food for thought: Romance appears to once again be recession proof for similar reasons. And I enjoyed Meg Cabot's defense of romance a few months ago on her blog which was another response to the articles about dark YA literature. Read her here: Romance, Trauma Porn, and Brazil Dates! She includes links to more articles so I'll refrain here.

Just For Fun: Snow White lives happily ever after, again

Because it made me laugh: Snow White lives happily ever after, again

Once upon a time, there was a struggling actress who tried to make ends meet by playing Snow White at Disneyland.

The Rancho Cucamonga resident ended up winning $5.2 million on "Make Me a Millionaire," the weekly television show featuring 12 scratcher winners.

Marston, who no longer works at Disneyland, said maybe her role as a fairy tale princess gave her some good karma.

"I'd like to think that," she said. "It was a rewarding job, so maybe I was rewarded for passing those smiles to the kids."

Come on, doesn't that make you smile, too? And hope that she beats the happily ever after lottery winner statistic?

And makes me wish I played the lottery if fairy tale karma works that well. By now, I should have lots of fairy tale karma stored up...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Seven Ballet

Australian Stage magazine recently posted a review for a new ballet production, Leigh Warren & Dancers’ Seven. If you guessed it is a new interpretation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, well, you'd be right.

The overall shape of Seven can be summed up by referring to its source material: the tale of Snow White and her seven dwarfs. But to explain this complex piece through such a simple comparison seems crude. While Seven is a fairytale, it's one where the mirror on the wall is cracked, the stepmother isn’t always evil and the dwarfs live in what is basically a sharehouse, complete with rivalries and intimacies.

As always, follow the links to read more. I have to admit this one makes me wish I was a little bit more convenient to Australia. Perhaps someone will produce the ballet closer to my home someday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Little Red Riding Hood and Horror Films

Yes, Little Red Riding Hood is one of the most popular tales for inspiring various genres. Horror is particularly popular for obvious reasons. With currently two to three LRRH film projects in the works, there is definitely a surge in popularity again, too.

Here's a link to a short article with trailer for the new Rotkappchen: The Blood of Red Riding Hood: Gory fairytale horror movie Rotkappchen: The Blood of Red Riding Hood out soon.

“The story follows Rose, a precocious German 17 year old, as her mother brings her from Germany to live with her grandmother in America. Although she is happy to see her grandmother, Rose hates her new life: she misses her friends back in Germany and she is teased and ridiculed by the other students at school. Rose can only find comfort in her tattered book of fairy tales until she meets and develops a crush on Nick, the most popular guy at school, and is befriended by Summer, a beautiful sexy coed. But things become complicated as Rose is tormented by Nick's girlfriend Bridgette, and the once quiet town finds itself rattled by a series of gruesome, mysterious murders.”

Of course, this isn't to be confused with the other film, The Girl With The Red Riding Hood, in the works by Catherine Hardwicke (who is best known for directing Twilight). Read more about that here: Twilight Director To Helm ‘Gothic’ Little Red Riding Hood and 'Twilight' Director Catherine Hardwicke To Tackle The Big Bad Wolf.

And I've already posted previously about Appian Way's possible production.

So Little Red Riding Hood will soon be alive and kicking on a theatre screen near you. Or not so alive judging from the plot descriptions and trailers...

I'm rather relieved Disney doesn't appear to have this particular tale under consideration right now.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A.S. Byatt in Publisher's Weekly

Well, A.S. Byatt, Jack Zipes, Grimms, and even a comment from Jane Yolen all on one page of the Publisher's Weekly website. Go here to read the short article promoting Byatt's new book: PW talks with A.S. Byatt.

Poetry Break: Irene Rapunzel

Found this poem unexpectedly last week and had never read it before, so thought I'd share.


"Rapunzel, from your chamber
In the air,
Let down the flowing tresses
Of your hair;
From my dappled charger bold
I would clamber as of old
Up that mass of shining gold,
Oh, so fair."

"Dear knight, to my chamber
In the air,
No longer may you clamber
When you care;
For the fashion caught my eye
As the other maids passed by
In the morning—and so I
Bobbed my hair."

by W. A. Hanway

From The Yale Literary Magazine, Volume 82, Issue 7 (April 1917)

And the artwork is by stabstabstab aka Becky Cloonan who does work for various comic books among other things.

(Does the poem make you think of Bernice Bobs Her Hair by F. Scott Fitzgerald or is that too obscure these days? I'm not that old, really, I just had an old-fashioned education.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

New Ebook: Frog Prince and Other Frog Tales From Around the World

Last week I announced a new series of "Women in Folklore" books I'm publishing in Kindle eformat and potentially in paper versions, too. The first volume in the series is The Fairy Tale Fiction of Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie. You can read all about the format choices and thinking behind this series at the original post here.

This week I've also launched the first book in the SurLaLune Fairy Tale Series, The Frog Prince and Other Frog Tales From Around the World. For now it is available in Kindle format only, but I am working on other formats. (If you have a preference, please post or email me so I know where the demand is focused.)

Here's the description:

From wise creatures to hapless victims, frogs appear in numerous stories around the world. Edited with an introduction by Heidi Anne Heiner of SurLaLune Fairy Tales, this volume contains over 100 fairy tales, fables, myths and ballads about frogs from around the world, including several variants of the well-known Frog Prince tales made famous by the Brothers Grimm and most recently adapted into a feature-length animated film by Disney.

The book is divided into several sections, including “Frog Kings, Princes and Bridegrooms,” “Frog Brides,” “Frog Wooing and Courting,” “More Frog Tales,” and “Fables.” Also included is Mark Twain’s famous short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

This book is much more involved on my part since I spent many weeks researching and then editing and formatting the texts. I searched hundreds of books and found roughly 100 tales about frogs to include in this volume, including tales that stand alone and others that are variants of each other. Most of these tales are not available on SurLaLune nor are they gathered in such a large collection anywhere else on the web or in print. I've also written short introductions to many of them in addition to the expanded article I've included as an introduction to the entire collection.

If I find there is an interest in this and my other upcoming titles, I will consider offering them in other electronic formats (ePub, Sony, Microsoft, etc.) and even print editions. The electronic versions can be offered at less expensive prices, but I understand the appeal of a printed copy. I imagine most of these titles will be of interest to a very select and small audience, so I've decided not to use the traditional route of publishing them with an established publisher. I prefer that method for most books I read and purchase myself but most of my planned titles are cost prohibitive for a publisher. This volume, for example, would be roughly 400 to 500 pages in print. It will be relatively expensive to print.

Once again, if you are interested in this and other titles--I know I haven't announced them yet, but soon!--please post here or email me to let me know about your preferred formats. I'm doing all of the work on these books myself excepting the cover designs by my wonderful husband. That means all of the work from research to compiling to editing to formatting to writing is mine, so I would like to know where to focus if there are specific demands or interests. Otherwise, I will just continue with my own interests and instincts.

(And really, aren't the covers great? John has already designed eight covers for me with a few more on the way. I won't share until they are ready for publication, but I'm excited and thankful for his work.)

Neil Duerden's Fairy Tales

Neil Duerden is a UK based graphic designer and illustrator who has many high profile clients in fashion and other advertising realms. His work is romantic and fanciful while very modern. Most likely you've seen some of it in a magazine or even on a billboard somewhere before. In the U.S., his work is perhaps most recognized in the Sony Ericsson campaign in print and motion commercials.

I discovered his interpretations of Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel and thought I'd share them here. Although intriguing in their own right, they are perhaps not his best work, mind you, but you must visit his website to see more at Neil Duerden. I fell in love with his butterfly ad for Vespa myself and found some other favorites of my own, so do explore and enjoy. You can also view much bigger versions of the images I've thumbnailed here. They are more beautiful when seen larger.

And here's a link to a short article I found: Neil Duerden: Attacking Ideas. And of course, for the most up-to-date information, visit his blog at Neil Duerden Blog.

And here's an extra I tagged that was more faerie than fairy tale, but still appropriate for this blog's venue.

Friday Nail Polish Giveaway Winner Week 3

We have our third week's winner of the Fairy Tale Nail Polish Giveaway (read more here). Using a random number selector, Heater became our second winner. She won a bottle of BB Couture Kiss of True Love.

We have only one more Friday left in August and one more bottle of polish to giveaway this month. Next week will be a bottle of Enchanted Forest by Orly. All who have already entered and not won are still entered for the rest of the month. The contest machine will continue to accept new entries until the end of the contest, too.

Congratulations to Olivia (this week's winner), Sprite (1st week's winner), Heather (2nd week's winner) and bonne chance to everyone else!

And thanks again to Kim at Overall Beauty for her donation to SurLaLune!

And, yes, I have something completely different as a giveaway next month, just in time for many of you to get back into the swing of the academic season. I'll make the announcement next week so stay tuned.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ponyo [Gake no ue no Ponyo] by Miyazaki

Thanks to several readers' comments and emails, I am now aware that Ponyo, released in the U.S. this past weekend by Disney (official release site here), is based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid.

Here's the description from Amazon which I found to be the best after reading several articles.

Ponyo confirms Academy Award®-winning director Hayao Miyazaki's reputation as one of the most imaginative filmmakers working today. Loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Mermaid," Ponyo is a magical celebration of innocent love and the fragile beauty of the natural world. The daughter of the sea goddess Gran Mamare (voiced by Cate Blanchett) and the alchemist Fujimoto (Liam Neeson), Ponyo (Noah Cyrus) begins life as an adventurous little goldfish. Chafing at her father's restrictions, she goes in search of adventure and meets Sosuke (Frankie Jonas), a good-natured 5-year-old who lives by the sea. Sosuke adopts Ponyo and quickly wins her heart. Fujimoto uses magic to bring her back, but Ponyo's love for Sosuke proves stronger than his elixirs. She transforms herself into a human girl and returns to him during a spectacular storm at sea, but her metamorphosis upsets the balance of nature, precipitating a crisis only Gran Mamare can resolve. Ponyo contains fantastic moments that suggest dreams-- and reassert the power of hand-drawn animation to create memorable fantasies: No effects-laden Hollywood feature can match the wonder of Ponyo running along the tops of crashing waves on her way back to Sosuke. Ponyo is closer in tone to My Neighbor Totoro than Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle, and will appeal to audiences of all ages, including small children. The #1 film in Japan in 2008, Ponyo earned more than ¥14.9 billion (over US$155 million) to become the 8th highest grossing film in Japanese history.

I also enjoyed these articles: The appeal of Ponyo, Ponyo: A Role Model For Kids With Autism? and Michiyo Yasuda makes the story colorful.

Overall, the reviews--to which I decided not to link--are positive, even glowing. However, the movie barely made the top ten in sales last weekend. I know this was the weekend for final back to school shopping for some--school resumed in my area last week--but other parts of the world are still enjoying summer break. Sounds like this movie would be a great last fling in a dark, cool theatre away from the summer heat. I know I'm curious to see the movie and compare it with the original and Disney's The Little Mermaid, too.

Red hair, it appears, has become ubiquitous to the mermaid character. It has not always been so. Look at the Little Mermaid Illustration Gallery to see for yourself.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Let's Have a Parade

There are countless small community events around the world with fairy tale themes and I have posted on a few in the past. This one charmed me so I thought I'd share it as an extra today. Here's the article link: Gurnee Days parade has 'cool theme': Fairy tales, folklore paint hometown cavalcade. Gurnee is a suburb of Chicago in case you didn't know.

Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Peter Pan and sugar plum fairies were sighted Sunday afternoon. It wasn't a fairy tale convention; it was community members making the most of the "fairy tales and folklore" theme in the Gurnee Days parade.

Now that's a fun theme for a parade, if I say so myself. I'm biased, of course, but it sounds like fun was had by all involved.

Alexander Rybak and His Fairytale

I'm busy finishing the next SurLaLune Fairy Tales ebook release, so time is short and this will be quick. Besides, this month fairy tale news is rather slow and while I have plenty in my files to share, I decided to post this quick and easy entry. And also, perhaps, torture you with an earworm. The very earworm that has been haunting me for a few days.

Now to much of Europe this is very old news now, but in the U.S. not many people are aware of Eurovision and its over 40 year tradition of a competition that is rather like mashing up American Idol and the Olympics into a song contest between various countries.

This year's winner of Eurovision Song Contest 2009, by a large margin, was Norway's Alexander Rybak with the song he wrote and performed, Fairytale. The lyrics are in English and not complicated, but they lightly reference fairy tale themes, such as love and curses. These are not deep, life-pondering lyrics. However, they are catchy and helped along by a tune inspired by traditional Norwegian folk music. (I'm a quarter Norwegian, so that's something to be fond of for me personally.)

Anyway, the song has been popular all summer in many places outside the U.S. It has been a top result on Google for general "fairy tale" searches, so you may have seen it already. I did and kept going back and investigating a little more each time. Now it's stuck in my head.

And once again, fairy tales, specific or generic, are part of the world's experience and part of pop culture.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fairy Tales Reimagined: Essays on New Retellings

I recently received a review copy of a new release from McFarland, their third fairy tale related release in recent years after Folktales Retold: A Critical Overview of Stories Updated for Children and Grimm Pictures: Fairy Tale Archetypes in Eight Horror and Suspense Films.

The new book is Fairy Tales Reimagined: Essays on New Retellings edited by Susan Redington Bobby. To put it simply, this is the type of book students are always seeking when they are researching their own papers. I receive many emails and read many posts from students needing more articles about modern retellings of fairy tales, some very desperate for anything to help them write about the topics they are choosing. This book helps to fill the large gap--at least a little--with analysis of works by Neil Gaiman, Emma Donoghue, Jane Yolen, Pegg Kerr, Gregory Maguire, and Shannon Hale among others. Since the table of contents for the book is virtually impossible to find--and once again I find reading a table of contents more helpful with these collections than critical reviews--I am including one below.

While I found all the essays compelling, I was most impressed with the wide range of topics provided. There is also an extensive--and thus very helpful--index and complete bibliography. Not only does this book provide strong scholarship and topics, it provides an easy jumping point to other sources. It should be included in any university library where classes in folklore, fairy tales and modern literature are offered. Articles like these are usually only available in journals, some often hard to find for the average student.

Table of Contents

Foreword: The Affect of Fairy Tales

Introduction: Authentic Voices in Contemporary Fairy Tales

Redefining Gender and Sexuality

Queering the Fairy Tale Canon: Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch

Contemporary Women Poets and the Fairy Tale

Struggling Sisters and Failing Spells: Re-engendering Fairy Tale Heroism in Peg Kerr’s The Wild Swans

Found Girls: J.M. Barrie’s Peter & Wendy and Jane Yolen’s “Lost Girls”

Inventions and Transformations: Imagining New Worlds in the Stories of Neil Gaiman

Rewriting Narrative Forms

“And the Princess, Telling the Story”: A.S. Byatt’s Sell-Reflexive Fairy Stories

Between Wake and Sleep: Robert Coover’s Briar Rose, A Playful Reawakening of The Sleeping Beauty

Winterson’s Wonderland: The PowerBook as a Postmodern Re-Vision of Lewis Carroll’s Alice Books

“I Think You Are Not Telling Me All of This Story”: Storytelling, Fate, and Self-Determination in Robin McKinley’s Folktale Revisions

Remembering Trauma and Dystopia

The Complete Tales of Kate Bernheimer: Postmodern Fairytales in a Dystopian World

The Fairy Tale as Allegory for the Holocaust: Representing the Unrepresentable in Yolen’s Briar Rose and Murphy’s Hansel and Gretel

“This Gospel of My Hell”: The Narration of Violence in Gaétan Soucy’s The Little Girl Who Was Too Pond of Matches

Revolutionizing Culture and Politics

Negotiating Wartime Masculinity in Bill Willingham’s Fables

Philip Pullman’s I Was a Rat! and the Fairy-Tale Retelling as Instrument of Social Criticism

The Wicked Witch of the West: Terrorist? Rewriting Evil in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked

Embracing Equality: Class Reversals and Social Reform in Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl and Princess Academy

Comprehensive Bibliography
About the Contributors

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Solvang, CA

About eight years ago, while living in California, John and I were encouraged by several friends to go visit Solvang, CA. We finally used a Memorial Day holiday weekend to take an overnight trip and ended up eating some great food (best grilled artichokes I've ever eaten) and enjoying a change of pace not too far from home at that time.

I also discovered a tiny Hans Christian Andersen Museum that added an extra level of fun for me as we spent an hour inside, exploring the displays. Most of the displays are of his books from around the world, with beautiful illustrations. There's also photos and other items that give a charming overview of Andersen's life and work.

This little museum was definitely a highlight of the trip for me and I'm not a big HCA fan in comparison to other fairy tale collectors and authors. However, this little museum and then Andersen's bicentennial birthday in 2005 inspired me to add more of his tales to the SurLaLune main site.

There is also a Hans Christian Andersen Park with a statue of the author in the town.

Now most people don't know about Solvang, so I'll add a little from one of the many websites here, this time the City of Solvang site here:

Solvang (Danish for 'sunny field') is a beautiful little city nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. Founded in 1911 by a small group of Danish teachers, Solvang now is a diverse, modern city, with fine restaurants, lovely shops and outstanding activities to enchant young and old alike.

There are Danish festivals, quiet tree lined streets, horse drawn wagons, Hans Christian Andersen Park, windmills, Danish pastries and dozens of quaint shops to explore. Solvang was incorporated as a city on May 1, 1985 and now has a population of approximately 5,555.

The historical town is entertaining and yes, touristy, but not annoyingly so. We enjoyed exploring the shops and getting a little taste of Denmark--especially with the food--without wandering too far from home.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Fairy Tale That Gripped Russia

Discovered this article--The fairy tale that gripped Russia by Susan Roberts--and almost didn't click on it since it was on The Financial Times website. How pertinent could that be, I thought?

More than I first imagined. The article discusses a somewhat new trend in Russia--the creation of eco-settlements and living 'green' in general--partly fueled by new books written like traditional fairy tales. Richards does a wonderful job of describing the books and the trend and even includes a short excerpt of one of the books.

I had just flown into Moscow from London. Over supper my friend Sasha told me about an “eco-settlement” near his dacha. “There are about 200 of them – all inspired by this sort of modern fairy tale,” he said, handing me a book. On the cover a voluptuous blonde was rearing her head against a wild sky. The books had become something of a sensation, Sasha said. They’d sold 11 million copies and been translated into 20 languages. Outside the open window of the tall block the swifts were screeching softly as they dived through the evening air. Back in London I’d have laughed and told Sasha to pull the other one – but this was Russia and you can never be quite sure about these things.

Sasha said he had a friend who would show me an eco-settlement. So, to find out more, I took the book to bed. Crudely written, in a Mills-&-Boon-meets-Carlos-Castaneda way, it was a fable about a man who, while trading along the rivers of northern Siberia, encounters Anastasia, a young beauty living in the forest. The survivor of an ancient culture, Anastasia is endowed with extraordinary powers, ranging from bionic vision to teleportation. She bears his child. (As an ex-film producer, I was highly amused as this modest romance lurched into blockbuster-movie mode.) For, of course, it turns out that Anastasia is engaged in an epic battle to rescue mankind from the domination of “the priests” who have been working covertly for centuries to sever the link between man and the divine intelligence governing the universe ... Well, to cut a long fairy tale short, the man becomes Anastasia’s knight, and carries her message out to the world: the key to liberation lies through each person, each family, rebuilding their lost connection to the natural world.

So be it the retooling of old folklore or the creation of something new to inspire current generations, this sensation is fascinating on many levels. Even the illustration is reminiscent of Ivan Biliban's work, in a way tying the glorious elements of Russian's past with the present. Very clever marketing if nothing else.

Friday Nail Polish Giveaway Winner Week 2

We have our second week's winner of the Fairy Tale Nail Polish Giveaway (read more here). Using a random number selector, Heater became our second winner. She won a bottle of BB Couture Prince Charming Blue. I have already contacted her and received a reply.

I still have two more Fridays and two more bottles of polish to giveaway this month. All who have already entered and not won are still entered for the rest of the month. The contest machine will continue to accept new entries until the end of the contest, too.

Congratulations to Sprite (last week's winner), Heather and bonne chance to everyone else!

And thanks again to Kim at Overall Beauty for her donation to SurLaLune!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fairy Tale Inspired: Bebaroque Hosiery

I discovered this article, Bebaroque is a real fairytale for designers Chloe and Mhairi, then had to go exploring, of course.

Bebaroque is based in the UK and offers fascinating hosiery designs, sometimes inspired by fairy tales and fairy tale illustrations. The inspiration is subtle and sometimes more apparent in name than appearance (see ones like Rapunzel and Gretel), but this doesn't mean the designs aren't beautiful. They are, or I wouldn't bother to write about them here. My particular favorite is the Limited Edition Tattoo My Body which I pictured above. Gretel is another favorite.

According to the article, the new Fall/Winter 2009 Collection was inspired by Russian fairy tales. For now, they design bodysuits and hosiery, but the article states they are considering adding a scarves line which I would love.

So while the fairy tale influence is subtle, it's always fun to see how fairy tales are inspiring creativity. I love textiles and always love to see beautiful designs like these.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Ebook: Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie

Last year I acquired a Kindle so I could more easily take multiple books with me while traveling. I quickly discovered that while I love books, I also love the convenience of an ebook reader and now read from it more than paper books. I've been busily adding ebooks to my personal library ever since. For that reason, I've decided to do the little extra work to make the books prettier and offer them to other readers, too.

Yesterday on Amazon, I launched the first book in a "Women in Folklore" series I have in the works. The first volume is The Fairy Tale Fiction of Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie. I've scanned and edited the texts of Ritchie's nine fairy tale revisions, all short stories or novellas from her Five Old Friends and Bluebeard's Keys and Other Stories.

I've also written a new introduction and added "Bluebeard's Ghost" by her father William Makepiece Thackeray as well as her introduction to The Fairy Tales of Madame D'Aulnoy. Some of these pieces are available on SurLaLune, but many of them aren't. Most are unavailable in an easily readable--or proofed--format on the web.

Ritchie's work has remained obscure but is an intriguing entry in the long timeline of women and folklore. A few scholars have studied her fairy tale writings, but mostly she is overlooked. I include a reading list in the book, too, for further reading.

If I find there is an interest in this and my other upcoming titles, I will consider offering them in other electronic formats (ePub, Sony, Microsoft, etc.) and even print editions. The electronic versions can be offered at less expensive prices, but I understand the appeal of a printed copy. I imagine most of these titles will be of interest to a very select and small audience, so I've decided not to use the traditional route of publishing them with an established publisher. I prefer that method for most books I read and purchase myself but most of my planned titles are cost prohibitive for a publisher. This volume, for example, would be roughly 700 to 800 pages in print. Paper facsimile reprints of Bluebeard's Keys alone are usually priced in the $40 range. This ebook offers that title, plus another full book and several extras, some unique to this publication.

The next SurLaLune title will be available within the next week and I will write more about it here when I launch it.

If you are interested in this and other titles--I know I haven't announced them yet, but soon!--please post here or email me to let me know about your preferred formats. I'm doing all of the work on these books myself excepting the cover designs by my wonderful husband. That means all of the work from research to compiling to editing to formatting to writing is mine, so I would like to know where to focus if there are specific demands or interests. Otherwise, I will just continue with my own interests and instincts.

Rossini’s La Cenerentola on PBS this month

Rossini’s La Cenerentola will air on Great Perfomances on PBS this weekend or later this month depending on your local PBS station. Check your local listings for performance times since they are subject to change around the U.S. You can read more about it on the Great Performances website here: La Cenerentola, and I've embedded a preview video into this post above.

From the press release:

Over the centuries, the story of Cinderella and her cruel stepmother and ugly stepsisters has been interpreted in countless ways across different genres. Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola is perhaps the most famous operatic version of the Cinderella story, and it is like no other interpretation. This opera has no fairy godmother, no pumpkin that turns into a carriage, and no glass slipper. However, unlike most other operas, it has a happy ending. The production is rated TV-PG and will air on Great Performances at the Met in HD on Saturday, August 15 at Noon on PBS (check local listings) and on WNET/THIRTEEN on Thursday, August 20 at 9 p.m.

Great Performances at the Met is a presentation of THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG – one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.

Mezzo soprano Elīna Garaňca, who played Rosina in another one of Rossini’s operas, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, now claims the role of the title heroine in La Cenerentola; her Prince Charming is played by Lawrence Brownlee. “It’s actually a coincidence that I’m returning in another of Rossini’s works,” admits Garaňca. Of the opera’s most memorable coloratura showpiece, “Nacqui alľ affanno,” Garaňca says “for me it’s the Olympics – adrenaline at its highest. To get through it, I must switch on all the buttons in the computer in my head and body.”

Italian opera in the early 19th century focused heavily on the range, inflection, and tone of the human voice; this style became known as “bel canto,” or “beautiful singing.” While many opera singers tried to wow audiences by improvising with this technique and adding trills and lilts to their singing, Rossini’s operas, especially La Cenerentola, had bel canto already built right into the scores.

Great Performances at the Met: La Cenerentola is the tenth of 11 productions airing this season on the series. The performance is sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fairytale Town

I collect information about family, tourist and vacation attractions that feature fairy tale themes. The list is short and I will eventually write about them all on the blog. Today I wanted to mention the one I've learned about most recently, Fairytale Town in Sacramento, California. (Edit: I actually wrote this post last week before finding and posting the article about Disney's German Fairytale vacations yesterday.)

Fairytale Town is celebrating its 50 Year Anniversary this month, having first opened on August 29, 1959. The park is more local attraction than tourist spot with activities oriented towards young childrens with petting zoo animals, gardens, storytelling and other activities. I've never been there--hadn't heard of it before last week--but it sounds charming and perhaps even a little quaint in a good way.

For the month of August, the park is offering 50 cent admissions on Mondays although the admission price is reasonable at anytime.

From the Examiner's article about the anniversary:

It's a wonderfully imaginative park with over 25 different classic children's stories used as themes throughout. There are numerous play areas for the children to entertain their minds and be active. This park also features various animals to view and learn about as well. If your child has an upcoming birthday, be sure to check out info on having his or her celebration at King Arthur's Castle! This park is a non-profit organization that does rely on the support of the public to keep benefiting children of the Sacramento area. Sign up to receive their free weekly email, The Humpty Dumpty Report, to be informed of special events, invites, and news.

The website doesn't have very detailed information about the specific fairy tales used. The limited photos appear to be more nursery rhyme oriented (Humpty Dumpty, Woman and Shoes, etc.) so I wasn't able to glean much information that way although I did spy Jack and the Beanstalk and a Gingerbread House. Fairytale Town looks like a fun place for young children whether or not the fairy tale element appeals. If anyone else is familiar with the spot, feel free to post comments about Fairytale Town with this post.

Another edit: And, of course, in the GMLFTAUG (Great Minds Love Fairy Tales and Use Google) relationship I have with Once Upon a Blog, Ink Gypsy wrote about Fairytale Town yesterday. She also posted more pictures so I encourage you to read her entry if you haven't already.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Once Upon a Fairy Tale Vacation by Disney

Here's a nice article about an unusual type of Disney vacation--a tour through some fairy tale inspiring parts of Germany designed for family groups, aptly dubbed The Fairytale Route.

First you can read about one woman's experiences on the tour here: A Storybook Vacation.

I'll admit I'm not one for planned tours or even Disney vacations. My family tends to plan freakishly for months and then leave opportunities to journey off the beaten path when we travel in the U.S. or outside of it. But if I were to choose a more regimented and vicariously planned vacation package--and more expensive--this would be a top pick for me. It would be rather fun with young children in tow, too. I have yet to travel to Germany despite a few trips to Europe but will surely go someday. When I go, the fairy tale oriented sites are a definite must.

I found the Germany Fairytale package information on the Disney Adventures site if you want more information. Meeting Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood as well as some others would be charming. I'm impressed Disney is also promoting more of the traditional sites in conjunction with their versions of the tales.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Esben and the Witch...The Band

I had heard of this band somewhere before rather recently--perhaps a reader email or on the SurLaLune Discussion board or somewhere completely random, I just don't remember. Then I forgot about them. I do that. I bombard myself with information and, yes, so much slips through the many cracks in my brain. Thus this blog, actually. I'm trying to preserve more of this information in one place and share along the way.

Last week serendipity led me to this article about the band on The Quietus website: Esben & The Witch Interview: From Aeschylus To The South Downs.

Now for those of you who are unaware, Esben and the Witch is a fairy tale from Denmark and was included in Andrew Lang's Pink Fairy Book. It is also classified as Aarne-Thompson 327B: The Small Boy Defeats the Ogre of which Hop o' My Thumb is perhaps the most famous variant. Hansel and Gretel and Jack and the Beanstalk are closely related. I knew this obscure information that will never appear on a game show, so when I saw the name of the band, I had to learn more this time, leading me to the article. Yes, you can capture my attention by naming something after an obscure fairy tale.

They explain the name choice in the article:

How did the name come about? It sounds like a fairy story about a posh girl getting caught up with a crone during a residential gymkhana. Where does the fairy tale on your MySpace come from?

It's a Danish fairytale popularised by Andrew Lang. The vivid imagery and ideas it contains have become intrinsically linked with our ethos.

Were you not worried that the fairytale implications were a little twee?

Not particularly. In our eyes Fairytales are far more melancholic and enigmatic than they first appear. We perceive tales such as this one as vehicles for interesting and sinister thoughts disguised as something palatable for children.

You can also sample their music and be immersed in their visual aesthetic on their MySpace page: Esben and the Witch. My husband--our household's music afficiando--loved their music, comparing them to Bat for Lashes, Björk and even some Jim Morrison after a few minutes. I always find comparisons difficult, but we loved the sound and think it is quite aptly self-described as "Melodramatic Popular Song / Electronica / Gothic." So if that appeals, you might enjoy it, too.

The band appears to be pretty new so downloads of their music are almost impossible to find. They have several streaming on their MySpace page and perhaps more will become available for actual downloading if word of mouth helps their fan base grow to a marketable size. So essentially this entire post is a teaser for something difficult to obtain. But come on, aren't you impressed with a UK band that names itself after a fairy tale?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Nail Polish Giveaway Winner

We have our first week's winner of the Fairy Tale Nail Polish Giveaway (read more here). Using a random number selector, Sprite became our first winner. She won a bottle of BB Couture Poison Apple. I have already contacted her and received a reply.

I still have three more Fridays and three more bottles of polish to giveaway this month. All who have already entered and not won are still entered for the rest of the month. The contest machine will continue to accept new entries until the end of the contest, too.

Congratulations to Sprite and bonne chance to everyone else!

And thanks again to Kim at Overall Beauty for her donation to SurLaLune! BB Couture was my manicure of choice this week and I really love this nail polish line, from color choices to formula (Big 3 Free) to naming conventions. (And, yes, I paid for my own bottles long before the contest and became a fan first.)

Now I wish they had more colors, like Frog Prince (green) and Bluebeard (navy) and Gingerbread Man (brown) and Snow Queen (white) and Thumbelina (baby pink) and Fairy Godmother (sparkling anything). I could do this for a very long time, so I'll stop now...

It Begins...Disney's Princess and the Frog

The end of summer is fast approaching and thus the big publicity push for Disney's December 11, 2009 release of the "Princess and the Frog" is starting. Love it, hate it, or stand somewhere in the middle, Disney has done much to keep the interest in fairy tales alive. I intend for the SurLaLune coverage of the tale to stay more on the traditional side of the tale, but I'm certainly not going to ignore the movie. I may have to see it opening day just to get a jump on all the questions!

I'm most excited about the movie because feature films always do more to initiate interest in traditional fairy tales than any other pop culture event. "Princess and the Frog" prequels a year of several high profile fairy tale film releases.

I just received my first email blast from Disney with a link to the official website. Ironically, it wasn't working when I first clicked through the other night, but hopefully it'll be working by the time I publish this post. Here's the link: Official Site for Disney's Princess and the Frog. Visit there to get more information.

Ink Gypsy is doing a great job with more minute coverage of the movie itself over at one of my favorite fairy tale blogs: Once Upon a Blog... (She and I merge and diverge regularly in our posts, so consider our blogs complements to each other.)

And I have a few things planned to go along with the movie and the natural increase of interest in The Frog Prince so stay tuned.....

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Everybody Was Fairytale Fighting

So my original post on Fairytale Fights has been quite popular. More press releases and leaks are taking place although embargoes on reviews are in effect until August 19th or there abouts. Still, there is a new trailer--beware very graphic cartoon violence--available for your viewing, well, knowledge. I'm embedding it below.

I'm not a gamer, especially not this type, but I'm fascinated with the timing of this game, released before Christmas and before the release of several fairy tale animated feature films in the next year. I want to see how this is received and reviewed by gamers, one of the choosiest and critical groups I've ever come across. Will it be a hit? A miss? Or somewhere in between? The buzz is fascinating with complaints that Gingerbread Men bleed in the trailers instead of crumble although they are supposed to crumble in the actual game, rest assured.

I have to admit I'm tempted to at least rent the game to see it in action on our Xbox 360 but the machine might run away in horror since it's used primarily for playing NCAA Football. There's not much role-playing or non-sports violence in my domain beyond the traditional fairy tale stuff, excepting what does appear on SurLaLune. :)

And no, I'm not entering the debate over video game violence. Not going there today. My interest is purely observational. This game does have a high maturity rating, so let that be your guide.

And if the video does intrigue you, the game is available for preorder for its November 10th release through Amazon and other sites. (Here are links to various platforms if you're interested: PS3, XBox 360, Windows.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nominees for the 2009 World Fantasy Awards

The nominees for the 2009 World Fantasy Awards have been announced. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan is a nominee for best novel. The rest of the nominees are listed here. Congratulations to all the nominees although I'm not listing them here beyond Lanagan since her work is most pertinent to this blog. Others are quite close, such as Neil Gaiman's Odd and the Frost Giants, which was inspired by Norse mythology and nominated for best novella.

Tender Morsels is a dark retelling of Snow White and Rose Red and has already garnered nominations and awards this past year. Retellings of this tale are rare and this is perhaps the darkest to date. There has been debate over its suitability for teens with the graphic content, so be warned of such. However, the story is resonating with many with its themes of abuse and survival.

The book also joins a short list of fairy tale retellings that unabashedly deal with abuse, especially in women's lives. The long out-of-print The Armless Maiden edited by Terri Windling and still in-print Deerskin by Robin McKinley are among the best. Short stories by several authors have also appeared in other Datlow & Windling collections and those by individual authors, too. The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block may also appeal to fans of this subgenre.

Another 'Little Red Riding Hood' Movie?

Here's the link to a new article: Dark 'Little Red Riding Hood' in the Pipeline.

With David Leslie Johnson aboard as screenwriter, Leonardo DiCaprio's production company Appian Way is developing a Gothic re-imagining of the famous fairy tale 'Little Red Riding Hood'.

While the feature film project has been developed internally at Appian Way, it isn't being positioned as a possible acting vehicle for the three-time Academy Award-nominated DiCaprio.

There's actually several articles today about this. Such as Call Tim Burton, We Need a Gothic 'Red Riding Hood' Over Here which references Perrault's version of the tale and Orphan Scribe is Writing a Gothic Reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood at least quotes Wikipedia's description of the tale.

Of course, so many movies in development never make it onto film (and Appian Way appears to be notorious for this), but if this one does, it should be an interesting addition to the film genre. Dark retellings of fairy tales in film are nothing new, but mainstream ones are rare enough to be intriguing. The abundance tend to be student or indie films. Of course, Little Red Riding Hood is an obvious choice, too. The tale has become synonymous with gothic in some circles.

Oh, and the art work for the first article was perhaps the most amusing part of the entire thing. I'm not sure they could have found a more twee or cutesy Little Red Riding Hood image to imply that this will be a new and dark twist on a completely innocent tale. Smirk. As for me, I'd go with the classic Dore I used above instead. Although the one I'm borrowing from the last article and placing below is pretty good.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cappuccino Anyone?

So I stumbled across these ads from a campaign for Bru Cappuccino in Asia in 2007. Thus they are a little dated, but of interest all the same. I think the challenging question is: What products haven't used fairy tales for advertising at some point?

But I also found this campaign interesting for using Rapunzel which is more rare outside of hair products or salons in my experience. Cinderella and Frog Prince, sure, but Rapunzel, not so much. I'm fascinated that there doesn't appear to be a Little Red Riding Hood image since that's the most popular tale to use in almost any campaign.

Overall, the campaign isn't very effective for me although I do have a soft spot for the Rapunzel image since it is a rare and unusual usage. I don't see how these are effectively pushing cappuccino either, but since these are for Indian culture (ha! using European tales, no less) I might be missing something. I also don't drink coffee, so I'm supposedly way outside the target audience.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sarah Beth Durst's Obscure Fairy Tales

Sarah Beth Durst is one of the newest authors publishing novelized fairy tales, starting a few years ago with her two gems, Into the Wild and Out of the Wild, starring Rapunzel's daughter and offering some fairy tale adventures. Quite fun!

This fall she has a new novel, Ice, a retelling of East of the Sun and West of the Moon. I'll talk more about Ice closer to publication when I see a copy of it.

Occasionally, in case you've missed it, Durst retells a fairy tale on her blog and highlights it with a running, often snarky, commentary. Fun is had by all since she has a great love for the tales. Thankfully, she archives all the retellings on her website at Obscure Fairy Tales.