Sunday, March 31, 2013

Snow White: A Tale of Terror

Just to remind myself, I watched Snow White; A Tale of Terror, again. This Snow White is from 1997. It is fascinating... because one doesn't really know if the stepmother, Claudia, played by Sigourney Weaver, is a witch or just mad.

The first time I saw it, I was seriously scared, and to my surprise, they managed to scare me this time too :-D
If I remember correctly, this movie was received with delight as a true Grimmesque retelling and as something seriously different from the cutie-pie Disney versions. There is a point when one isn't quite sure if anyone survives...

This is yet another Snow White where I like the Evil Queen/Stepmother most. Claudia was the most faceted personality, and her motivation was made very clear. As she was treated by both her stupid husband and his bratty daughter, I wish she had managed to bring her son back to life. Now, that would be an interesting story…
It doesn’t harm that the queen is played by Sigourney Weaver. I just adore her. I can’t decide if she is beautiful or not… because she can be the most beautiful woman just as well as quite ugly. Her Old Woman is wonderful, and reminds me of the Old Hag from Disney’s Snow White. So she chats, giving the harmless idea, one can imagine the old hag as a young woman… and the whole time I KNOW it’s Sigourney! But, she’s so good I forget her, and see the old woman as a young girl, playing around with boys, being witty and cute…

I felt sorry for Sam Neill for having such a horrible role to play :-D I think half of his lines were [groaning]. And the other half was mostly stupid.

As Snow White’s love interests, we see both David Conrad as doctor Gutenberg, and Gill Bellows, as Will, and outlaw. I know David from Ghost whisperer, where he plays Melinda’s husband, and Gill from Ally McBeal.  Good looking fellows.

18-years-old Monica Keena plays Snow White, and does a good job in portraying a bratty teenager. And I have to give her that she plays well a scared young woman too.

The manuscript isn’t very good. There's things happening in the movie that are there for the effect, but are not explained satisfactory, like the wolves in the opening scene and the zombie maid? Or is she just imagination? Or what? Also the dialogue is rather stupid. But it was revolutionary 1997. :-D

Director Michael Cohn, has made only three feature length movies, but he’s starting a new project, Sacrifice, with Forest Whitaker’s production company.

Here's another review, from last year's Fairytale Fortnight

Friday, March 29, 2013

Snow White and the Dwarfs' Secret

The next movie I watched was an absolutely delightful Czech-German-Italian-Spanish co-production movie. "Snow White and the Dwarves' Secret", (Snehurka a Sedm Trpasliku / Schneewittchen und das Geheimnis der Zwerge). This lovely piece is from 1992.

It begins with the king leaving for a crusade and leaving the kingdom to be ruled by the Queen. She is vain and somewhat stupid woman. She starts her rule by sending Snow White with the court jester to the royal hunting castle, out of the way, because Snow White is becoming more and more beautiful every day. The dwarves in this are engineers and inventors, and they invent a truth telling machine - which is the magic mirror. One of them takes this machine to the court, dressed in a mechanical knight suit, that makes him as long as all the other men.

He falls in love with the queen, and therefore agrees to kill Snow White, but he's a good man, and cannot kill her. He kills a passing by wild boar, instead, to take its heart and liver to the queen as evidence of that Snow White is dead.

The Jester, who's in love with Snow White, starts looking for her, and manages to find out the truth about the Black Knight, that is the dwarf in knight costume. He agrees to take him to Snow White, but they are too late, the Queen has managed to find her first, and has given her the apple, and she is laying in the crystal coffin. The Fool wishes to say goodbye to her, and lifts her from the coffin, which makes the apple piece to pop out from her throat, and she's breathing and alive again.
It turns out that the Fool is no fool at all, but a prince, and they marry and live happily ever after.

The queen, on the other hand, goes home, and finds the knight machine and realizes that her Black Knight was a dwarf, and as the mirror tells her she is NOT the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, she gets angry and breaks the mirror, which in turn burns her badly and destroys her beauty. The priest, who has been following the happenings behind the scene, takes her to a cloister, where she can finally be useful and learn some humility.

Natalie Minko is a delightful princess, joyful, innocent, but intelligent and brave.

Gudrun Landgrebe is truly a beautiful queen. Her hairdos are amazing. They have given her a long, red hair, which is braided into crowns... Really fascinating.

The Jester is played by Alessandro Gassman, who is better known to the world as the face... or body, actually - from a couple of ads. And, yes, he was 27 in the movie, and even though he was very kind to the eyes, he's even better now, 20 years later.

I also loved the dwarves. The Black Knight (Sándor Köleséry) especially was lovely. So in love with the queen and being seen as a long man... but yet gentle and kind. So aware of his own weakness, and powerlessness... And he wasn't ugly either :-)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Snow White: The Fairest of Them All

Hallmark production

I like this version of Snow White. In it, Snow White’s parents are ordinary people, living in their little cottage in the middle of nowhere. But when her mother dies, the father (played by Tom Irwin) leaves the cottage, his dead wife and takes the daughter to find people and food for the little one. He gets lost in a snow storm, and realizes that they are both going to die, his newborn baby and him, he cries. His tears melt The Green-Eyed One (Clancy Brown), a demon or genie, who fulfills his three wishes, even though he didn’t realize expressing them. His first wish is milk to the baby, second is his wife and queen, and the third one… I have to say that the Green-Eyed One interprets his words a bit freely there – “If you want a queen, you should have a kingdom. Do you wish to have a kingdom? “ “Everyone wishes for a kingdom”, he says, and the next thing he knows is that he’s sitting on a throne and is being crowned to a king of a small kingdom.
The Green-Eyed One goes to his sister (Miranda Richardson) and makes her beautiful. He makes the king fall in love with her.
Everything is just fine the next 16 years, but then Elspeth, the queen, starts looking for a younger husband. Unfortunately, her love interest isn’t interested in her, but the young and beautiful Snow White (Kristin Kreuk).
The make-up is interesting. I love Miranda Richardson as the genie's sister was really cute.

As this is a Hallmark production, you will see a lot of faces known from the television. The dwarfs in this version are a bit different. They are the Weekdays or colors of the rainbow. One of them, for example, is over six feet tall. (Vincent Schiavelli). If you are any way the same like me, you’ll recognize also Sunday (Michael J. Anderson – Carnivale), Friday (Martin Klebba; Black Pearl’s crew man) and Saturday (Warwick Davis; Willow.) Warwick Davis and Michael Gilden both played also ewoks.

This movie has been directed by Caroline Thompson, who is better known as the playwright of Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride.

The setting is interesting, as they seem to have taken more inspiration from Russian fairytales than the German ones.

Snow White: “What does it mean, beautiful? I hate that. Beautiful. Do person's outsides have anything to do with being kind, or considerate or caring towards others. No. Or gentle or generous? No. Or loving or giving or just or wise...”

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cannon Movie Tales: Snow White, 1987

This is the worst of all these movies. The only thing, ONLY thing that saves this movie, and made it watchable, was Diana Rigg as the evil queen.

This is a musical. It starts with the prince singing – in a best “I want to be Andrew Lloyd Webber when I grow up!” musical style. He sings about how he has traveled all around the world, but haven’t found her princess yet.
And – oh, there she is! In a glass coffin.
But what is that? Dwarfs! Accompanied by a comical theme. Which is played every time they are in the picture. Because people might not understand that dwarfs are comical. Like clowns. But small. Funny. Hahaha!

Anyway, the prince hears the dwarfs talk about how Snow White is still as fresh and beautiful as she was a year ago, when they put her in the box, so it must be magic.
The prince jumps from behind the tree and almost attacks the dwarfs to defend Snow White.
The dwarfs tell him that he doesn’t need to be afraid that the dwarfs would do anything to Snow. They love her and they were the ones who build the box for her.
“Do you know her?”, the prince asks. I roll my eyes.

It all starts when the good queen is in her hobby room with her maids-in-waiting and they craft. They spin and weave and wind yarn on a shuttle, and then wind yarn from the shuttle to a ball… the room is filled with all kinds of craft tools, and no-one seems to know how any of them are used, so they start playing with cloth instead. And the queen pricks her finger and puts it in snow, and the king comes in and they all start singing about snow.

Some 12 years later, the king has remarried, because his wife died at childbirth, and the new queen hears her ladies-in-waiting talk about how beautiful Snow White will grow up to be, so she puts the huntsman to kill her during a hunting trip. Of course, he cannot, and the little girl is send alone in the forest filled with wild beasts.
A monkey, hedgehog, goat, rabbit, boa snake, wolf… the wild life of Black Forest.

She sees the wolf running at her, growling, drooling and howling, and she prays, and Hallelujah! The wolf turns into a nice little doggie. And everything is nice and peaceful and wonderful again. so there's some inspirational panpipe music.

She finds her way to the dwarfs’ home, breaks in, leaves door open, eats a bit from everyone’s plate, and then gets sleepy and goes to bed. But, alas, the first bed is too short, and second too narrow, and third… You get the idea.
The dwarfs come home, and, like the three bears, first note how someone has eaten of their porridge. And then they start going through the beds. “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed!” “Mine too!” “And mine – and there she is!”
And, of course, their actions are accompanied with comical music, because they - just like in Disney’s version – are very comical in their fear of strangers. *sigh*

The little princess agrees to stay with the dwarfs and clean their home and wash their clothes and mend and cook and be a good little housekeeper… even though she is indeed a princess and about 12 years old, and has never done any housekeeping.

And then the dwarfs sing a comical little song to present themselves. Their names are Iddy, Biddy, Kiddy, Diddy, Fiddy, Giddy and Liddy. Oh, no worries that the little princess cannot remember the names, they forget them themselves too, because they are so like each other! Hahaha! Dwarfs are so comical. You see, because they are dwarfs. *sigh*

Nevertheless, this is the truest to the original story (even the "three bears coming home and discovering someone's been..." act was in Grimm's version.) and it is very suitable for children (no references to sex, drugs or rock-n-roll).
It's harmless and if you plan watching several Snow Whites, watch this one first, after having read the fairy tale. You could watch the 1916 version and Disney version before this one, but avoid the others.
The costumes were interesting and I would say all the props and such, filming and what not are well done for a movie like this (better than "Grimm's Snow White"), so such details won't steal from the experience.

Here's another review of this movie, and here's a third.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White was Disney’s first full length animated feature film. Every now and then someone mocks Disney movies in general and Snow White in special, after all, it was made 80 years ago, but the truth is that Disney animations are wonderful. Snow White is still watch-worthy, exciting, scary, lovely, and dang well made.

It is a very classical retelling of the fairy tale. So classical one can say it’s the mother of all fairy tale movies – animated or not. I can see features from it in all the other Snow White movies I have seen the last week, and I saw quite a lot.

It also sets the imaginary fairy tale landscape in Southern Germany. (Black Forest, Neuschwanstein’s castle in Bavaria…). The fairy tale fashion and ordinary people’s homes are modeled after the German folklore, too, which is why Snow White is dressed in Tracht and the dwarfs’ home is decorated with woodcuts like a cuckoo-clock.

Disney’s version leaves out some of the original (Grimm) version, but adds something else. The dwarfs are given names and personality (even though they were named in the 1916 version also, but there they were Blick, Flick, Glick, Plick, Snick, Whick and Quee) and about 1/3 of the movie is just about the dwarfs.

Now, everyone knows the story of Snow White. Her mother dies. Her father remarries, then he dies also. Snow White is left alone with the stepmother who hates her. To stop Snow White from getting beautiful, the queen makes her wear rags and do household chores. (Back in the pre-19th century working girls were uglier than non-working girls, because they had tanned skin and hard hands.) Nevertheless, Snow White grows up to be a beautiful woman, and her stepmother orders the huntsman to kill her. He can’t, because Snow White is not only beautiful, she is also sweet, lovely and innocent. So he tells Snow White to run away and never come back again, kills a bypassing deer or wild boar or something,  and takes that animal’s heart to the queen as evidence of that he killed Snow White. The mirror tells the queen that she has been lied to, that Snow White is still alive, and prettier than ever. In the original story, the queen tries several different ways before coming up with the poisoned (or bewitched) apple. Snow White lies in death-like sleep, and the dwarfs believe she is dead, but she is too beautiful to be buried, so they make a glass casket to her. The prince comes by and just have to kiss her, and now it just happens to be so that love’s first kiss is the only thing that could break the spell, and so Snow White and the prince live happily ever after.

I’m sorry if a spoiler alert should have been in order, I assume everyone knows this version of Snow White, even better than Grimm’s version. This is the one that has been repeated, retold and used as canon in practically every version of Snow White that came after 1937.  I might not be happy about that – I read Grimm’s unedited version of Snow White already when I was 7-8, and that is my Snow White. In Disney’s version the dwarfs have been made into funny little men, when they were kind, old miners, rather distinguished gentlemen in Grimm’s version. They were also very tidy in Grimm’s version, whereas Disney makes them quite wild and brattish. I suppose that is what people think seven men living amongst themselves in the middle of nowhere would be. One needs a woman’s gentle touch to make houses into homes.

Nevertheless, I recommend Disney’s Snow White to everyone who likes movies, not just fairy tales, fantasy or animated movies. If for nothing else, then to pay attention to Lucille La Verne, the Queen. She is the real star of this movie. Lucille La Verne had had a long and successful like as an actress, both on stage and movies, before Snow White. Snow White was her last movie. I think she is amazing. Just listen to how she changes her voice and manner of speaking as she turns from the beautiful queen to old hag…  (The story tells that she took off her dentures to change her voice…  I can imagine :-D)

Disney handpicked the 18 years old Adriana Caselotti to play Snow White. Her father was a music teacher, her mother an opera singer, and her sister was also an opera singer and voice coach. It is amazing that Adriana had such a squeaky voice, but that – and her bright soprano (or squeaky)  - made her the Snow White Walt wanted. And what Walt wanted, Walt got… They say he was so protective of his Snow White, he didn’t allow Adriana sing in any other movies or even on radio. I have to say I’m grateful, because I can’t stand her voice.

Another good reason to see this movie is for the use of music. I know of no-one who can use music as masterly to control the emotions of the audience.  Also, this movie is full of memorable tunes. I have been humming both one and another this week. It’s no wonder Disney has received quite a lot of Oscars for music.

Note also how Disney often makes things happen in tune with the music. Like the cleaning scene. How the squirrel uses his tail to mop off the spider webs, accompanied by the song, how the clothes are being washed, everything happens to the music.

A third good reason is to look at the results of Disney’s hard demands. I remember watching some documentary from Disney studios and Walt Disney's ideas about animation. He made all the animators study real animals, to get the movements correct. So when the animals lead Snow White through the forest, they all move in a typical manner to their own species. Also, when they enter the house, all the animals move suspiciously, all in their own way... and at the same time, they have been given enough human behavior - and that of pets; cats and dogs; to make Snow White's discussion with them understandable.

There are small jokes mixed into the story, like when Snow White dusts the shelf, and the squirrels and chipmunk sitting on it sneeze, one at a time, the little chipmunk sneezes so hard, he is thrown into a keg..

I noticed this time some details I didn’t remember from earlier times.

It is interesting how she got nice clothes when she was to go out to be killed.

"Silence!” the queen says, and I add “I'll kill you!" :-D

The scene in the forest where everything looks scary and threatening is wonderful... But Disney has always been masterly with creating emotional response. Everything, colors, shapes, music and editing plays together.

“The Sleeping Death can only be broken by love's first kiss... no fear of that. She will be buried alive...”
So this is where they got the idea in both Snow White, the Tale of Terror, and Snow White and the Huntsman.

The Queen/Witch has been created by the same person who created Goofy. I can see some of his expressions on the Witch’s face, which made the apple scene more funny than scary.

I hate the scene with the birds “helping” Snow White bake the pie. All I can think of is “Oh no, bird poo all over the pie! Those birds walking with their dirty feet on the dough… yuk…”

“It’s apple pie that makes manfolks’ mouth water”

I am reminded of Scarlett’s mothers deadbed scene from Gone with the Wind, when Snow White lies on the table between candles.

Thankfully there are no sequels.

Nevertheless, while I was looking at background information, I read that one of the animators, Art Babbitt (he created the Queen), got into trouble with Walt Disney, because he supported the strike of the "lesser talents", the inkers, gel painters and others, and Walt never forgave any of the people who were on strike. Now, he could avoid the "lesser talents", but main animator? No.

So Art did some work for other studios, like Warner Brothers. He was one of the animators working with “Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs”, 1943.

I watched this Merrie Melody. It’s only 8-10 minutes long. It’s a modern retelling of Snow White. It starts with a “mammy” telling a story to her little child. The heroine is So White, who works for the evil Queen "who was as rich as she was evil. She had EVERYTHING! (meaning, she was a hoarder of rationed goods, like rubber, coffee and sugar. Very unpatriotic 1941.) She is being courted by Prince Chawming, who in reality only visits her because of her maid. Queen sees them dance and calls a "blackout team" (who kills midgets for half a price and japs for free) to kill So White, but she is so beautiful and sexy, that she charms them all and they let her out in the middle of nowhere. Which happens to be close to a military training camp. So she becomes a cook there. Queen finds this out, and dresses herself as a "candy apple seller", and gives her a poisoned candy apple, and she dies. The dwarfs avenge her death by killing the Queen (arriving to the spot in a Jeep, a Beep and a Peep.) Prince Chawming tries to kiss So White back to life. He is a master of kissing, but how ever much he kisses her, she won't wake up. In the end Dopey dwarf kisses her and up she jumps! Prince asks Dopey what makes him so hot, and he just smiles and says it's a military secret. And he kisses So White again, and her pigtails jump straight up and the red ribbons turn into American flags. (So, young black men, if you want girls, join the army.)

This cartoon has been on censored lists for decades because of the racist stereotypes… Queen has painted a cute little "white" mouth on her enormous lips. Prince is dressed in a zoot suit, and has gold teeth, except for the front teeth, that are dice. So White is dressed all in red, white and blue, but her skirt is very short and her blouse very tight... your stereotypical exotic, sexy young black woman.

It is also war time propaganda.

What makes this version of Snow White interesting is that it parodies Disney's Snow White (and other things); that it is set in modern time, with all jazz soundtrack, and all the characters and almost all voice actors are black. Bob Clampett (the director) says that it was made in demand for more black characters in Warner Brother's cartoons. Several black people, for example the voice actors and musicians, participated in the storyboard phase to make the dialogue as authentic "black" as possible.  The music is exceptional, the animation work is very good… This movie makes me wonder how much of the things we today consider racist are in reality just reflection of our fear of being non-PC.

I was also interested of the fact, that Dorothy Dandridge’s mother and sister are part of the cast. Ruby Dandridge is the narrator of the story, and Vivian is So White.

Anyway, read this: Gray on Coal Black and then watch the short. (if for nothing else, then to be able to compare that to The Princess and the Frog)

I also saw the Snow White from 1916, which is said to have been Walt Disney’s inspiration for his own Snow White. Unfortunately, there are some parts missing from the remastered version available on-line. Nevertheless, it is well worth seeing.

It is very charming, and Snow White, played by then 33 years olf Marguerite Clark, is adorable. She was only 4’10 long, and slender, so she could well play a teenaged Snow White. Dorothy Cumming, who plays the vain queen Brangomar, was only 21.

In this, the queen has made a scullery maid of Snow White. The cook sends her to the huntsman to fetch some ducks for the queen’s lunch. The huntsman has three children, and they adore Snow White. They have a bird in a cage, and Snow White tells them to free it. Now, a prince is out hunting and is about to shoot the bird, when Snow White and the huntsman’s children run to him and plead him to let the bird live. He falls for Snow White, of course, but she won’t reveal her name to him. Later in the castle she finds out that a prince is expected to visit the queen, and she so wishes to see him, so her maids of honor dress her as one of them, and she dances a little dance with them, and sees the prince. It is the same prince, of course.

Now, the prince was sent to queen Brangomar to arrange the marriage between himself and princess Snow White, but he tells the queen that he can’t marry the princess, because he is in love with another. The queen thinks he means her, but he corrects her and says it’s one of the princess’ maids of honor. The queen calls in all of them, but Snow White is missing. She isn’t one of the maids. Now, here’s a part of the movie missing, so I don’t know how  the truth came out, but it is revealed that the maid the prince loves is none other than Snow White, the princess. The queen isn’t happy about this, but an agreement is to be respected. Reluctantly she promises the wedding to happen in a year and a day. During that time the princess is to be in a finishing school, which sounds more like a correction facility for bad princesses.

Now it is so that the queen is beautiful only because of magic, and she promised the witch Snow White’s heart as a payment for her beauty. She sends the huntsman to take Snow White to the school, but in private she tells the huntsman to bring her Snow White’s heart. The huntsman refuses, because he loves Snow White as his own children, but the queen threatens to throw his children in the tower if he won’t do as she says. The huntsman cries bitterly, but must do as he is told. In the forest he sees a boar and gets the idea that he can kill the animal instead of Snow White, and Snow White can run away. The queen doesn’t trust the huntsman, and throws him and his children in the tower anyway. She takes Snow White’s heart to the witch, who uses it to a potion, which is to give her beautiful hair, but as it is not Snow White’s heart, she gets pig tails all over her head instead…

It is hard to read some of the texts, as they are written in fracture script, and it is a bit irritating that parts of the movie are missing, but I love this movie. I love the Snow White, I love the huntsman, I love the witch’s cat…

See it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Actually, I was out too early...

But doesn't matter. In stead of two weeks of fairy tale fun, I'll have three :-D

Today's subject is Andrew Lang's Coloured Fairy Books.

My first meeting with these was some 30 years ago. I visited Sweden and my sisters, and there was a book sale, and a cheap copy of these was on sale. I didn't have money, and my sisters probably didn't have that much money either, because I didn't get them, even though I asked. Might be because they misunderstood my request... I hope not. I choose to think it was a question of money.

You see, these books have not been translated to Finnish... I have been on the project for 20 years now, translating and illustrating, but I assume with the pace I keep someone does it before I do. :-D
(I haven't done practically anything during these 20 years, so there's no reason to believe I'd do anything the next 20 years either.)

These books were published 1889-1910. There weren't supposed to be more than one fairy tale collection, but because of the demand, he edited one more, and one more, and one more, until there were 12 books. The colors are a bit oddly chosen... probably because they were never meant to be a series of books.
The colors also don't reflect the fairy tales between the covers. The stories in the Green Fairy Book are not more "masculine" than those in the Pink Fairy Book.

Now, I have only read two of these... *blush*
(Yes, yes, I know... I know. Freely available on line, and I LOVE fairytales, and there was a time one couldn't have stopped me from reading these and everything else too! But, alas, that time was like 20 years ago. I admit, I have become a lazy slob.)
So, I'm not very aware of what's in them. Nevertheless, these books are practically responsible for making such fairytales like Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, Beauty and the Beast, Puss in Boots, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Snow White such household names they are today. All these are in the first two Coloured Fairy Books! 
(Now, I have to say that brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault has a lot to do with that too, but Beauty and the Beast... it was made known by two French ladies, first by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and then by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.
Now, they were not noble women, even though one might think so. Madame de Villeneuve got her last name from her husband, a military officer, who was a rather horrible husband, and lucky for Gabrielle-Suzanne, died, leaving her nothing. She had to support herself by writing. Her best known story is The Beauty and The Beast. In its original version it's a lot longer and has quite a lot of other stuff in it. Among other things The Beast IS truly a beast. Vile, stupid and violent...
Madame Leprince de Beaumont (she is not a noble either, even though she married a nobleman. She managed to get the unhappy marriage annulled when he... hm... got problems, and moved to London as a governess. It was there she rewrote The Beauty and The Beast, to better suit for children.
Now, The Beauty and The Beast was very popular already in the 19th century, so I don't know how much Andrew Lang did to spread it, or if it was included to make people buy the book...)

As I already said, these books were never meant to be a series of books. We have to thank the daring publisher for there to be even Blue Fairy Book, because fairy tales were no longer interesting. They had their golden age a couple decades earlier. Nevertheless, Blue Fairy Book became a hit, and they prepared Red Fairy Book, and Green - in which Andrew Lang writes that it will be the last. But luckily, it was not.
The book “was an experiment, and of a kind that must have caused a certain amount of anxiety to Longman, the publisher…For at that time the fairy-tale had almost ceased to be read in British nurseries, and the novel of child life, the stories of Mrs. Ewing, Mrs. Molesworth, and L. T. Meade, were the only fare”
- Mufei Jiang, Andrew Lang's Fairy Books
(Now, I, of course, needed to find out who were these "Mrs. Ewing; Mrs. Molesworth, and L.T.Meade"
Juliana Horatia Ewing is the "mother of child-novels". That means, novels where the main character is a child, or someone remembering his/her childhood. Her work is available at Project Gutenberg.

Mary Louisa Molesworth wrote novels for girls, who were "too old for fairy tales, but too young for Jane Austen". That is, YA novels :-D Written for girls who were to become Victorian mothers and wifes. You can read her books also at Project Gutenberg.

Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith wrote also stories for girls. She was a very prolific writer. Her first book was published when she was just 17, and after that there were over 300 books published during her lifetime, and some after. She was only 60 when she dies. She also wrote everything. Girls' books, "sentimental" stories and "sensational" stories, religious storie, historical novels, adventure, romances, mysteries... She wrote 11 novels with Robert Eustace producing two female villains, "Madame Sara" and "Madame Koluchy" "the mastermind of a band of gansters! Sounds like a fantastic lady, this one :-)
(She was also the founder and editor of a girls' magazine called Atalante... and, yes, it was sort of feminist magazine. It had very good writers and articles, and it "sought to widen girls' aspirations and opportunities in middle-class careers, so there were articles on medicine, the civil service and typewriting"...)
Yes, some of her books are also available at Project Gutenberg.)

I am pretty certain of that it is very much thanks to these books we have the Golden Age of Fairy Tale Illustrators in England in the beginning of 20th century. Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen...

Now, there's some 35-45 fairy tales in each book, some 450 in all 12, from all over the world. Asia, Africa, Americas, Australia and Europe, old stories and new ones, folk tales and "literary" tales, by authors dead and alive. He even adapts his own fairytale for one of the books... There are re-tellings of Greek myths, sagas and epic poems... I think these books are amazing.

My husband just told me that he hadn't even heard of Andrew Lang before he met me. (After that it would have been impossible not to hear about him :-D)

Oh, BTW, The Folio Society is publishing this series again, with new illustrations, by currently living illustrators... I want them... *sigh* But I don't think they are really worth that much money... If I had that much money, I probably wouldn't think twice, but I don't. So this is the version I'll be getting. :-)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

About Sleeping Beauty

I read Sleeping Beauty by Midori Snyder, and I got so tired and sarcastic.
"Out of a stock of brave heroines, of determined and clever girls, we found ourselves waiting at the bedside of a heroine whose talent rested on her ability to . . .well. . .rest. What indeed did this mute slip of a girl who became the epitome of passivity mean to young, contemporary women eager to claim their own destinies? What did she mean to us, as writers and folklorists who as children had felt emotionally stranded by a heroine whose awakening from death–feigned–as–sleep depended on a Prince's perseverance? "

Sure, it's over 10 years ago, but - why must EVERYONE be active?
Fairytales, myths, legends, stories, archetypes and all that are very powerful stuff. You can TRY to water them down, drown their soul, spirit and message, but you can't. Not even Disney, with their Victorian bourgeois nursery ma'mselles approved version could do it. But it's pretty bad that people who have been working with myths and fairytales for decades not to be able to see the truth in this specific fairytale, simply because the heroine SEEMS to be passive... Doesn't she know that fairytales are all allegories and symbols, dreamspeak to the core of humanity, and NOTHING is what it seems? Clarissa Pinkola Estés' "Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype" had been published 1992, and I can imagine Midori swallowed it immediately, as I did, and for the same reasons. Didn't she learn anything from it? Didn't she understand anything?

This groaning over Sleeping Beauty and her passivity is also coming from a woman who thinks Beauty would have been a more worthy heroine, because her "dauntless courage saved her father, her sisters, and a hideous Beast". Oh, geesh! As if you didn't know Beauty and the Beast, a 18th century fantasy, is responsible for a lot of girls believing their LOVE will CHANGE him from beast to beau... Brrr... Sleeping Beauty is at least a genuine article.Courage? Codependency, I say. Psht.

Henry Meynell Rheam

Anyway, the subject of the panel was "What Does Sleeping Beauty Mean to Me?" Well... IF she means to me "mute slip of a girl", unworthy example for a modern woman, "epitome of passivity", a fairytale heroine who left the receiver/listener/reader "emotionally stranded", someone whose life depended on someone else, THEN SAY SO!!!
Why this insistence of that ALL fairytales MUST mean something ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE, EMPOWERING etc. to EVERYONE???
Why not use the opportunity to talk about the historical roles of women and how they feel wrong for a modern feminist, a woman "eager to claim her own destiny"?

Why? Uh. No answer to that question either.

Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron by Annie Leibovitz
"We made excuses about the poverty of versions worth discussing."
Uh. If you have a mind of your own, ANY ONE version is enough. Dig deeper, Midori, dig deeper, and dig deeper into you. You will find the truth of Sleeping Beauty - inside you... because you are Sleeping Beauty, as much as this fact makes you uncomfortable and upset... But, alas, that is one point in you you don't want to discuss... so you desperately seek a version of Sleeping Beauty you can use to avoid discussing this uncomfortable fact... *sigh*

Edmund Dulac
But Sleeping Beauty, how she betrayed us by her sleep! Among the pantheon of heroines, even those who married easily in happily–ever–after tales, Sleeping Beauty's inertia was almost an admission of failure, of shame at my gender's lack of spirit.
 Every human being lacks in spirit every now and then, despite their gender. Gender is irrelevant, and should be. Why is it so threatening to admit your humanity, human weakness, Midori? You are not a superwoman, none of us is...
A lot of women WANT to become SAHMs. Every woman who has ever sighed over the necessity to leave home for work understands that desire, and should have ovaries to admit it. And I have to say, 90% of all women who work outside home have sighed over it. 90% of women who have chosen to stay at home, and work as a housekeeper to herself and her family, or mom, or home based entrepreneur or artist, say it was the best decision they ever made. I don't say anything about men, because I don't know anything about men's attitudes on this matter, but as men are human beings too, I think they think the same. After all... everyone understands "I HATE MONDAYS!!!" So what about being honest about that and admitting we would rather work at home...
No, don't start yapping about being your husband's little slave and all that stuff. I'm married and I stay at home, because of health issues, and I am nobody's slave. That too is totally up to you. If a woman - or a man, for that matter - WANTS to be someone's slave, be it. It has nothing to do with me. And even though there are still situations where the women - and men, don't forget that - live in a slavelike situation in our modern world, and that's not right, most of us do not. Most of us do make our own destinies. Even those of us whose destiny it is to sleep in the tower for the rest of our lives, because no "prince" is coming to rescue us, and we don't have the means to wake up on ourselves.
"We may not have liked her passivity, but we had to yield to her enduring presence and salute her tenacious survival."
Oh, bull! It's not Sleeping Beauty, you idiot, it's The Myth. And that should have told you, you have misunderstood the fairytale wholly.

So - as these people couldn't get the story, they started looking for a version they could understand. Now, as they didn't understand the core, they couldn't understand any of the versions either. You have to understand this about fairytales - you can try to water them down, but you will never, ever be able to touch the core of the story... how ever child friendly you make it, how ever much you manage to please the ma'mselles - and that's the easy part, because all the sex and violence has been added to keep people interested. That has nothing to do with the core of the myth. As Midori should have understood...
Well, anyway, as they don't understand the story, their take on it became  "the transformation of fairy tales".
It's so I could cry...

Here are the fairytales mentioned in the article, so you can read them yourself and make your own mind up on what is the message and the core of this story.

Jeannie Harbour
"Satisfied, the young woman comes to the palace, retrieves the Sultan's son from his grave, and reveals her true identity. "Now I know," she says, "that you will go to any length for the woman you love.""
- The Ninth Captain's Tale (1001 Nights).
Huh? He did it for SOMEONE ELSE!!! 
Who could not admire this Sleeping Beauty? 
Well... Sure, she's a great heroine, solves her own problems and all that, but... it's not Sleeping Beauty, is it?

Christian Birmingham
On our panel, I noted that the European tales seem to be focused on the men, not the slumbering heroine...
...Despite this emphasis on the actions of the male characters, Terri argued that the conflict between the women in the tale is also an important element
Ah, but, Midori, that is because you don't understand the tale.

Also, there is a piece here I don't read in the story. Perhaps because I'm ND, I have a look at the social games from outside...

A woman touched by fairies, evidenced by the magical sleep, is dangerous. She is a threat to the whole society, and one cannot count the man, obviously magically forced, seduced, to see the danger... anyone touched by fairies, how ever innocent, is a living homing device, inviting the fairyworld to this one...
Ever heard of Halloween? I mean the REAL one? Samhain?
I strongly suggest you read Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies.
The king's mother would have been protecting the whole society by burning the young woman... and, frankly... considering the source... who do you believe more, the woman or the man? Do you choose to believe the cook's story about how the mother told her to boil the children, or the mother's story of that she was just protecting the community as her son, the king, was temporarily under a spell...?

Also, still at 19th century it was considered the woman's fault that she didn't produce children. Happen to see the movie, Marie Antoinette? Still today a lot of men accuse their wives of bearing only daughters, even when we KNOW the man is the only parent able to produce the essential piece of a boy child - Y chromosome. She was not giving the king a child, not because she'd be sick, or he'd be sick, but because she refused to... So, yes, she was "evil", and she should have left her place without fight to a woman who clearly could produce children, and twins at that! Because she didn't, it was obvious she didn't love her husband. You should read Griselda's story and realize that THAT was a portrait of a "good" woman - and as a "bad" woman, the king's wife did deserve all the bad consequences she got.

Again, the focus on gender... *sigh*
Neither the Italian, nor the French focuses on men. They tell the story with a man as one of the main characters, because of the historical context. The introduction of a woman touched by fairies to a normal society would not have been possible without a male catalyst, neither could the village elder be a woman without a male catalyst... and in both of these stories the village eldest IS a woman... the queen... In one she's the king's wife, in other the king's mother. King is just a royal insignia, if you so wish. He does nothing significant, he says nothing significant, he works only as a catalyst. His job is to bring the fairygirl into the village, his job is to justify the queen's position and power - in the critical moment he isn't even there! He's somewhere else, hunting or something... as you have read a lot of fairytales and myths, you know this happens all the time.

Where is Cinderella's father? Absent.
Where is Snowwhite's father? Absent.
Where are the seven dwarves whose job is to protect and provide for Snowwhite, when the Witch Queen visits her? Absent.
Red Riding Hood? Absent.
Bluebeard? Absent...

Take any old fairytale with female lead, and you'll find that men in the story obediently play their supporting roles... the princes fight dragons, rose bushes, giants and witches, to be there to save the princess and give her a reasonable reason to be where she needs to be. The prince is a robot with a mission. He doesn't rape Sleeping Beauty - nor kiss her, or kneel by her bed - because he loves her. He does it because he has to, because that's his part of the story. He's just a drone!
I don't understand how anyone who has read fairytales with intention could believe anything else... he could just as well be under a spell. Of course not under the spell of the girl, because she is not a witch. Sleeping Beauty is just a girl, an ordinary girl. Sure she's a princess, but that's only because at that time people were just as interested of princesses as we are, and she had to be able to "disappear" without anything getting disturbed. An ordinary girl gone missing would have left a hole in the working order. Princesses are rather unnecessary things, don't you think?

Gustave Doré for Charles Perrault's version 

Nevertheless, all that is in reality very uninteresting, as fairytales are messages in disguise. The princess is YOU, the queen, the king, the princes, dwarves, fairy godmothers and everyone else in the story are just... props... it's a dream you are having. Sleeping Beauty is the story of a person - male or female - who is waiting for something, scared of the obstacles; dragons, rose bushes, linen and spindles (work :-D) chooses to sleep in stead of doing something about the situation. Sleeping Beauty is a story of coming of age. She doesn't want to grow up. She wants to be a little girl all her life. She doesn't want to let go of her foolish childhood games and take upon herself the duties, responsibilities, hardship of adulthood. So she pretends it's not there. She sleeps. Princes come and try to wake her up, but they all fail and get stuck in the thorns, until one, resilient one, manages to get through and wakes her...

I have been sleeping for 40 years. Every now and then an idea passes and almost manages to get me awake, but I'll quickly fall back to my sleep. When will my "prince" come by? When will it arrive, the idea, dream, ambition - passion, if you wish - so strong and resilient that it won't give up, but will force me to wake up? Obviously it was not a mortal man, I've been happily married to my husband for 12 years now, and he didn't manage to wake me up. It must be something bigger, stronger, more real, more... a man? Ridiculous!

Evanescence: Bring Me To Life (Wake Me Up Inside)
Sleeping Beauty is diminished in other ways in these later, more "civilized" versions. Earlier variants suggest that the father is the character most at fault, bringing the curse down on his daughter through improper dealings with the fantastic (such as slighting an important fairy). But Victorian versions seem to suggest the girl is responsible for her own fate, punished for her disobedience to her father's command not to touch the spinning wheel. In these versions, it is not only Briar Rose who suffers, but her parents and the entire court who must sleep for a hundred years.
Uh. So it would be okay if she is punished for her father's wrongdoings, but it's a bad thing that she is responsible for her own fate? >:->
(One can imagine that to the class–obsessed Victorians, a privileged daughter handling the tools of the lower classes provoked alarm, threatening to lower the status of the family. Briar Rose's sin can only be expiated when a man worthy enough, both in heart and noble status, redeems her from her transgression — restoring both Beauty and her family to its former social position.)

Let's look at this idea. The Victorian upper class women didn't have much else to do but crafts, so the dangerous linen doesn't much make sense in the Victorian frame - but it might have meant something when this story was created, as this is an old fairytale. So - if Sleeping Beauty is frozen in her "sin", and not only her but her whole family and world, until the Redeemer arrives, the one who will watch over her and see that she won't "sin" no more... then what? What does that make of the fairytale? Yet another thread left in the wind...
In our century, Sleeping Beauty no longer speaks to a common identity, a single icon to shape the female image for new generations. Instead, our Princess finds herself portrayed in many different guises: as a helpless 1950s stay–at–home girl, a bold space opera heroine, an oppressed time–traveling queen, a stoic Holocaust survivor, a sexually abused child, and myriad others.
 And what does she make of this? She's been given several alternative interpretations:

We have the story of an American prom queen and her football team captain; she is being brought up as a poor girl, and she is good and kind, and all that, and then she finds out she's a princess and before she can meet her parents and start her new life as a princess, everything is put on hold... for what? The prince must feat the dragon, the dragon that stops her from entering her new life that is totally strange and scary to her, a life she hasn't been prepared for in any way or manner... It sure looks a bit different explained like that... :->

Then we have a child who is being molested, and the story of a prince is just a dream she entertains to be able to survive. What does she do with this interpretation? What if Sleeping Beauty's dream IS just a dream?

There is the reminder of that when we sleep we usually also dream... what did Sleeping Beauty dream about and what is the significance of that?

And she goes on and on, giving examples on other contemporary interpretations... but doesn't enter into answering the question that began all this: "what does this mean to you?"

Maxfield Parrish

Happily she ends the article
In the oldest versions, we had rediscovered some of Beauty's original wit and strength. Even as each successive generation tried to tame or alter the substance of her nature, Beauty's power as an agent of transformation continued to shine forth from the core of her tale.
Oh, yes... Sleeping Beauty might have some substance as the witty and resourceful, magical heroine from Arabian Nights, but as the "seemingly passive" heroine, she is worthless.

"Beauty's power as an agent of transformation"? No... It's about HER transformation... Uh. SHE is the main character of the story. Main characters don't just sit there - or sleep - and act as agents of anything. All the fairytales are about the change of the main character. SHE is the one who has to learn something. SHE has to change. SHE has to wake up and take upon herself her new role in life. *sigh*

What ever.


P.S. Midori Snyder is an American writer of fantasy, mythic fiction, and nonfiction on myth and folklore. She has published eight novels for children and adults, winning the Mythopoeic Award for The Innamorati. Her work has been translated into French, Dutch, Italian and Turkish. She is also a co–director of The Endicott Studio, and the Journal of Mythic Arts.
The Mythopoeic Awards for literature and literary studies are given by the Mythopoeic Society to authors of outstanding works in the fields of myth, fantasy, and the scholarly study of these areas.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tall tales and short ones

Most people associate "fairy tale" with brothers Grimm and other people who collected the oral tradition in Europe during the 18th and 19th century; with the French court in the 17th century, where both "Mother Goose" and "Fairytale" were coined, and the original storytellers of 19th century, like H.C.Andersen and Oscar Wilde. (And Andrew Lang, who wrote rather sweet fairytales himself, though didn't write any of the Coloured Fairy Books). I'm sure 90% of examples of fairytales people know, would be found in the collections of Grimm brothers, Perrault, Andersen and Lang.

I grew up with the original Grimm fairytales, "Children's and Household Tales". "The first volumes were much criticized because, although they were called "Children's Tales", they were not regarded as suitable for children, both for the scholarly information included and the subject matter", says Wikipedia :-D Sure they weren't suitable for children, if you think of children as fragile idiots who need to be raised in a barrel and covered from "the bad world".
One could think I was damaged, because I'm a Pagan now, but I don't remember ever being afraid of trolls, witches or my parents leaving me in the forest.

There was a story of a boy whose mother killed him and boiled soup to his father, who ate with good appetite even though his daughter sat and wept and refused to eat a bite. The boy later comes back as a bird, bringing gifts to the family. His sister gets shoes, father gets a golden chain, and mother gets crushed by a millstone. (Yes, "My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me"... It's called "Juniper Tree".)

(Indeed, Juniper Tree has got a place on "5 Grimm Fairy Tales You Should Only Read To Kids You Hate")

There was a story about a curious girl, who went into a weird house, and climbed up the stairs, and in every floor she saw something weird and alarming... like there was a room with a frying pan with fish in it frying, and the fish turned itself, and when they were done, they jumped on a plate and the plate run upstairs... and she followed the plate and saw a hideous black beast from the keyhole eating the fish, but went in... and there was no beast, just an old lady there. And she asked the girl who she was and where she came and what she saw in the house, and the stupid girl told the lady everything, even seeing the black beast through the keyhole, and then the lady ate the girl. (Frau Trude. There are different versions of this story as well :-D) 
I mean, a typical "cautionary tale". Don't be so damn curious and put your nose in business that's none of yours, and don't be so trusting with strangers, especially if people have warned you about them. And obey your parents, because they have managed to live that long, they must be doing something right. :-D

Anyway... here's a long list of definitions of forms of fiction that I consider being related to fairytales, and so have read and studied. (Definitions taken from Wikipedia.)

Folklore, as "oral tradition" consists of legends, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales, stories and tall tales. In usage, there is a continuum between folklore and mythology.

"Folktales" is a general term for different varieties of traditional narrative. The telling of stories appears to be a cultural universal, common to basic and complex societies alike. Even the forms folktales take are certainly similar from culture to culture, and comparative studies of themes and narrative ways have been successful in showing these relationships. Also it is considered to be an oral tale to be told for everybody.

In folkloristics, a myth is a sacred narrative usually explaining how the world or humankind came to be in its present form, although, in a very broad sense, the word can refer to any traditional story. Bruce Lincoln defines myth as "ideology in narrative form". Myths typically involve supernatural characters and are endorsed by rulers or priests. They may arise as either truthful depictions or overelaborated accounts of historical events, as allegory for or personification of natural phenomena, or as an explanation of ritual. They are transmitted to convey religious or idealized experience, to establish behavioral models, and to teach.

A legend is a narrative of human actions that are perceived to take place within human history. Legend, for its active and passive participants includes no happenings that are outside the realm of "possibility", defined by a highly flexible set of parameters, which may include miracles that are perceived as actually having happened, within the specific tradition of indoctrination where the legend arises, and within which it may be transformed over time, in order to keep it fresh and vital, and realistic. Legends reflect on a psychological level a symbolic representation of folk belief and collective experiences and serving as a reaffirmation of commonly held values of the group to whose tradition it belongs.

Sagas are stories about ancient Scandinavian and Germanic history. Saga is a cognate of the English word say: its various meanings in Icelandic are approximately equivalent to "something said" or "a narrative in prose", somewhat along the lines of a "story", a "tale", or a "history". The texts are tales in prose which share some similarities with the epic, of heroic deeds of days long gone, "tales of worthy men". The tales are usually realistic, except legendary sagas, sagas of saints, sagas of bishops and translated or recomposed romances. They are sometimes romanticised and fantastic, but always dealing with human beings one can understand.

Some of the oldest and most widespread stories in the world are stories of adventure such as Homer's The Odyssey. The heroic mythological stories (monomyth, or the hero's journey) from culture to culture follow a similar underlying pattern, starting with the "call to adventure", followed by a hazardous journey, and eventual triumph. The knight errant was the form the "adventure seeker" character took in the late Middle Ages.

The chansons de geste, Old French for "songs of heroic deeds", are epic poems. Composed in verse, these narrative poems of moderate length (averaging 4000 lines) were originally sung, or recited, by minstrels or jongleurs.

Romance is a fantastic story about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as having heroic qualities, who goes on a quest. Romances reworked legends, fairy tales, and history to suit the readers' and hearers' tastes.

An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Another type of epic poetry is epyllion, which is a brief narrative poem with a romantic or mythological theme.

A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. Some such stories are exaggerations of actual events, for example fish stories. Other tall tales are completely fictional tales set in a familiar setting. Tall tales are often told so as to make the narrator seem to have been a part of the story. They are usually humorous or good-natured. The line between legends and tall tales is distinguished primarily by age; many legends exaggerate the exploits of their heroes, but in tall tales the exaggeration looms large, to the extent of becoming the whole of the story.

A fairy tale is a type of short story that typically features folkloric fantasy characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants, mermaids, or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. Fairy tales may be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends and explicitly moral tales, including beast fables.

A fable is a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse, that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized (given human qualities such as verbal communication), and that illustrates or leads to an interpretation of a moral lesson (a "moral"), which may at the end be added explicitly in a pithy maxim. A fable differs from a parable in that the latter excludes animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as actors that assume speech and other powers of humankind.

A parable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive principles, or lessons, or (sometimes) a normative principle. It differs from a fable in that fables use animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as characters, while parables generally feature human characters. It is a type of analogy.

Allegory is a device in which characters or events in a story, poem, or picture represent or symbolize ideas and concepts. Allegory has an immense power of illustrating complex ideas and concepts in a digestible, concrete way. In allegory a message is communicated by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation.

Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement.

A cautionary tale is a tale told in folklore, to warn its hearer of a danger. There are three essential parts to a cautionary tale, though they can be introduced in a large variety of ways. First, a taboo or prohibition is stated: some act, location, or thing is said to be dangerous. Then, the narrative itself is told: someone disregarded the warning and performed the forbidden act. Finally, the violator comes to an unpleasant fate, which is frequently related in expansive and grisly detail.

I have to say that this is a book that gave me nightmares.

"The stories may have started in a playful mode, but they invariably ended badly, 
as a child paid the Draconian consequences for disregarding parental advice.  
Some of the outcomes were cruel, others gruesomely violent. 
Whatever the case, they were altogether unlike the tales of “normal” childhood 
that were being served up to me by mid-20th-century authors.  
No, the Struwwelpeter stories were truly scary, 
because the things that happened to these children
—e.g. severed fingers, dog bites, burning hair, wasting away, drowning—
conceivably could befall a careless 20th-century child."

And yet... the cautionary stories and moral histories written 
by predominantly Christian authors to teach moral and virtues to children... 
horrible stories, and totally incomprehensible to me... 
Actually, very much reminding of the "romance" novels
written by the type of Christians
who consider wife beating the husband's moral duty.
I believe I have spoken about that literary genre somewhere else,
and wish not to visit it ever again.
How ever much humans are fascinated by the most vile and disgusting behavior
and horror stories...

Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common. In popular culture, the fantasy genre is predominantly of the medievalist form. Fantasy has also included wizards, sorcerers, witchcraft, etc., in events which avoid horror. Fantasy has also spawned many new subgenres with no clear counterpart in mythology or folklore, although inspiration from mythology and folklore remains a consistent theme. Fantasy subgenres are numerous and diverse, frequently overlapping with other forms of speculative fiction in almost every medium in which they are produced. A couple of examples are the science fantasy and dark fantasy subgenres, which the fantasy genre shares with science fiction and horror, respectively.

Horror fiction, horror literature and also horror fantasy is a genre of literature, which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten its readers, scare or startle viewers/readers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror can be either supernatural or non-supernatural. Often the central menace of a work of Horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for the larger fears of a society. The genre has ancient origins which were reformulated in the eighteenth century as Gothic horror, with publication of the Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole. (Here as a librivox recording; a free audio book.)
(And here's Mysteries of Udolpho, a must read for everyone who loves Jane Austen. Why, you might ask? But, of course, because of Northanger Abbey!)

A ghost story is an account of an experience, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or characters' belief in them. Colloquially, the term can refer to any kind of scary story. It is a form of supernatural fiction and specifically of weird fiction, and is often a horror story. While ghost stories are often explicitly meant to be scary, they have been written to serve all sorts of purposes, from comedy to morality tales. Ghosts often appear in the narrative as sentinels or prophets of things to come. Whatever their uses, the ghost story is in some format present in all cultures around the world, and may be passed down orally or in written form.

Weird fiction can be said to encompass the ghost story and other tales of the macabre. Weird tales often blend the supernatural, mythical, and even scientific.

Supernatural fiction (properly, "supernaturalist fiction") is a literary genre exploiting or requiring as plot devices or themes some contradictions of the commonplace natural world and materialist assumptions about it. In its broadest definition, supernatural fiction includes examples of weird fiction, horror fiction, fantasy fiction, and such sub-genres as vampire literature and the ghost story. Supernatural fiction is often classed as a discrete genre defined by the elimination of "horror", "fantasy" and elements important to other genres. Supernatural fiction is associated with psychological fiction, as both a supernatural and a psychological interpretation of the events is possible. The ambiguity is considered to add to the effect.

Now the following are on this list, just because they have been mentioned... Not that I didn't read them too with pleasure, but on the other  hand, I read anything with pleasure. (More or less... Now... marquis de Sade was unreadable. See the previous comment on a very specific type Christian romance.)

Science fiction is a genre of fiction with imaginative but more or less plausible content such as settings in the future, futuristic science and technology, space travel, parallel universes, aliens, and paranormal abilities. Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possible worlds or futures. It is similar to, but differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature.

Burlesque is a literary work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects. It is a grotesque imitation of the dignified or pathetic. Burlesque overlaps in meaning with caricature, parody and travesty. It has been applied retrospectively to works of Chaucer and Shakespeare. Burlesque "fools around with the material of high literature and adapts it to low ends"

A caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others.

A parody is an imitative work created to mock, comment on or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of satiric or ironic imitation. "Parody … is imitation, not always at the expense of the parodied text." "Any cultural practice which provides a relatively polemical allusive imitation of another cultural production or practice." Parody seems to flourish on territory somewhere between pastiche ("a composition in another artist's manner, without satirical intent") and burlesque .

A pastiche is a work of literature that closely imitates the work of a previous artist, usually distinguished from parody in the sense that it celebrates rather than mocks the work it imitates. In contrast to an allusion or a homage, a pastiche of this kind is not a passing reference, but instead covers a work in all its entirety. Alternately, a pastiche may be a hodge-podge of parts derived from the original work of others.

Mistero Buffo is a series of small one-act plays by Dario Fo. They are built around the idea of the travelling players of medieval times, who would travel to towns and villages, bringing the latest news, but also performing theatrical pieces which were sometimes subversive in their content. Absolutely brilliant... go and watch some at YouTube, if you can find any. Though I like the Finnish version better than the English one. But here's some translations. Search with the names of each play.

Mystery plays and miracle plays are among the earliest formally developed plays in medieval Europe. Medieval mystery plays focused on the representation of Bible stories in churches as tableaux with accompanying antiphonal song.

Opera buffa (comic opera) is a genre of opera. It was at first characterized by everyday settings, local dialects, and simple vocal writing, the main requirement being clear diction and facility with patter.

And that leads to Commedia dell'arte, variety shows and such.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fairytale Fortnight starts today!

I love fairytales.
I have loved fairytales since I knew how to read.
I read all and anything even remotely similar, which is why I had read The Lord of the Rings already at the tender age of 10, and was more familiar with Greek myths than any of my teachers.
I have waded through incredibly boring books about the history and significance of fairytales, myths and fantasy, just because of the subject.

Now... what is a fairytale?

Simply, a tale about fairies, fairies meaning, not only faefolks, elves, sprites and other such, but fantasy and magic; things that faeries do all the time. (Fae-ry like in wizard-ry) "Fairy Godmother" is sort of synonymous to a wizard, not a fluttering insect-winged homunculus, as we today mostly understand the word "fairy".

I find it interesting that in Lady d'Aulnoy's fairytales fairies were not "good"... but rather narcissist, easily offended and amoral creatures... very much like sidhe of old British and Irish stories about fairies. I don't know when these mischievous, alien humanoids with so much power they were seriously dangerous to associate oneself with became harmless, pretty dolls that made your wishes come true...

Perhaps one of the culprits is La Fata dai Capelli Turchini... The Blue Fairy from Pinocchio. (The Fairy with Turquoise Hair, as she is in Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio... written 1880). She seems to be more of an angel than a fairy, following Pinocchio and guiding him, helping him and finally turning him into a real boy... Rather interesting ideas for a Victorian writer, huh? God is not involved...)

(Is Pinocchio a fairytale? It's a magical story that features fairies, so I suppose it is.)

 The name "faery"; the fae, fair folk, fees, comes from Latin Fata, which was one of the Fates, in Greek Moirae. Not very... pleasant people.

In folklore fairies, the fae folks, beautiful people, peaceful people, kind, good and fair people, were believed to be either the kind of Tolkienesque elves, or the kind of leprechauns and gnomes. In this painting by sir Joseph Noel Paton, "The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania", painted 1846, all sorts and sizes of fairies are depicted, Titania and Oberon being, naturally, depicted as these tall, radiant, noble people, Tolkien's elves.

When Internet was still young, there were one, particularly fine site about the different kinds of fairies, but it's long gone... *sigh* When Geocities was free and much used. Now-a-days people don't build sites anymore, they have blogs, and then their own wiki :-D Nevertheless, this lady had collected all information from every source she could find, and illustrated it too... Unfortunately, I suppose, because back at 90's people didn't much bother about such petty little things like copyright and source.

Anyway, now you know that faery originally meant practice or domain of fae-things; magical, mythical, mystical things. In that way all fantasy is... just fairytales.