Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fun Facts about Thumbling Tales from Sarah Allison

I just discovered another terrific resource: the blog Writing in Margins by Sarah Allison. It's all focused on her research into Thumbling tales, or any protagonist that is about the size of a thumb. I haven't looked into Thumbling tales as much myself but there is so much fascinating, well-researched information on variants from around the world, as well as on the significance of certain images/motifs in different cultures. I asked Sarah to put together a guest post with some of the fun facts she's learned and she graciously obliged!


"Thumbelina," Charles Robinson

I’ve been seriously researching fairytales about miniature characters, or thumblings, for maybe a year and a half now. These are characters like Tom Thumb and Thumbelina, the Japanese story of Issun-Boshi, and the Grimms’ Thumbling. I started this project mainly in search of other lady thumb persons besides Thumbelina. From there, it took on a life of its own. Here’s a list of some of the things I found most interesting: 

*The basic story: a childless couple wishes for a baby, even if it’s as small as a [thumb, chickpea, etc.]. By some twist of fate, this tiny child is born or created. Most versions feature him helping around the farm, going on wacky adventures, and getting swallowed by an animal before eventually returning to his parents. Some versions go in different directions. 

*This tale is incredibly widespread throughout Europe, North Africa, and Asia. As far as I can tell, it didn't really show up in the Americas until Europeans brought it there. There are American Indian tales with small heroes, but they are not typically thumb-sized. 
Children's book published by McLoughlin Bros, 1888

*The Brothers Grimm collected three Thumbling stories (well, two and a half) - Thumbling, Thumbling’s Travels, and The Young Giant. 

*Female thumblings are rare but not unheard of. A few examples: there are two versions of the basic story from Spain, three Frog Princess-type tales from Norway, France and Vietnam, and one from Corsica that is part Thumbelina and part Donkeyskin. 

* In a Jewish version from Turkey, the tiny girl is given to her mother by the prophet Elijah. 

*Tom Thumb is the first known fairytale printed in English. The earliest copy, from 1621, is satire with lots of scatological humor. Princess Kaguya, which begins like a thumbling story, is from the 10th century and is considered the oldest Japanese prose narrative existing. 

P. T. Barnum and Charles Sherwood Stratton, "General Tom Thumb"

*In real life, General Tom Thumb (Charles Sherwood Stratton) was a dwarf who performed under P. T. Barnum. He was a world-famous celebrity, and most of the random things named Tom Thumb, like geraniums and umbrellas and pastries, are actually named for Stratton. A few other performers with dwarfism also used the fairy tale name around the same time, presumably to cash in on Stratton’s fame. 

*Someone wrote a story where General Tom Thumb met his fairytale namesake (Tom Thumb’s Bridal Tour: A Fairy Story, 1863.) 

"Thumbelina" by Milo Winter

*Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina has been translated multiple times into many languages, including Central Alaskan Yup’ik.


Thanks, Sarah!

If you hop on over to her blog, there's a lot more where this came from-I enjoyed reading about Death and Food in Thumbling Tales, Elves in Clothes, and the history of how Fairies got pointed ears. And if you, like me, were intrigued by her mention of a tale that combines Thumbelina with Donkeyskin, you can read about it here (along with a fascinating discussion of abuse in fairy tales, including those with an abusive husband as well as parent). And I've only scratched the surface of her archives so far!

*Also on the blog you can answer a survey about which Thumbling story you're most familiar with and how you heard of it. I'm sure Sarah would appreciate more input and I'm curious to find out the results!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

From the Archives: Donkeyskin and Blame

Donkeyskin, the fairy tale that deals with the threat of incest, is rarely told to children here in America, but  is more well-known in other countries such as France, where even children's toys and picture books are given this dark theme (Readers from other countries, how well known is this tale where you live?).  

Like most fairy tales, it's a story about a character who encounters awful challenges but overcomes in the end. Tragically, the theme of abuse is hardly restricted to this tale-it's estimated that 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before age 18 and percentages of women who are abused in relationships only increase as they go through high school and college. This tale can provide hope to those who are victims of abuse and understanding for those of us who aren't. 

The first recorded mention of Donkeyskin was a sermon in 1501; in 1550 Straparola included a similar tale, "Doralice," in his collection of tales. Apparently, Louis XIV was lulled to sleep by Donkeyskin tales, and Moliere most likely heard it as a child. The most famous version is Perrault's, however, Perrault didn't necessarily take his tales seriously and treated them flippantly and irreverently, which could also explain the issue of the moral in "Bluebeard." The annotated Perrault version of Donkeyskin can be read onSurlalunePerrault can be frustrating for a modern person to read. The heroine escapes her incestuous father, travels to a different kingdom where a Prince falls in love with her-for her physical beauty, the same thing that caused her father to desire her. In the Grimms' first edition of their version of the tale, Allerlieurah, there is enough ambiguity that the reader is left wondering whether or not the King the princess marries actually is her father. Even if it isn't, the lack of punishment of the father at the end of the tale is sadly typical of fairy tales in general, which allow the fathers grace but delight in tormenting female villains.

  The article "Donkeyskin, Deerskin, Allerleiurauh" by Helen Pilinovskycomments on the Perrault version and then contrasts this with three modern versions by Robin McKinley, Jane Yolen, and Terri Windling, in a fascinating look at how modern culture relates to the tale differently than Perrault 

The main differences can be seen in the issues of blame, and the "happily ever after" usually attached to fairy tales. In real cases of abuse, the victim may feel guilty, and this feeling may be enforced by society. Perrault-and several critics after him-sees the Queen mother as the guilty party for making the King promise only to remarry a woman more beautiful than she is, ignoring the fact that the King does not have to remarry at all (which is usually the intent attributed to the Queen), much less take his unwilling daughter.

The three modern writers (who are all female) spread out the blame. All of them, understandably so, put at least some of it on the father himself. McKinley includes more history on the Queen Mother, suggesting that she may have been abused herself by her father-and sadly, tragedies like abuse do tend to be cyclical through generations. Yolen includes a bitter nurse as the initial instigator, but thay all include the society around the characters in the blame as well. The other characters in the stories are quick to excuse the father, blame the daugther, and even silence those who disagree. The mothers themselves are not implicitly given blame; McKinley's mother is seen as a product of her past. Yolen's Queen mother dies before she actually makes a stipulation, and it is the King who provides it. Windling's mother was only concerned that the new wife be better than her, for fear of the stereotyped evil stepmother.

The endings of these versions are also drastically different than Perrault. There is no Prince who falls in love with Donkeyskinat first sight only because of her beauty; these stories are more realistic and dark. McKinley's heroine cannot heal from trauma quite so quickly as the classic Donkeyskin, who accepts the Prince's love without question. It takes time to heal, and even when she is ready to go back to the Prince who offered her marriage, she is afraid she will not be able to commit, and the Prince accepts her as she is-broken and scarred.

Yolen's story has this very chilling ending: "Now if this were truly a fairy tale (and what story today with a king and a queen. . . is not?) the princess would go outside to her mother's grave. . . .The neighboring kingdom would harbor her, the neighboring prince would marry her, her father would be brought to his senses, and the moment of complete happiness would be the moment of the story's end. . . .But this is not a fairy tale. The princess is married to her father and, having always wanted his love, does not question the manner of it. Except at night, late at night. . ."

Even more eerie is the conclusion. The heroine dies in childbirth like her mother before her, and the reader is left to suppose that the cycle will only repeat itself, for, " "The king knows that he will not have to wait another thirteen years. It is an old story. Perhaps the oldest."

Windling's story is set in modern America. Her heroine is not a Princess. The hard work that is Perrault's Donkeyskin must endure until the Prince discovers and saves her is this heroine's salvation-getting a job. Yet, as Pilinovsky suggests, the negative associations of hard work are taken away.

Each of these stories looks into the classic fairy tale canon and produces a new, thoughtful work that treats the themes seriously and more realistically.  

*Other sources were "From the Beast to the Blonde" by Marina Warner and the Donkeyskin History article on surlalune. Illustrations by Arthur Rackham, Margaret Evans Price, Kay Nielsen, H.J. Ford, and Gustav Dore (last two).

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Once Upon a Blog's Gallery of Enchanted Arts

Here's another resource I only recently found-hopefully you are all aware of the fantastic Once Upon a Blog, which keeps us up to date on all sorts of current fairy tale happenings and entertainment. Gypsy, the Fairy Tale News Hound, also has a fairy tale art tumblr filled with great images, from classic illustrations to modern creations, obscure fairy tales to popular, many of which I've never seen before. This is now included in my link list.
Julie Rouviere's Baba Yaga illustrations

The Gorgonist's Fitcher's Bird

Kay Nielsen's "The Two Brothers", Grimm 

Marianne Stoke's "Frog Prince"

Just a sample of what you'll find!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jack "The Giant Killer" Pfiester

I found this bit of baseball history that I found amusing and thought you might enjoy it too-especially since it might tie in with current events! After over 100 years since they last won the World Series, the Chicago Cubs have dominated major league baseball this year and may have a chance at becoming champions once again. Much superstition and folklore has surrounded the team since then, such as the legend of the Billy Goat Curse.
1908 Chicago Cubs

In 1908 the Cubs defeated the American League Tigers to become World Champions for the last time (so far), but before they could do that, they had to eliminate the New York Giants, their National League rivals (this was before the Giants had moved to San Fransisco). In what could have been their final game if the Giants won, the starting pitcher was Jack "The Giant Killer" Pfiester. It appeared that luck was not with Jack (it never is, at first) when the Giants scored a winning run, but a bit of magic (or...a technicality) saved the day, when the second baseman claimed that Giants baserunner Fred Merkle never actually touched second base and therefore he was out. The game was declared a tie, which allowed the Cubs to go on and win the next game and ultimately the World Series.

So, maybe the magic/luck of 1908 will come back to the Cubs, 108 years later (to be honest, as a die-hard Chicago White Sox fan, I'm secretly hoping they don't but trying to be supportive for the sake of my students who are fans!).
Jackie Robinson

For more fairy tale/baseball connections, this Fractured Fairy Tale also tells the story of Jack and the Beanstalk in a baseball setting, as a humorous parody. Also, a while ago I shared a quote from one of my heroes, Jackie Robinson, on how he knows fairy tales come true-he faced a LOT of hatred and bigotry for years after becoming the first black man to play professional baseball, but was able to be the bigger man time and time again and see the world slowly grow a little more kind towards African Americans because of what he endured. (And...I just realized his name is also Jack. Interesting coincidence, because he certainly faced his share of truly awful giants!)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Grimms and the Elves

Most people are probably familiar with the story of the Elves and the Shoemaker; how a humble cobbler discovered night after night that the shoes he intended to make the next day were made for him, and after he and his wife discovered that small naked men were doing the work for them, they made a set of clothes for each to thank them. The elves were pleased with this, took the clothes, and disappeared. Interestingly, although the original publication from 1812 did emphasize how quickly and nimbly the elves worked, there was nothing mentioned about how excellent the workmanship was until later versions (Originally, the first pair of shoes made more money simply because they fit well). Also, whereas the first version simply ended with the elves dancing right out the door and never returned, the Grimms later assured readers that the shoemaker still prospered the rest of his days.

Rie Cramer ~ The Elves & The Shoemaker ~ Grimm’s Fairy Tales ~ 1927 ~ via    The elves began to stitch, sew, and hammer.:
Rie Cramer
(Later illustrators often gave the elves a ragged set of clothes to avoid depicting naked men)

What many people might not realize is that that story is included in a set of three short tales in the Grimms' collection, all about people's different interactions with elves. The second story is about a servant girl who was asked to be the godmother to one of the elves' children. Her employers advised her that she should do as the elves requested, so she saw their beautiful kingdom where everything was made with precious stones and materials. She meant to go home after performing her duties as godmother, but the elves requested that she stay with them for three more days. After that, they filled her pockets with gold and she returned to the house to work-only to find out that time passes differently in the land of the elves; the three days with the elves had actually been a whole year, in the first edition. The Grimms must have wanted to emphasize the creepy factor by later making it seven years, and adding that her employers had died during that time.

Andrea Deszo

The final story is about a changeling, that had been placed in a child's crib by the elves. Taking the advice of her neighbors, the mother boiled water in eggshells, causing the changeling to laugh and therefore lose his power. The elves then returned the rightful child and took the changeling away with them.

It's an interesting group of tales that show the different sides of elves in folklore-sometimes kind and helpful, other times viciously stealing your baby-or sometimes your worlds cross and your world is forever changed, even though there appeared to be no evil intent in asking the servant girl to stay an extra three days. (I also wonder what would have happened if the maid had refused to act as godmother...)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Around the Web

Once Upon A Blog...
InkGypsy is back!! Once Upon a Blog has new posts up!

I enjoyed reading Csenge Zalka's translation of a variant of The Handless Maiden from Hungarian on Multicolored Diary. "Handless Maiden" is one of my least favorite fairy tales, but I prefer the Hungarian version to the Grimms'

I also really enjoyed Kathrine Langrish's essay on the symbolism of shoes from many cultures, and how that connects with Cinderella-over on Seven Miles of Steel Thistles.

If the Grimm tale "Mary's Child" didn't make you angry before, it will after you read Jenny Prater's take on it: *#@% You, Mary on Halfway to Fairyland

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Next Chapter

"Once upon a time there lived a king and queen who were grieved, more grieved than words can tell, because they had no last, however, the queen found that her wishes were fulfilled."

So begins Perrault's "The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood," which is similar to many folktales out there that begin with the desire for children. (In fact, not too long ago there was a great blog post on The Bone Lantern on Fairy Tales & Fertility).
Margaret Tarrant's Sleeping Beauty
Margaret Tarrant

Well...Tony and I are very pleased to announce that the Kingdom of Tales of Faerie will be getting a little bit bigger this winter-we will be welcoming a new little Prince or Princess in late February! We're thrilled, and maybe a little bit terrified, and all of those accompanying emotions when a little person is going to be joining your family for the first time!

So, what will this mean for the blog? You may have already noticed I've been posting a bit less this summer-I've been dealing with fatigue and the awfulness that is morning sickness, so it's been harder to get around to everything I'd like to. Plus, now a good chunk of my reading is taken up by learning about pregnancy and birth and not as much fairy tale focused. (And I do try to prioritize some amount of reading just for fun.)

I do hope to keep Tales of Faerie as part of my life, even if posts come much less frequently in the future. There will probably be a shift in content too-more sharing of picture books and things like fairy tale themed nursery ideas, while other things may take a backseat-I tried reading "The Book of Lost Things" by John Connolly, and after about 2 pages I realized, I'm just too hormonal to read a really sad, dark book about a young boy. (But it does come highly recommended, by my English teacher brother in law, if any of you is up for a dark book that involves fairy tale characters!) I usually love a good creepy look at fairy tales, but right now I'm reading fairy tales for comfort.

But in case anyone is wondering-the due date is February 25; we do plan on finding out the gender, but won't be able to until October (and I'm not sure when I'll reveal it here). And, we are definitely NOT having twins ;)

Also I just have to share this: as most of you probably know, "Beauty and the Beast" is my all time favorite fairy tale, and I always loved Disney's Belle. After I told the news to some friends of mine, a young woman who I used to babysit drew this for me:

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sybille Schenker's Little Red Riding Hood

Gorgeous laser-cut Little Red Riding Hood book by artist Sybille Schenker! Images from here. Schenker has also released a version of "Hansel and Gretel", which Surlalune featured here.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Who's the Bluebird in Sleeping Beauty?

One of the fun things about the Sleeping Beauty ballet for fairy tale fans is the fact that the finale incorporates several fairy tale characters-Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Cinderella, even Bluebeard (I personally wouldn't want him at my wedding...but I guess the characters have learned their lesson about leaving evil people out of celebrations after Carabosse cursed Aurora?). (Although after I wrote that, my source says Bluebeard makes an appearance, but I can't find any other evidence that he's a character in this ballet.)

But one of the most famous dance variations is the Bluebird, above (starts at aobut 3:30). The dance has captivated audiences for generations, as the male dancer leaps and jumps so effortlessly it appears he really can flutter about like a bird. But who is the Bluebird?

Jack Anderson provides an answer in his nytimes article Who's That Bluebird? And Who's That White Cat? (You know you write about fairy tale characters too often when your fingers keep wanting to type "Bluebeard" over "Bluebird"...). Although the ballet was originally created in Russia, the choreographer, Marius Petipa, was French, hence the usage of all the French fairy tales. Many were Charles Perrault's famous stories, including "Sleeping Beauty" itself, but Blue Bird and the White Cat are characters from Madame Catherine d'Aulnoy's tales. Anderson summarizes the Blue Bird tale for us (read the full text here):

In "The Bluebird," a king marries a malicious woman after his wife dies. The new queen persecutes Florine, the king's kindhearted daughter, and promotes her own wicked daughter, Truitonne, whose face resembles that of a trout and whose conduct is decidedly fishy. The queen wishes the young King Charmant, who loves Florine, to marry Truitonne. Because he refuses to do so, Truitonne's wicked fairy godmother condemns him to be a bluebird. Florine is locked in a tower, where she is discovered by Charmant, who visits her nightly. The Bluebird pas de deux presumably shows Charmant happily fluttering in the presence of Florine. 

 When a spy sees the bird caressing Florine with his claw and kissing her with his bill, the queen places sharp swords on every resting place near the tower so Charmant can no longer easily alight. Fortunately, the people of the kingdom rebel against the queen. Florine, released from the tower, searches for her beloved bird and, after terrible hardships, finds him. He regains human form, but the fish-faced Truitonne becomes a pig -- a linguistically appropriate metamorphosis, for her name derives from the French words "truite" (trout) and "truie" (sow).

Also for fun, here's some more fairy tale variations: Red Riding Hood and Wolf, Puss in Boots and White Cat, Cinderella and Prince:
Bluebird clip-Bolshoi Ballet, 2011
Fairy Tale clip

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Emma Mosier's BATB Comic

 Beauty and the Beast front cover Photoshop 2014

Keeping with my unintentional theme...reader Emma Mosier share the link to her own BATB comic! It follows the classic story pretty closely, but this time the Beauty character is an adorable flapper, and she doesn't need the Beast to transform for her happy ending :). Some of the text was a little hard to read on the online format but that's the beauty of a comic strip format-which I'm slowly getting more used to reading!-the visuals also tell the story.

Thanks for sharing, Emma! Any more BATB comics out there we should be aware of? Be sure to check out Meagan Kearney's ongoing project if you haven't already!