Sunday, February 19, 2017

Fairy Tale Nursery Ideas

It's February 19, which means two things: 1. It's been 7 years since Tales of Faerie's first post ever! I always like to take a moment to attempt to express my thanks for all the support from readers over the years. Being part of the fairy tale blogging community is amazing and has helped me learn so much!

And this year, this particular date also means we are now only 6 days away from the due date of our little Prince! In fact I'm scheduling this ahead of time so it's even possible I could be a mother by the time this goes live...(!!!!!). (By the way, congratulations to Megan Kearney who also just gave birth to a baby boy!). So, if it gets really quiet around here for a while you can probably assume I'm on maternity leave but I'll eventually come back with a birth announcement.

Tony and I had considered doing a fairy tale themed nursery, but decided to go with a Disneyland theme instead, which can incorporate fairy tales as well as a lot of already easily accessible products. I'm not especially into decorating and our nursery looks nothing like these, but I had fun browsing! It's actually hard to find fairy tale nursery ideas that aren't super girly (even if we were having a girl I'd want something gender neutral that could be used for potential future kids too), and that are actually inspired by fairy tales themselves rather than the general aesthetics of "ornate/vintage", or "woodland creatures/trees". But here were some of my favorites:

SWAN CRIB-Pamela Copeman

Not technically for a baby but-WOW

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Sleeping Prince

In my post on the different ways of Awakening the Sleeping Beauty, reader Nectar Vam shared this fantastic gender swapped version of the tale, The Sleeping Prince. It combines elements of Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and even reminded me a little of Beauty and the Beast with the enchanted castle at the end. A bird tells a Princess of a sleeping Prince, who is white and gold and red, and goes on a dangerous journey even though she knew her parents wouldn't approve. She has to go to the lands of the West Wind, East Wind, and North Wind, where mortals should not go, and follow instructions to get past two lions that guard the gates of the castle, and awaits the time when the Prince's spell will be over.

It very much has the feel of a traditional folk tale to me, and although the sleeping prince trope may be much less common, if you look hard enough you can generally find gender swapped versions of any classic fairy tale-especially since this one bears resemblance to the journey of the heroine in "East of the Sun, West of the Moon." But the only sites I could find the tale at had no source cited-Wikipedia has a tale of the same title but it's clearly different (although also fascinating-in this one the heroine must stay awake watching the sleeping Prince for 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, 3 hours, and 3 half hours. She is persuaded to sleep towards the end and then follows a Goose Girl-type episode of mistaken identity). This site says it's Spanish (thanks, Amy Elize!) but has no further information on collection, editor, date, etc. So I can't promise it's authentic folklore but an interesting tale worth reading and sharing! Any further information on it would be welcome!

Also-in the past I've done features on roses in fairy tales on Valentine's Day. Interestingly, the key to getting past the lions in this tale is to pick two white roses from outside the North Wind's door, and throw them down before the lions when she gets close enough-something that would require lots bravery, since the lions act threatening until she gets close enough to throw down the roses! And the episode also reveals the great amount of power sometimes associated with roses in fairy tales.

Image sources-1 and 2

Thursday, February 9, 2017

My Beast, by Lorraine Mariner

"When I was a child I worried
that when I got my chance to love a beast
I would not be up to the task.
As he came in for the kiss I'd turn away
or gag on the mane in my mouth
and the fair-haired prince
and the dress that Beauty wore
on the last page in my Ladybird book
would be lost to me forever."

Here's the beginning of Lorraine Mariner's poem, "My Beast." You can read the whole thing here (and also listen to it being read aloud). I love this first section because I tended to have the same thought when I read fairy tales as a child-that I needed to pay attention because somehow I might be put in the same situation and need to use the fairy tales to figure out what I should do.
I also wasn't familiar with the illustrations from the Ladybird book she mentions, so I googled them and here are some of my favorites! 

Mariner goes on to discuss her disillusionment with her expectations of BATB, but then comes to terms with a balance of hope and realism. Many modern poets seem to have a very bleak view of fairy tales and happy endings so I appreciated the overall message. It's a very quick, easy read

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Awakening the Beauty

Everyone's familiar with the episode where the Prince comes and awakens Sleeping Beauty with a kiss; some people might be aware of older versions of the fairy tale that involve rape and childbirth; sensationalized articles and lists love to use those versions to shock people with the "real" and disturbing versions of classic tales.

While many of the older versions are indeed quite dark and disturbing, they don't all involve rape of an unconscious victim, and True Love's Kiss isn't always the solution in later tales. I used Surlalune's Sleeping Beauties Tales From Around the World book to gain a few different examples of how the Princess is actually awakened.

Going back to Norse mythology, the story of Brunhild (from the late late 13th century) is similar to a Sleeping Beauty tale. In it, the bravery of the hero Siegfried allows him to pass through the dangers and get close to Brunhild (although he doesn't actually do anything, the "vile flames fled in shame and dismay before the pure sunbeam flashes from Greyfell's mane"-so the real secret to heroism is apparently having a magical horse). Once there, he gives Brunhild a gentle kiss on the forehead (not even the lips) and softly calls her name, giving us the picture of an absolute gentleman. I find it ironic that this possibly oldest version of the tale is the closest to the Disney in terms of the stereotypical hero riding in on his horse, braving dangers, and saving the day with a kiss. From there we depart from that ideal-

It's the French story of Troylus and Zelladine from Perceforest, from some time in the 13th or 14th century, that we get to some of the horrific parts of the story. We read a description of how Troylus tries to resist temptation around the beautiful sleeping girl, but just can't help following "the tenets of Venus"-at least this version describes his actions as cowardly, and perhaps tries to justify it a little because Troylus "speaks a long discourse begging forgiveness for his grand liberties." Yet nine months later Zelladine gives birth to a son, who grabs her finger in an attempt to suckle, and suckles so hard that he sucks out the sleep thorn that kept her enchanted.

There are other, less well known Medieval stories which involve a maiden under an enchanted sleep. In almost all of them she is taken advantage of. In Pandragus et Libanor, the maiden is in an unnatural sleep, does not wake up during the night in question, but simply wakes up normally the next day. In Brother of Joy and Sister of Pleasure, the "hero" manages to wake the woman he impregnated with the help of a bird who gives a magic herb to the maiden. This is one of the rare stories in which the woman actually gets upset to find she has been taken advantage of (Zelladine also felt devastated upon waking)-most sleeping beauties seem strangely silent, even happy, to find themselves awakened with a strange lover and/or child-although in this story she does eventually grow to love her rapist (There are good reasons these stories aren't so well known today). Lastly, in the adventures of Blandin de Cornoalha the Knight, we find a chivalrous hero who is more like Siegfried-he falls in love but does not appear to succumb to temptation; rather breaks the enchantment through bravery; he learns he must defeat a serpent, obtain a white hawk, and bring the hawk to the side of the maiden.

Basile's Sun, Moon, and Talia (early 1600s) is very similar to "Troylus and Zelladine"-the only difference being that it is twins who suck the flax from her fingernail and not a single baby. It is this version which also introduces the next violent episode, with the attempted cannibalism of the children. In this version it's a little more understandable, though, because it's the Prince's wife that grows furious when she discovers the truth.

From there we move away from raping/nursing babies as the primary cause of awakening. In Perrault's 1697 classic version, the prince finds the princess and kneels at her side (no kiss) just as the 100 years of her curse happen to be ending, so his part in everything is pretty simple. Once the Princess awakes, they simply talk together for four hours, so it's perhaps the best example of love in a Sleeping Beauty tale. The brambles parted to let him through, so while he wasn't quite the brave knight in shining armor, it would have been pretty creepy to continue as the thorns closed again behind him and then again as he walked through the castle where everyone was eerily unconscious, so we'll give him credit for that. The cannibalism episode follows, only now it's the Prince's mother that is an ogress and wants to eat her grandchildren

In the Italian Sun, Pearl, and Anna, the hero simply removes a spindle from the grasp of the sleeping Anna. They have children together (followed by the cannibalistic mother in law again) but at least it's consensual; I find this transition (or lack thereof) to be downright humorous: "'How are you today, Anna?' 'Very well, thank you. And how are you, your majesty?' 'I'm well.' By the end of nine months, the girl was great with child."

There's another very brief, tragic Italian tale called The Son of a King in which the queen mother actually succeeds in cooking and eating her grandchildren and daughter in law (there is no mention of awakening or the princess actually being found asleep in this one, just that she was found in a deserted castle).

In the Grimm's Briar Rose, once again the hedge parts  for our hero (but this time the hedge is filled with corpses from others who attempted to pass before the time was up), and we have a Princess awakened with a kiss for the first time since Siegfried and Brunhild.

The Grimms also have another Sleeping Beauty tale, The Glass Coffin. I thought I had never read it before but it turns out not only had I read it, I wrote a whole post on it 5 years ago. This is why I have a memory is terrible! Anyway, it's a fascinating tale in which a Princess was cursed to sleep in a glass coffin because she spurned the advances of an evil magician-she had even attempted to shoot him but the bullet bounced off of him! A traveling tailor discovers her, and all he had to do was look at her, and she woke up and instructed him on how to open the coffin and free her. Afterwards, she gave him a "friendly kiss on his lips." This one wins the award for the most active female heroine!

In the Austrian The Enchanted Sleep, although the count's son does kiss the sleeping maiden, it doesn't appear to awaken her right away. He had also the foresight to write her a letter, which she later used to summon him to her, and also prove his innocence and his brothers' treachery (they had actually killed him, but animals he had helped along his journey came and healed him).

The Story of The Prince in Love is from Egypt, but bears similarities to older tales, particularly the cursed flax under the fingernail being what causes the sleep. Here, fortunately, the prince simply finds and removes the flax, and it's only after she wakes up that he spends forty days and nights with her in bed-although no children result from it. The prince is eventually a jerk to her though, so she decides to teach him a lesson-disguises herself with more beauty and causes him to fall in love with her again, but spurns his gifts, and will only marry him if he pretends to be dead and is himself carried around in a coffin. I'm not sure shy she wants to marry a man who thinks he's cheating on her, but it is interesting that he must have his own sort of "enchanted sleep" before they unite.

There's also The Petrified Mansion from India, in which the prince finds a stick of gold and just happens to touch the Princess' head with it, which revives her and the rest of the mansion's inhabitants. The curse was brought on by a stick of silver, so gold was the antidote-and the same gold stick later healed the Prince's parents, who were mourning their missing son.

So rather than bravery, many medieval Princes took advantage of sleeping princesses. Later, most Princes became more respectful of the enchanted women, who seemed more likely to be revived by chance than from getting a magical kiss. Some of the tales make us feel uncomfortable to read today, yet some were pretty feminist, featuring strong and brave women, and men who had self control. What other versions of Sleeping Beauty and methods of awakening are there? (I didn't even touch on Snow White tales here...)

Illustrations-A. H. Watson (first two), Millicent Sowerby (last two)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Megan Kearney on BATB

I love Megan Kearney's impressively concise summary of the history of the relationship development between Beauty and the Beast over time! Read her whole reply here, summary below:
 "So, in trying to sum up, traditionally Beauty and the Beast has been a story about a young woman’s journey to accepting an unconventional male partner. In the twentieth century, it become a popular metaphor for the awakening of female sexuality and power. Now, more and more, we see it as a metaphor for the channeling of negative masculinity into positive masculinity. The story evolves. We pull new meaning from it, stretch it this way and that, examine it in the mirror, and take it apart to see how it ticks. It changes to suit our cultural needs, and it will continue to change."

Art by David Sala

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

From the Archives: Beauty and the Beast as a Socio-Historical Tale

One of Jerry Griswold's purposes in The Meanings of Beauty and the Beast: A Handbook is to outline the major interpretations critics have assigned to the tale. He divides them into the following categories: psychological, socio-historical, and feminist (which, ironically, includes two very opposite interpretations: those who see the story as victimizing women, and those who find it to be very empowering to women). I've posted before on the psychological as well as the various feministic interpretations, and if you do any type of digging into Beauty and the Beast you're bound to come across them, but I don't think I've ever read about this particular aspect of the tale before, so I was intrigued:

According to Jack Zipes, if we look at the story in its historical context, we will see that it is a story of class struggle. The very presence of a merchant is unusual in the history of fairy tales, which usually feature the poorest of peasants and the most elite royals, but in this story we see the emergence of a middle class.

At the time that de Villeneuve and Beaumont were penning what would become the most famous version of one of the most classic and popular tales (18th century France), the middle class was gaining the upper hand. The members of nobility were increasingly getting poorer, but at least had their status; while the middle class were becoming richer through their businesses. It was a common thing to see a merchant's daughter entering into an arranged marriage with a destitute nobleman, allowing one family to contain both a title and wealth at the same time.

The story of Beauty and the Beast certainly explores the rise and fall of Beauty's family in society-her father starts out as a wealthy merchant, her sisters as materialistic and greedy and always wanting to improve their situation. When Beauty's father loses his money, we are reminded that status based on wealth is not always secure, and the family becomes poor farmers, where it is Beauty's contentedly cheerful, hard-working nature that keeps the family afloat. 

Then we meet the Beast-although Beauty has the upper hand in looks, he certainly has the upper hand in wealth, status, and material goods. We of course later find out that he is a prince.

This was actually the opposite kind of situation that was really happening all over France. In this story we have a nobleman whose wealth is supplied by magic and therefore cannot run out, who is generous to the poor family of Beauty-a family who you could argue has been chided for being social climbers and encouraged to become simple, hard-working farmers. According to Griswold, "In other words, in the midst of changing times, Beaumont seems to offer a kind of backwards-looking endorsement of the nobility, a flattering and conservative portrait of the ancien regime." In Zipes' words, the aim of Beaumont is to "put the bourgeoisie in their place."

This is where I don't understand why scholars refer only to Beaumont's version. Beaumont did not add anything essential to the tale, she only simplified Villeneuve's. The negative portrayal of the materialistic sisters, the fall in status of the family, were all originally Villeneuve's. But when I read the Villeneuve version, it seems to me that the message is to clearly poke fun at strict class boundaries, since each of the characters seem to change status in relationship to each other multiple times, and there is a very clear moral near the end where the good fairy is trying to convince the Queen (the Beast's mother) that Beauty is a worthy bride for her son because of her character, NOT her status (before finally unveiling the truth of Beauty's true identity, being a fairy Princess, therefore pacifying the Queen).  So ultimately, Villeneuve's original story probably wasn't pushing for the merchant class to go "back to the farm and become once again hardworking and uncomplaining peasants" as Griswold indicates was Beaumont's goal. (Plus, wasn't Beaumont a member of the middle class herself? She ended up as a governess, probably employed by merchant class families-if they all went back to the farm she wouldn't have had a job or the ability to write fairy tales on the side).

And of course there's the irony present in many fairy tales that, while Beauty is praised for being content as a hardworking peasant, she is the one who is rewarded with unimaginable wealth and no more need for working for the rest of her life. Yet another example where I think the actual events of the tale, mixed with the reader's own natural desires, end up being a much stronger message than the supposed "moral", if that was even what Beaumont was trying to portray.

Illustrations by Eleanor Vere Boyle

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fairy Tale Fashion: The Snow Queen

One more post from Colleen Hill's Fairy Tale Fashion!
In her essay on Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Hill informs us that the fairy tale was initially conceived as a short, ballad-style poem about a young woman and her lover, a poor boy who was abducted by the Snow Queen. The Snow Queen was then more of a sexual predator. The story evolved into the tale we know today, of two children separated when the boy, Kay, gets a piece of an evil mirror lodged in his eye that turns him into a cruel boy who mocks the things he used to love and follows the Snow Queen to her ice palace.

The tale uses opposing imagery-the natural, warm beauty of the rose verses the stark symmetry of mirrors and ice/snowflakes. The mirror in this tale is unusual in that, while mirrors usually tell the truth (such as the mirror in "Snow White" that is bold enough to bluntly tell the Queen when there is someone more beautiful than she), this mirror is deceptive-it distorts reality, causing beautiful things to seem ugly. (In fact, I sometimes thought of this mirror when I was in my first trimester-when foods I usually loved became disgusting to me and activities I enjoyed lost interest for me because of the constant nausea-I felt like I could relate to Kay).

Mirrors usually represent vanity in stories. The theme of vanity is also developed in "Snow Queen" by the reference to Gerda's red shoes. When she goes to search for Kay, she intentionally puts on her new red shoes that Kay has never seen before, but when she goes to the river she is willing to sacrifice her prized possessions to gain information about his whereabouts (but the shoes are returned to her because the river does not know where he is). Interestingly, this tale was written just four months before Anderson wrote the infamous tale "Red Shoes" in which the desire for the colored footwear is completely and repeatedly seen as selfish.
From the "Snow Queen" section of the Fairy Tale Fashion exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Far left; white fur cape by J. Mendel, second to the left; not in the book, second to the right; Alexander McQueen Fall 2008 dress inspired by snowflakes, far right; Tom Ford Spring 2014 dress that imitates shards of a broken mirror

Hill interprets the red shoes as objects of pride, even for Gerda-saying that by wearing them she was initially hoping to impress Kay, but the difference between Gerda and Karen from "Red Shoes" was that Gerda was willing to give up her shoes. This may be, especially given Anderson's feelings about red sheos, but I didn't necessarily read it that way in "Snow Queen." It's natural for a child to be excited to show her friend a new toy or possession, without necessarily trying to impress or show off to your friend. If Gerda had taken a beautiful red rose and tucked it behind her ear with the intention of showing Kay, would that be interpreted as vanity? The rose would still be beautiful and displayed on Gerda, but fairy tale characters who request roses rather than clothes and jewelry are held up as the example of being non-materialistic, like Beauty in "Beauty and the Beast." Yet roses are a symbol of her friendship with Kay-when staying with the old woman, it was seeing an image of a rose that reminded Gerda of her quest to find Kay. Could the wearing of the red shoes even have been Gerda's attempt to remind Kay of their beloved roses, since a real rose wouldn't survive a long journey? The colorful roses of Kay and Gerda's childhood playdates are a stark contrast to the colorless white of the Snow Queen's palace.

Red Morocco leather shoes, from 1800-1810

Although, it was more of a natural assumption at the time to associate red shoes with luxury, since red dye was more difficult to produce, and therefore more expensive, so red was a color only the wealthier could afford. But it seems that illustrators to tend to intentionally bring out the contrast in warm colors associated with Gerda, her friendship with Kay, and her journey to find him, as opposed to the cold realm of the Snow Queen. See Arthur Rackham's illustration of Kay and Gerda in their garden, and Edmund Dulac's image of Gerda at the old woman's house:
Compared with the Snow Queen/her palace by the same illustrators:
Although, I may be too quick to defend the wearing of red, just based on our own modern culture, where bright colors are just as easily accessed as neutrals. If anything, we tend to associate good things with characters who wear bright colors, aligning them with bright, joyful personalities. What do you see as the significance of Gerda's red shoes?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Surlalune's Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World

I always get excited when another Surlalune collection comes out, and I was especially excited that Heidi Anne Heiner was kind enough to send me a copy of her Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World!

"Puss in Boots" is not a tale I'm especially familiar with-in nearly 7 years of blogging (!!) I've only had three other posts with the tag. It's not a tale that scholars frequently like to discuss or artists depict, so it's a great opportunity to learn more about this iconic character and story through essays as well as several different versions from folklore! And the unique thing about this collection is that, even if Puss in Boots isn't your favorite, the other cat tales fall into different tale types, such as "Cat Bride," "The Kind and Unkind Girls," "The Magic Ring," and Witches and Cats (that will be fun for Halloween some year!). Surlalune has been posting about each of the categories over on her blog so you can hop over there to learn more.

I'm slowly reading about the famous Puss in Boots, but I've also been enjoying reading the tales in the "Bremen Town Musicians" section. When I first spotted the title in my book of Grimm tales, I got excited to read a story about musicians because...I'm a musician! Of course I discovered it really has nothing to do with music, but animals making noise, which initially disappointed me. But over the years I've still had an affection for the tale just because of the name, and after reading more versions I'm really coming to appreciate it! The stories really have a great message about not writing off those who are aged or might otherwise be overlooked/seen as useless by society. The idea of a group of misfits banding together and ending up victorious is a pretty common trope in many of our more modern favorite stories.

In some versions, the way the animals scare off the robbers is more intentional, and other times it's accidental. The former way gives the animals more credit to their intelligence, but the latter is often funnier. One of my favorites is "The Choristers of St. Gudule," in which the donkey who begins the quest believes he has a magnificent voice and should go join the choir in the Cathedral in Brussels. The other animals, a dog, cat, and rooster, are all known for making noise that is unpleasant for humans to hear but each animal is very proud of. When they see the food the robbers are eating, the donkey suggests that they "serenade them, and perhaps they'll throw us something as a reward. Music, you know, has charms to sooth the savage beast." The irony in the tale makes it stand out as being the funniest (in my opinion).

In most of the tales it is robbers that are being scared off, but one of the story notes says that it can sometimes be wolves, therefore making it a story of domestic animals triumphing over wild. But one thing that I find curious these animal is the double standards in animal treatment. In Puss in Boots, the protagonist is rewarded for doing no more than trusting the cat he was given as his inheritance, which was seen as the worst option. This would appear to have the message that, once again, you shouldn't underestimate that which the world may give the least value to. But then the Puss himself keeps going out and killing other animals to present to the King, so not all animal life is given value (maybe...only those that talk, like in Narnia??).

In Bremen Town Musician tales, the old animals who are no longer of use to their masters are the heroes. Yet in the Irish tale "Jack and his Comrades" (sometimes there is a poor boy named Jack in the ragtag group), he asks his mother to kill his rooster for him before he goes out into the world to seek his fortune...only to later save a rooster from a fox that was about to kill him and welcome him into their group! The animals, when they find the robbers, sometimes only see them counting their money, but sometimes see them eating a large meal. Most of the time the food isn't described, but I wonder if those meals would have included one version from the United States, turkey is listed as one of the delicacies the robbers are eating.

This does highlight the irony that many of us experience who aren't vegetarians and yet sympathize with animal stories, especially those in which they're trying to avoid being eaten. According to this study, only 3.2% of Americans are vegetarians, yet who doesn't root for Babe, or Wilbur in "Charlotte's Web"? There is, of course, a divide between reality and fiction, so it's interesting that the characters within these stories tend to have the same inconsistencies, (which tend to go unnoticed by the readers).

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

H. M. Brock's Beauty and the Beast

Happy New Year! Hope you were all able to spend some time with friends and family over the winter holidays!

I got a few fairy tale treasures over the last month to share! First up, I received another book to add to my Beauty and the Beast collection, H. M. Brock's 1914 illustrated version. The copy I got has an introduction by Jerry Griswold, author of one of my favorite books on BATB.

The prose, adapted by an anonymous writer, follows the traditional French fairy tale pretty faithfully, but with a faster pace than either Beaumont or Villeneuve. One unique aspect I don't think I've read before was that when Beauty wishes herself back with her family, she uses the magic rose. Her sisters try to use the rose for themselves-only as soon as they wish on it, it withers. Beauty is dismayed to find the withered rose on the floor of her sister's room, but as soon as she picks it up, it blooms healthily again.

I wasn't familiar with H. M. Brock's illustrations before. They mimic Walter Crane's 1874 illustrations, but as Griswold discusses in the introduction, Brock has his own unique contributions.

Brock's emphasis, Griswold says (other than the luxurious, Cowardly-lion like locks of the Beast) is on the enchanted servants. Beauty's father is waited on by disembodied hands that seem to foreshadow Cocteau's row of candelabra sconces that appear to be disembodied human arms. Beauty's servants aren't as creepy; she gets monkey servants like in Crane (and in Villeneuve's "original" story). 
Brock's Disembodied hands wait on Beauty's Father

Disembodied arms hold candelabras in Cocteau's 1946 film

Walter Crane's monkey servants in procession with Beauty 

Brock's parallel monkey servant procession