Thursday, May 27, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The Erl King was further popularized by Johann Gottfried von Herder's story, in which a young groom is temporarily seduced by elf music. The Erl King's daughter attempts to seduce him, but he spurns her. In her anger, she sends him away and his bride finds him dead in the morning.
Goethe's later poem is an eerie dialogue between the Erl King, a young son, who sees the Erl King coming for him, and his father, who doesn't believe him...until it's too late."Who's riding so late through th' endless wild?
The father t'is with his infant child;
He thinks the boy 's well off in his arm,
He grasps him tightly, he keeps him warm.
My son, say why are you hiding your face ?
Oh father, the Erlking 's coming apace,
The Erlking 's here with his train and crown!
My son, the fog moves up and down.
Be good, my child, come, go with me!
I know nice games, will play them with thee,
And flowers thou 'It find near by where I live,
pretty dress my mother will give.
Dear father, oh father, and do you not hear
What th' Erlking whispers so close to my ear?
Be quiet, do be quiet, my son,
Through leaves the wind is rustling anon.
Do come, my darling, oh come with me!
Good care my daughters will take of thee,
My daughters will dance about thee in a ring,
Will rock thee to sleep and will prettily sing.
Dear father, oh father, and do you not see
The Erlking's daughters so near to me?
My son, my son, no one 's in our way,
The willows are looking unusually gray.
I love thee, thy beauty I covet and choose,
Be willing, my darling, or force I shall use!
Dear father, oh father, he seizes my arm!
The Erlking, father, has done me harm.
The father shudders, he darts through the wild;
With agony fill him the groans of his child.
He reached his farm with fear and dread;
The infant son in his arms was dead.
Schubert's musical setting of the poem
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
One cold night, there came a knock at the door. To their surprise, there was a bear seeking shelter. Though the girls were frightened, their mother had compassion on the bear. They let him sleep by the fire each night, and they became friends and played games with him.
In the spring, the bear had to leave to guard his treasure from the dwarves. The girls were very sad to see their friend go. As the bear was leaving, a piece of his hairy coat caught against a bolt in the door and tore off. Snow White almost thought she saw gold peeking through.
Later, the girls were in the forest and encountered a dwarf whose beard was caught in a tree. He hurled insults at them but asked for their help. Snow White trimmed the end of his beard to free him, but at this he was furious, because the beard is a source of pride for a dwarf. The girls encountered him later, with his beard twisted around fishing line, and again being carried away by an eagle. Each time they freed him, but they received no thanks-only complaints.
Once more the sisters saw the dwarf, this time carrying a load of jewels. But then a bear came out of the forest. The dwarf, in an effort to save himself, tried to convince the bear to eat the girls instead of himself, but the bear knocked him over with one blow.
The girls were afraid, but the bear called to them-it was their special friend. When he had caught up with them on the road, his skin fell off to reveal a handsome man, dressed in gold. He was a Prince, bewitched by the dwarf, who had stolen his treasures. With the dwarf finally dead, the Prince was freed.
He married Snow White, and Rose Red married his brother, and they all shared the treasure and lived happily with the girls' mother and the white and red rose trees that had grown outside their cottage.
"Snow White and Rose Red" makes everyone happy, as it defies a lot of fairy tale stereotypes. Most noteably-it is very rare in that it features positive mother/daughter relationships, and positive sister relationships. But I love that the girls have opposite personalities. The traditional fairy tale heroine is more like Snow White-quiet, does the housework, not one for adventure. This is one of the few fairy tales to feature an adventurous, more athletic heroine. Yet I love that it includes both, not just one or the other. With all the feminist critiques of past female stereotypes, one begins to feel guilty if one happens to be female, quiet, and more inclined to read a book at home than go out and have adventures. But neither one is wrong-females have different personalities and can still live in harmony with one another.
Their song "Planet Hell" repeats these lyrics: "Save yourself a penny for the ferryman/Save yourself and let them suffer." At first I assumed this was just describing a horrible place. But when I read the full version of "Cupid and Psyche" (the earliest known version in the history of "Beauty and the Beast"), I discovered that one of her tasks was to take the ferry to hell. She is given two halfpence to carry in her mouth (I don't know why) and specifically instructed, "and it shall come to passe as thou sittest in the boat thou shalt see an old man swimming on the top of the river, holding up his deadly hands, and desiring thee to receive him into the barke, but have no regard to his piteous cry..." and other sorry creatures Psyche is forbidden to share her pennies with, because otherwise she'll never leave hell. The people pleading for help, we are told, are traps set by Venus, so Psyche is not actually guilty of cruelty.
Was this an intentional allusion to Cupid and Psyche, as Beauty and the Beast is a favorite theme of songwriter Tuomas Holopainen? Who knows.
Monday, May 24, 2010
The plot also reminded me a lot of Jane Eyre (which gets a lot of tags for a fairy tale blog...) the employment in Anluan's house, the similarities between Anluan and Mr. Rochester, Caitrin's independence, and the scene in which she sees him in the mirror and speaks to him and imagines that he hears her is like when Mr. Rochester calls to Jane from miles away and she hears and replies. At times the action and character of Caitrin also reminded me of Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword, an all-time favorite of mine.
In general I tend to be very critical of modern writers. It seems that we have mastered the exciting, page-turning plots, but lost some of the mastery of language and depth of realistic characters of older novels. They tend to be more like vicarious wish fulfillment than powerful, moving stories. So, with that said, I wasn't thrilled with the writing style and characterization, although I've read much worse. But there were good messages, and the plot was a clever nod to the fairy tale while being fresh, dark and interesting-I literally couldn't put the book down.
Heart's blood, the flower in the book, is fictitious, but there is a flower called Dicentra, which is also called Bleeding heart. The reason is pretty obvious:
EDIT: Marillier contributed to Seven Miles of Steel Thistles and talked of her love of Beauty and the Beast, the tale's history, and her process in transforming the traditional tale into this novel
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Notice the park was a lot more simple and bare then-a lot less rides and more open space. In fact, the original park had a genuine Native American village in it.
Pages from the scrapbook:
Only 70 more days until I go there myself!!!
Friday, May 21, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
One day an African magician came to Aladdin, claiming to be his uncle. The man offered to buy and stock a shop for Aladdin. They set out on a journey, and on the way the uncle revealed a magical entrance to an underground cave. Aladdin is instructed to go into the cave, touching nothing, and bring up a lamp. The uncle also gave Aladdin a ring.
Eventually the Sultan noticed her, and impressed by her rare treasures, promised his daughter to her son, in three months' time. But during this time the Sultan forgot his promise, and in two months his daughter was about to enjoy her wedding night with another man. Aladdin ordered the genie of the lamp to carry the Prince in his bed outside and leave him there till morning, and Aladdin took his place next to the terrified Princess. After another night of this, both bride and bridegroom were willing to be separated. When it was the appointed time, Aladdin ordered himself a splendid procession from the genie, and built a large and bejeweled Palace for the Princess. He left one jeweled window lattice undone, to allow the Sultan to have the pleasure of finishing it. But the Sultan realized he did not have enough jewels of his own to fill even one window lattice.
Aladdin was a gentle and wise ruler, loved by the people. However, the magician had not forgotten about the magic lamp. He heard of Aladdin's fame and tracked him down. Posing as a lamp trader, he tricked the Princess into giving him the magic lamp for a newer one. The genie of the lamp obeyed his new master and brought the entire Palace, with the Princess in it, to Africa. The Sultan sent for Aladdin, who was out hunting, and ordered him to be beheaded. Aladdin pleaded for forty days in which to find the Palace and his wife. He intended to say his prayers and throw himself into a river, but once again accidentally rubbed the magic ring, bringing forth the other genie. However, the ring genie could not undo the magic of the lamp genie. So he brought Aladdin to the Palace. He found his Princess, who had treated the magician so harshly he avoided the Palace altogether. Aladdin told her to pretend to be welcome to the magician's advances, to beg for African wine, and to put a certain powder he gave her into the magician's wine.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Then the article goes on to cite Beauty and the Beast as the ultimate example of this catering to men-and I've heard this argument before too-because the Beast starts out violent, therefore it promotes abusive relationships. Now, the historical Beasts started out innocent completely. Various versions have explained why the Beast got so upset over the theft of a rose-basically they just need to get Beauty to the castle somehow. But I do think this is a very interesting interpretation by Disney-that the Beast reveals through his outer self what he is on the inside. However, the whole point of the movie is that people can CHANGE. Notice that, at the beginning of the movie when he IS a jerk, Belle wants nothing to do with him. She was in the act of running away when he saved her life, risking his own-that is the turning point and what makes her decide to come back. Then the key point of the next montage scene is the passage of TIME. Unlike...every other Princess movie? Except Mulan I guess-the lovers know each other for more than a couple days (or hours). It takes TIME to develop a relationship, and trust, especially when it starts out with the boy threatening your father's life for no reason. This is common in the literary precedents as well. The Beast asks Beauty to marry him, night after night, and she says no, again and again. She ultimately weilds the power. In fact, Belle is the opposite of the damsel in distress- it is the Beast is helpless on his own, sitting and waiting in the castle (and wrongly imprisoning the occasional passerby),and Belle is the one who hold the power and does the rescuing. He is the one who needs her. She might not go out and fight dragons, but wouldn't that also be prejudiced to say love and perseverance is not a valid way to rescue someone?One more thing. I used to nanny for two girls, ages 5 and 7. Sarah's favorite Princess was Ariel, Michelle's was Cinderella. Among the games we would play, we would often assume the identity of our favorite Princesses and act our stories with our combined movie characters (I was obviously Belle). Now, I did not guide the play at all, but let the children come up with their own stories, but mostly what we did was rescue our Princes from the villains. We would often get ransom calls on our imaginary cell phones and have to bike down the block to Ursula's fortress and have to come up with a plan to get Eric out of there. We NEVER played that the girls were sitting around the house, trapped by the villain, and needed the boys to save them. To counter this, several children do like to play trapped, or captured-but then generally they really don't want to get rescued, either by a pretend Prince or by a girl-the excitement is in the being trapped. So maybe children aren't all mindless slaves who see a couple Princesses who do domestic chores cheerfully and assume from this that their lot in life is to sit and look pretty and prepare to be a good housewife. Just sayin'.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The wife is concerned about her sons. To test this, her brother puts his nephews in a cage by where the lions walk. The lions are about to attack the boys when their uncle saves them. The fact that the lions wanted to attack the boys meant they are not really lions, so the happy mother lives with her boys.
Our animal bridegroom tales generally involve a man in disguise as an animal, not the other way around. And maybe I'm just so used to this, but what did the husband do wrong, other than smell funny and eat a goat? He's a lion who somehow appears human, and must have desired to marry the woman of the tale. Despite his lion nature, he had never harmed her or his sons. The tale just says that he might have eaten her in the future.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
I shook my head. "The men in green all forsook England a hundred years ago," said I, speaking as seriously as he had done. "And not even in Hay Lane, or the fields about it, could you find a trace of them. I don't think either summer or harvest, or winter moon, will ever shine on their revels more."
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
When I saw this I assumed it was from part of the Disney animation, but it was from here
This exact same plot element is found in the children's book version by Marianna Mayer, illustrated by Mercer Mayer, from 1978. The Beast tells Beauty, "When I was a boy I was very vain and quite proud...One day an old hag came begging at my palace gate. I showed her no pity, she was so ugly. The sight of her did not move me and I sent her away without food or money. As she left she warned that I would spend the rest of my life wandering in my fine palace without a friend till someone could find Beauty in me." After the Beast turns into a Prince, he explains, "Now at last I am free to tell you that the old woman was really a fairy in disguise sent to sest me. Though I failed she was kind enough to put my whole palace in a magical spell till I could find you to redeem me."
Above images by Mercer MayerDisney version
I've already wondered if the enchanted objects were inspired by Robin McKinley's invisible maids. What else can you think of from older versions that might have been the inspiration for elements of the Disney film?
An old Chanel commercial. Notice how the wolf is just a submissive, non-threatening animal, like the progression I talked about here. I think it's in theory supposed to increase the power of the female, but it really just decreases the actual power of the wolf. But whatever, commercials aren't supposed to be analyzed, right?
But, the music is from Danny Elfman's score to Edward Scissorhands, which a)I love, and b)Edward is another Beast figure!
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
The Princess finds herself falling for the Ram. This Animal Bridegroom story is unusual in that she knows that he will transform eventually, and just from paying his sentence to the fairy, not from her declaration of love. Well, they live happily until her eldest sister gets married. She goes to the wedding-anonymous in her supposed death, and in all her new splendor (kind of like Cinderella? How many fairy tale allusions can we fit into this one tale?) everyone is enchanted by her but doesn't know who she is. She slips out, and the King orders that if she ever comes again, the castle doors should be shut and she detained (this tale definitely features Oedipal issues, but mainly the father's).
The second sister gets married and Marveilluese wants to go to the wedding. The Ram can't live long without her, and she promises to return quickly. But her father had locked all the gates to keep her in. He invites her to the banquet, and offers her a gold basin to wash in, just like in her dream. The story comes out, but since this takes a long time, the lovesick Ram comes to the Palace to find her. No one at the palace wanted her to go back, so they refused to let the Ram in. When the Princess finally did leave the Palace, she found her Ram dead by the door.
Hey, this is my hundredth post!
Monday, May 10, 2010
Charles H. Sylvester
Yet there appears to be quite significant differences between the two translations. For example, Dowson has the Beast asking Beauty not to marry him each night, but to sleep with him, while Zipes sticks with nightly marriage proposals. Again, I'm not a French expert, but the French verb "to marry" ("marier") and "to sleep" ("dormir" or "coucher") are not interchangeable, at least not according to my French-English dictionaries, or anything I learned from my very bad high school French teacher.
The difference between marriage and sleeping is quite significant, although we can assume Villeneuve only meant the most innocent form of sleeping. The night of Beauty's acceptance of the Beast's offer, from Dowson's translation:
"However slight was Beauty's impatience to find herself by the side of her most singular mate, she nevertheless got into bed. The lights went out immediately. Beauty could not help fearing that the enormous weight of the Beast's body would crush the bed. She was agreeably astonished to find that the monster placed himself at her side with as much ease and agility as she had herself sprung into bed. Her surprise was even greater still on hearing him begin to snore forthwith; presently his silence convinced her that he was in a profound sleep."
This is doubtless very surprising for something published in 1740-that a couple would immediately sleep in the same bed after becoming engaged, but not touch one another. There is definitely a sense of humor in the wondering if the Beast will crush the bed, and then his snoring, but it almost seems too much like a joke and not a fairy tale.
A striking contrast to Jack Zipes' translation. After the fireworks display ends: "the Beast took his leave, and Beauty retired to rest. No sooner was she asleep than her dear Unknown [the Beast in Prince form, who visits her each night in her dreams] paid her his customary visit."
This is not just difference in how to translate a certain word or phrase. Either Dowson invented several lines about the Beast sleeping on the same bed as Beauty, or Zipes invented the part about the Beast taking his leave and just left the rest out. What gives? I AM SO CONFUSED. What does the actual French say? How would one access this French version? The Dowson itself is too rare to get my hands on, and I'm hardly fluent enough to translate for myself anyway. Why do so many people lie about fairy tales?
Sunday, May 9, 2010
So, first of all, to set the tone: Gustav Holst's "Saturn: The Bringer of Old Age" from his orchestral suite The Planets. Though not directly related to fairy tales, it's related to myth anyway. I love how Holst portrays old age as this eerie, creepy, relentless march.
The Grimms Collection, though it definitely celebrates youth (sometimes in a creepy, pedophily way- Snow White was only 7 at the time she was abandoned in the woods and there's no reason to believe much time passed before the Prince became obsessed with her corpse), but there are a few fairy tales about old age.
"The Ungrateful Son" features a son who refuses to give his aged father any food. As punishment, a great toad permanently attaches himself to the son's face. "The Old Man Made Young Again" is quite violent-the Lord and St. Peter make an old man young again by putting him through a forge. The smith decided to try the same thing with his mother-in-law, but she only experienced pain and no miracle. The screaming of the old woman and the sight of her sufferings caused the smith's wife and daughter-in-law, who were both pregnant, to immediately give birth to creatures who became the first of the race of apes.
In "The Aged Mother," an old mother bitterly remembers how her family is dead, including her two sons. Hearing bells, she is surprised for it to be morning already, but goes to church. Only instead of the regular churchgoers, she realizes all the people in the pews are the ghosts of her dead relatives. At the front of the church is a vision of her two sons, "one hanging at the gallows, the other bound to the wheel." The mother's dead aunt tells the mother that the death of her sons was actually a mercy, to prevent them from the wicked lives they would have lived. The mother is no longer bitter but thankful towards God. Three days later she dies.
My favorite, though, is "The Old Grandfather's Corner." An old grandfather lives with his son and daughter-in-law. He is deaf, can barely walk, and can barely eat without spilling. Eventually his son and daughter-in-law set him in a corner behind a screen, out of their sight. The old man would look mournfully toward the table but say nothing. One day he accidentally broke his bowl, and the young mother had to buy him a new wooden bowl for a penny.
One day, the couple saw their small boy making something out of wood. They asked him what he was doing. "I am making a little bowl for papa and mamma to eat their food in when I grow up," he replied. The parents looked at each other and began to cry. They brought the aged grandfather back to the table with them and never again treated him unkindly. In a Russian variant of the tale, instead of the parents sentencing the grandfather to a corner of the room to eat, they were going to leave the grandfather alone in the woods to die until the little boy reminded them that in another generation, their roles would be different.
The Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria claims to be the "original" on which the Cinderella castle is built, but apparantly the designers looked at several castles when creating this attraction. I'm sure it's much like how several states in the U.S. claim to be the home of Lincoln.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
With Disney, you can expect at least something to be changed from the original source. While the journey through the sewer and all the dangers entailed may seem like movie makers trying to beef up the story a bit to make it more enticing, that's actually all from the fairy tale. In fact, the short follows the story pretty closely until the very end, in which the evil jack-in-the-box (which is really a goblin who lives in a snuff box) does not fall out of the window, and the soldier and the ballerina do not live in perfect bliss. No, true to Disney style, Andersen's more tragic endings have been covered up. In the real story, the child puts the soldier in the oven, for no reason, and the ballerina is carried in as well. The tin soldier burns and melts into a heart, and all that's left of the ballerina is her tinsel rose.
Now, backing up-I adore this fairy tale. The reader's heart immediately goes out to the one-legged tin soldier. I love anything that relates to Beauty and the Beast, and there are two levels-there are actual versions of the tale, that involve most of the plot and prop elements, such as the father and the rose and Beauty staying at the castle of the Beast. Then there's a broader level, where any story in which there is an outcast character because of some physical deformity or difference is also distantly related to Beauty and the Beast. So in that way, the Steadfast Tin Soldier is like a Beast figure. He also would like to marry the ballerina, but "she is too grand."
I also love any story in which toys come to life. Everyone knows that this happens when people leave the room, and we have proof from The Christmas Toy and Toy Story. And yet, though the whole thing is from the perspective of the Tin Soldier, there's an eerie juxtaposition between him as a tin toy and him as a thinking being. The whole time, he comes up with reasons for why he doesn't cry out for help (he's too proud as a soldier) or speak to the rat in the sewer, etc. Critics relate this to Andersen's passivity, but you wonder if it's really because, as a toy soldier, he simply can't move, though he thinks he can. The only action he instigates is laying himself down to get a better look at the dancer, but that could possibly be that the soldier was knocked over. It adds to the helplessness of the characters and the pointlessness of the unhappy ending, yet leaving the reader freedom to imagine either circumstance.
Mayken Gonzalez Backlund
The story almost needs the depressing ending to justify the miraculous return of the soldier from the belly of the fish, to the very playroom from which he started. The ending at least gives it more realism, and the shape of the heart and the rose left make it bittersweet and tragically beautiful. Critics seem to view the ballerina as being punished for not returning the soldier's love, but it seemed to me that maybe the wind blowing her into the oven was maybe so that they could die together rather than having her live alone without him. Maybe I'm hopelessly romantic, but she does leave a rose behind, which is very symbolic of love.
This morbid image by Kay Nielsen is my favorite
One more thing-this type of tale, in which the protagonist is a toy or animal, is part of a tradition of insinuating that the ultimate villain is one who is MEAN TO THEIR TOYS or wouldn't go to any length for the sake of a pet. Now I love animals and toys, and I think we should be kind to animals and it's probably a red flag if a young child doesn't show some level of affection for toys that resemble humans and animals, so I don't really mind. But this level of thought reached new levels in the movie The Brave Little Toaster, in which the protagonists are all household appliances. This movie freaked me out when I was little, and it's even pretty horrifying to me now. It's incredible how they make a man who recycles used appliances into evil personified, and how the boy almost dies in an attempt to rescue his childhood toaster. Going back and rewatching this movie made me think about how I perceived it as a child-I only remembered the scary parts, I didn't remember any of the resolutions. I think there's a lot that goes into how a child perceives a story and it's often much different than the intended message-but that's a whole other topic.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Tchaikovsky, born on THIS VERY DATE in 1840, was an incredibly sensitive and weepy child. His nurse referred to him as a "child of glass." To this I can relate-I was also oversensitive as a child and my mother (who doubled as my piano teacher) wrote a little piece for me to play at a piano recital called "My China Doll." However, bearing similarities to Tchaikovsky isn't exactly something to be proud of.
Tchaikovksy started out in law and started music relatively later in life (at 21). He was horrible with money (he had to borrow money from his servant) and had a paranoia that his head would fall off while conducting, so he conducted with one hand and held his head with another. Like many great composers, critics hated his music at first. As far as his love life goes, he had an infatuation with soprano Desiree Artot, who married someone else. He was later married to Antonina Miliukova for a whopping nine weeks (bad even by celebrity marriage standards), but not surprising considering he was a closet homosexual. The marriage resulted in his attempted suicide, and she eventually ended up in an asylum.
However, his career started improving with the comission of Swan Lake in 1894. Below is an excerpt from the score:
The premiere was not well received, due to several non-music related factors, but including the fact that the Russians did not approve of the German fairy tale being used as the basis for the ballet. But with new choreography in 1895, and the introduction of the same dancer dancing both Odette and the enchanted Black Swan Odile, it has become a standard in the ballet repertoire. The excerpt below is Odile's part-note the famous 32 fouettes starting at about 10 minutes.
The original version ended in the death of Odette, as consequence from Seigfried's unwittingly professing love to the wrong woman (Odile). Other versions have added on a true love conquers all ending (If Disney ever created a Swan Lake, we all know which ending they'd choose. But it could hardly be worse than the Barbie Swan Lake, right?).
Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty premiered in 1890, and The Nutcracker was created later. Tchaikovsky himself didn't like his music for Swan Lake or The Nutcracker, which are now both greatly admired. Again, critics were harsh at the premiers, but shows how much critics know- The Nutcracker is the most performed ballet of the Western world.