Friday, August 26, 2011

Greetings from Bremen Town

I've always liked the Grimms' tale "The Bremen Town Musicians", just because it has "musicians" in the title even though it really has nothing to do with music.

The link above will guide you to the full annotated text at Surlalune. The really really short version: a bunch of animals are about to get killed by their owners so they go to Bremen together and end up scaring off a bunch of robbers and enjoying the loot themselves.

Anyway, a friend of mine lives in Germany and mentioned that she was going to Bremen this summer and I was all excited and she promised to get some pictures for me. So here are the famous animals-donkey, dog, cat, and rooster (in the tale they stand on each other's backs the first time they scare the robbers).

This picture is from wikipedia, which says that it's supposedly good luck to rub the donkey's front legs, which is why they're all shiny.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bill Lewis-"The Beast"

The full text of Bill Lewis' poem "The Beast" can be found here. It's a rather heartbreaking poem, starting with these lines:
"The Beast sits by the telephone

Beauty doesn't call anymore."

Anyone who has ever felt lonely or rejected can relate to the Beast in this poem. What I love is how Lewis' Beast is still optimistic, and uses fairy tales themselves to comfort himself and give him hope for the future-
"He reads Angela Carter novels, fairy tales

and Mother Goose and hopes that wisdom

does not go stale over the centuries."

I had written a short story myself along these lines-not assuming that Beauty had left him, but set in the time before he meets Beauty, and doesn't know for sure that he ever will. In my story he has a beautiful romantic dinner set out for two and imagines the girl of his dreams is there, and for a while he even believes it, until the end when he has to acknowledge it's all in his imagination. Again, this is meant to be a universal theme that anyone could relate to-is hope a tool, or torture? Can our imagination satisfy temporarily the longings for things we don't have, or does it make disillusionment all the more cruel? The poem tends to assume the latter-
"He does not know that sentimentality

is an act of violence.

In the dark bedroom his good eye waters."

*I had the above image saved as "Bryan Alexander" so I assume that's the artist's name...don't remember where I got it from.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Isabella's Art

Aladdin and the Magic Lamp

Alice and the Madhatter

The Snow Queen

Little Red Cap and the Big Wolf

The Sandman

Hansel and Gretel and Witch

Candy House

Isabella's Art is an etsy site that features shadow puppets and theaters, with folklore, mythology, and fantasy as inspiration. I found this via Kingdom of Style. Reminds me of the work of Lotte Reiniger...the first one especially makes me want to watch The Adventures of Prince Achmed again...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Basile's Petrosinella: A True Spunky Heroine

Sometimes I read about the evolution of fairy tales and how the Cinderella characters have become more and more passive (like this article), and from the examples cited I don't see a huge difference. People will contrast older versions of Cinderella like to the Perrault/Disney and say that historical Cinderellas were so proactive and resourceful and got herself out of her mess. But really all she did was ask the spirit of her dead mother-whether a spirit or animal helper or fairy godmother or crew of singing mice, Cinderella doesn't ever actually make her own dress, she always has help. Can we really fault the Perrault/Disney Cinderella for not being aware that she had a magical helper?

Not that I support passive heroines or disagree with the above article I cited (although I always feel the need to point out that, historically, there was really no option for lower class females to ever end their servitude) or that Disney couldn't have made better choices in his version, but I think Cinderella isn't the best example of female characters who got dumbed down.

However, as I read through the earliest version of Rapunzel, Petrosinella, from Basile's Pentamerone (1634), I was really struck by what a clever and resourceful heroine Petrosinella is, in stark contrast to later versions of the tale. In this case, she really does use her instincts and wits to get her own happy ending.

Petrosinella's captivity is a little more traumatic than Rapunzel's-she isn't given over at birth. Her mother has the same cravings, steals the petrosinella, and makes the promise to an ogress that she can have her unborn child, as she is threatened with death if she doesn't. The child Petrosinella lives with her parents, but every day as she passes by on her way to school, an ogress whispers at her, "tell your mother to remember her promise." The unknowing daughter repeats this to her mother day after day, until finally her mother, with no other attempts to keep her daughter, tells her child to reply, "Take it!" When she does so, the poor girl is taken by the hair and locked in a tower in the woods. I tend to think of Rapunzel as someone who has always been sheltered from the world and doesn't know what's out there, but Petrosinella knows what it's like to have a family and friends and now has to lose everything for no apparant reason. (Really, I can't imagine the ogress's motivation here. Props to Disney for giving Mother Gothel a good reason to want a girl in a tower.)

Prince sees Petrosinella and instantly falls in love. Petrosinella, however, isn't stupid. She knows to give the ogress poppy juice that she and her lover may have trysts in the tower. The lovers are so clever the ogress doesn't discover their love until a gossipy friend of hers warns her that the couple are getting pretty serious.

Now, other versions have the witch temporarily victorious as the lovers are separated and have hardships and whatnot, and it's usually because Rapunzel is ignorant (she's pregnant and doesn't know why her belly is growing) or thoughtless (mentions one day that the witch is much harder to pull up than the Prince), but Petrosinella doesn't even let the ogress get the upper hand. Petrosinella "had her ears wide open" and was suspicious that the ogress would find out (very impressive coming from a girl who can't leave her tower) and arranges an escape before the ogress has a chance to punish them. Petrosinella is under a spell and cannot leave the tower-implying that she would have already left otherwise-unless she is holding three gallnuts in her hand which were hidden in a rafter in the kitchen.

But clever Petrosinella already knows about the spell and counterspell, so she has her Prince climb up and get the nuts, and they're off. The ogress starts to chase them, and every time she gets close Petrosinella throws a gallnut in her path and it turns into something. I imagine this part to be the 17th century version of an action sequence in a movie, as the witch has to cleverly distract all the fierce animals sent her way. In the end the last animal eats her and the free lovers are married in the Prince's Kingdom.

I noticed after drafting this post that I never mentioned the hair for which Rapunzel is so famous. It's there in Basile's story, but really this version could stand on its own without it. In other versions, the Prince meets the maiden by calling out the famous "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair" as the witch does, and she is startled when a young man appears instead of the witch. Again goes to show how later Rapunzel isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer since she can't even tell the difference between their voices, as opposed to Petrosinella who is fully aware when she allows the Prince to enter her tower.
By the way, Petrosinella is the Italian word for parsley, which I find funny because my mom is allergic to parsley.

Illlustrations: A. H. Watson, Anne Anderson, Arthur Rackham, Isobel Lilian Gloag

Rapunzel in Advertising

So, it's not too mind-blowing to be referring to Rapunzel when advertising hair products. This is the back of my roommate's Herbal Essences "long term relationship" conditioner for long hair. Note also the references to "that's no fairy tale" and "longing for a happy ending?" all revolving around the same theme.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Figment Studios Journal Review

A while ago I posted the fairy tale-themed journals at Figments Studios, and I am now the owner of the Once Upon a Time journal.

Now these are rather pricey-this one was $58.95 plus shipping. But a journal is a pretty special part of your life for a while, and then you (hopefully) keep it for the rest of your life, so I think it's worth it to splurge on a beatuful one like this (or you could just do what I did and request it for a birthday present).

The journal comes in a complementary gift box:

Then you open it to find a precious elfin seal guarding your treasure:

And there in the packaging lies your journal, just as ornate in person as the pictures indicate on the website.

I absolutely love it; my only complaint is the smell. It came with a very strong almost metallic scent-unfortunately it doesn't have that "old book" smell its appearance might suggest. At first when I took it out of its box my whole room smelled odd, but after spraying a little Febreeze and letting it sit in the sunlight it's not so bad.

So, if you're willing to deal with the smell, I would absolutely recommend any of the journals on the website. There are several pictures to choose from if you want a large frame journal, many of which are fairy-inspired, and you can also send in a picture to make a custom frame journal, which is a pretty neat feature.

Speaking of fairy journals, I've had my eye on this one on etsy for a while, made from vintage fairy tale book cover. Again it's fairly expensive, this one is $60. Hopefully it will still be around for me to request for Christmas...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Princess Shoes

Beauty from Beauty and the Beast
Mai Lamore

The following three are from If Style Could Kill, designers unknown:

The Little Mermaid

Odile (The Black Swan)

Cinderella (her shoes weren't always glass, but some sort of precious metal)

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Urban Outfitters

Snow White


As worn on Rebecca of The Clothes Horse

Karen of The Red Shoes would need something classic but fabulous to wear day after day

Christian Louboutin

The Witch (any witch really, but I think Disney's Snow White's witch is most often associated with skulls)

Kermit Tesoro

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Madame D'Aulnoy's Green Snake: Beauty, Ugliness, and Curiosity

Green Snake (or "Green Serpent") by Madame D'Aulnoy is a fascinating tale. It reminds me a lot of C.S. Lewis' "Till We Have Faces" (a lesser known but my favorite of all his books) because they are both retellings of the Cupid and Psyche myth, but starring a rarity: an ugly female. There are some versions of Animal Bridegroom tales which are little known today, but Green Serpent features a human female who is cursed with ugliness (note that this is not an authentic folktale, but a fairy tale from the French salon period-I can't think of any actual folktales that have an ugly human female as the protagonist).

This story has dual Beast characters-more like "Beast and the Beast" than "Beauty and the Beast," if you will, because the Prince is also in disguise as the title character. D'Aulnoy explores the themes of beauty vs. ugliness in her tale, just as Lewis did in "Till We Have Faces"-especially the cruel reaction of culture to a person's ugliness, especially a woman's. (This is kind of a soap box of mine-read more here.)

First of all, the heroine, Laidronette (it's been translated as Dorugly, which contrasts her sister Dorabelle) is cursed by an offended evil fairy, not unlike Sleeping Beauty. However, Laidronette's fairy claims that she was not invited to the party because "you only want beauties with fine figures and fine dresses like my sisters here. As for me, I'm too ugly and old. Yet despite it all, I have just as much power as they." Earlier this fairy is defined as malicious, but we already see the theme of someone being judged, possibly, by their appearance. So poor Laidronette is given "perfect ugliness," but the other fairies prophesy that she will one day be very happy. The Queen is still concerned that her daughter become beautiful again, which the fairies can't promise.

When the princess was twelve, she begged her parents to be allowed to be shut up in a castle so that she "will no longer torment them with her ugliness." This was difficult for the Royal couple, because "despite her hideous appearance, they could not help being fond of her," but they allowed her to leave. This language implies an assumption that people's worth is found mainly in their appearance. Later, Laidronette returns to see her sister marry, but was received coldly by the Court and her family. She was glad to return to her forest home "where the trees, flowers, and springs she wandered among did not reproach her for her ugliness."

One day while the Princess was out, she came across a green snake who spoke to her, saying, "Look at my horrible form. And yet at birth I was even handsomer than you." This terrified Laidronette, who ran away. Later she explored a boat which took her out to sea and threatened to capsize. In her hour of terror she mused, "Alas, have I ever enjoyed any of life's pleasures so much that I should now feel regret at dying? My ugliness disgusts even my family...wouldn't it be better for me to perish than to drag out such a miserable existence?"

Hopefully, this whole "ugly people have no point in being alive" message is making you angry. Yet at the same time, it's the other people in Laidronette's life that are making her life so miserable. I think it's safe to assume that any woman today who is considered extremely ugly would also find life to be very difficult because of how she is treated.

Laidronette is offered help from the green snake, but she is still so horrified she would rather die than owe her life to him. Here, sadly, the one person who should have learned not to judge by appearances seems to be just as shallow as anyone else. The boat wrecks on a rock, but Laidronette wakes up to find herself in an enchanted land where she is waited on hand and foot by a hundred strange little creatures called pagods.

Laidronette enjoys the luxuries provided for her, and is shocked to find herself treated honorably with "no longer talk of her ugliness." (In the picture above, she wears a veil, just like Orual in Till We Have Faces...) This is the part that begins to parallel Cupid and Psyche-very intentionally, too, for as her invisible lover begins to win her over, she realizes she's following in Psyche's footsteps. Laidronette can't believe anyone could love someone so ugly, and here we have a refreshing change in attitude, for the invidible prince says that she "has sufficient qualities to merit my affection," for the first time alluding to the fact that people can have positive qualities other than their appearance. Yet Laidronette hasn't quite learned her lesson-she still wants to know from the pagods if their prince is handsome, and can't return the love of someone she cannot see.

Eventually, though, she is won over and agrees to be the bride of the invisible voice. She is told that he has been cursed by the same evil fairy that cursed her, and that two years of his curse remain, and should she succomb to curiosity like Psyche, his sentence will begin all over again.

Yet, even having read the story of Psyche over and over again to avoid making her mistakes, Laidronette once again listens to her mother and sister and decides to look on her husband, only to find he is the Green Snake and she must complete impossible tasks (with the help of a beneficient fairy) before she can earn her happy ending. D'Aulnoy repeats over and over again that Laidronette deserved what she got for her curiosity, it's all her fault, etc., etc., even with a poetic moral at the end about the evils of the womanly sin of curiosity. Keep in mind that D'Aulnoy was a feminist in her day, who, according to Jack Zipes, "did not like the manner in which women were treated and compelled to follow patriarchal codes, and...did not even stop short of aabetting execution or murder of men she considered unworthy or tyrannical." So I don't know if D'Aulnoy was just trying to parallel Cupid and Psyche, or if she really thought curiosity a terrible sin limited to the female race, but Laidronette is continually reprimanded for her act of curiosity.

owever, she apparantly eventually learns her lesson. Sent on an errand by the evil fairy to fetch water from the bottomless spring using a pitcher with a hole in the bottom and with a millstone tied around her neck, Laidronette decides to drink the water to make her wise before washing her face in it to make her beautiful. The good fairy likes this. Later we are introduced to a character who fell in love with a cruel woman only because she was beautiful who suffered for it. So, despite the appearance of the beginning of the tale, women are found to have worth aside from their looks. Of course, Laidronette still becomes beautiful in the end, and the Serpent becomes a handsome prince. Then there's the moral, which informs us that "too oft is curiosity the cause of fatal is a weakness of womankind."

I don't get it, myself. Feminism has come a long way since the late 1600s.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Beauty and the Beast by Nightwish

Nightwish is a symphonic metal band from Finland. That particular combination tends to be disliked by some people anyway; this song is from their very first album and therefore even stranger. It's not my favorite music of theirs, but I love that Tuomas Holopainen, pianist and songwriter, is a huge fan of Disney and Beauty and the Beast. The lyrics are clearly influenced by Disney's version. So if you listen, be forgiving of the computerized sounds and the male singer (both singers have been replaced by now)-or you could just read the lyrics.

Beauty And The Beast (Angels Fall First)

Remember the first dance we shared?
Recall the night you melted my ugliness away?
The night you left with a kiss so kind
Only a send of beauty left behind

Ah dear friend I remember the night
The moon and the dreams we shared
Your trembling paw in my hand
Dreaming of that northern land
Touching me with a kiss of a beast

I know my dreams are made of you
Of you and only for you
Your ocean pulls me under
Your voice tears me asunder
Love me before the last petal falls

As a world without a glance
Of the ocean's fair expanse
Such the world would be
If no love did flow in thee
But as my heart is occupied
Your love for me now has to die
Forgive me I need more than you can offer me

Didn't you read the tale
Where happily ever after was to kiss a frog?
Don't you know this tale
In which all I ever wanted
I'll never have
For who could ever learn to love a beast?

However cold the wind and rain
I'll be there to ease your pain
However cruel the mirrors of sin
Remember beauty is found within

...Forever shall the wolf in me desire the sheep in you...

On Faerie

There are many possible origins of our word "fairy," like the Persian "peri," and is ultimately believed to be derived from the Latin "fatum." The meaning and associations with the word have changed over time, as has the spelling.

According to wikipedia, the original word was "faie"; the "-erie" was added as a suffix to mean that which is associated with the Faie, thus becoming "faie-ery," like the word "theivery".

Art by Gustav Dore

Thomas Keightley has a section in his book Fairy Mythology on the origins of the word, and he discusses the different uses of the word Faerie.

1. Illusion and enchantment
2. The Land of the Faie
3. The people (in general) who live in Faerie
4. Individual people who live in Faerie-from what we consider to be fairies today, to the elves and other magical creatures.

Keightley says, "We find in most countries a popular belief in different classes of beings distinct from men, and from the higher orders of divinities. These beings are usually believed to inhabit, in the caverns of the earth, or the depths of the waters, a region of their own. They generally excel mankind in power and in knowledge, and like them are subject to the inevitable laws of eath, though after a more prolonged period of existence."

And, to bring the Fae folk into more relevant, modern life, these are some of the Fairy doors of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Beginning in April 2005, these tiny doors began appearing in various places in and around the town. My favorite (from the description; I've never seen these) is the one at the end of the Folklore and Fairytale section in the youth department of the Ann Arbor library. Every book lover knows instinctively that libraries are simply brimming with portals to other worlds...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Vintage Disneyland, Part II

Disneyland postcards from the 60s-early 70s.

These are from a little picture book about It's a Small World. Small World was new in the 60s, as was the whole concept of Audio Animatronics (the mechanical dolls or people that move and speak on many Disney rides)

View the first Vintage Disneyland