Friday, October 9, 2015

African American versions of Three Little Pigs

I really haven't looked into the tale "Three Little Pigs" much before-it's not one of those folktales you see people analyzing and discussing, but I was reminded of the story by the new board game "Little Pig" (be sure to recommend other fairy tale characters to be a part of the game if you haven't already!).

The classic story as we know it is an English tale, but similar tales exist around the world.

I forgot how dark it is-my memories of the tale involve a story in which the first two pigs, once their house has blown down, runs to the house of the next pig, where they all end up safely inside the brick house. But in the folktale, the first two get eaten. Also, the wolf doesn't stop when he finds he can't blow the brick house down, but continues to invite the pig out to get him outside of the house. The third pig is smart, and avoids the wolf, but the wolf is cunning as well and learns to anticipate the pig's moves...the story doesn't end till the wolf comes down the chimney and into a boiling pot of water, where the pig eats him up.

(We also had The True Story of the Three Little Pigs growing up, and the humor makes it less dark. The wolf likens eating the pigs to us eating a hamburger)

The Awful Fate of Mr. Wolf is an African-American tale included in Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus stories. I'm mostly familiar with the characters of Brer Rabbit and Brer Wolf as they appear in the Disney Parks ride "Splash Mountain". This version has the wolf pitted against rabbits rather than pigs, but with a similar plot line-Brer Rabbit keeps building different houses that get destroyed, and each time one of his own children is taken. Finally, one day when the wolf is running away from a pack of dogs, Brer Rabbit is able to pretend he is protecting him when he is really cooking him alive in front of his children, and they later feast on him with their neighbors. The story ends, "And if you go to Brer Rabbit's house right now, I don't know but what you'll find Brer Wolf's hide hanging in the back porch, and all because he was so busy with other folks' doings."

The Story of the Pigs is another Harris/Uncle Remus tale. In this one, although the pigs do build houses out of different materials, the materials don't matter, because the wolf tricks all of them into opening the door for him, except the last pig (this time there were five pig siblings, and the Runt was the smartest).

In How Come Pigs Can See the Wind, a tale from North Carolina, the wolf dresses up like the human pig owner. When the mother pig still won't release the pigs to him, he gets Satan to blow down the house for him. The story doesn't actually say whether or not the house was blown down or if the wolf got the pigs, but when the mother pig saw Satan's breath blowing, from then on pigs were able to see the wind, and get scared.

These stories from Virginia are a mix of elements from the other stories, but I find it ironic that one of the collectors of the stories is named Bacon.

The stories do have some common elements with other fairy tales-deception and trickery (the wolf dressing up like the master is reminiscent of the wolf disguising himself as Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother), and the last/youngest sibling who ends up being more successful and defeating the enemy. Although the story deals with natural predators, the idea of creatures that can have conversations with each other but later cook and eat each other give it cannibalistic overtones. The violence also makes me think of The Children Who Played at Butchering (the most horrifying fairy tale ever, in my opinion)...the idea of even the protagonist killing and eating a talking animal is one step closer to children killing each other in their play. It almost makes sense to imagine that the children had recently been told this tale when they decided to play butcher and slaughter the "pig"...
Illustrations-L. Leslie Brooke

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Pumpkin Child: A Persian Folktale

I saw this story referenced on Multicolored Diary and it piqued my interest. What better time of year to be telling pumpkin-themed stories?

The Pumpkin Child is an old Persian folktale, and I really like it. It's sort of like a cross between Cinderella, Ugly Duckling, and a gender-bent Beauty and the Beast. There is humor, as the storyteller describes the pumpkin rolling and bumping around, but also we feel sympathy for the Pumpkin Girl, and a big theme of the story is how she copes with being different and made fun of (her mother tells her as she leaves for school, "Ignore anyone who makes fun of you!")

Like Cinderella, the Pumpkin Girl must be identified by an object that fits only her-a ring. Only in this tale, it's not a commentary on tiny size being ideal, but simply the fact that the Pumpkin Girl is unique. Some girls tried to starve themselves to get their fingers the right size, but others tried to fatten themselves up.

Murad, the rich merchant's son, has an advantage in that he saw a beautiful girl come out of the pumpkin and reenter, so he knows there's a secret this Pumpkin Girl has. Yet, he is not entirely selfish. His bride does not transform right after the wedding. In fact, he suffered some of the same mockery of the villagers once he declared his intentions to wed a pumpkin. After the wedding, he "took his pumpkin bride far away where he cared for her and never allowed anyone to laugh at her." I love this idea that, yes it's love that set her free, but not a one time love showed just by a proposal-he showed steadfast love over time and it was that love that set her free.
Image from here- to accompany the folktale "The Singing Pumpkin"

Read the whole tale here! This website also includes a family activity to go with the stories, this one is making pumpkin chips!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Little Pig-new Board Game

I was contacted by Tim Eisner of Weird City Games to take a look at a new board game based off of the Three Little Pigs, a Kickstarter project in the works!

The story of the Three Little Pigs itself seems pretty straightforward in its themes-the moral is more or less "don't be stupid when choosing building materials for your house." . However, Eisner took hold of the theme of tricking/outwitting the wolf (there is a second part to the story, that I think most of us tend to forget, where the third pig continues to be harrassed by the wolf, and keeps outsmarting him) and used it to create a board game in which players are competing against the other players for the limited resources available. Some reviewers have likened it to "rock, paper, scissors"-when I first saw the rules of play it reminded me of a version of "Settlers of Catan" for kids!
Game description:
Players in Little Pig compete to become the most renowned pig of fame and legend in this mischievous twist on the classic tale. Each Pig makes secret plans to gather wood, brick or straw. If multiple pigs gather the same resource, they have to share, but if you can guess where the other pigs are headed, you can pig out!
Double down with powerful Guess cards that reward you for out-thinking the other pigs. As your pig grows in wealth, fame and guile, you will attract powerful fairy tale friends like Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, and Puss in Boots, and may even stoop to tipping off the Big Bad Wolf.
The game is also accessible to all ages. There are simplified rules for family play so young kids can play, but "Guess cards" that can be thrown in to create complexity for older, more experienced game players.

My favorite additions are the cards that represent other fairy tale characters. For example, there is a Rumpelstiltskin card that can be used to transform straw into the other materials! There is also Little Red Riding Hood (of course, the wolf's other arch nemesis), the Fairy Godmother, Puss in Boots, the Elves (of Elves and the Shoemaker fame) and more. And an added challenge for Tales of Faerie readers-if you can think of other fairy tale characters that could work well in the context of the game, they might make a card based on our ideas! What other fairy tale characters can you think of that could be helpful (or not so helpful) to gathering straw, wood, and brick, and building houses? (I'm guessing they're looking for more well known characters that most players will recognize).

You can look at the game more in depth at its Kickstarter page or this review by Father Geek!  And if you're able to contribute to the Kickstarter, what a great way to spread fairy tale themes into the world of board games!
Completed houses-of straw, wood, and brick

All the game artwork is original, by Ryan Swisher.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cinderella's Pumpkin Roundup, Part VI

This is always a favorite post of mine to create! I love the professionally done Cinderella coaches but also love the idea that you can create your own at home, even those of us that aren't artists ;)


Note: I try linking images back to their original sources whenever possible. Sometimes the website I find it from doesn't include a source and a reverse google image search doesn't help either. If you know of an image's original source, please let me know in the comments!


If you like these, be sure to check out Parts I-V:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cinderella Picture Books with a Twist

 Came across some picture book versions of Cinderella that have delightfully modern twists to them!

Prince Cinders by Babette Cole features a gender bent story in which a male hero is bullied by two brothers. For all the action heroines today, I think what we really need to make feminism more well rounded is to now show males that it's okay for them to step out of the traditional male stereotype.

Ella's Big Chance by Shirley Hughes is set in the jazz age. This time, instead of a teeny tiny heroine with big ugly stepsisters, Ella has a more typical body while her sisters are really skinny. Not only that, but she rejects the duke's proposal because she is in love with another.

Then there's, "Seriously, Cinderella is SO Annoying", part of the Other Side of the Story series that retells classic fairy tales from a different character's perspective. This idea is fairly popular now, especially with Disney's "Maleficent" being such a huge hit, but it's still probably a fresh idea for most parents and kids when it comes to Cinderella.

There are lots of "twisted" fairy tales for adults but I love these books that introduce readers at a young age to versions of fairy tales that don't have to follow the traditional formula. Any other
Cinderella children's books out there that provide a fresh look at the story?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Free Hans Christian Andersen online course

Reader Julia Mavroidi alerted me in the comments that there is a free online course available this fall on the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen! I'm not sure if I'm willing to give up the 4 hours a week it would take but I'm intrigued...has anyone taken classes through FutureLearn before? If any of you take this class, let me know what you think of it! More information here, it starts October 19 for only 6 weeks.


This free online course will introduce you to some of Hans Christian Andersen’s most popular fairy tales, share the story of the writer himself, and discuss his cross-cultural importance today, as the inspiration behind many popular books and movies.

Interpret Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales with experts from his birthplace

You will learn with experts from the HC Andersen Center at the University of Southern Denmark – an internationally renowned research institution located in the writer’s birthplace, Odense.
Each week, these experts will guide a discussion, analysis and interpretation of one of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, including:
  • The Tinderbox
  • The Travelling Companion
  • The Little Mermaid
  • The Snow Queen (the inspiration for Disney’s Frozen)
  • The Story of a Mother
  • The Red Shoes
You will explore the themes of each story, and investigate how they both conform with and digress from the fairy tale. This genre became very popular in the period of literary history to which Hans Christian Andersen belongs, Romanticism, when childhood was discovered as an age that is important in its own right.
But what Hans Christian Andersen did with this genre is absolutely unique - there are no other writers of fairy tales like him.


You will need a basic ability to read and understand Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales in English. Otherwise, a curiosity about and a love for the fairy tale genre is the sole prerequisite for the course.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Valiant Little Tailor: Grimms vs. Schonwerth

When the Schonwerth tales were released in English, one of the selling points of the collection was that you could compare a version of "The Valiant Little Tailor" with the Grimm story about a man who kills seven flies and tricks his enemies into fearing him using clever wordplay (or lying, depending on how you look at it).

The marketers of the Schonwerth collection were very quick to jump on how dark and violent his unedited tales were compared to the Grimms'. Of course it's not like the Grimm tales are all rainbows and pink flowers either, however, I do think the Schonwerth version of this story is darker overall. Although I'm confused...there may have been multiple versions of this tale in his collection. In this interview with Maria Tatar, (titled Down and Dirty Fairy Tales: How this rediscovered stash of darker-than-Grimm stories destroys our Prince Charming myths), she says,

 "One example in this book is a version of the well-known story of “The Valiant Little Tailor,” the guy who kills seven flies with one blow. The Grimms’ version has the flies hovering over a sandwich that the fellow has made. In Schönwerth, the flies are hovering over a dung heap. So that gives you a sense of the raw energy of the stories and the way that Schönwerth decided he was going to tell it straight up, tell it like it was."

But in my copy, the story that is clearly the "Valiant Little Tailor" version, "The Tailor and the Giants," there are no flies at all, and no dung heap. The tailor just happens to come across a sash (by a well in a forest) that says "Seven with one stroke; who can match that?" and takes it; rather than the Grimms' tailor who sews the sash himself, making him seem a little more full of himself.

The episode where the tailor fools the Giant is similar in both versions-they both squeeze a piece of cheese to appear strong enough to squeeze water out of rock, and they both release a bird pretending they can throw a rock even farther than the Giant. Yet the Grimms' tailor had happened to find those objects before he met the Giant, whereas the Schonwerth tailor picks up the objects as he goes. The Grimms' hero appears to be just lucky, whereas the Schonwerth tailor is thinking on his feet and appears more clever. There is an episode in the Grimm story not found in Schonwerth, in which the tailor also pretends to help the Giant carry a tree.

There are other minor differences I won't go into, but just highlight the ones I find the most significant. In both stories, the tailor is eventually charged with killing troublesome giants. In Grimms, they appear to be two completely unrelated giants-the King has to show the tailor where they live, and he tricks the giants into getting into an argument and killing each other. Yet Schonwerth makes it clear that the tailor kills the very Giants that he had just stayed with, and he was able to do it because he already knew where they lived and their schedule. After cutting off their heads, he also cuts out their eyes and tongues as proof for the King.

Then, Grimms' tailor only has to secure a unicorn and a boar before being able to wed the princess. Schonwerth's hero is charged with killing seven Dragons that demanded daily human sacrifices, and a Serpent who would eat any humans that came near. Certainly more intimidating foes.

Then, in the middle of the tailor's slaying, he notices that the words on his sash have changed-now they tell him the secret to killing the rest of the Dragons. I like that element that the sash is a magical helper.

In both stories, the tailor wins the Princess that was his prize for his feats. She overhears him talking in his sleep about sewing, revealing that he was a tailor (a very lowly position at the time). The Princess tells the King she doesn't want a husband who was once a tailor. The Grimms' King promises to capture the tailor and ship him off across the world. The Schonwerth King was more violent-he arranged to place his new son in law at the front of an army in a doomed battle. But once again, the tailor looks down to see that the words on the sash have changed a third time, to say "You shall be the victor!" The tailor happened to come across a crucifix, and the sight of the "God of the Christians" fighting with the tailor's army caused the other army to flee in terror.

The Grimms' tailor just pretends to talk in his sleep again and threatens the King's servants who run away before shipping him off, so he stays King and nothing is said about the Princess' feelings changing towards him. The Schonwerth tailor returns to his wife who now respects him and they both lived long and happy lives.

Illustrations, in order: Arthur Rackham, H. J. Ford, Alexander Zick, Kay Nielsen

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thoughts on Cinderella: Beauty and Class

The tale of Cinderella is often looked down on for being shallow and materialistic; Cinderella is only beautiful when she's in  a dress, and the prince only likes her because she's beautiful.

But I think we have to remember how significant the class difference was between Cinderella and the Prince, and how truly big of a deal that union would have been hundreds of years ago. Even today there are some circles where it's really important if you come from money; but those class distinctions and judgments have grown much less significant. Especially here in America, where we tend to respect people more if they came from nothing and worked really hard to get where they are.

But the lines between royalty and servants were so untouchable we lose sight of the sacrifice the Prince made in being willing to marry Cinderella, a servant, even though she was found in her rags. It wasn't just her physical appearance, it was her station in life. The Prince instructed the shoe was to be tried on everyone, not just nobles and royals. It's interesting to compare Cinderella to the Villeneuve version of "Beauty and the Beast"-the whole thing is almost a parody of the class system, because she shows people judge others who aren't "good enough for them" (the Beast's/Prince's mother does not approve of Beauty, a commoner), then we find all the expectations of classes being turned upside down-in beauty verses ugliness, wealth verses poverty, royalty verses peasant, even fairy verses human.

In fact, I would argue that physical appearance is now one of the things we tend to judge other people by the most. It's almost our new version of ranking by class. I like to think that a modern version of Cinderella in the same spirit would be something like: a guy and a girl meet at a party, and he finds her very attractive and never forgets her. Years later he finds her, but now she has gained a lot of weight or in some other way become not as beautiful by cultural standards-yet he knows she is the same person from that party and because he fell in love with that girl he wants her no matter what. It can be read as a love that transcends cultural rules rather than falls into them, we've just morphed our rules a bit. Love at first sight in French Salon Fairy Tales is not the complete solution, but it was a step towards solving the problem of marriages that were arranged only for social status, regardless of the feelings of the people who would actually have to enter into that marriage and have their lives forever changed.
Illustrations by Walter Crane

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hans Christian Andersen around the World (in monuments)

The other day, Tabled Fables had this posted:
From passport couture: "I never expected Hans Christian Andersen to be in Chicago, but I'm excited to run into him."

I never expected to run into HCA in Chicago either, and I live here!! Well, not in the city proper, but I've lived in the Chicago area my whole life. I need to get to Lincoln Park at some point and see this in person!

I was also curious as to why we have a statue of HCA among a bunch of famous Chicago/Illinois people. Most people might go for the Grimms as the most famous fairy tale collectors (maybe they didn't want to make two statues??). I'm pretty sure Andersen never visited here or had any special Chicago connections...
View of Lincoln Park in Chicago

It didn't answer my question but I did find some more information on the history of the monument:

"Soon after members of Chicago’s Dania Society suggested that the city should erect a monument to Andersen in 1891, a committee formed and began raising money for the eight-foot-tall bronze sculpture. Donations included pennies and nickels from school children. The Hans Christian Andersen Monument Association hired Danish sculptor John Gelert (1852–1923), who had arrived in Chicago in 1887, and received his first commission for the Haymarket Riot monument (which was later considered controversial). Gelert later explained that “he had the advantage of studying several good photographs of Andersen taken at various times in his life.” Gelert portrayed the children’s author sitting with a book in hand and a swan at his feet, alluding to his world-famous story."

(emphasis mine)

Hans Christian Andersen, also with book and duck, can also be found in Manhattan:

And, as you might expect, in Copenhagen (where the famous Little Mermaid statue also is):

And a museum in Odense (HCA's birth town):

Through the Scandinavian Heritage Association in North Dakota:
And apparently, this sculpture in Odense was going to be drowned in a harbor??

HCA can also be found in Slovakia
This time without a duck and with a snail...and whatever that is on his back? Am I a bad fairy tale blogger if I don't know what the snail is from?

And Solvang, California

Out of curiosity, I tried to find other statues of the brothers Grimm to compare. It seems that they are most honored in monument form in Germany but not outside. (Let me know in the comments if I'm wrong!) Isn't that interesting, though? The Grimms are arguably more popular, is it just the cost issue of having to do both brothers verses one HCA?