Friday, August 26, 2016

Sybille Schenker's Little Red Riding Hood


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






Sunday, August 21, 2016

Who's the Bluebird in Sleeping Beauty?


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Emma Mosier's BATB Comic

 Beauty and the Beast front cover Photoshop 2014

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

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




Friday, August 12, 2016

Marvel's X-Men: Beauty and the Beast

It's Beauty and the Beast comic week over here! I was on ebay seeing if I could find some issues of the Disney BATB comic books I just mentioned for cheap when I discovered the X-Men series of the same name. I had mentioned that this existed years ago and didn't think I'd ever come across it, but you can get the full series of four issues from multiple sellers, for not that expensive!

So I splurged, and now I have a new addition to my Beauty and the Beast collection!

I was never into comic books growing up, but X-Men were my favorites in the superhero franchise, and eventually I decided I wanted to know a little more about them than what I had learned from Hugh Jackman movies or X-Men Evolution, and I bought Essential X-Men: Volume 1. Although the style of classic comics is often cheesy and/or over-dramatic, I enjoyed getting to learn some of the original histories of my favorite characters. It can be hard to follow the style of comics if you're not used to them, at first, but it gets easier.

One major theme of the X-Men is how society treats the mutants who are different than them, but also how the different mutants respond to rejection. It's a theme that really applies to our modern culture in multiple ways, so in a way they're some of the most relevant superheroes. Plus, for BATB fans, there are several characters that can be seen as Beast characters-Nightcrawler, Mystique (as a female Beast in her natural form), Wolverine (sort of), and of course, Beast himself-or Hank McCoy.
The storyline itself follows Beast and his relationship with Dazzler, a former singing star who just revealed herself to be a mutant with the power to emit light. She has been rejected by her fans and the public and must find her place among mutants now. I enjoyed the story-it was a good read for a day I was feeling a bit under the weather, but I honestly liked it as a unique retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

Unlike just about every other BATB story, the emphasis here is not on the romance itself, but on the action and unveiling of surprise bad guys and good guys. Which is kind of nice-many BATB stories suffer because the ONLY plot is the romance, and it can feel one dimensional and the characters underdeveloped.

Plus, in most BATB stories, the plot follows the meeting and ends at the "finally getting together" part. In this, without giving too much away, Beast and Dazzler are together by Issue 2, and the rest focuses on their struggles as a mutant couple, as well as the other storyline. Of course, I don't mind the traditional drawn out romance between an insecure Beast and the beautiful girl who finally falls in love with him-if not it wouldn't be my favorite fairy tale-but it is kind of refreshing. Beast doesn't really struggle with insecurity, but runs around L.A. without caring what people think of him, and it's Dazzler who's learning to deal with rejection.

Although the story doesn't follow the traditional French fairy tale too closely-no roses thrown in or father-daughter relationships, they did make an obvious reference to the Cocteau film at one point.

I was impressed with some of the themes tackled in just this storyline-issues that are complex, especially for the kids and preteens you typically picture reading comic books. Although, it seems other fans were not as impressed with this story, from reviews I've read. Some point out Dazzler's penchant for hardly wearing any clothes (or if she starts out wearing a longer skirt it gets ripped off, etc.) which annoyed me too but I thought was pretty typical of the genre. Others thought the ending was ridiculous, which again, seemed to be in line with the superhero/comic book world as I understand it. But again, I'm not an expert on comics. Would love to hear what you think, if you've read it!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Disney's Beauty and the Beast Marvel Comics

Here's another hidden gem I found out about on Meagan Kearney's Beauty and the Beast page!

Back in the mid-90s, Marvel published a series of short comic books that were a spinoff of the Disney movie. You can read them all on Disney Wikia! Although, at least on my computer, each time you go to a new page you have to wait for the popups to go away to allow you to read the words at the top and bottom of each page, which is kind of annoying. But since the issues aren't that easy to track down in real life it's a small price to pay for a true Disney BATB geek.

I read the first one, "A Chance for Romance." They're clearly aimed towards a young audience-the main problem in this one is that the Beast is in a bad mood and the objects are worried his bad mood will spoil the Wardrobe's surprise birthday party. In fact, reading the comic made certain relationships seem more strange to me. I'd read other people complaining about how the enchanted objects too happy to be the Beast's servants, or how Beast's relationship with Belle could promote abusive relationships-which I don't think is as much of an issue in the movie itself. But in the comics, you see the same scenarios repeat themselves over and over and everyone seems to tolerate the Beast's tantrums a little too well...

However, there are some endearing and funny moments too, and we get to see more of the fiesty Belle we all know and love who's not afraid to tell the Beast what she thinks. We also get to see some of the Beast's insecurities, although from skimming the plots of the first few, it seems that they all just repeat the same formula: the Bibettes/silly girls in the Village are trying to ensnare Gaston, while at the castle the Beast loses his temper and Belle calls him out and then they have a nice moment. I hope that as the issues progressed, the Beast shows more progress, and the whole romance isn't based on the fact that Belle simply isn't afraid of him. Here's the official blurb:

Beauty and the Beast was a series of comics published by Marvel Comics, spun off from the 1991 animated film of the same name. It ran for 13 issues from July 1994 to July 1995. 

 The comics took place during Belle's stay at Beast's castle, more specifically an unknown period after Beast, at Lumiere's suggestion, gave Belle his library. Until Issue 7 (or Issue 8 if one counts flashbacks), the comics (with the exception of issue #6) both focus on Belle's stay at the castle as well as events occurring at the village (the latter mostly regarding Gaston trying to find a way to impress Belle, with the Bimbettes trying to get him to focus on them instead of Belle), either at real time or, in the case of Issues 5 and 8, via flashback. Starting with Issue 7 until Issue 10, flashbacks to Belle's time with her father were showcased, and Issue 11 and 13 also showcased flashbacks to the Beast and the servants time as humans. It is not to be confused with a similarly-titled 4-issue story arc for the X-Men franchise, and is usually referred to in official Marvel materials as Volume 2 to distinguish it.

 Some elements in the comic series were later included in the Broadway musical (most notably Wardrobe's backstory as being a former Opera Diva).
Also from the comics-Jenny Prater was wondering over at Halfway to Fairyland why, in the musical version, the Beast never learned to read as a child, when he would have been raised as a Prince. It does seem like possibly an oversight on the side of the writers, but that's another plot element that actually came from these comics! So while it still might not be the best addition to the story, it's kind of cool that they used these stories for ideas when writing the musical...

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Fisherman Who Had Seven Sons: An Irish Mermaid Tale



Jean-Baptiste Monge | Siren: Once there was a poor fisherman with three sons. One night, he was trying unsuccessfully to fish, and a mermaid approached him. She told him that if he and his wife would give them their unborn son at the age of 21, she would make them rich. Neither he nor his wife has any problem agreeing to this, and the next night he finds more gold than he can carry, and becomes very prosperous.


He went on to have a total of seven sons, but was burdened by the knowledge that he must lose one of them. Finally he revealed to the son in question that he had sold him to a mermaid and the time was nearly up, so the son decided to leave. Although his father was troubled at his going, the son took expenses and food and left.

The son traveled until he was tired and sat down to rest, and saw a lion coming towards him. He thought he was dead for sure, but the lion offered to carry him. The lion carried him a long way and brought him to the house of a shoemaker.


The shoemaker told the traveler that the next day, the King's daughter was going to be devoured by a sea monster, unless someone could defeat it. With nothing but an old rusty sword used for cutting vegetables, the son took a boat to where the Princess was waiting. No one but the young man had the courage to fight the monster, and he killed it. The Princess would only marry him.

Shortly after, the mermaid approached, and revealed that her intention all along had not been to kill him, but to bring him to his present Kingdom to rescue the Princess. The mermaid left and was not seen again.


Illustrations-

Siren by Jean-Baptiste Monge
"Andromeda's Fate" by PaulHectorT

Source: Surlalune's Mermaid and Other Water Spirit Tales From Around the World, summarized by me

Friday, July 29, 2016

From the Archives: Lotte Reineger's Adventures of Prince Achmed



Any Disney book will tell you that Snow White was the first full length animated film, but Lotte Reiniger's The Adventures of Prince Achmed is "considered by many" to be the first full-length animated film. Snow White would undoubtably be the first full-length hand-drawn animated film, but Disney is not meticulous about making this distinction. Reiniger's story is told through enchantingly intricate paper cutouts and premiered in Germany in 1926-beating Snow White by 11 years.

This story is very sexually charged, but as everything is told through silhouettes, it's more subtle. Prince Achmed is the hero, but I hardly think he's more noble than any of the horny villains.


But the film is spellbinding to watch and the music wonderful, if the historical importance weren't reason enough to watch it. And how interesting that fairy tales are so closely linked with the beginnings of animation?


The story is based off of the story of "Prince Achmed and the Fairy" with a little Aladdin thrown in.

Lotte Reiniger has done versions of several fairy tales, including Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Thumbelina, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Portions, if not full versions, of all of these can be found on youtube.


Fun fact: According to wikipedia, the character Prince Achmed in Disney's Aladdin is a tribute to this film (Prince Ali and Ja'far are also other characters from Arabian Nights)

"You were born a street rat, you'll die a street rat, and only your fleas will mourn you!"

Monday, July 25, 2016

Artist Feature: Anna and Elena Balbusso

Enjoy some beautiful artwork by sisters Anna and Elena Balbusso:


"The Too-clever Fox"

Wild Swans

The Nutcracker

Men Who Wish to Drown


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Little Rose and the Dwarves

Dwarves can be helpful or dangerous, and different folktales will show their various natures. This tale from Schonwerth's collection, "Little Rose and the Dwarves," shows the helpful sort.

Once there were two lovers, only the boy's father urged him repeatedly to marry a rich girl, and his sweetheart Little Rose was a poor maiden. One day Little Rose was working and heard a sigh. She saw a Dwarf who was trying to lift his pitcher out of a fountain and couldn't; she laughed at him although she felt pity for him. Rose lifted out the dwarf's pitcher and handed it to him.

The Dwarf asked her what she wanted in return for her service, and she replied, "Nobody can help me but God alone." The Dwarf promised he would meet her later, for he had to bring the water to his thirsty wife, and agreed to meet her at 11:00 in her kitchen.

Little Rose didn't show up until almost midnight, and the Dwarf scolded her for being late. But he had her remove the lid on top of the stove, and there was a tunnel that led to a chamber. The Dwarf told Rose that her father actually had been rich, but selfishly buried all his money and took his secret with him to the grave. The Dwarf pulled out the key to the chamber, and now Rose was more wealthy than the woman her beloved's father intended him to marry.


The Dwarf stayed with the young wife, and he and his companions did chores for her, and her work prospered. They attended to Rose in her childbirth and helped watch her children, and asked in return for warm milk three times a day. She even taught the Dwarves and their families to read, and also visited the Dwarf families when they had children. If she wanted the Dwarves to come visit, she just had to call out, "Little men, come to me, the men are gone!" and they would come out from between the floorboards.

*************************************

I like how the heroine in this story isn't perfect-she initially laughs at the sight of the Dwarf struggling with his water pitcher, and was late for their meeting. But these things are forgiven and we see an unusual but appealing picture of two species working and living together. It's interesting that the Dwarves will appear to women and children but seem to avoid men.

Illustrations by John Bauer

Monday, July 18, 2016

Variants of Robber Bridegroom

The Grimms' "Robber Bridegroom" isn't nearly as famous as Perrault's "Bluebeard," which is a shame because I think most people like it better. It's still every bit as creepy, as it features a woman who witnesses her betrothed and his friends killing and eating an innocent woman, but the heroine is clever and resourceful-she is able to find her way home because she throught to scatter lentils on the path to the house. Then she exposes the murderer safely by telling the story in public as if it were a dream, but then producing as proof a finger of the dead woman that had flown into her lap.

The great Russian writer Alexander Pushkin wrote several poems based on fairy tales, including "Robber Bridegroom." This poem isn't nearly as exciting, in my opinion, as the Grimm tale. It tells the perspective of the bride's family and friends who don't know why she is so upset until the very end, when she reveals that she witnessed her new husband killing a girl cutting off her hand, and produces the hand with a ring on it as proof. Pushkin's tale also doesn't have the gory details of the Grimms, including the cannibalism of the victims. The poem can be read here.

Mr. Fox is a very similar English tale. The heroine visits the house of the murderer, and first discovers buckets of blood and skeletons, then the men come home and she witnesses a killing. She exposes them in the same way as the bride in "Robber Bridegroom."

D. L. Ashliman has collected several fascinating variants of this morbid tale as well. In a different German version (not the Grimms'), the bride is given the choice of being either boiled in water or oil, and on the witch housekeeper's advice, says she prefers water. This means she draws the water herself, giving her an opportunity to hide. Although the cannibal slices off her toes in his attempt to find her, the blood magically disappears so as not to lead him to her hiding place in a tree, and a prince conveniently stops by the woods and saves her in the nick of time.

In some English versions, the girl comes across her sweetheart digging a grave and later hints at what she saw; sometimes the murderer is frightened off by her knowledge, but in a legend that supposedly took place at Oxford, he stabs her. The "Robber Bridegroom" story is also told in the form of another English legend, Bloody Baker.

In the Welsh Laula, the murderer succeeds in killing the first sister, but her elder sister had followed them and exposed the crime.

The Cannibal Innkeeper is a very dark Romanian tale. After a young servant girl refused to marry a man, he sold her to a cannibalistic innkeeper who locked her in a room and forced her to cook human flesh, which he then served to his guests. One day his mother, who was a witch and wanted to punish him, turned the girl into a duck, so she was able to fly out of the room and escape-but the girl remained a duck for the rest of her life.

In the Lithuanian story Greenbeard, a woman will only marry a husband who has a green beard. The murderer dyes his beard green for her. The moral of this story seems to be for women not to be so picky about the men they marry, for after the crimes are witnessed and exposed in a similar manner, it's added that the girl no longer has such in interest in green beards (and of course the image also links the tale to "Bluebeard"). It strikes me that in this tale, as well as others, the cannibals are not referred to as "murderers" or "cannibals," but simply "robbers." Why is their evil downplayed by that choice of words? The same question applies to the Grimm tale-why is it "Robber Bridegroom" and not "Murderous Bridegroom" or "Cannibalistic Bridegroom"?

Illustrations-Walter Crane, Arthur Rackham, John Batten