Monday, February 8, 2016

Roses in Fairy Tales: Snow White

Reminds me of President Snow:

When I posted on roses last year, Gypsy of Once Upon a Blog reminded me that roses are also very significant in the history of "Snow White", and referred me to Kate Forsyth's fabulous post on Snow White.

There's a 9th century Norse saga that includes the tale of "Snow Beauty." A king's beautiful wife died, but  her cheeks remained rosy. He became obsessed with the idea that she would come back to life, and neglected his kingly duties, sitting by her side. When his councillor finally suggested he allow them to change the bedclothes, they lifted the body up, "a rank smell of rotting rose with her, the body turned blue, and worms and adders and frogs and toads crawled out. So she was burned, and the King returned to his wits."

In Basile's "The Young Slave" (published 1634), arguably the oldest literary version of Snow White, the mother became pregnant with Snow White after swallowing a rose petal.
Snow White by JDarnell

In the first version of "Snow White" that the Grimms collected (in 1808), there is no hunstman, but the Queen sends the girl into the forest to collect roses and abandons her there. (This is in the Grimms' earlier manuscripts, but by the first edition of tales in 1812 the story had become the version we have now with the huntsman).

I wonder why we've lost all associations with roses and Snow White in our current versions? I found it hard to find any images of Snow White with roses for this post, despite the general association of Princesses with pretty flowers. The stark color contrasts of red and white featured in "Snow White" do recall common rose shades to mind, such as in the fairy tale "Snow White and Rose Red." In that tale, the different shades represent the two sisters and their contrasting personalities.

Another interesting tale for comparison is "The Snow, the Crow, and the Blood." Though it  is more similar to Twelve Dancing Princesses than Snow White, it starts off with the motif of a Prince who sees the color combination of white, black, and red and decides he must have a bride of that coloring. Later in that tale, the enchanted princess shows the hero a rosebush-there were three hundred and sixty five rose bushes; all of them had a victim's head as the flower except one, and the Princess told Jack she hoped to have his head on the last rosebush.

It seems that roses, despite being the cliche and overly romantic flower we think of now, often had a history of being very morbid in fairy tales, especially those related to Snow White.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Fairytale Love by Leanne French

Found an unusual book but it's rather appropriate with Valentine's Day approaching, Fairytale Love: How to Love Happily Ever After by Leanne French.
"With pessimistic divorce and break-up statistics climbing faster than a magic beanstalk, who doesn't want to believe in happily ever after? Fairytale Love presents a playful yet powerful relationship self-help guide that seeks to help you optimistically unlock the secrets of forever after, using inspirational solutions and accessible advice. Fairytales can awaken your creativity, enliven your imagination, and direct your attention to common human conditions and traits of character. They can also entertain, empower, and inspire you to really look at your own ways of thinking and behaving when faced with struggles and triumph. Relying on the positive psychology provided in Fairytale Love, you can find the keys to single-handedly transform your relationship into a more passionate, resilient one. This guide - reveals eighty-eight successful, love-enriching secrets; - awakens self-care and fosters charming ways of being; - puts you in charge of creating your own fulfilling love story; - delivers uplifting, fun ways to treasure each other; and - offers playful, distinctive strategies that increase respect, reduce beastly debates, and make it possible for you to love happily ever after."
Beauty and the Beast Boyle Image 10
Eleanor Vere Boyle, "Beauty and the Beast"

It's gotten 5 star reviews on Amazon...all two of them (and one of them has the same last name as the author). I've become rather skeptical of amazon reviews anyway but I do find the idea interesting, and wonder what fairy tale examples French uses-one reviewer says "the author relates fairy tales to real life issues and topics with both humor and wisdom".

In the fairy tale world there's a lot of disillusionment with the whole idea of "happily ever after," especially the implied "happily ever after=marriage." The disillusionment is understandable, but with our dark and cynical retellings I think it's important to remember that there really are such thing as happy, healthy marriages, even despite all the broken relationships we witness-and I believe those relationships are very much worth fighting for.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Gordon Laite Fairy Tale Illustrations

Some eye candy for your Thursday, courtesy of illustrator Gordon Laite (1925-1978)


Beauty and the Beast

Wild Swans

Snow White and Rose Red

Monday, February 1, 2016

Roses in Fairy Tales

Last year, leading up to Valentine's Day, I did a post on roses in fairy tales because it seemed rather fitting, but the subject could be explored so much more, that post was really only a scratching of the surface. So this year I'm following up on some more ways to look at roses.

You can even use the image to look at the complexity of tales themselves, such as Marcia Lane does in her book Picturing the Rose: A Way of Looking at Fairy Tales.

From the introduction:

"If I say to you, 'Think of a rose,' your mind conjures up a picture of a flower-but your picture is unique. You imagine a new, tight bud, or a full-blown flower. Everyone sees a different rose. Take it by the stem and rotate it slowly and, second by second, it transforms right before your eyes. Each time you look at it, it's different, but the rose is still there. In much the same way, fairy tales tend to change as we live with them, examine them, and tell them. Return to the rose. Close your eyes and the perfume will resurrect the image of the flower. Always the same, always changing. These stories will blossom as you examine them; you can look and look, and they will never lose their ability to delight and enchant. Such is their power!"


Over the next couple weeks there will be some more posts on roses in fairy tales; hopefully even if Valentine's Day isn't really your thing, you can enjoy looking at all the decorations and ads popping up through a fairy tale lens!

Friday, January 29, 2016

What Fairy Tales REALLY Say About Curiosity

Rosebud Nielsen Image
This post is kind of an extension of some of the discussion that went on in the comments from my post on an alternate beginning for Rapunzel a couple weeks ago. It's largely been accepted in fairy tale scholarship that traditional fairy tales tend to condemn female curiosity, some of them outright (like Perrault's moral for "Bluebeard") and some of them more subtly. Culturally, it was typical for curiosity in women to be seen as a horrible thing for a while there, so it's sad but not too surprising that that idea would have been applied to fairy tales.

Yet, when you ignore the moral tacked on at the end or inserted by an editor trying to make their tales more marketable for children's instruction, what do the tales themselves actually say about curiosity?

Sleeping Beauty-the Princess is exploring the castle one day and finds a spindle, and touches it, having never seen one before. She falls into deathlike sleep, as was predicted by the fairy (and really caused by her father's attempts to prevent the spell from happening). But after her sleep is over, she ends up with a royal husband and is none the worse for her long nap (also an extra episode with an evil mother in law in some versions, but that also gets resolved and the villain punished)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Nielsen Image
Snow White-enters a strange house in the woods when she is running from her murderous mother/stepmother (this one is more desperation than curiosity, but she could have just sat outside and waited for the dwarves to come home, like a proper little girl should have). Yet she is never condemned-she strikes a deal with the dwarfs, who end up later helping the Prince find her (in a totally creepy way but that's a different topic)

Twelve Dancing Princesses-We are never told (in most versions) how the sisters discovered that there was an entrance to an underground kingdom in their bedroom, but it stands to reason they somehow discovered it, and made the choice to venture down. This tale is one of the most ambiguous, sometimes the Princesses are assumed to be under a spell, but in the Grimms their actions are never really explained-but they are also not specifically condemned (and interestingly, the princes in the underground kingdom are punished, but not the Princesses who traveled there to dance-the soldier, who was curious and adventurous enough to discover the truth, is the rewarded hero)

-And, in the "Twelve Dancing Princesses" category, we have to remember Kate Crackernuts, a version in which it's a female who does the exporing into the hidden Kingdom, saving her sister and a prince in the process! Thanks Sue Bursztynski :)

Bluebeard's Wife-opens the door to the forbidden chamber. Because of this she is threatened with death by her husband, but he is killed, and his killing seen as just. His widow ends up with his estate, and her freedom.
Bluebeard by Kay Nielsen

Jack and the Beanstalk-climbs up the beanstalk and discovers the world of giants. This gets him into a dangerous situation from which he ultimately escapes and triumphs, ending up with the money he lacked at the beginning

East of the Sun, West of the Moon/Cupid and Psyche-the heroine disobeys an order not to look upon her husband, seeing how hot he secretly is. She has to go on a long, hard journey to win him back, but they do ultimately end up together and happy

So, what do the tales themselves actually say about curiosity? (This is only a partial list of some big ones-feel free to add more in the comments! And there are always exeptions to rules but I'm going to go ahead and state:)
East of the Sun Image 5 by Nielsen
First of all, curiosity does often bring challenges and obstacles. (Even to males, like Jack!) And that, honestly, can be true. There's the old saying, "ignorance is bliss"-it's not always easy discovering new knowledge that might challenge your worldview, or the truth about a person you thought you could trust. Curiosity leads to discovering something you didn't know before, and that often sends you on a different life path than you were previously on. It's the same in detective stories-digging through clues and getting closer to the truth can put you in dangerous situations with the criminals, but is necessary for obtaining justice.

But if fairy tales truly wanted to condemn the curious, the characters who went where they weren't supposed to and opened locked doors would ultimately end up dying and/or unhappy-many fairy tales really do end tragically! The Grimms weren't afraid to punish disobedient children in their stories, or to make their villains suffer horribly. Yet the endings reveal that those who pursue knowledge really are the heroes and heroines, not the villains. Sometimes that forbidden discovery really enables the happy ending to happen. We, the readers, always want to know what lies on the other side of the door just as much as the characters-by listening we are complicit in the discovering alongside the protagonists! It would be too ironic if stories themselves (which impart ideas and knowledge) were to truly condemn discovery of other ideas and knowledge!

Of course, there are boundaries to curiosity. The Victorian idea of not indulging curiosity isn't entirely bad, because you should also respect other people's privacy, etc. The level to which the characters actually crossed that boundary could be debated for each tale and variant (such as Goldilocks). But for most of these stories, the plots of fairy tales ultimately speak louder than the official morals, and the characters who display curiosity are clearly the sympathetic protagonists.

Illustrations-Kay Nielsen

Monday, January 25, 2016

LaliBlue's Fairy Tale Necklaces

Some beautiful fairy tale necklaces can be found at Etsy's LaliBlue shop (or the original Spanish site)! There are the usual suspects (Little Red, Cinderella) alongside some other fairy tale characters you don't usually see in jewelry form, such as Donkeyskin and the Steadfast Tin Soldier.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Grimms' The Twelve Brothers: First edition verses Seventh

Still loving my new copy of the First Edition of the brothers Grimm Tales.  Sometimes I'll get disappointed when there isn't a big difference between stories in the first edition verses later ones, but I guess it's good to know that Wilhelm (who did most of the editing) didn't completely change every story.

Some changes are more well known to fairy tale fans-the fact that Rapunzel's witch/fairy found out about the prince because Rapunzel was pregnant and showing, or the fact that Snow White's stepmother was originally her mother.

So I'm on the lookout for differences in tales that aren't as well known. I found some very interesting edits in The Twelve Brothers, a version of "The Wild Swans." The link is to the latest edition, if you want to read the whole thing.

The story begins with a King and Queen who had twelve sons, and expecting their thirteenth child.
First edition: The King doesn't want the last child to be a daughter, and threatens to kill his sons if the Queen should give birth to a girl.
Final edition: The King wants to give his only daughter the entire inheritance, so he makes the same threat to his sons.

This is a pretty interesting change. The original King is so obviously sexist and wrong, and yet the change is almost worse in a way because it makes it seem like favoring a daughter is linked with evil. That was my first impression, since we're so wired to look at fairy tales through a gender lens, but actually upon further reflection I think the change was made just to avoid a major plot hole. If the King really hates girls, and has no problem killing his own children, why would he allow his daughter to live and run around the castle? It makes much more sense to threaten to kill your sons if you prefer daughters.

Well, the Queen is too loving a mother to allow her sons to be murdered. She sends them into the forest to hide until her baby is born. If the baby is a son, she will have a white flag raised from the castle; if it is a girl, it will be a red flag and they should flee.
First edition: It's briefly mentioned that the youngest son is the Queen's favorite
Final edition: The youngest son is named Benjamin and given a larger role. There is an extra scene in which he begs her to tell him why she is so sad, and she hesitates to tell him at first, but then shows him the room with twelve coffins that have been prepared for them.

The brothers hide and watch for the flag. When the baby is born (the last edition mentions that this was during Benjamin's watch), there is a red flag, and their lives are all in danger. The young men are angry that they should have lost their lives for a girl, and swear that if they ever see a girl they will kill her. The brothers make a home for themselves in the woods and hunt.
First edition: "Whenever they encountered a maiden, she was treated without mercy and lost her life"
Final edition: The brothers conveniently seem to avoid actually encountering any females, so they are not murderers any more.

Meanwhile, their little sister has grown up, and one day finds twelve shirts that belonged to her brothers. She is told the story, and decides to go out in search of them. She encounters one of her brothers at home.
First edition: That brother threatens to kill her, but she pleaded that she would keep house for them, and they allowed her to live.
Final edition: The brother she meets is Benjamin, who didn't want to kill her at all. Before showing her to his brothers, he made them promise not to kill the first maiden they saw. The brothers, rather than simply realizing they could use someone to do housework, were impressed by her beauty, delicacy, and sweetness, and loved her.
Also, rather than doing the housework solo, she helps Benjamin do the cooking and cleaning. I found this very interesting, and probably countercultural? This seems to be a very rare instance of a male doing any sort of housework in the Grimms' tales.

The family lived and worked together happily, until one day, the Princess found twelve beautiful lilies and picked them, only to be told by an old woman that the flowers were her brothers, and now they would be turned into ravens forever. The only way she could save them would be to take a vow of silence.
First edition: The Princess must be silent for twelve years, at the risk of her brothers dying if she broke her vow
Final edition: The silence was shortened to seven years

Gruelle Image2The Princess was discovered by a King, who asked her to be his wife. She did not speak, but nodded. Only her husband's mother was wicked and put into her son's mind that his new bride was a wicked beggar and must be put to death. The King would not believe his mother at first, but finally was persuaded, and agreed to have her burnt. Just as the flames were getting near, the last minute of the curse was up. The twelve ravens came flying down and turned into men, and their sister was able to defend herself and tell her story. The King rejoiced.
First edition: "Now they had to decide what they should do with the evil mother-in-law. Well, they stuck her into a barrel full of boiling oil and poisonous snakes, and she died a ghastly death."
Final edition*: Rather than the main characters imposing their own justice, the same fate was determined by a court of law

*Thank you to Julia Mavroidi for pointing this out to me. My translation (this Barnes and Noble copy) ends this way: "But the wicked mother-in-law was very unhappy, and died miserably." Apparently their editor/translator (uncredited, that I can find) still found the ending too violent

Cover and first picture-Andrea Dezso, Walter Crane, John B. Gruelle

For more on "The Twelve Brothers," here's an interesting article on Fairy Tale Origins

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Article, BBC News: Fairy Tale Origins Thousands of Years Old

An illustration of Beauty and the Beast
My friend sent me a link to this article from BBC News, Fairy Tale Origins Thousands of Years Old, Researchers Say. An Excerpt:

"Dr Tehrani, who worked with folklorist Sara Graca Da Silva, from the New University of Lisbon, said: "We find it pretty remarkable these stories have survived without being written.
"They have been told since before even English, French and Italian existed. They were probably told in an extinct Indo-European language."
In the 19th Century, authors the Brothers Grimm believed many of the fairy tales they popularised, including Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel and Snow White, were rooted in a shared cultural history dating back to the birth of the Indo-European language family.
Later thinkers challenged that view, saying some stories were much younger and had been passed into oral tradition, having first been written down by writers from the 16th and 17th Centuries.
Dr Jamie Tehrani said: "We can come firmly down on the side of Wilhelm Grimm.
"Some of these stories go back much further than the earliest literary record and indeed further back than Classical mythology - some versions of these stories appear in Latin and Greek texts - but our findings suggest they are much older than that."
This article doesn't provide too many details beyond this (they reference a different article from Science News which basically says the same). They've used language analysis to do their studies, as opposed to the usual method of finding a tale referenced in writing. In a way it's no surprise to us that fairy tales existed, in some form, thousands of years ago. For example, we already know that "Beauty and the Beast" can be linked to "Cupid and Psyche" from the second century, and that that was probably based on oral tales. But according to the article, BATB is probably 3,000-4,000 years old. Yet the stories change so much over time, even "Cupid and Psyche" is significantly different than BATB. I wish the articles had more examples showing how they can be confident that these stories are "far older than the first literary evidence for them." Still, very interesting, and contradicts the literary source theory that Ruth Bottigheimer has put forth.
Illustrations by Walter Crane

UPDATE: Surlalune has posted on the CNN article which provides the link for the full study. I'm definitely not an expert in phylogenetic analysis and I probably wouldn't understand any of it anyway but I'll pretend it's because I haven't had enough coffee yet. If anyone wants to look it over and attempt to explain pertinent findings in layman's terms, please do! (I also don't feel too badly because Don Melvin, in the CNN article, humorously points out how wordy the study is)

UPDATE:  Zalka Csenge Virag also discussed the article on Multicolored Diary (and has far more intelligent, in depth things to say about the study than I!)

*Also, I've added a tag for fairy tale origins. It contains posts about the debate over ancient oral sources for fairy tales verses relatively recent literary sources, but also those theories about historical precedents for fairy tales, if you're interested!

Monday, January 18, 2016

From the Archives: Heidi Anne Heiner on the History of Goldilocks

This information was taken from an article Heidi Anne Heiner (of Surlalune) wrote for Faerie Magazine

The earliest known manuscript of "Goldilocks" was a little illustrated book done in 1831 by Eleanor Mure made for her nephew's birthday. The story was referenced in 1813 as well so we know it's been around since before then.

The older tales we know of centered around the bears, and the intruder was actually an old woman. The bears are the protagonists and the intruder the villain. Robert Southey's 1837 version of the story (which for years was thought to be an original story, before the Mure version was discovered) includes all male bears, whose voices were represented by different fonts. (This story makes a great music lesson plan for young children, as you can teach high and low sounds with the bear's voices).

Mure's tale has the bears attempting in vain to murder the old woman-their inability to do so probably because she was a witch.

The switch from evil old woman to adorable little gir began with Joseph Cundall in 1850, who, when explaining why he made the change, wrote that the tale was better known as "Silver-hair" (although the illustrations to his tale show a little brunette), and that there were already plenty of stories with old women.

The name "Goldilocks" was first used in 1904 and made popular when the version by Flora Annie Steel and illustrated by Arthur Rackham appeared with the now-famous name in 1918. Gradually the three bears became a family and narrators became more sympathetic with the little girl. Sometimes she was punished, but the name of the tale is revealing, because it used to be called "The Three Bears" and is now known simply by "Goldilocks." To some, the little bear is the real protagonist. The change of sympathy from bears to little girl reminds me of the reversible verses from Marilyn Singer's excellent book "Mirror, Mirror" (Buy it nowNo, seriously):

the headline read.
Next day
Goldilocks claimed,
"They shouldn't have left
the door
She ate the porridge.
a chair.
"Big deal?
They weren't there."

They weren't there.
big deal?
A chair
ate the porridge.
the door.
"They shouldn't have left,"
Goldilocks claimed.
Next day
the headline read:

Heiner mentions a related tale from 1894 in which the trespasser is a fox or vixen-the term "vixen" could help explain the transition from fox to a woman.

Illustrations-Anne Anderson, Arthur Rackham, Jose Masse

Friday, January 15, 2016

Rapunzel Alternate Beginning

Anne Anderson's Rapunzel

One great thing about the annotated tales over at Surlalune are that Heidi Anne Heiner has included the Grimms' notes with some of them. Not even my complete first edition of Grimm tales has that!

I was reading about Rapunzel and came across this interesting fact: the Grimms had found a version that seems like it blended Bluebeard and Rapunzel. The witch lives with a young girl, and entrusted all of her keys to her, but forbid her to go in a certain room. The young girl, of course, disobeys, and finds the witch sitting in it with "two great horns." Because of that, the girl is placed in a tower.

This tale still seems more reasonable than Bluebeard. The witch, at least, hasn't killed anybody in the process, and really has nothing to hide. And while it's still not entirely fair, at least a child should be expected to obey adults more so than a wife should be expected to have entire rooms in her house off limits.

Still, in both cases, female curiosity is punished. While it's upsetting for feminists, the punishments in both cases (locked in a tower/death) are just so extreme, maybe tales like these were sometimes meant to express frustration with societal expectations of women's complete obedience.

Also, on the subject of niece drew this for me for Christmas. My favorite detail is the "no tower" thought bubble coming from Rapunzel. Although many fairy tale Princesses are trapped in towers, servitude, or death-like sleep, their goal is universally escape!

Illustration-Anne Anderson