Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Nightwish-"The Siren" from their album Once
A lady with a violin playing to the seals
Hearken to the sound of calling
Who tied my hands to the wheel?
The zodiac turns over me
(Come to me)
Somewhere there my fate revealed
I hear but how will I see
I tied myself to the wheel
The winds talk to my sails, not me
(Come to me)
Somewhere there my fate revealed
I hear but how will I see
Sunday, August 29, 2010
"Numerous versions of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ predated Mme Leprince de Beaumont's tale. Straparola's mid‐16th‐century ‘Re Porco’ (‘King Pig’) exhibits a swinish husband who delights in rooting in rotting filth and rolling in mud before climbing into bed with each of three successive wives. He murders the first two when they express their revulsion at his stinking habits, but makes the third his queen when she smilingly acquiesces in his muck.
Basile's Pentamerone (1634–6) included four ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale types. The first three—‘The Serpent’ (Day 2, Tale 5), ‘The Padlock’ (Day 2, Tale 9), and ‘Pinto Smalto’ (Day 5, Tale 3) resemble Apuleius' tale in that the husbands in each story are reputed, but not actual, monsters. However, in the fourth story, ‘The Golden Root’ (Day 5, Tale 4), the handsome husband simply trades his black skin for white at night.
Charles Perrault includes a highly ethicized conclusion in his ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale, ‘Riquet à la Houppe’ (1697), but leaves readers in doubt about whether the monstrously ugly hero Riquet actually becomes handsome, or whether he only appears so in the eyes of his besotted beloved.
In 1697 Mme d'Aulnoy also published ‘Le Mouton’ (‘The Ram’), but with a tragic ending: her heroine's dear Ram dies in her absence. Other ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale types in Mme d'Aulnoy's œuvre include ‘La Grenouille bienfaisante’ (‘The Beneficent Frog’), ‘Serpentin vert’ (‘The Green Serpent’), and ‘Le Prince Marcassin’."
And on the absence of female beasts (from the same source): "Beauty and the Beast’ tales, which all require a woman's patient tolerance of an ugly mate, have no companion tales in the modern period in which the obverse obtains, that is, a man who must love an ugly wife. In the medieval period, however, numerous companion stories circulated, the most famous of which is the Wife of Bath's story in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Another of the many now‐forgotten and similar medieval tales, Le Bel inconnu, tells of a handsome knight who kisses a lady who has been turned into a serpent. Such stories survived into Basile's 17th‐century collection, but between 1634 and the emergence of French fairy tales in print form in the 1690s, this trope largely disappeared from European storytelling."
Image by Arthur Rackham
*I have a summary of "The Ram" here. I will do a post on Green Serpent in the future, as it is a fascinating tale where both the male and female have beastly characteristics at some point.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
From 1692, Henry Purcell's music to "The Fairy Queen" is the oldest music I've featured on the blog so far. When I heard the music and the title, I assumed it would be for Spenser's book "The Faerie Queene," from the 1590s. I'll admit: I got the book only because Beauty loves it in Robin McKinley's Beauty (my favorite novel version of Beauty and the Beast. Isn't it weird how books can influence you in so many ways, like what other books you choose to read?) And it hurts my pride to admit it was hard for me to just get through the first Book of the epic poem, although you adjust to the writing as you read more (like Shakespeare is to the modern reader, Spenser is to Shakespeare-at least to me). Spenser definitely enforces typical stereotypes such as the beautiful, dutiful, modest female and the strong, courageous male warrior. From Book I, Canto I:
"A lovely Ladie rode him faire beside,
Upon a lowly Asse more white then snow,
Yet she much whiter; but the same did hide
Under a vele, that wimpled was full low;
And over all a blacke stole shee did throw
As one that inly mournd, so was she sad,
And heavie sate upon her palfrey slow;
Seemed in heart some hidden care she had,
And by her, in a line, a milkewhite lambe she lad."
After reading it, I realized Robin McKinley meant it as a joke/commentary on the differences of culture. In Beauty, Beauty reads and rereads Faerie Queene and just loves it, but can't for the life of her understand modern writing, which is much more comprehensible to us. Which is an interesting twist on the modern person griping about having to read Shakespeare because it makes no sense-though our language has been simplified over the years, it certainly has its own uniqueness and our phrases and idioms would probably make Shakespeare himself scratch his head, if it makes you feel any better about suffering through (or enjoying, as I hope the case may be) him in high school literature.
But the music mentioned above is not about Spenser's epic poem, but about the slightly more comprehensible, much shorter, and certainly more well known Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. And though midsummer's eve was technically back in June, we are definitely now more in the middle of the summer, weather-wise.
Early Baroque music is, much like Shakespeare and Spenser, often more inaccessible to the modern person, but at least these clips are short. So enjoy this fairy tale and summer inspired music and, if it's not really your thing, at least you've been cultured a little.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Lit.Scribbles has a very interesting post called The Twelve Dancing Princesses and the Politics of Taking Pictures. Follow the link to see what taking pictures has to do with the fairy tale; but the author expresses her distaste for the Soldier/hero of the tale because he is rewarded for doing nothing; the old woman tells him what to do, and all he does is creepily stalk the Princesses for three nights in a row.
The above post brings out some very good points which I hadn't considered before. But I thought about why I had never thought of the Soldier in that light, and I came up with a few reasons:
1. I think most people sort of assume that the Soldier in question is already a Good Man and that that's why the old woman chooses him, out of all the other men eager to take the King's offer. You COULD go so far as to say that, since he was not one of the first men to go and try his luck, he is perhaps showing wisdom in waiting to learn more. But I admit that's kind of a stretch.
2. The Soldier doesn't really do nothing: he follows the old woman's instructions. And following instructions is pretty hard for fairy tale characters. In fact, his main virtue is obedience. Ah, that word that gets modern females all worked up when applied to females, but here is an example of a male getting rewarded for obedience, typically thought to be the main virtue looked for in a woman. So, that's actually pretty awesome.
Now, as for the creepiness, most versions try to hint that the Soldier is feigning sleep while the Princesses change and only watches them once they have checked on him to make sure he's sleeping. I think most readers/hearers of the tale just get excited at the sneaking around invisibly, and at the mystery he's solving, and don't really think of it as stalking 12 women. Although the history of fairy tales certainly does involve a lot more sexual innuendo than in the versions we're most familiar with today, so I guess each reader can infer what they want to.
But I do agree that I don't see why the secret kingdom is so evil. The reason the tale is so popular is because every girl (and possibly boy) wishes she had a secret door in her room that led to a magical kingdom, whether or not dancing all night would be their dream scenario. The most negative consequence is the worn out shoes, but the Princesses don't seem to be tired. (Did the King ever try just...not replacing their shoes? That would have solved his money problem at least.) Other versions will try to describe an evil spell to make the destroying of the Kingdom more satisfying. But I think the reason hearers aren't too disappointed when the Kingdom is exposed and destroyed is that for us, the hearers, we know the Kingdom will always be there, our own secret and our own discovery at the same time, every time we revisit the tale.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Once there lived a bamboo cutter and his wife who longed for children. One night the woman asked the great Mountain Fujiyama to send a little child to comfort her. And from the top of the mountain, there was a gleam of light. The woman called her husband, who went to the top of the mountain and found a "tiny moon-child, fragile, dainty, radiant, clad in flimsy, filmy moonshine, more beautiful than anything he had ever seen before." The child told the bamboo cutter than she was Princess Moonbeam, daughter of the Moon Lady, sent to Earth to comfort the couple. The man took her home and the Moon-child gave them comfort and joy for many years.
Note: this summary and quotations were taken from "My Bookhouse Through Fairy Halls", first published in 1920. The details of the story vary from other versions, like this online version.
Fun fact (from wikipedia): In The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, "Moonchild" is the new name that Bastian gives to the Childlike Empress, thus saving the world of Fantastica. It drove me crazy that you could never understand what he says at the end!
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
2. A means of recognition. The shoe is not actually essential to the recognition, but even as far back as the story of Rhodopis (1st century A.D.) she is found by her golden sandal. The glass slipper was never part of the tale until Perrault. Before then it was often gold or another costly, beautiful material, but Cinderella may also have been recognized by a lock of her golden hair, or other indicators. Ralston: "the lost slipper...seems to be...merely one of the methods of recognition by which the stories of brilliant beings, temporarily obscured, are commonly brought to a close."
3. Formula: Unjust degredation-temporary recognition-temporary degredation-permanent recognition. By following this general formula, that is how we connect the Donkeyskin tales to Cinderella. The degradation is caused not by a cruel stepmother, but by a "hateful marriage," often to her father, from which the heroine must escape. Interesting contrast b/t the two tale families: "Cinderella's promotion is due to her dead mother's watchful care. Rashie-Coat's degradation is consequent upon her dying mother's unfortunate imprudence" (yet again, the power of the birth mother from even beyond the grave is essential to both stories). Ralston cites several stories in which the Donkeyskin character escapes by sinking magically into the ground, and others in which she hides behind ugly animal skins, or some kind of wooden cloak or covering.
And in all of these, the hiding female takes on some form of humble servitude. However, to those that villainize fairy tales that seem to imply that a female's salvation is only to be had through domestic work and therefore women are only good for the kitchen, Ralston adds "Just as her counterpart, the golden-locked prince of so many tales, becomes a scullion at court..." so the fact that she is female does not condemn her to servitude-the fact that she is the main character means there has to be tension and excitement and some unfortunate circumstance to rise out from. Ralston mentions tales from Germany, Norway, and Russia in which the male hero follows the same formula (although the Russian male Cinderella is recognized not just for looking beautiful, but for heroics in battle, recognized by the scarf the Princess tied on his arm). And in all the male Cinderella variants, great emphasis is put on the fact that his hair is golden.
To further increase the connection between Cinderella and Donkeyskin, in Afanasyev's Russian story, the heroine escapes from a hated marriage, disguised in a Swine's Hide, and is revealed after dancing at the ball and losing a shoe on the third night which could fit only her. The slipper also reveals Norway's Katie Woodencloak, but most Donkeyskins are recognized by their royal clothes.
Ethel Franklin Betts
Once we see the common ground shared by Cinderella tales, we can start to wonder where the tale originally came from and what it means. Ralston mentions the nature myth theories (everything good is the sun, or day, always in battle with night) and the historical theories (the tales remain from pagan practices, such as the hated marriage). Ralston points out that certainly, historical customs will appear in old tales, and so might mythological beliefs be a possible interpretation of tales. Ralston warns the reader not to be too dependant on any one theory. I almost get tired of hearing all the theories of the supposed original meaning-what of the story simply being entertaining and the plot having its own merit? Sun worshipers may have seen Cinderella as the sun, but that wouldn't make it any more the source than we who like to see ourselves as Cinderella and our mean boss as the stepmother, or any other personal applications.
And Ralston, in combining all the universal elements of the tale, never talks about the significance of clothing. In all the variants of Cinderella and Donkeyskin, she is ultimately recognized when she wears beautiful clothes, and merely dressing like a servant and getting a bit greasy is enough to make her completely unrecognizable. It's sort of like Clark Kent vs. Superman-we're supposed to believe that Lois Lane has no idea that one is the other, sans glasses? I like to think that peasant women used to believe that they were each the most beautiful woman ever seen, but they were forced to wear simple clothes, and that if they ever got the chance to wear the clothes of a Princess, they too would be found to be beautiful beyond belief. Can anyone else think of an explanation as to this very materialistic theme that tends to get ignored by scholars, though it's probably the most universal?
PS-Blogger spellcheck is sexist. It highlights "female's" as misspelled, but among the options of correct spelling are "fem ale's" and "Male's"-yes, Male's is capitalized.
One more thing-Ralston has a quote comparing the historical life of the fairy tale to the Cinderella tale itself which is cool: "Long did it dwell beside the hearths of the common people, utterly ignored by their superiors in social rank...At length there arrived the season of its final change, when, transferred from the dusk of the peasant's hut into the full light of the outer day, and freed from the unbecoming garments by which it had been disgigured, it was recognized as the scion of a family so truly royal that some of its members deduce their origin from the olden gods themselves." (Revealing, Alan Dundes points out, his own belief in the mythological origins of fairy tales, which are now remnants of old myths).
Sunday, August 8, 2010
"Although originally made and programmed as an alternative to “The Nutcracker”, David Bintley’s “Beauty and the Beast” is far from the jolly Christmas fare that well-worked ballet usually serves up. Now appearing in the autumn schedule, it may be a fairy tale, but like all the best fairy tales it’s more than a children’s story. There are lots of humour and many comic characters, but Bintley has overlaid matters with plenty of dark symbolism."
"The ballet is well-paced, helped along by Glen Buhr’s score, which rolls along, never pausing for a moment to allow us to catch our breath, or come to that applause. It does lack any sort of stand out moment though. Although the music is full of perfectly listenable-to rhythms and compliments the dance well, afterwards you find you actually can’t remember any of it. "
I have to agree with this critique of the music. Most of it is boring. A ballet of Beauty and the Beast has the potential to be so moving, powerful, and beautiful, but a ballet without good music will never become a classic.