Tuesday, August 31, 2010


A siren is a mysterious bird-like woman (though often portrayed as a mermaid) that sings with a most beautiful, enchanting voice, luring sailors to crash their ships and die.

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

Literary Animal Bridegroom Tales

The text below, from answers.com, includes some very interesting information not included in most histories of Beauty and the Beast. Straparola, Basile, and Perrault are known for having versions of other tales, but are rarely credited for being part of the Beauty and the Beast/Animal Bridegroom cycle.

"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

Rapunzel through two different lenses

Paul Zelinsky

Lit.Scribbles has a post on Rapunzel where she argues that the fairy tale is mainly about lust. It involves characters who are all flawed and give in to their selfish urges, and in that respect, very human.

Yet Gypsy Thornton's article featured on Supernatural Fairy Tales contrasts Rapuzel with Cinderella. According to Gypsy, Cinderella is not about true love, but playing your cards right to rise in society, whereas Rapunzel is actually a story of true love.

How does one fairy tale get two treatments that seem totally opposite? I think both authors have vaild arguments that make perfect sense. It just goes to show that fairy tales are very malleable and there can be multiple good interpretations. Really, the nature of fairy tales is to be very stark-to only present basic facts and plots, of which the reader can ask questions and come to their own conclusions. Not that all fairy tale interpretations are equally valid, however...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fairy Queen and Faerie Queene

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.

Kristin's Guide to Disneyland in the Summer

If you're planning a trip to Disney anytime soon, feel free to read the text. If not, you can skip the text and look at the pictures. If you don't feel like seeing some random person's pictures of vacation, feel free to skip this post altogether (I was going to wait to do this post until my brother edited his pics, since he is a much better photographer with a much better camera, but summer's basically over already, so you'll have to live with my humble little pictures.)

First of all, if you want to go to Disneyland in the summer, the number one rule is-don't.

Just kidding, kind of. But seriously, summer (especially July and August) is the busiest time, in addition to holidays (especially the Christmas season). So if there's any way you can go in some random month, like March or October, the weather's not bad, and the crowds will be a lot less so you can ride a lot more rides.

But, for those of us who have these things called "school" or "jobs" that make it difficult to take off for random vacations, we will end up going during busy times, so here are some tips to make your trip more enjoyable. Note: I'm not one of those people who owns a year-long pass and goes all the time, I'm just giving advice from what I experienced the few days I was there in early August, 2010. You can get an official guidebook if you want more expert advice.

Now as far as timing-they say to avoid summer and weekends. But actually, if you go during the summer, I don't think there's much different between weekends and week days, since everyone's on vacation. So if you want to get away and only miss minimal work, go ahead and take a long weekend.

But here's the thing: AVOID THE AFTERNOON. Seriously. The crowds are awful, lines for anything, even Small World, are really long (not as long as the more popular rides, but still...pretty long), it's hot, if you've been there since morning you'll be getting tired of walking anyway. Here's what I recommend: go as close to opening as you and your party can and stay through the morning. When you get tired/it gets crowded, leave and go back to your hotel and take a nap or chill, then go back in late afternoon and stay through the evening till as close to closing as you can.

As far as mornings go, obviously ride lines are shorter then, but you'd be surprised how fast some fill up-especially the popular rides. Morning lines are still the best of the day though (especially since you aren't waiting on the fastpass people yet). So go to the popular rides first thing and a)ride it, b)get a fastpass for later in the day, or c)do both.

Some rides have horrible lines in the middle of the day which are lighter at night, but some rides have long lines throughout the evening too. So for Indiana Jones and Space Mountain, either go early or ride with a fastpass, or be prepared to wait a while.

Peter Pan's flight also has really long lines, considering it's geared towards children and the ride itself is really short, but it's everyone's favorite dark ride and everyone has to go on it. Most Fantasyland rides close for a time during the fireworks, but open up later. I wasn't there after fireworks to know if the line is still long (40+ minutes).

Splash Mountain you can walk through with literally no wait earlier or later in the day, but people will wait 90 minutes or more in the middle of the day, because it's a water ride and it feels really good after walking around in the sun. So if you don't mind getting wet when it's cooler, go earlier/later. If you want the water to cool you off when it's hot, get a fastpass midmorning, which will be good for the middle of the afternoon. (Same thing for the Grizzly Ride in California Adventure).

Worlds of Color-it's a new lights and water show in California Adventure. I'm sure it's wonderful, but since it came out this summer, it's kind of ridiculous-you have to wait through a HUGE line just to get a fastpass for it, then wait more in another huge line just to get to the areas where you can see it from later. If you really want to see a great show, there's always Fantasmic in Magic Kingdom, which is excellent, or you can just go to Paradise Pier and watch Worlds of Color from there. You can't see as much from there, supposedly, but you can see enough, and avoid lines too.

But at night, I really like riding the outdoor rides and seeing the park with all the lights on. California Adventure's California Screamin' (which is an excellent coaster, btw-even people who hate roller coasters like this ride) closes down early for Worlds of Color and does NOT open up later. And the lines were actually not bad while I was there-so if you go just as it's getting dark you can see all the lights. In Magic Kingdom, Matterhorn and Big Thunder don't have horrible lines at night. From the Matterhorn, you can (briefly) see the lights from Fantasyland and Tomorrowland as you whiz past, which is cool. We were lucky enough to ride Big Thunder during the fireworks show, which was a really amazing experience.

So, if you do happen to be at the park in the middle of the afternoon, here are your options:

1. Ride a ride you already had a fastpass for
2. See a show, like Muppet 3D in California Adventure, or the Enchanted Tiki Room or Captain EO in Magic Kingdom. They're showing EO as a tribute to Michael Jackson in place of Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. If you hate the 80s or Michael Jackson, don't bother, but if you loved Thriller, you'll love EO. I'm not sure how long this will be there-apparantly as long as it stays popular.
3. Ride a ride with a fast-moving line-Small World or Pirates. You might have a bit of a wait, but it's much better than Indiana Jones (which you HAVE to go on bc it's awesome, so GET A FASTPASS FOR IT) (by the way fastpasses are free-all the information is in the brochures you can pick up at the park)
4. Browse through gift shops
5. Or, just wait a lot and be hot and crowded by strangers.

Now, we got a deal on our tickets-a 5 days for the price of 3, and with that was included one Magic Morning. Here's the Magic Morning skinny:

1.ASK which days it applies to ahead of time because it's not every day and it doesn't tell you that on your ticket. I think it can be Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

2. A Magic Morning means you can enter the Magic Kingdom an hour early. But they don't open the whole park-just Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. So though there's a lot less people, they're all crammed into two lands, making the wait not that much better. So you can use it to go on some of the smaller rides in the above parks, or ride Peter Pan or Space Mountain one extra time, or...just sleep in.


Everything in the parks is overpriced, so if you want to eat there just be prepared. You can bring in snacks and water, or take sips of water at each water fountain you pass instead of buying a water bottle there (I'm really cheap. Cliff bars and water fountains can do wonders). You can leave the park and get your hand stamped and eat at other restaurants, but nothing is really cheap around Disneyland. (The IHOP across the street was by far the most expensive IHOP we've ever eaten at). So maybe splurge on one big meal (we really love Blue Bayou, the restaurant that can be seen from the beginning of the Pirates ride-that one needs reservations if you want to eat there) and then eat snacks you brought the rest of the time.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

True Fairy Tales

This post is sort of an extension of my last post on Star Wars, where I was arguing for the validity of fairy tales and stories with happy endings-mixed among other kinds of stories. But after coming across yet another quote that classified fairy tales as an escape from reality into an idealistic world where things are more magical than the "real world" really is, I felt compelled to share a secret-

Sometimes, life is magical. Sometimes, fairy tales do happen.

You'd have to be the most narrow-minded person in the world to deny that suffering and evil exist, but is there any fairy tale that doesn't include some kind of suffering? I can't think of any.

I'd like to tell you a story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young girl named Joanne. She was young and had never really fallen in love, but when she did, she imagined falling in love with a tall, blond, handsome man. One day she was walking home from school with some friends, and they were joined by a mutual friend. Joanne, they asked, have you met Charlie yet? Joanne glanced over. Charlie was just like she had imagined her Prince Charming-tall, blond, and handsome. Joanne was realistic, though, and put the incident out of her mind.

Later, Joanne was at a church picnic. Her whole life, she had hated snakes. For years afterwards, she hated snakes. Which is okay because Indiana Jones hates snakes too, only she didn't know this because Indiana Jones didn't exist yet. But at this picnic, Joanne found a garter snake and suddenly had the urge to pick it up and tease the other girls with it. The other girls shrieked and ran, and it attracted the attention of some of the boys, including Charlie. He wondered who this girl was, chasing the others around with a snake.

He decided to get to know her better. They dated. When they got serious, he let her wear his class ring. One night, after a date, he pulled his car in front of her house. "Hey, do you still have my class ring? I want to see if it still fits me," he said.
Joanne handed him the ring. In the dark she couldn't see what he was doing, but he put the ring back into her hand. "Here you go," he said. But she could feel-though she couldn't see it-that the ring was different. It was an engagement ring.

The engagement was difficult for both of them because Charlie had been drafted into the army. Both were overjoyed when he returned and they finally celebrated their wedding. They lived long and fulfilled lives, raising three grandchildren and seeing seven grandchildren grow up. They all lived happily ever after.

You may have scoffed at that last line. Their lives certainly aren't perfect, but I don't think of "happily ever after" as meaning "perfect and with no more struggles," but "and they lived on to have many more adventures." Joanne and Charlie have been happily married now for over 55 years. I asked Joanne on their last anniversary (though I knew the answer, I just wanted to hear her say it) if she loved my grandpa as much as the day she married him. She responded without hesitation, "I'd say I love him more, because it's a deeper love."

Yes, Charlie and Joanne are my grandparents, and yes, every detail in this story is true. Other couples in my family have wonderful fairy tale stories, which I may share later.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Star Wars, Fairy Tales, and Whether or Not Endings Should be Happy

The Chicago Tribune had an interesting article today, Star Wars' Producer Strikes Back, in which Gary Kurtz, producer for Episodes IV and V, looks back on why he left the movies before Return of the Jedi and the differences he had with George Lucas. But they had very different ideas as to how the trilogy should end. It appears that originally, the outline had the story end rather bleak. First, Hans Solo would die, then Leia would be trying to cope with her duties as Queen as the Rebellion is crumbling, and the last scene would be Luke walking alone into the distance.

I'm so familiar with this Star Wars trilogy-and so used to comparing it favorably against the more recent trilogy-it's hard to imagine it another way, especially so comparatively depressing. Kurtz seemed to blame George's desire to make money off of toys for changing the plot to the idealistic, happy ending, although I bet Hans Solo toy sales wouldn't be hindered if he died at the end of the third movie...at least, not initially. I wonder if the movies would have ever become so popular if they had ended differently? Would we return to watch and rewatch a movie that ends ambiguously and with lots of tension? Casablanca is considered a classic for its non-traditional ending, but it takes a lot for a disappointing ending to still be appreciated, especially by the masses. At least Star Wars had the popularity of the first two movies to maybe support a third that might have been a flop on its own.

This reminded me of fairy tales because of the attitude that exists today that since the REAL fairy tales were gory and violent compared to the versions we know today, that our family-friendly versions are wrong and watered down. I read yet another blog post today that cited Disney as the giver of watered-down, prettified, idealistic versions of fairy tales. I've mentioned the Disney issue before, noteably in the post Disney haters: Happy endings, so I won't repeat my arguments (but I will summarize: blame the Victorians for beginning the trends of making fairy tales for children, and Disney movies actually have pretty scary parts in them for kids, though Walt openly wanted happy stories and saw nothing wrong with altering his movies from their sources). But a lot of other children's books and movies (hello, Barbie fairy tales?) make the fairy tales even more child appropriate, as opposed to Disney, which at least in the early days, tried to make family-oriented movies, which is different than child-oriented movies.

But really, though I also spread the message that historical fairy tales are NOT just for children and have lots of adult material in them, it's not like all the oral versions were pure rape and murder and incest, either. Some of them are more mild and wouldn't need too much adaptation to be made into a Disney movie, or even Barbie. Many fairy tales didn't end happily, but many of them did. And while it can be very refreshing to have a story that treats the characters and situations realistically, where not everything turns out perfectly, I'll be the first to admit that sometimes I just want to read a simple, happy story where I know everything turns out wonderfully. Stories are always escapism to some degree, and sometimes we want more escape than others. Since we really don't have any authoritative versions of fairy tales, we really can't say that one more violent version of a fairy tale is more authentic than another (well, some can be classified as less authentic, but there's no accurate measuring rod to rate everything up against). I really love having multiple versions to choose from-stories for adults, stories for teens, stories for families. I love dark fairy tale treatments, but I don't think it's neccessarily a negative thing to have "light" fairy tale treatments either.

What do people think about Star Wars, though? Would you like it more or less if it ended Gary Kurtz' way? Would it have become as much as a classic? From a documentary I watched, they were saying that the overal mood in America in the '70s was very depressed and disillusioned and other entertainment was more gritty, which is why the triumphant victory of good over evil was so needed and well-received at the time. They also said a lot of the themes were reminiscent of old myths, linking it to the universal human desires for the battle of good to conquer over evil. But this documentary probably wasn't especially objective, either, and I wasn't around in the 70s to know what it was like.

Chinese Cinderella

Cinderella has perhaps the longest and most complicated history of any fairy tale. The earliest known version by the numbers is the Egyptian tale of Rhodopis, 1st century B.C., who was discovered by a Prince when an eagle dropped one of her sandals in front of him. However, several places I have seen cite the 9th century (A.D.) Chinese Cinderella as the oldest source, including Surlalune's History of Cinderella page. Ordinarily I wouldn't dispute with Heidi of Surlalune on anything fairy tale related, but other reputable sources support the earlier date of Rhodopis. Maybe some people don't classify it as a Cinderella tale because she's not really persecuted before being discovered? That's my best guess-if anyone knows more feel free to enlighten me.
EDIT: Surlalune's blog has information on Rhodopis and the debate about whether or not to classify it as a Cinderella tale, read the post here
Regardless of whether or not the Chinese Cinderella is the earliest recorded version, it was most likely and old oral tale before it was ever recorded. A rich, learned man, Tuan Ch'eng Shih, heard the tale from his servant, Li Shih Yuan, who used to live in the caves. (The interesting thing, if you, like me, sometimes have fantasies that fairy tales may be rooted in fact, this version refers to actual places and eras of history as the setting).

R. D. Jameson in Cinderella in China (from "Cinderella: A Casebook") uses as much knowledge as he can about the culture of China at the time to interpret the meaning of the story of Sheh Hsien. The daughter of a Cave Cheif was mistreated by her stepmother after her parents both died. She had to do all the hardest and most dangerous tasks, but one day she caught a beautiful fish with red fins and gold eyes and kept it. The fish kept growing, and outgrew every vessel she put him in, until she put him in the pond. The fish would show its head to Sheh Hsien, but no one else. One day her jealous stepmother sent out the girl, put on the girl's clothes to deceive the fish, who was now more than five feet long, and stood by the pond. When the fish showed himself, the stepmother killed and ate him, and buried his bones.

Sheh Hsien wept when she saw her fish did not come to her, but an old man came and told her where the bones were and that she should hide them in her room and pray to them when she wanted something. She did just this, and recieved gold, pearls, dresses, and food.

There was a cave festival Sheh Hsien wanted to attend. When her stepmother left, she put on a beautiful blue dress and gold shoes from the fish bones and went. The stepmother and her daughter noticed the resemblance, so Sheh Hsien hurried back, and was asleep with her arms around the tree when they returned, but in her hurry she had left one of her shoes behind at the festival.

This was found by the cave people, who sold it to the King of the T'o Huan government. He asked all the women in his kingdom to try it on, but it was too small by an inch. Torturing the cave people did not reveal the source of the shoe, so the King searched. When he found Sheh Hsien, he asked her to put it on her foot. She put on her blue and gold finery, and they were married. The stepmother and daughter were killed by flying stones and became goddesses of match-makers. The king asked so many favors of the fish bones in the first year, they stopped giving gifts, and were buried on the sea coast, later washed away by the tide.

Jameson points out evidence that the tale was probably influenced by other versions of the same tale-the sleeping with her arms around a tree that was never mentioned before would make more sense in one of the other versions where a tree supplied Cinderella's wants. The match-making goddesses out of the villains seems very random as well and could possibly have been from another story.

Jameson mentions two other versions of Cinderella from the north of China. In both the fish's bones are still the gift-giver. Both also have bird helpers, who carry the shoe to the prince, and animals who help with impossible tasks-which is more like the Grimm version.

Chinese versions of Cinderella fall into the same categories that Western Cinderella stories fall into: Cinderella, Donkeyskin, and King Lear (the heroine suffers for comparing her love to her father like her love for salt, and achieves a happy ending after proving how tastless food is without salt).

Jameson discusses those who believe Cinderella to be nature myths-those of seasonal change or sunrise. Though some details of the story might lead some to believe that this could be the case, he points out that, even if it were thought to be a nature myth at some point, this does not indicate that it was the origin of the tale, but merely some culture's adaptation of it, which is a good point. Of course, no one now really puts too much stock in the nature myth theory.

What I found really interesting was the connection between shoes and ancient rituals-which mostly had to do with chilbirth, or marriage. So the shoe would have been seen as a symbol of Cinderella giving the King authority.

Jameson also discusses the importance of animal helpers, and the theory that they are derived from ancient times when people practiced totemistic rituals. But Jameson's simple-and more convincing-conclusion is that the animals just represent a young child's desire for a pet who loves them, even when they feel victimized by other humans, and has the power to offer magical gifts.

The most noteable lack in this version is the absense of the dead mother's spirit as helper. Here the function is provided by a fish-which was also symbolic and linked to wealth or fertility.

Illustrations-1. Unknown? 2. Wen Shi 3.Hokkei

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Soldier of the 12 Dancing Princesses

Errol Le Cain

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.

Ruth Sanderson

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Moon-Maiden

The Moon-Maiden: A Japanese Fairy Tale

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.
Warwick Goble

As she grew, she became more and more beautiful. "About her, too, there was a strange, earthly charm that made all who saw her love her." One day as the Mikado himself drove by, he saw the Princess and fell in love with her. He wanted to marry her, but as her duty as child was over, the time had come for the Princess to go back to her true mother. The Mikado and her adopted parents begged for her to stay with them on earth, but when the moon rose, the Lady of the Moon came down to take back her daughter. The Princess was glad to go home, but wept for those she left behind. Her bright tears took wings and floated away to carry her love to the Mikado, and the bamboo cutter and his wife. Those same gleaming tears are still visible. As children chase the beautiful fireflies over Japan's marshes and groves each summer, their parents tell them the story of the Moon Princess and her messages of love.

Matt BenDaniel

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

Beauty and the Beast-Art on etsy

I like to type "Beauty and the Beast" into etsy every once in a while just to see what comes up...I'm always tempted by the rose jewelry and have to remind myself I already own plenty. There are several original paintings available, here are my two current favorites:

Richard Hubbard
This isn't from etsy, I found this online a while ago and don't know who did it. But I love it, and Beauty is wearing ballet shoes! So for lack of a better place to put it I threw it in this post.
EDIT: Thanks to Rob for finding it! It's from here and by wdkimmy

WRS Ralston on Cinderella

Found in "Cinderella: A Casebook", W.R.S. Ralston's Cinderella examines a number of versions of the fairy tale in order to find the common themes and meaning.
1. The dead, helpful mother. In Ralston's words: "Its earlier scenes appear to have been inspired by the idea that a loving mother may be able, even after death, to bless and assist a dutiful child." This may surprise a fan only familiar with the Perrault/Disney versions of the tale, where the dead mother is hardly mentioned, and a fairy godmother does all the work. But earlier versions of the tale almost all have a mother who dies but whose spirit is embodied in a tree (Grimms), a cow (Servian), a doll (Russian), a fish (ancient Chinese), her bones (Greek), and more. (Ralston does not mention the Chinese version).
Elenore Abbott

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

David Bintley's Beauty and the Beast

David Bintley's Beauty and the Beast, for the Birmingham Royal Ballet. This article has a review- here is an exerpt:
"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.