Tony found a podcast on Myths and Legends! As the title implies, it's not only about fairy tales, but there are many episodes that might be of interest to fairy tale fans, on Aladdin, Russian folklore, Japanese fairy tales, Snow Queen, and more. The description:
"Ever wonder about the original stories behind King Arthur and his legendary knights, Robin Hood, or Aladdin? Did you know that fairy tales originally weren't for children, and as such are way more bizarre, ridiculous, and interesting that you ever thought possible? Maybe you've heard of characters like Thor, Odin, and Hercules from modern movies, but their stories stretch back through centuries, and the originals that inspired the adaptations are even better.
"This is a show where I tell the folklore that has shaped our world. Some are incredibly popular stories you think you know, but with surprising origins. Others are stories that might be new to you, but are definitely worth a listen.
"These are stories of magic, kings, Vikings, dragons, knights, princesses, and wizards from a time when the world beyond the map was a dangerous, wonderful, and terrifying place."
So far we've listened to the one on Vasilisa the Beautiful (titled "She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named").The host, Jason Weiser, tells a story in each episode, with some asides here and there, but it's really focused on telling the tale.
I loved being able to listen to a fairy tale told orally like this, it's really rare to even have opportunities to do so. The vast majority of fairy tales I read are in books. I'll tell one myself here or there if anyone's willing to listen but am even less likely to be a listener-storytelling is an art that's been mostly lost (power to you out there who are storytellers yourself! I know some of my favorite bloggers are storytellers). Weiser narrates with some humorous comments also thrown in, which makes it even more enjoyable.
However, I didn't necessarily agree with all of his interpretations. In fact, for someone hosting a podcast on myths and legends, Weiser seemed to be very thrown by many of the supernatural elements in the tale-he mentioned multiple times that he didn't understand Vasilisa's doll helper and was frustrated that there was "no explanation" for it. I've never had a problem with the doll channeling her mother's helpful spirit, it's a very common feature of fairy tales (especially Cinderella stories) to have a good mother help her daughter, even after death. The explanation is, I think, that fairy tales view a mother's love as one of the most extremely powerful forces in the world (and I thought that would be the Harry Potter tie-in hinted at in the title, but it wasn't).
Weiser also didn't like the idea that Vasilisa didn't have to do any work because the doll did it for her. I kind of get this, and it's a very modern, American perspective, where we're all about being rewarded for hard work and tend to be suspicious of those who get money without "deserving" it. Weiser does have a very interesting personal theory about the doll at this point in the story (hint-he references "Fight Club"). However, when you think about the people who would have been telling and hearing this story in Russia, they were poor people who had to work day and night just to keep their family fed-no running water or refrigerators or modern conveniences. It seems natural-maybe even healthy?- that they would fantasize about getting rid of their tasks and even villainize their chores by imagining them coming from evil stepmothers and witches.
Has anyone else listened to any of these episodes? It provided good discussion between myself and Tony, and could be fun to discuss here if other people are listening!