Sunday, March 29, 2015

Red Valentino's Fairy Tale Themed Collections

"Each Red Valentino collection addresses a different fairy tale, and it's clear that Fall was inspired by Snow White. Marine Deleeuw played the lead role in the latest lookbook, shot against a Lichtenstein-esque Pop Art backdrop, modeling whimsical clutches that read "Once Upon a Time" or "The Fairest of Them All." There were also sweet frocks splashed with the Disney character's visage and intarsia knits featuring allover hearts or the fable's poisoned apple. While the finished result was indeed cutesy (and occasionally a tad costume-ish), designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli viewed the narrative mostly as a jumping-off point. "We didn't want the story to stay in a childish territory, but to take the dreamy idea in a direction that's younger, more street, and a bit rock 'n' roll," they explained during a phone interview, so there were plenty of modern incarnations of Snow White here. For example, she looked cool in a clear PVC trench, and had a bit of a grunge edge in a leather biker jacket, long jacquard skirt, and flat oxfords. Meanwhile, there were also plenty of functional pieces such as bright puffer coats, denim rompers, and plaid mohair bombers that were sidewalk-ready. And despite the cartoony delivery (you can't really blame the designers for going all-out on a fun theme like this), the lineup ultimately had plenty of real-world appeal, too."

"Fashion is always something of a fairy tale, but even more so when designers Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri are the ones telling the story. For Red Valentino's new Fall lineup, the design duo drew inspiration from the childhood fable of "Hansel and Gretel." (No, their version looks nothing like the Jeremy Renner-Gemma Arterton flick currently in theaters.) They've touched upon folkloric themes in the past, with Valentino's signature line, and explained in a phone interview that the Red customer takes a more playful approach to getting dressed, so they weren't afraid to really have fun with the collection's narrative. Little black dresses were trimmed with sweet floral grosgrain ribbon, while full petticoated silk skirts came in "marzipan" and "gingerbread" hand-painted prints. While some of those whimsical pieces came off as a bit costumey at times, they were matched by more versatile items that still incorporated couture flourishes. The lovely jacquard capes and a cropped leather toggle coat (from the Hansel section), for example, were made for a modern-day heroine."

"Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli's Spring's Red Valentino offering skews young—sandals-and-ankle-socks young. The theme, said the designers via phone from Rome, is "Cinderella hitting Las Vegas after a love affair with a sailor," and in keeping with that unexpected, almost kooky starting point, there were marinière stripes in navy and red and peacoats on the one hand, and a frothy party dress in pastel blue on the other. And because no contemporary collection is complete without a novelty sweatshirt, the designers emblazoned theirs with giant anchors. "Cindierella" another sweatshirt read, with the "indie" portion underlined, but the vibe here was charming, not edgy."

In this one the fairy tale connection isn't that obvious, and I didn't see that sweatshirt they referenced in the collection at all, but you can get this tank top if you don't mind spending $125 for a tank top...

I didn't find a direct reference to a fairy tale in all the Red Valentino collections as stated above, but Spring 2014 had kind of a Thumbelina vibe:

Friday, March 27, 2015

New Book: Beast Charming by Jenniffer Wardell

A new Beauty and the Beast-themed young adult novel, Beast Charming by Jenniffer Wardell.

Summary:  "Beast Charming tells the story of Beauty, who works as a temp at an agency run by a high-tempered dragon. To avoid running into her conniving and desperately-craving-for-nobility father—conveniently named Noble—she takes on a peculiar job that will force her to converse with a violent beast named, well, Beast. The rest of the story develops into a hysterical tale of a classic fairy tale romance gone modernly awry"

And from this review by Angela Carter (...not THE Angela Carter):
"...when a vague job request comes in from the butler of a large estate, Beauty takes it without a second thought. Her task is to help James Hightower — the master of the house who was cursed a year ago by his ex-fiancée who has vanished — find a hobby. Thus ensues a battle of tempers and stubbornness, and both end up with more than they bargained for, especially as James gains more confidence to go out in society and discovers his ex-fiancée may not be as far away as they thought.
Salt Lake City author Jenniffer Wardell's novel "Beast Charming," a funny and clever retelling of the beloved "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale, is a surprisingly modern story with just enough fairy-tale elements to keep it whimsical. With plenty of banter, romance and just enough deviations from the original tale to keep things fresh, "Beast Charming" can easily fulfill all of a reader's fairy-tale escape needs while sharing some lovely themes as well.
There are a few slightly violent scenes (Beauty must chase off the simpering girls who wander on to James' property in hopes of breaking his curse, and James frequently breaks stone sculptures), but the book is free of profanity, sexual innuendo and violence overall.
Wardell is the author of "Fairy Godmothers, Inc.," a Cinderella story that takes place in the same world as "Beast Charming." "
The book only has a few reviews so far, but so far they're very positive!

Also, the above review had a link to an article about the Cinderella movie called Are Modern Princess Tales Ditching the Damsel in Distress?. I have yet to see the film myself, but if you're up for another review, it had some...interesting things to say. More on the whole war on Princess culture that isn't exactly new. I can't really share my opinion until I've seen the movie myself though.

Also, thank you to Gypsy for letting me know about the book!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

From the Forest Discussion with Once Upon a Blog: March

Kristin & Gypsy discuss “From the Forest: A Search for the Hidden Roots of Our Fairy Tales” by Sara Maitland
UK Title: “Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales”
MARCH: Airyolland Wood & a retelling of Thumbling
Note: The first chapter was rich with discussion points! In the interest of manageability, we decided to concentrate our notes on two of the more fascinating subjects and the retelling of Thumbling. Fortuitously, this month we connected right when Gypsy was reading the chapter and making notes. Our resulting dialogue is a little unusual as far as book discussions go, and we’ve taken the liberty at re-ordering some of our notes and inserting quotes so it makes more sense to someone who hasn’t read the book, but we hope you’ll find it interesting nonetheless.
Jacket summary: Forests are among our most ancient primal landscapes, and fairy tales some of our earliest and most vital cultural forms. In this fascinating and illuminating  book, Maitland argues that the two are intimately connected: the mysterious secrets and silences, gifts and perils of the forests were the background and source of fairytales. The links between the two are buried in the imagination ad in our childhoods.
Maitland journeys in forests through a full year, from the exquisite green  of a beechwood in spring to the muffled stillness of a snowy pine forest in winter, explaining their complex history and teasing out their connections with the tales.
There are secrets in the tales, hidden identities, cunning disguises, just as there are surprises behind every tree in a forest; there are rhythms of change in the tales like the changes of the seasons; there are characters , both human and animal, whose assistance can be earned or spurned and there is over and over again - the journey or quest, which leads to self-knowledge and success. The forest is the place of trial in fairy stories, both dangerous and exciting. Coming to terms with the forest, surviving its terrors, using its gifts and gaining its help, is the way to “happy ever after.”
As a fiction writer, Maitland has frequently retold fairy stories, and she ends each chapter with an enchanting tale, related imaginatively, to the experience of being in that specific forest.
Richly layered, full of surprising connections, and sparkling with mischief, From the Forest is a magical and unique blend of nature writing, history and imaginative fiction.

On Fairy Tales and Location & the Importance of Forests
Here are random notes as I read. Please forgive this form of note taking as I read...
Hey - hi! Is this a thesis experiment? It's kind a of a cool idea. I just read part where she explains to Adam, her son, the idea for the book:
“I wanted to match up what is in the forests with fairy stories, see how the themes of the fairy stories grow out of the reality of the forest, and the other way round too-show how people see the forests in a particular way because of fairy stories.”-p. 20
Sounds like it!
I like that quote: p10- But forests, like fairy stories, need to be chaotic - beautiful and savage, useful and wasteful, dangerous and free.
I'm not sure fairy tales are always like this but PEOPLE are! Or should be. (ie. people should be vital, embracing imperfections as well as hidden resources and more). I see fairy tales as more.. “spare” than this. (At least from tale to tale.) It's one of the reasons so many of us fit into so many different tales. Perhaps, collectively speaking, fairy tales cover that range though, which is perhaps another reason why, different tales resonate more with some people than others.
Kristin Visconti
Fairy tales definitely tend to deal in extremes and opposites.
Yes - extremes and contrasts for sure. I still like that quote. :)
I agree with her note that the physical woods can help recall the tales - yes - even if you haven't been exactly to that GPS location before, a tale that resonated with you somehow seems to echo in such places.
Sort of lIke when you walk through the city and recall an urban legend because of a sound, smell or sight - like the location prompts a memory of a story.
“Forests to these northern European peoples were dangerous and generous, domestic and wild, beautiful and terrible. And the forests were the terrain out of which fairy stores...evolved”-p.6
p7- Landscape informs the collective imagination as much or as more than it forms the individual psyche and its imagination, but this dimension is not something to which we always pay enough attention.
The sense of “place” (aka the setting of the story) having an impact on a tale, is not something I've really looked at/paid much attention to, but something I’ll be more aware of now.
Oh like that quote on pg 8, the whole paragraph actually, but I’d finish it a little differently:
"believe the great stretches of forest.. with all their secret gifts and perils... created the FT themes we know best... coming to terms with the forest.." … I'd finish the “quote-mash” with IS LIFE.
“The forest is the place of trial in fairy stories, both dangerous and exciting. Coming to terms with the forest, surviving its terrors, utilising its gifts and gaining its help is the way to ‘happily ever after’”-p. 8
I’m not sure I agree with how the author talks about birthplace of main religions being certain 'open' places of land as an example. And I think fairy tales are actually very different from myths and religious stories too - fairy tales  often have mythic elements but overall they're ordinary stories with a twist of 'other' (wonder). They're not about grand schemes, deities being involved, etc They’re more about the choices people make when presented with a situation (good or bad).
And yes, I thought it was an interesting point about religions reflecting the various locations, but I obviously don't think that's all there is to it. It bugs me in general when scholars lump religion and myth/fairy tale all together. I'm biased, but I think there's a pretty obvious distinction.
I agree - religion is different - very different. I would cite different reasons for difference (except I don’t want to get waylaid into a discussion about religion) but I agree with you that religion, religious stories et definitely can't be lumped with fairy tales. And they shouldn't be.
But, when you get to the part where she compares the effect location has on the Grimm tales vs. Arabian Nights, I thought that was really interesting.
 p7- One of the great services.. Zipes has done is to show how ‘site specific’ fairy stories are. To put it at its most basic, in the Arabian Nights the heroes do not go out and get lost in the forest, or escape into the forest; this is because, very simple, there aren’t any forests. But it goes deeper than this - they do no get lost at all; the heroes either set off freely seeking adventure.. or are exiled, escape murder.. or are abducted. ...forests are a place where a person can get lost and can also hide - losing and hiding, of things and people, are central to european fairy stories in ways that are not true of similar stories in different geographies.

Hm. I need to think about that a bit more. And now I need to look at how ‘similar stories’ from forest places and desert places are, in fact, similar and how they are different…
OK- weird point: do people really express surprise re the importance of the forest in the popular tales (in the West especially)? That's not my experience - the opposite in fact.
I think when people express surprise about the importance of forests, or at least what my initial reaction, was kind of a "so what? There were trees and forests everywhere back then." It was when she compared them to Arabian Nights and how the setting of a desert vs. forest really does affect the theme that it made more sense to me- The forest brings out themes like getting lost and hiding, which is absent in Arabian Nights, since getting lost isn’t really an issue in the desert.
p6- The forests were protective too. Of course you can get lost in the forest, but you can also hide in the forest, and for exactly the same reason: in forests you cannot get a long view.
Maybe that’s why we see more supernatural elements in Arabian Nights’ like stories maybe? eg Transformation as a way of hiding, the invisible becoming visible (as opposed to coming to a place in the woods where you find something - or it finds you). Off the top of my head only here. I’m not familiar enough with desert (and wasteland) tales to know if this theory is even close.It would be nice to see a similar exploration  of these other places & stories - how they’re influenced by landscape in contrast/ comparison to a woods-based story (eg Arabian Nights - desert, Sinbad - sea, city stories).

How Do We Learn Fairy Tales?
Anything else about the chapter? I thought it was interesting in the beginning how she asked her son how he first heard fairy tales and he didn't remember. There are some versions I know where I learned them from, like Disney or certain picture books I had, but many I honestly don't know-I don't remember being taught or told them, yet I know the stories.
I was a reader and I listened to a lot of tales on record and tape. My dad told made up stories but not fairy tales. My biggest impression was probably the record tales - the “oral” tellings. :)
It's fascinating to me that fairy tales sneak their way into our minds even though we don't realize it…
I think now there are images everywhere that allude to tales but they don't sink in consciously unless you know the tales too. And they really are everywhere - even without Disney. That’s a good thing I think.
Then later you hear a tale and recognize aspects from something else you heard or your own story or environment...  I love fairy tales for this reason among others.
For sure. I knew the plots to all the classics even though I don't think I was told or read some of them, did I piece together references from pop culture? I don't even know.
Osmosis! ;) (I’m only half joking.)

Happy Endings in Grimms vs. Andersen

I had a multicultural awareness of tales very early and their imperfections/ lack of a guaranteed happy ending etc was clear. I always like the quote from The Princess Bride Ever After that said ""And though (they) lived happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived." It likely means (in context of the film) that  the tale was based in historical truth but can also be interpreted that they lived vital, full lives - life didn't stop at the wedding.
Yes. Doesn't she say something about how all traditional tales end happily? Because I just wrote in the margin "NO". It's definitely not true in Grimms, although I guess if you take "classic" fairy tales to mean "the popular and well known ones..." but I believe she was comparing Grimms to Andersen.

Hm - not sure - she clearly hates HCA! LOL
Funny - personally, I really love many of his stories. Wait - to clarify - I love the basics of many of his stories but not how he told them necessarily, nor how he resolved them. It was zero surprise to me when I read that he'd not really made most of them up, but had taken elements from tales he knew as a child and retold them, recombining them and expanding them into versions of his own. I'd LOVE to read a volume of stories Andersen drew from.
Me too. I love stories like Ugly Duckling, even Princess and the Pea is growing on me-partly thanks to your interpretation of it shared in the comments a while back! Little Mermaid isn't my favorite tale but I think I prefer Andersen's to Disney's. Some of his stories are just pointlessly depressing, but frankly, so are lots of Grimms, Schonwerth, and lots of other folklore.
The author mentions Lang too. If I had to choose one collection to keep/take it would be Lang's color books for all the diversity of tale types and countries of origin. I really love that, to me, they show how much people are the same all over the world yet the different flavors make it an exploration of discovery too.
We’ll leave the discussion there for you to mull over! Read the follow up post from Gypsy on Sara Maitland’s retelling of Thumbling over on Once Upon A Blog.
Be sure to watch out for next month’s discussion in which  we’ll discuss the chapter for April and a wander around Saltridge Wood, as well as  the author’s  retelling of The White Snake.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lane's English Translation of Arabian Nights

Around 1700, "Oriental Fever" began sweeping Western Europe. In France and England, anything from the East was vogue-from the decor to their drinks to fairy tales. In fact I really like this quote from Marina Warner*, partly because I love coffee: "The diaspora of the Arabian Nights does in fact resemble the triumphant progress of coffee, as it multiplies and metamorphoses from brass thimbles of thick dark syrup, in Damascus and Istanbul and Cairo, to today's US and UK hybrids (skinny latte, macchiato, et al.). So it is rather neat that Galland [first translator of the Arabian Nights] also published, in 1699, a treatise in praise of coffee, one of the first if not the first of its kind."

So while facets of culture were making their way West, they became changed and diluted. This was the complaint of Edward William Lane, who didn't approve of Antoine Galland's translation of the Nights-(it was Galland's French one that served as the basis for the first English translation). Lane was considered to be an expert on Egyptian culture, after he taught himself some about Egyptian culture and the Arabic language after a bout of typhoid, and then took a couple of trips to Egypt.

So this "expert" set out to correct Galland's mistake; that of not being familiar enough with the culture to make a good translation. Lane stated, "I am somewhat reluctant to make this remark, because several persons, and among them some of high and deserved reputation as Arabic scholars, have pronounced an opinion that his version is an improvement upon the original. That "The Thousand and One Nights" may be greatly improved I most readily admit; but as confidently do I assert, that Galland has excessively perverted the work. His acquaintance with Arab manners and customs was insufficient to preserve him always from errors of the grossest description, and by the style of his version he has given the whole to a false character."

Galland had indeed altered the stories to fit his audience, the same thing that the brothers Grimm would do years later in Germany-take out any questionable parts, and Galland even added whole stories that became the most famous, such as Aladdin and Ali Baba. Yet Lane considered his translation to be both an "improvement" and a "perversion".

So his solution was to make a new translation, filled with detailed footnotes that often had nothing to do with the stories themselves, but to go into depth about Egyptian culture-at least, his experiences there. But rather than sticking to the original text, Lane continued to "improve" the stories and then write judgmental footnotes about the original. He left out passages and whole sections, yet all in the name of being true to the culture, such as leaving out a sexual passage "which is of a nature to disgust every person of good taste." He eliminated any scenes with drinking or sex, and states that many passages of the tales "seem as if they were introduced for the gratification of the lowest class."

The fascination that many Europeans had with Eastern culture did not, at this time, seem to lead to a greater understanding of the Eastern peoples, with increased respect and appreciation for them. In fact, rather than emphasizing the similarities between the people groups and their favorite folklore, the collections tended to emphasize the differences-which served to widen the gap between East and West. Even the illustrations by William Harvey that accompanied Lane's text (and this post) are examples of this. Jennifer Schacker points out that in the illustrations, the attention is often not on the people in the story or the unfolding drama, but the exotic locations, dress, and architecture.
In this case, "ethnicentrism often shapes the underlying conception of the Real." The attitude at the time was that the Nights was a "potentially valuable source of information regarding Arab lifeways and attitudes," but many used the stories "to support preconceived notions of Arab character." By emphasizing the contrast between the perceived violent and sexual nature of the Arabian Nights, "The Orient was central to the discursive construction of the West as dominant, civilized, and rational" (the public was blissfully ignorant, apparently, to the fact that Western European tales were just as sexual and violent in their natural state).

*Marina Warner: Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights
All other information taken from Jennifer Schacker's National Dreams: The Remaking of Fairy Tales in Nineteenth-Century England.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Artist Feature: Albert Weisgerber

Foundling Bird

Albert Weisgerber (1878-1915) was a German artist whose illustrations of Grimm's Fairy Tales are very dark, literally and figuratively. Not only did he choose darker tones on the color spectrum, but the tales he chose to illustrate and the scenes he chose from them tend to be some of the more violent and morbid. For contrast, he was a contemporary of Paul Friedrich Meyerheim, whose cheerful and pleasant illustrations of pretty blonde heroines and animals in Grimm tales I shared earlier this month.

Take a look at the "Hansel and Gretel" illustrations below. Here, the witch's house is not the colorful candy palace that is every child's dream-but a drab brown house surrounded by eerie trees. Then he is one of the few illustrators (like Willy Planck) who chose to actually show the most violent scene, in which Gretel pushes the witch into the oven -while most images of this fairy tale will show the candy house, the children lost in the woods, or even Hansel in captivity, most artists shy away from actually showing the witch entering the hot oven.

Hansel and Gretel

More Grimm tales he illustrated:

Seven Ravens

The Death of the Little Hen

The Devil and his Grandmother

The Devil's Sooty Brother

The Seven Swabians

The Youth who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was

The pictures become even more chilling when you know a little of Weisgerber's history: he died in World War I while serving in the same regiment as Adolf Hitler.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Fairy Gold: An Irish Tale

It happened one time that a poor man had a dream three nights in a row of a sack of fairy gold buried under a bush on his property. He didn't know if there was anything to the dream, but decided it would be well worth it to check.

He told no one of his intentions, but at the end of the day started digging in the place he had seen in his dream. Before too long he struck a sack full of gold and jewels. He carried the sack home, staggering under its weight. He hid the sack in the cow barn, for if anyone came to visit, he did not went his new wealth to be public knowledge.

He went in and told his wife about the treasure, who was entertaining strangers by the fire. She encouraged him to bring it in so she could see, but the man waited until the strangers were gone, so as not to tempt thieves.

He told his wife the story, and she asked him, "Did you spit on it?"
"I did not," he replied.

His wife warned him he had made a mistake. Her father had much knowledge of enchanted fairy gold, and the treasure is likely to melt away unless a man were to spit on it. Her husband doubted whether the treasure should melt, after staggering home under its weight.

When the strangers left, the man and his wife went to the cow barn, to see the cows straining to get away from the sack. The wife noticed the sack was moving, and thought it was no longer treasure; the husband claimed a rat must have gotten in.

But when the sack was opened, a great eel came out, twisting its head around; the two people were too afraid to move. The eel broke out through the roof and was never seen again in those parts, but that was all the man had left of his fairy gold.

From "Folk Tales of All Nations," edited by F. H. Lee, 1930, summarized by me

This tale may be one of the sources of the whole legend of leprechauns with their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (tales of faerie gold are all over, although I don't know where the rainbow part came from?). Leprechauns, an Irish form of Faerie, were more often red in older tales, such as the "wee little man" in the Irish story "The Snow, The Crow and the Blood" I shared earlier this month. The site has some information about current leprechaun beliefs and how to catch a leprechaun if you find one, but warns that they are such tricksters, you may be better off avoiding them entirely...or from this RavensShire post on How to Survive an Encounter with Fairies:

"Some people stumble upon fairies, without the fairies or the person having really planned the encounter. This is when people capture leprechauns or other fairies to try to force them to give up their treasure. How well this works and whether the fairies seek revenge afterwords depends on the individual. One person who robbed the fairies was never able to leave his house afterwords. Others were able to live happily with their ill gotten gains. These stories don't say exactly what the difference is, but it is established that it's very, very difficult to steal a fairies treasure and attempting to do so can get you into a lot of trouble."

Gypsy at Once Upon a Blog also shared a lovely Irish tale in honor of St. Patricks Day-check it out here! And Heidi Anne Heiner has an Irish Cinderella tale at Surlalune!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Rachmaninoff's Little Red Riding Hood Etude, played by Valentina Lisitsa

"Rachmaninoff admitted to Respighi that #6 told the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, which he had read to his daughter. The composer usually avoided program music, and, I think, with good reason. His imagination wasn't really stirred by the physical or by drama. For example, his operas, although extremely polished, I find very weak affairs dramatically. Here, if you didn't know the story, you wouldn't have guessed. Even knowing the story, you don't necessarily see it unfolding in the music. Growling runs in the bass represent the wolf, of course, and a flighty flight of notes in the soprano represent the fleeing heroine. That's about as specific as the music gets. However, as an abstract piece of music that plays off these two themes, it's a honey. Rachmaninoff is indeed a composer full of drama, but it's inner, not stage, drama."
-Classical Net Review, Steve Shwartz

This aggressive and daunting piece opens with threatening chromatic octave runs low on the keyboard, answered by quick, chattering treble figures that eventually transform themselves into a march. The music grows hectic and, having reached presto, sounds nearly out of control. The effect of the piece is seemingly mysterious yet fully unified.[2]Referred to as "Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf",[3] the piece ends with the chromatic runs sounding as though the wolf swallowed Red Riding Hood whole.[4]

I shared this Rachmaninoff etude a while back but was curious as to how the composer chose to portray the story in the music. What do you think of the idea that the piece's closing represents the more macabre ending? Before the end, the low growling bass drops out and the soprano continues by itself, growing calmer. Maybe the low growls at the end are not the wolf's devouring Little Red, but his groans as he struggles against the stones sewn into his stomach before he dies? Sometimes the best fairy tale interpretations are a little more ambiguous...

Illustrations: Melissa Jayne Rathbone

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Were Fairy Tales Ever Believed to be True?

In Andreas Johns' book on Baba Yaga, he answers the question of whether or not fairy tales were ever thought of as historical fact, at least as Russian tale tellers and listeners are concerned. But his discussion will, I think, shed light on similar practices of storytelling that went on in other countries.

The short answer is: often, yes. Nikolai Novikov believes that the Russian peasants used to see the folktales they listened to as fact, but the shift of seeing them as fiction happened towards the end of the nineteenth century. Dmitrii Zelenin "reports that tellers could not always make a clear distinction between truth and invention in the folktale, but most often believed in what they narrated." Zelenin says that belief in Baba Yaga was widespread, and tales about her often incorporated other historical figures such as Orthodox saints (although Johns later states that scholars debate over whether or not Baba Yaga was believed in by the Russian people).
Baba Yaga by Des Hanley

A storyteller's beliefs about the truth of their tales may be found at the conclusion of their story. A Frog Princess tale told by V. P. Monachkova in 1979 took place, she says, "during the reign of Nikolai Nikolaevich." Storyteller Agaf''ia L. Zaitseva believed that the events in the stories could have happened "in the old days," for "Why would the old people lie to us? What would they have to gain by it? There were dragons, knights, and sorceres. And I've seen witches myself."

Some of the evidence gathered about storytelling indicate that people believed that fairy tales themselves were a form of magic. Certain rules applied to what time of the day or the year tales could be told, because it was believed that the tales might produce affects varying from attracting spirits, to causing cows to get lost in the forest forever.
Ivan Bilibin, illustration for Afanasyev's "Father Frost"

Yet of course, to every rule their are exceptions. Other tales end with phrases that indicated that the teller and listener both know very well they are not true, historical facts, such as "That's the whole tale, and I can't lie any more," or "Well, I think this is all chatter. All of this really couldn't happen like that."

Fairy tales have a complex history, and you may come across people making contradictory statements; some claiming that historically, people used to believe the tales they told, and others maintaining that even hundreds of years ago people weren't gullible enough to believe all the details of a story. So both claims are true, and of course it varies from culture to culture. The reality is, many historical facts or legends probably evolved and became more fantastic and grew into fairy tales; other tales were pure invention on the part of the storyteller, embellishing on other tales and story motifs.
Mid-20th Century Cigarette Case from The Russian Museum

Johns points out that folklore itself has almost contradictory aspects of its nature-the stories are set in another, enchanted realm, distinct from the everyday; yet the stories are such that, when you strip the story of its magical and fantastic elements, at its core is a story of human conflict and struggle that we can all relate to. Fairy tales are at once realistic and unrealistic; they have truth in them whether or not that are seen as fiction. Linda Degh says that fairy tale narration is an ambiguous art, for "the teller uses all his or her artistry to make the listeners believe what they know is an entertaining lie." Even today when fairy tales are told, their long history and the level of awe we tend to have towards them makes even the most skeptical of us sometimes wonder about these tales that have captured human imagination for so very long...