Friday, February 24, 2017

Alison Larkin's Fairy Tales of the Fiercer Sex

Fairy tale collections featuring female protagonists have gotten more popular recently in our little world of fairy tale lovers, but those stories sadly still remain elusive among the more general public who still tend to think that fairy tales promote the stereotype of the helpless female waiting around to be rescued by a man.

I was recently notified of a new audiobook release that features 20 tales, narrated by Alison Larkin, all of which feature strong female protagonists! Description for Fairy Tales of the Fiercer Sex:

 These are not stories of helpless females shut up in high towers waiting around for a handsome Prince to rescue them. These are tales of strong, independent, brave, at times irreverent girls and women who take charge of their own lives, go on their own adventures and rescue themselves and the ones they love. 

 The clever serving maids, brilliant princesses and other females in this collection have far more to distinguish them than the fact that they end up happily married to a prince! 

 Title and End music by Emmy award-winning composers Gary Schriener and Curt Sobel. Introduction by Alison Larkin 

1. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen 
2. Molly Whuppie and the Double-faced Giant by Flora Annie Steel 
3. A Pottle of Brains by Joseph Jacobs 
4. Cap O’ Rushes by Joseph Jacobs 
5. Hansel and Grethel by the Brothers Grimm 
6. Mr. Fox by Joseph Jacobs 
7. Clever Grethel by the Brothers Grimm 
8. Kari Woodengown by P.C. Absjornsen 
9. The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brothers Grimm 
10. Felicia and the Pot of Pinks by Madame la Comtesse d’Aulnoy 
11. The Iron Stove by Miss Mulock 
12. The Hedley Kow by Joseph Jacobs 
13. The Six Sillies by Monsieur Lemoine 
14. Baba Yaga a Russian folk tale re-told by Verra Xenophontovna Kalamatiano De Blumenthal 
15. The Old Woman in the Woods by the Brothers Grimm 
16. The Idle Spinner by the Brothers Grimm 
17. The Twelve Brothers by the Brothers Grimm 
18. Frederick and Catherine by the Brothers Grimm 
19. Little Red Cap by the Brothers Grimm 
20. Beauty and The Beast by Marie Le Prince de Beaumont
"Snow Queen" illustrations of Gerda's journey by Amy Chipping

There are a few standard fairy tales on the list, but it's good to be reminded that even the fairy tales culture is familiar with often feature clever women who actually do a lot more than sitting around dreaming helplessly of love (even in the cases of the worst offenders for most helpless princesses, you can usually make a case for them not being quite as passive as some have made them out to be anyway). There are also quite a few tales I'm not familiar with at all, so it seems like it would be a good mix for both the casual fairy tale fan as well as many of the readers here who are already familiar with more tales than the average person!

Another cool thing about this collection: Promoting awareness is also translated into action, because for every downloaded audiobook ($20), $5 goes towards helping girls and women in need around the world. That's a cause I would happily support!

Other similarly themed books:

UPDATE: Adam reviewed the audiobook over at Fairy Tale Fandom, check out his review!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Fairy Tale Nursery Ideas

It's February 19, which means two things: 1. It's been 7 years since Tales of Faerie's first post ever! I always like to take a moment to attempt to express my thanks for all the support from readers over the years. Being part of the fairy tale blogging community is amazing and has helped me learn so much!

And this year, this particular date also means we are now only 6 days away from the due date of our little Prince! In fact I'm scheduling this ahead of time so it's even possible I could be a mother by the time this goes live...(!!!!!). (By the way, congratulations to Megan Kearney who also just gave birth to a baby boy!). So, if it gets really quiet around here for a while you can probably assume I'm on maternity leave but I'll eventually come back with a birth announcement.

Tony and I had considered doing a fairy tale themed nursery, but decided to go with a Disneyland theme instead, which can incorporate fairy tales as well as a lot of already easily accessible products. I'm not especially into decorating and our nursery looks nothing like these, but I had fun browsing! It's actually hard to find fairy tale nursery ideas that aren't super girly (even if we were having a girl I'd want something gender neutral that could be used for potential future kids too), and that are actually inspired by fairy tales themselves rather than the general aesthetics of "ornate/vintage", or "woodland creatures/trees". But here were some of my favorites:

SWAN CRIB-Pamela Copeman

Not technically for a baby but-WOW

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Sleeping Prince

In my post on the different ways of Awakening the Sleeping Beauty, reader Nectar Vam shared this fantastic gender swapped version of the tale, The Sleeping Prince. It combines elements of Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and even reminded me a little of Beauty and the Beast with the enchanted castle at the end. A bird tells a Princess of a sleeping Prince, who is white and gold and red, and goes on a dangerous journey even though she knew her parents wouldn't approve. She has to go to the lands of the West Wind, East Wind, and North Wind, where mortals should not go, and follow instructions to get past two lions that guard the gates of the castle, and awaits the time when the Prince's spell will be over.

It very much has the feel of a traditional folk tale to me, and although the sleeping prince trope may be much less common, if you look hard enough you can generally find gender swapped versions of any classic fairy tale-especially since this one bears resemblance to the journey of the heroine in "East of the Sun, West of the Moon." But the only sites I could find the tale at had no source cited-Wikipedia has a tale of the same title but it's clearly different (although also fascinating-in this one the heroine must stay awake watching the sleeping Prince for 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, 3 hours, and 3 half hours. She is persuaded to sleep towards the end and then follows a Goose Girl-type episode of mistaken identity). This site says it's Spanish (thanks, Amy Elize!) but has no further information on collection, editor, date, etc. So I can't promise it's authentic folklore but an interesting tale worth reading and sharing! Any further information on it would be welcome! UPDATE: Sarah Allison has more information on the source in the comments. Thanks, Sarah!

Also-in the past I've done features on roses in fairy tales on Valentine's Day. Interestingly, the key to getting past the lions in this tale is to pick two white roses from outside the North Wind's door, and throw them down before the lions when she gets close enough-something that would require lots bravery, since the lions act threatening until she gets close enough to throw down the roses! And the episode also reveals the great amount of power sometimes associated with roses in fairy tales.

Image sources-1 and 2

Thursday, February 9, 2017

My Beast, by Lorraine Mariner

"When I was a child I worried
that when I got my chance to love a beast
I would not be up to the task.
As he came in for the kiss I'd turn away
or gag on the mane in my mouth
and the fair-haired prince
and the dress that Beauty wore
on the last page in my Ladybird book
would be lost to me forever."

Here's the beginning of Lorraine Mariner's poem, "My Beast." You can read the whole thing here (and also listen to it being read aloud). I love this first section because I tended to have the same thought when I read fairy tales as a child-that I needed to pay attention because somehow I might be put in the same situation and need to use the fairy tales to figure out what I should do.
I also wasn't familiar with the illustrations from the Ladybird book she mentions, so I googled them and here are some of my favorites! 

Mariner goes on to discuss her disillusionment with her expectations of BATB, but then comes to terms with a balance of hope and realism. Many modern poets seem to have a very bleak view of fairy tales and happy endings so I appreciated the overall message. It's a very quick, easy read

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Awakening the Beauty

Everyone's familiar with the episode where the Prince comes and awakens Sleeping Beauty with a kiss; some people might be aware of older versions of the fairy tale that involve rape and childbirth; sensationalized articles and lists love to use those versions to shock people with the "real" and disturbing versions of classic tales.

While many of the older versions are indeed quite dark and disturbing, they don't all involve rape of an unconscious victim, and True Love's Kiss isn't always the solution in later tales. I used Surlalune's Sleeping Beauties Tales From Around the World book to gain a few different examples of how the Princess is actually awakened.

Going back to Norse mythology, the story of Brunhild (from the late late 13th century) is similar to a Sleeping Beauty tale. In it, the bravery of the hero Siegfried allows him to pass through the dangers and get close to Brunhild (although he doesn't actually do anything, the "vile flames fled in shame and dismay before the pure sunbeam flashes from Greyfell's mane"-so the real secret to heroism is apparently having a magical horse). Once there, he gives Brunhild a gentle kiss on the forehead (not even the lips) and softly calls her name, giving us the picture of an absolute gentleman. I find it ironic that this possibly oldest version of the tale is the closest to the Disney in terms of the stereotypical hero riding in on his horse, braving dangers, and saving the day with a kiss. From there we depart from that ideal-

It's the French story of Troylus and Zelladine from Perceforest, from some time in the 13th or 14th century, that we get to some of the horrific parts of the story. We read a description of how Troylus tries to resist temptation around the beautiful sleeping girl, but just can't help following "the tenets of Venus"-at least this version describes his actions as cowardly, and perhaps tries to justify it a little because Troylus "speaks a long discourse begging forgiveness for his grand liberties." Yet nine months later Zelladine gives birth to a son, who grabs her finger in an attempt to suckle, and suckles so hard that he sucks out the sleep thorn that kept her enchanted.

There are other, less well known Medieval stories which involve a maiden under an enchanted sleep. In almost all of them she is taken advantage of. In Pandragus et Libanor, the maiden is in an unnatural sleep, does not wake up during the night in question, but simply wakes up normally the next day. In Brother of Joy and Sister of Pleasure, the "hero" manages to wake the woman he impregnated with the help of a bird who gives a magic herb to the maiden. This is one of the rare stories in which the woman actually gets upset to find she has been taken advantage of (Zelladine also felt devastated upon waking)-most sleeping beauties seem strangely silent, even happy, to find themselves awakened with a strange lover and/or child-although in this story she does eventually grow to love her rapist (There are good reasons these stories aren't so well known today). Lastly, in the adventures of Blandin de Cornoalha the Knight, we find a chivalrous hero who is more like Siegfried-he falls in love but does not appear to succumb to temptation; rather breaks the enchantment through bravery; he learns he must defeat a serpent, obtain a white hawk, and bring the hawk to the side of the maiden.

Basile's Sun, Moon, and Talia (early 1600s) is very similar to "Troylus and Zelladine"-the only difference being that it is twins who suck the flax from her fingernail and not a single baby. It is this version which also introduces the next violent episode, with the attempted cannibalism of the children. In this version it's a little more understandable, though, because it's the Prince's wife that grows furious when she discovers the truth.

From there we move away from raping/nursing babies as the primary cause of awakening. In Perrault's 1697 classic version, the prince finds the princess and kneels at her side (no kiss) just as the 100 years of her curse happen to be ending, so his part in everything is pretty simple. Once the Princess awakes, they simply talk together for four hours, so it's perhaps the best example of love in a Sleeping Beauty tale. The brambles parted to let him through, so while he wasn't quite the brave knight in shining armor, it would have been pretty creepy to continue as the thorns closed again behind him and then again as he walked through the castle where everyone was eerily unconscious, so we'll give him credit for that. The cannibalism episode follows, only now it's the Prince's mother that is an ogress and wants to eat her grandchildren

In the Italian Sun, Pearl, and Anna, the hero simply removes a spindle from the grasp of the sleeping Anna. They have children together (followed by the cannibalistic mother in law again) but at least it's consensual; I find this transition (or lack thereof) to be downright humorous: "'How are you today, Anna?' 'Very well, thank you. And how are you, your majesty?' 'I'm well.' By the end of nine months, the girl was great with child."

There's another very brief, tragic Italian tale called The Son of a King in which the queen mother actually succeeds in cooking and eating her grandchildren and daughter in law (there is no mention of awakening or the princess actually being found asleep in this one, just that she was found in a deserted castle).

In the Grimm's Briar Rose, once again the hedge parts  for our hero (but this time the hedge is filled with corpses from others who attempted to pass before the time was up), and we have a Princess awakened with a kiss for the first time since Siegfried and Brunhild.

The Grimms also have another Sleeping Beauty tale, The Glass Coffin. I thought I had never read it before but it turns out not only had I read it, I wrote a whole post on it 5 years ago. This is why I have a memory is terrible! Anyway, it's a fascinating tale in which a Princess was cursed to sleep in a glass coffin because she spurned the advances of an evil magician-she had even attempted to shoot him but the bullet bounced off of him! A traveling tailor discovers her, and all he had to do was look at her, and she woke up and instructed him on how to open the coffin and free her. Afterwards, she gave him a "friendly kiss on his lips." This one wins the award for the most active female heroine!

In the Austrian The Enchanted Sleep, although the count's son does kiss the sleeping maiden, it doesn't appear to awaken her right away. He had also the foresight to write her a letter, which she later used to summon him to her, and also prove his innocence and his brothers' treachery (they had actually killed him, but animals he had helped along his journey came and healed him).

The Story of The Prince in Love is from Egypt, but bears similarities to older tales, particularly the cursed flax under the fingernail being what causes the sleep. Here, fortunately, the prince simply finds and removes the flax, and it's only after she wakes up that he spends forty days and nights with her in bed-although no children result from it. The prince is eventually a jerk to her though, so she decides to teach him a lesson-disguises herself with more beauty and causes him to fall in love with her again, but spurns his gifts, and will only marry him if he pretends to be dead and is himself carried around in a coffin. I'm not sure shy she wants to marry a man who thinks he's cheating on her, but it is interesting that he must have his own sort of "enchanted sleep" before they unite.

There's also The Petrified Mansion from India, in which the prince finds a stick of gold and just happens to touch the Princess' head with it, which revives her and the rest of the mansion's inhabitants. The curse was brought on by a stick of silver, so gold was the antidote-and the same gold stick later healed the Prince's parents, who were mourning their missing son.

So rather than bravery, many medieval Princes took advantage of sleeping princesses. Later, most Princes became more respectful of the enchanted women, who seemed more likely to be revived by chance than from getting a magical kiss. Some of the tales make us feel uncomfortable to read today, yet some were pretty feminist, featuring strong and brave women, and men who had self control. What other versions of Sleeping Beauty and methods of awakening are there? (I didn't even touch on Snow White tales here...)

Illustrations-A. H. Watson (first two), Millicent Sowerby (last two)