Form and Fairy Tale: the visual appeal of La Belle et la Bête

July 31, 2016 § Leave a comment

Christophe Gans’ extravagant French film adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” will be shown in select cities this September, and from the looks of the trailer, it’s right in line with the CGI live-action extravaganzas we’ve been treated to by Hollywood in the last handful of years.

Praised and awarded in Europe for its luscious production design, La Belle et la Bête is hardly the kind of film you could describe as “restrained.” But restraint isn’t really what the film industry has in mind for fairy tales lately; I’m immediately thinking of the bombastic giant-human battles in 2013’s Jack the Giant Slayer and Maleficent’s sparkly, fairy-populated Moors in 2014. It’s worth noting that La Belle et la Bête was also originally released in 2014, followed in 2015 by the much more understated (and more disturbing) Tale of Tales, directed by Matteo Garrone. (Warning: trailer below is NSFW) « Read the rest of this entry »

A Starker, Darker Brothers Grimm

November 14, 2014 § 3 Comments

dezso_grimmsI’m excited to finally have in my possession a copy of Jack Zipes’ The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, a new translation of the original 1812 & 1815 Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales (I say finally because my local post office made we wait one extra, excruciating day). You may have seen some buzz around the interwebs about it, praising Zipes for restoring the “darkness and gore” to the tales. While I think that particular line is a little misleading, there’s no doubt that this is an important book, and worth celebrating. And, with its cut-out illustrations by Andrea Dezso and gorgeous book design by Princeton University Press, it’s lovely to boot!

First, some context. « Read the rest of this entry »

An Introduction to Fairy Tales by the National Theatre

February 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Happy to have come across this video on Twitter — I had missed it when it was posted by the National Theatre last August, but the authors and scholars interviewed have some really great things to say about what a fairy tale is, and how folk tales and fairy tales differ, but both have the same draw for readers. Also, I just love Philip Pullman.

The film was made by the National Theatre in London for its “Theatrical Context” YouTube channel, where there are some other great gems illuminating the figures and concepts behind the theater’s current shows. “An Introduction to Fairy Tales” provides some context for the National Theatre’s current production of The Light Princess, a new musical based on the 1864 book by George MacDonald, adapted by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson. MacDonald is also well known for his novel At The Back of the North Wind, published in 1871. He was a major influence on the genre of literary fairy tales in the Victorian era, and writers such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien cited his books as an inspiration to them. For Maurice Sendak fans, a beautiful edition of The Light Princess was illustrated by Sendak in 1969, and still remains in some sort of available print today (though you stand a good chance of happening across a copy in a used book store–I seem to spot it and The Golden Key, another MacDonald-Sendak edition, in almost every one I go to).

Let me here just fangirl out for a moment: Tori Amos and fairy tales! My nineties heart sings. Here’s Amos interviewed by the Evening Standard about the musical: www.standard.co.uk/goingout/theatre/tori-amos-on-her-new-musical-the-light-princess.

Enjoy!

My Grimm Project

August 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve begun a little project.

It’s called “A Grimm Project,” and I hope you’ll click through and follow it.

A Grimm Project” is a prompt-driven romp through all 242 tales in the 1987 edition of Jack Zipes’s The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. I have been writing about other peoples’ work for a long time, and needed an impetus to create my own. So you all will need to hold me accountable, as I create a freewrite on this new blog in response to each fairy tale in the book.

You can help out, too! Each week over on A Grimm Project I’ll be posting on the next tale, in order, in the book, and then posting a short “response” to the tale. Some will be harder than others, but there will be NO SKIPPING. And if you feel inspired by a particular tale, please email me your freewrite in the email provided in the “About the Project” section, or post it in the comments. Each month, I’ll choose some favorites to be included in a special post. So please check it out, follow, and contribute!

You can already read my first entries, on the first tale in the Grimms’ collection, “The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich,” here.

Thanks,
Cate

painting by Albert Weisgerber

painting by Albert Weisgerber

Fairy Tales Behind the Curtain: A Conversation with Kate Wolford and Megan Engelhardt

May 9, 2013 § 6 Comments

Kate Wolford is a teacher, scholar, and author/editor of Beyond the Glass Slipper: Ten Neglected Fairy Tales to Fall in Love With, now out from World Weaver Press. She also edits the online magazine Enchanted Conversation. Megan Engelhardt is the co-author of Wolves and Witches, a collection of prose and poetry fairy tale adaptations by herself and her sister, Amanda C. Davis. Wolves and Witches is also available from World Weaver Press.

btgs-cover-ebook-300-dpiBoth Kate and Megan agreed to chat with me about fairy tales and their complicated relationship with gender, and what draws writers and scholars to them still. Enjoy!

crfricke: Both the act of collecting little known fairy tales and re-writing fairy tales are akin to drawing back a curtain on something—would you say that that was part of your mission in writing these books? If so, how would you define what is being revealed?

Kate Wolford: Yes, is my answer to the first question. Of the ten tales in Beyond the Glass Slipper, only “The Nixy” and “King Pig” are even moderately well known—especially when it comes to US readers. The massive domination of Disney fairy tale culture in the Americas means that even sophisticated fans of fairy tales might have a fairly narrow view of what a fairy tale is “supposed” to be. For example, people really believe that fairy tales always end in “happily ever after.” They very often don’t. What the book is meant to reveal is a wider idea of what a fairy tale can be, and that the world of fairy tales is richer and more diverse than most of us ever imagine. I also want readers to realize that fairy tale heroes and heroines often are people of questionable character. Look at the soldier in one of the stories, “The Blue Light.” That he will be as bad a king as the man he vanquishes is pretty clear. But, then again, in Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” the protagonist is a stalker, but people so seldom notice.

wolves-and-witches-coverMegan Engelhardt: For the first question, in our case, a lot of the tales we use are fairly well known. I think for Amanda and me, the fun comes in asking the reader to look at the familiar from a different angle. I’m not sure that it’s fair to call it a mission, really, but it is definitely an interest that directed a lot of the work in Wolves and Witches. We all know what happens from the main character’s point of view, but what’s the villain thinking? What’s going on over here to the side of the main action? What happens after the curtain closes? Those are the questions that fired our imaginations, and those are the stories we tried to reveal to the reader. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Grammar of Happiness: An Interview with Kate Bernheimer

March 29, 2013 § 3 Comments

Kate Bernheimer, editor of Fairy Tale Review and author of a trilogy of novels, The Complete Tales of Merry Gold, The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold, and The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold, loves to talk fairy tales, even with a grueling schedule of panels and readings at the 2013 AWP Conference. Which is how I found myself lucky enough to be sitting next to her at a flyer-littered table in the AWP Bookfair as she graciously answered my questions about fairy tales, her past work, and her upcoming projects. Just that morning she was among the speakers at a unbelievably packed panel on fairy tale retellings (the other panelists were Jane Yolen, Kelly Link, Anjali Sachdeva and John Crowley), and so fairy tales and their prolific influence on all kinds of literature were on both our minds. In our conversation, we talked about the undefinable nature of fairy tales, writerly childhood nostalgia, the brutality of myths, and the power of the perfect final word.

bernheimerphoto2012-ks1Kate is the author of the children’s books The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum, The Lonely Book, and the forthcoming The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair (Random House Children’s Books/Schwartz & Wade Books, illustrated by Jake Parker) as well as the short story collection Horse, Flower, Bird (Coffee House Press, illustrated by Rikki Ducornet). Her second story collection, How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales, is forthcoming in 2014 (also from Coffee House Press). She is the editor of the award-winning anthology My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me (Penguin Non-Classics), as well as of Fairy Tale Review, which is now accepting submissions for The Emerald Issue, which will be inspired by The Wizard of Oz. She teaches at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where she lives with her husband, the writer Brent Hendricks (A Long Day at The End of the World) and their daughter.

CF: So when I was coming up with questions for you, I came upon a theme, and that is how fairy tales overlap and blur the lines of genre. Mostly because my 1st question is about the Oz issue, and it occurred to me that, like Alice in Wonderland or Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, it’s not technically, by traditional definition, a fairy tale. It’s a novel with an author that we can point to and say, that’s where it comes from. And yet there are all of these examples in children’s lit that become, in the popular consciousness, fairy tales, and so it still seems to fit.

KB: To speak first to the “traditional definition” of fairy tales, it’s important to point out that many do have authors; authored works are not excluded from the  body of work known as “fairy tales.”  Pinocchio is a fairy tale. Even the Grimms are author/editors. The stories collected in their editions were painstakingly gathered, and edited by them in literary versions, that is “written.” Of course the stories don’t belong to the Grimms; fairy tales don’t belong to anyone.  So that question of authorship and the question of the purity of the author and the individuality of the author comes into play in diverse ways in the fairy-tale tradition.  My operating sensibility is to read through fairy-tale techniques and a fairy-tale affect.  Reading this way, the entire Oz series is inarguably a fairy tale. Some scholars consider The Wizard of Oz series to be “the first American fairy tale”—I don’t think along those lines – looking for originating definitive versions; that’s a gesture that weirdly obliterates a more expansive sense of history. « Read the rest of this entry »

Six-Gun Snow White: A Victim’s Trickster Tale

February 27, 2013 § 6 Comments

It’s a real shame that neither of Hollywood’s big-budget Snow White adaptations could boast Catherynne M. Valente on their writing staff.

Too often, in the ouvre of fairy tale adaptations, we’re told that we’re going to see something new—the tale like it’s never been told!—and what we end up with instead is the same shlock, with better CGI. The art of the creative, thoughtful, and powerful fairy tale retelling is a quiet one that thrives less in Hollywood studios than it does in literary magazines, YA publishing houses, and small presses like Subterranean. If you, like me, gagged on your popcorn when Mirror, Mirror’s Snow White was told by the prince that she tastes “like strawberries,” then get thee to Subterranean Press’s site, and don’t balk at the $40 price tag of Valente’s limited edition of Six-Gun Snow White, because in its pages you’ll find all the beauty and sorrow that got left on the cutting room floor of last year’s feature films. Infused with Native American trickster tales and Spaghetti Western dudes, this retelling is less of a stretch than you might think—in fact, it’s an adaptation that transcends its patchworked nature, strips the archetypal characters to their raw human bones, and reveals the true beating heart of the fairy tale.

sixgun-snowwhite

Cover illustration by Charles Vess

In Six-Gun Snow White, Snow White is the cruel nickname given to the daughter of a silver baron and his first wife by his second, the proverbial stepmother. Snow White’s tragic mother was a Crow Indian woman who was forced into marriage with Mr. H, and who, after a failed suicide attempt, dies giving birth to the half-breed Snow White. Snow is kept a secret from Mr. H’s second wife, a pale and beautiful white woman who, once she finally meets Snow, makes it her terrible mission to teach Snow about beauty, womanliness, and whiteness. Snow White’s brown skin is the marker that makes her different from her stepmother, and it becomes her curse when she takes off from home in her father’s clothes with her pistol, Rose Red, by her side. « Read the rest of this entry »

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