July 7, 2015 § 1 Comment
Despite their responsibility for some of the most fantastic and, in some cases, romantic fairy tales in the western world, one doesn’t usually think of the Brothers Grimm themselves as dashing figures. Sickly and studious, both brothers have more of a reputation for their industriousness than their ability to make hearts melt.
But in Kate Forsyth’s new novel, The Wild Girl, younger brother Wilhelm is given the full romantic hero treatment, and a viscerally imagined love story between him and his eventual wife Dortchen Wild emerges.
Inspired by Valerie Paradiz’s 2005 book Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales, Forsyth paints a portrait of young Dortchen Wild, one of five sisters who lived next door to the Grimms when they began collecting stories for their soon-to-be famous collection. As a girl, Dortchen becomes smitten with Wilhelm and contributes many tales to their growing collection. The novel follows their relationship over the span of twenty years; the two did not marry until Wilhelm was 39 and Dortchen 31, an old maid by 1825 standards, and in The Wild Girl, Forsyth offers a possible explanation as to why. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 17, 2015 § 1 Comment
“Die Hutte,” said my father as though he were starting a prayer.
I could say nothing. …In my imagination it had been a gingerbread house with roses around the door, a veranda with a rocking chair, and smoke puffing from the chimney. Exactly who was there to tend the roses or light the stove hadn’t been clear, but even seeing Oliver Hannington would have been better than the tumbledown witch’s house that stood before us.
When eight-year-old Peggy is taken by her father deep into the Bavarian woods, she believes they’re only going for a holiday. But her father then tells her a fairy tale about a little girl who wishes for silence, and is granted that wish when everyone else on the earth disappears. She is that little girl, he says, and everyone they’ve left behind is dead. Thus begins Peggy’s own dark fairy tale, learning to survive the harsh winters and brutal summers alone with her father, until tragedy and madness force her to rediscover the world she’d believed had died. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 8, 2015 § Leave a comment
Remember those 500 “new” fairy tales everyone was talking about in 2012? Now a selection of them have been published under the title The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Tales, and I’m excited to have a long-form review of the collection published this month in the Brooklyn Rail. Here’s a taste:
“What the Schönwerth tales are, at their core, are artifacts, reminders of the humble origins of some of the most enduring stories in our shared imagination. The public interest in the tales, no matter how deserving they are of artistic acclaim, does denote something of a turning point for popular understanding of fairy tales. Fewer and fewer people may be surprised to hear that Walt Disney didn’t invent Cinderella and Snow White (yes, this happens) if more readers are turning an eye to the fairy tale of how a story is made, and how it endures. … Well, here is material as close to an original oral source as many folk tale collectors could hope to get. The irony, of course, is that such a thing as an authentic fairy tale scarcely exists. A fairy tale on the page is either a recording or a retelling of the ineffable original, the source and meaning of which lives only in an unreachable time, and in our imaginations.”
You can read the full review here: http://www.brooklynrail.org/2015/03/books/a-hundred-and-fifty-years-sleep
Since we turned the page on 2014, I’ve also published a review with Bookslut of Kelly Link’s new short story collection, Get in Trouble, and was thrilled to have a short piece of fiction inspired by three Grimm tales posted at Tin House’s blog, The Open Bar. Check them out through the links below, and as always, thanks for reading!
“I love a good ghost story…”
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link, Reviewed on Bookslut
“My wedding ring glinted on my finger: it seemed to belong to a different hand.”
A Grandmother in Three Tales on the Open Bar
December 6, 2014 § Leave a comment
Looking for just the right fairy tale book for all the readers on your holiday list? Here are some of the highlights of 2014, including books for both adults and younger readers. Enjoy!
Short Story Collections
For the Realist You’re Trying to Convert:
The Witch and Other Tales Retold, by Jean Thompson
Thompson is a master of exposing the wierdnesses of everyday life, in a manner that brings to mind Joyce Carol Oates at her vintage best. In this collection, she uses the framework and a few familiar tropes of beloved fairy tales and drops them into realistic tales of children surviving in a frightening foster home, teenagers acting out through sex, and young women tempted into strange, sudden marriages.
For the Die-Hard Fabulist:
How a Mother Weaned Her Girl From Fairy Tales, by Kate Bernheimer
Unlike Thompson, who uses familiar frameworks in updated settings in The Witch, Bernheimer is adept at crafting her own tales that are so odd and uncanny that they seem to be from another time. Frightening and fearless, Bernheimer’s imagination is at full force here — read these stories under a dim lamp at night, for optimal chills. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 14, 2014 § 3 Comments
I’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 »
May 30, 2014 § 3 Comments
Once Upon a Time bloggers Kristin of Tales of Faerie and Gypsy of Once Upon a Blog noticed that their blogging habits seemed to invade other areas of their lives. They started this round-robin of fairy tale bloggers to add to their lists of quirks and observations about being obsessed with fairy tales, and asked me to join in. I’ve been tagged by Megan at The Dark Forest, so here goes! I’ll do my best to not repeat things that have already been listed, but I can’t promise…
1. Puppeteers (like Layla Holzer, for instance) begin following you on Twitter. Inexplicable, but welcome.
2. You’re suspicious of apples and straight combs.
3. You know that when you have kids, the last thing you’ll tell them is to stay out of a certain room. Because you know that guarantees that they’ll go in. Every story, every time.
4. You’ll always be disappointed that your hair never turned out like a Trina Schart Hyman heroine’s:
October 31, 2013 § Leave a comment
Happy Halloween from Something to Read for the Train & A Grimm Project!
004. The Tale of the Boy Who Set Out to Learn What Fear Was
*This post is part of A Grimm Project, a series of short fiction pieces using each of the Brothers Grimms’ Nursery and Household Tales as writing prompts. For more information about the project, click here. For more about the story which inspired this freewrite, click here.*
When the bed stopped its bucking and the cats had gone to find milk, I straightened my suspenders and set off to explore the final wing of the castle. What fun I’d had so far—sheets askew and cards scattered, the castle had the look of a gaming den. One final hallway, one final door. I rapped my knuckles loudly, and the door gave way.
Ah, it’s you, someone said.
I could see no one in the dark. The voice was quiet and raspy.
Nursing a cold there, eh, sir? I said.
I heard a scratching noise near my feet. Fumbling in my pockets, I found the last match and lit it against my shoe sole. The small light flickered—two eyes looked up at me from the stone floor, reflecting the match’s dance.
Hullo, what are you doing down there? I asked. The man—for that’s what the speaker was, a very old man with a beard as long as his body, and pointed nails caked with dirt—extended a bony hand towards me and touched my cheek. Careful there, Granddad, I said. Those nails look sharp enough to scratch.
I had forgotten how full those cheeks were in my youth, the man said. Look, how healthy that hay-colored hair. So handsome, I was.
I didn’t much care for the smell of him.
See here, old dirt-nail, old fish-stink, which way to the treasure? Dawn’s a-coming fast, and if I don’t find it by then, we’re good as burnt toast, no use to anybody. Help me out, will you, instead of lying there?
There is no treasure, the old man said. His eyes had become very bright, this I noticed just before the match fizzled down and nipped my thumb and forefinger with a sharp little searing. There is only you.
I backed away, feeling around behind me for the door. You’re dotty, you are. If you’ll be no help to me, then fie with you. I’ll find it on my own, and by morning, too.
I’m sure you will, the man said, waving to me faintly as I left the room and faced the deeper darkness of the hall. Yes, I’m sure this time you will.
Old tosser, I thought.
September 17, 2013 § Leave a comment
My newest procrastination tool, “A Grimm Project,” is off to a good start! I’ve used 5 out of 242 of Grimms’ fairy tales as inspiration for short fictional freewrites (I try to time myself to 10 minutes, more or less), and those 5 freewrites are up on the blog for your enjoyment. I’m going in order, from “001. The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich” to “242. The Robber and His Sons” according to Jack Zipes’ The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, and posting both a short analysis and a freewrite for each tale.
But I’d love some more voices in this conversation – please take a look, and contribute a freewrite of your own in the comments section. Each month I’d like to publish a “Readers Responses” post with your freewrites. Share a snippet inspired by a tale already featured on the blog to be included in the next “Readers Responses” post, or of an upcoming tale, to be included in a post close to the time when that tale will be featured on the blog (I’m going in order, after all).
So please click over to “A Grimm Project” to check out my progress, and join in. Thanks!
August 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
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.
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.
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.
Megan 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 »