Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ask Baba Yaga: How Do I Get Rid Of A Demanding Work Ethic?

Baba Yaga by James Schultz
How to have a guilt-free break, rest or, even, more difficult a REAL vacation? That tug of "still much more to do", never quite goes away and today, as I'm about to leave to go on a mini-vacation with my family (the first in about a decade) I find myself more worried about all the "to-do's" than the potential wonderful time, (even though it will be a busy one that I don't really have a chance of looking lazy while doing). 

I both wondered and dreaded what Baba Yaga would have to say about it, especially as she's known for giving almost-impossible tasks to those asking for her help, like she's about to do with Vasilissa above. Inspired by the way Baba Yaga's house is giving the girl a "leg up" in the image here, I decided I'd swallow my dread and and see what she had to say about it. As it turns out, someone recently asked a similar question...

Today's timely question and answer (via poet and oracle Taisia Kitaiskaia* of The Hairpin):
(Originally posted at The Hairpin HERE)

We know making magic takes hard work but I often forget about that brewing, hatching and baking time... Point taken.

In fact, you know what? Rather than spent my last minutes working like crazy, I'm going to commit myself to being in the 'golden afternoon' with my family as we prepare for our trip. So you probably won't see news from me until later in the week but I will be back - probably tired but hopefully I'll have some 'gold' to share as well. ;)

What do you think of Baba Yaga's advice?

Want to ask Baba Yaga a question of your own?
You can!
There's now an email address where you can send your questions
directly to Baba Yaga herself.
AskBabaYaga AT gmail DOT com
To encourage Baba Yaga to continue imparting her no-bones-about-it wisdom (ok, there may be some gristle in there... bones too), I suggest we not to leave her box empty... 

Thank you Baba Yaga (& Taisia).

Taisia Kitaiskaia is a poet, writer, and Michener Center for Writers fellow. Born in Russia and raised in America, she's had her poems and translations published in Narrative Magazine, Poetry International, and others.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Enchanting Photography of Margarita Kareva

I've been wanting to share these images since before the New Year and now that Winter is waning (especially in Southern California), it's high time I did just that.

The photographer of these fairy tale-like images is Margarita Kareva. Not only do all of her images invoke fairy tales or other worlds of faery but she is also wonderfully prolific. It's hard to believe she's only been doing serious photography for less than half the time I've had this blog! Not only that, I could post a photo every day for a year and still not cover all the best ones to date. (You've probably seen many different images of hers around social media and Pinterest!)

This series posted here, however, is one I keep coming back to over and over.

Admittedly, I have a great love of Russian tales and am drawn to anything that hints of them but I don't think I'll be the only one here who feels like they're looking at a captured fairy tale moment. My favorite by far is the one posted at the top, though. If any of these hold a tale, that one does, though I love the hen close-up too. That could just be because I love chickens and all their magical weirdness though... Does anyone know about Russian ovamancy? Unlike much of the divination practices you hear about, the Russian version seems like so much day-to-day magic  - something that fits well in a Wonder Tale. Another subject for another tale...

Margarita Kareva says that (she) seeks to embody dreams in (her) photos. (She) only became strongly attracted to shooting three years ago, but (already) has a portfolio full of bright, creative and magical images. Margarita says that you just need to "learn every day, all your life."

I'll have to share more of her work another time (there are many different series) but in the meantime, if you have a little time (ok, more than a little time!) you can head over to her page at 500px and see the amazing portfolio there.

If you feel so inclined to write a story to go with these, do share. I always feel the whisper of tales when I look at these images...

Friday, January 23, 2015

"The Mythology of Grimm" by Nathan Robert Brown

Spotted (and snagged) in Barnes & Noble last week was the relatively new release The Mythology of Grimm. (Actually, for the first time in a VERY long time, the fairy tale and folklore section was both full and had a good selection of newer books I hadn't seen in the wild before.)

The book is not authorized/endorsed by anyone affiliated with the NBC TV series Grimm but is written by someone who has published several works with regard to mythology and pop culture.

The book is much more than a fan discussion of the TV show elements. It begins with a condensed but clear historical overview of popular fairy tales collectors and their work. As you would expect, the Grimm brothers and their work on Household Tales feature prominently, but also Perrault, Joseph Jacobs and the Aarne-Thompson-Uther tale classification system and other well known names (to readers here anyway) are mentioned as well.
It then heads into a discussion of the weaponry used in Grimm, which is what you'd expect from a fan-aimed book but in the show a weapon is usually creature/Wesen-specific and directly related to the mythology surrounding the creature or tale the overall story is drawing from. in this way, it's a good overview of the types of challenges and creatures within the stories.

The rest of the book goes into (essentially) tale types used and retells the Grimm version of the most popular incarnations. For example, Little Red Cap is retold with a brief introduction to the tale's context/history but with commentary and a good sense of humor).

Here are the chapter titles discussing the tales (I'll put an explanation next to the title in brackets, in case you're not familiar with the show and the titles reference isn't obvious):
The Illustrated Grimms Fairy Tales - Pop Up Book
by V L A D I M I R stankovic

  • Red Hoodies and Cross-dressing Blutbaden
  • Bears, Blondes, and Butchery
  • Dancing to the Piper's Tune
  • Ultimate Showdown - Blutbaden vs. Bauerschwein (Three Little Pigs)
  • Sexy Goats and Eager Beavers (The god Pan and Bluebeard)
  • Wild Chicks with Long Hair (Wild children & Rapunzel)
  • Giants, Ogres, and Giant Ogres
  • Bread Crumbs and People Eaters
  • Coins of Blessing, Coins of Curse
  • And Now... Dragons! Or Dåmonfeuers (The Four Skillful Brothers)
  • Cabbages andCookies, Donkeys and Love Spells (Donkey Cabbages)
  • Chicks in Comas
  • Weird Little Guys with Funny Names
  • Foxy Fuchsbau (The Fox and the Cat)
  • Wesen of the NewWorld (multiple legends/folktales/lore)
  • Greco-Roman Wesen (Greek myths - Minotaur & The Slave and the Lion & Pompeii

After the retellings, the author discusses how each tale was referenced in the TV show with well considered research details that won't overwhelm a non-academic. I think he's done a good job at drawing people into the tales this way.

But it doesn't stop there. The chapter on Red Hoodies and Cross-Dressing Blutbaden, looks at legends that echo the motifs, violent crimes and mental illnesses that could be seen to be related to the tale and much more. Each chapter discusses real world related scenarios, personalities, legends and more, giving the idea that perhaps these tales aren't quite as fanciful as they first appear.

Each chapter also has "sidebars" (though they're often at the top of bottom of the page) of related trivia (titled Tasty Morsels) and definitions of less-common words (eg "nosegay"), a breakdown of what a German word used in the show means and more (these are titled Grimm Words). I'm a big fan of side bars and these aren't just for show. They definitely are designed to intrigue and keep the reader going back to the text (in other words, they do their job well).

I haven't read much of the book yet but it's only due to time. For me this will be a quick read (if I can get more than ten minutes in a row to concentrate!) and while readers looking for a light read will go more slowly, it should still easily keep their interest throughout. The reviews I've seen are in the very good to excellent range, which is great to see, especially as all the reviews I've read are by people who don't really read fairy tales or even had any idea there was a whole field of fairy tale scholarship.

So far, I'm impressed with the book (especially since I expected it to be more along the lines of fan writing and not really be "scholar-light") and am really glad to see it sitting with other pop culture studies such as those of Supernatural and True Blood. These shows have all inspired people to study myth, folklore and fairy tale in depth and I couldn't be happier to see that happening.

My one complaint is that the books focuses on the first season of Grimm and the show has referenced many, many lesser known tales since (and some popular ones too, but it's the lesser ones that are fascinating to me). But I wouldn't want it to be any bigger. It's already a little hefty and any larger would be daunting so instead of really complaining I'll just request that a second book is written and released so all the tales and folklore and legends are covered/revealed to the fans (and spawns more folklorists!).

Note: For easy reference two glossaries are included at the end: "Wesenology" and Grimm Terminology.

Here's the blurb:
NBC’s hit television series Grimm pits modern detective Nick Burkhardt of the Portland Police against a cast of terrifying villains—lifted directly from the pages of classic fairytales. In the world of the show, the classic stories are actually a document of real events, and Nick himself is descended from a long line of guardians, or Grimms, charged with defending humanity from the mythological creatures of the world. From The Big Bad Wolf to Sleeping Beauty, The Mythology of Grimm explores the history and folkloric traditions that come into play during Nick’s incredible battles and investigations—tapping into elements of mythology that have captured our imaginations for centuries.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Illustrated Movie Tie-in Book For "Into The Woods" Late Release/ Blu-ray Now Available For Pre-Order

Here's the announcement and an excerpt from the press release earlier in the month for a special edition, movie tie-in book for Disney's Into The Woods (I believe this was supposed to be out before the movie but it seems there was a printing delay. Not exactly sure why this was announced in near-mid January).

Interesting to note is that the book is via TCG rather than directly from Disney's publishing house and is illustrated as well as having photos (I haven't seen it myself but everyone is wowed with how lovely it looks):
The Theatre Communications Group (TCG) has published a movie tie-in edition of the book and lyrics for the musical, Into the Woods. 
Famed composer Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics and stage directorJames Lapine created the book. This new edition will feature eight pages of full-color photographs from the film adaptation which stars Meryl StreepEmily BluntAnna KendrickChris Pine, and Johnny Depp. 
(From the press release:) 
Into the Woods brings to musical life Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Ridinghood, Rapunzel and other well-known fairy-tale characters. Interwoven with these classic tales is the story of the baker and his wife, whose longing for a child is thwarted by the mischievous witch who lives next door. Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine have fashioned a modern musical classic which has been performed countless times all over the world since its Tony Award-winning debut in 1987.”

Sounds like it might be worth picking up if you ever want to discuss the movie down the road. I'm sure such an edition will be hard to find not too far in the future!

And we have a Blu-ray with special features (I hope there are LOTS!) coming on March 24th. 

It's now available for pre-order. Here's a poor quality pic of the new cover (the one showing on Amazon is supposed to be replaced - just be sure if you pre-order and want the extras that you're ordering the correct version).

From Broadway World:
(Both) the Blu-ray and DVD editions are now available for pre-order, as well as a HD digital download, set to be released in March, with a preview of the cover art now available to view.
Of note, the INTO THE WOODS Blu-ray is rumored to contain a director's commentary, extensive documentary featurettes and the excised new Sondheim-penned song sequence, "She'll Be Back", performed by Meryl Streep.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"Fables" Movie Gets "Kick-Ass" (& "Stardust") Screenwriter

Snow White by James Jean front cover for the expanded edition re-release of the Fables Cover Collection
(coming Feb 2015)
Here's some news that's getting pop culture (and possibly some fairy tale) geeks excited again: Warner Bros and the Fables movie has announced they have a new screenwriter: Jane Goldman. She's known for the recent movie Kick-Ass, Stardust, two X-Men films, and has most recently worked on Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (currently in pre-production).

In pop culture terms, Kick-Ass got a lot of 'street cred' (critics either thought it was an smart and outrageous black comedy or thought it was just violent and distasteful - I haven't seen it so can't comment), so people are REALLY excited to see what she will do with Fables.

Here are some quotes from the press release interview with Producer David Heyman (best known for the Harry Potter movies and, at the moment, Paddington), care of Slash Film and Comic Book Resources:
Rose Red by James Jean
back cover for the expanded edition re-release
 the Fables Cover Collection
(coming Feb 2015)

[Arcel] did a draft, and now he’s supervising Jane, who’s doing a draft. Hoping that it’ll come in and we’ll be able to move to the next stage. All these things always take longer than you want. And ‘Fables’ is not easy, by any means, but I think it’ll be pretty great.

Heyman also spoke about what attracted him to the property:
I’m drawn to stories about outsiders, and I think the Fables are outsiders. They’re people torn from the place where they were raised, by The Adversary. They arrive in a New York City-type place, and how we’re approaching is that they’re people who are all separate, and how they ultimately have to form the community in order to survive. They’re all inhabiting their own little universes within this world. But they have to form this community, and that really appealed to me. And I just think the characters are so vivid. And I also think the farm is, again, it’s very human. That’s what I like. It’s a challenging film.
The long-running Fables comics are rapidly drawing toward their final release (I cannot quite believe it!). They're in the midst of the Happily Ever After story arc (the Finale) and issue #148  - Chapter 8 of the last story - was released today. The last story arc echoes the opening, focusing on the two female leads, Snow White and her sister Rose Red and their ongoing troubled relationship (a different take again on the meaning of Beauty and the Beast here...).

Below are the synopsis for issue #148 and the cover. (The cover appears to be the Snow White character, surrounded,or being attacked, by red roses.)
 Chapter Eight of Happily Ever After; The Last Story of Beauty and the Beast

At long last Rose Red learns the truth about her mother, her sister and herself. This is why they’re so magical. This is why all of that wild magic is affecting their lives now. And this is why one will ultimately have to kill the other. Apparently that’s what siblings in this family do. 
Plus: Terry Moore illustrates the backup feature, “The Last Story of Beauty and the Beast.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Jack's Castle: No Giants Allowed

by Skrufor
It's my little guy's birthday today and as a surprise, I built him a castle.

Like many kids his age, he loves Minecraft, that he can create worlds (literally - OK, "virtually") and the bizarre and crazy-fantastic "mythology" of the various creatures (Creepers, Endermen, Ghasts, Mooshrooms etc) as well as seemingly endless magical possibilities.

So, I built him a castle. In Minecraft. (He'll discover it later today when he explores his world with his friend who is coming over for gaming and cake - hopefully!)

OK, so really it's just a very large stone box with some turrets... (this Mama is kind of new to Minecraft), so it's more like this, but without the clouds and beanstalk):

... but there are a few surprises in there, some better-than-basic fortifications and a lot of signs saying "Keep out! (until January 20th, that is)".

One sign will stay, though: "No Giants Allowed" because every Jack should eventually have his own castle, (and stop invading the neighbors) don't you think? ;)

Here's a little Minecraft-built adventure featuring Jack and the Beanstalk, or should I say "Steve" and the Beanstalk. (Steve is Minecraft's everyman character.) It was made a few years ago for a Minecraft "sky limit project contest" (a few people ended up creating Jack and the Beanstalk-based builds), and this builder even made a little teaser-trailer for their created world. It's pretty neat to see someone created the fairy tale, then "played" it as an adventure.

It begins at Jack's little house, where he discovers a beanstalk has grown overnight. He then climbs it into a cloud-land where he finds the Giant's house. (Note: it's a bit dim there because everything is so very, very large compared to "Steve", that regular lights sources don't reach very far, making for many dark corners.

Cue the dramatic adventure music!
Because in Minecraft, there really ARE castles in the sky to explore...

Edit FTNH 1/21/15:
This posted late because of time and birthday-related things, though I've kept the date as it was originally scheduled. You'll be glad to know Jack (my Jack) was completely delighted with his castle and has moved in, making it his new base. He's even made himself a personal crest. Oh and yes: he kept all the signs. ;)
While we're on the subject of Minecraft and fairy tales I wanted to mention that this would be a worthy study subject for those interested in pop culture that uses myth and fairy tales. Part of why I think Minecraft is so popular is because it has a unique component of creatures (both hostile and not) that can change and affect your world. As you create your own living story, these creatures become part of it too, though you can't control them the way an author can in a book. You have to work around their intrinsic natures (programming), which no one knows the complete extent of to date, since it's constantly changing and adapting, the more people play and create. The more you know about them and adapt defenses or uses for them, the more creative potential is unlocked and the more interesting your story gets. (Note: if anyone knows of a fairy tale student or scholar writing a thesis or treatise on this, please let me know. Minecraft has become such a useful tool for education and art - including in schools - I think it might be important that we don't ignore the storytelling and ongoing live tales happening here as well.)
Have a look at this Minecraft fairy tale-type world creation below. It's far more cinematic looking than the Jack build featured above and was made using a special animation program in combination with Minecraft called Mine-imation, which is why there is controlled camerawork and nice lighting, and it gives you an idea of the sorts of things people are doing in their spare time (most of them amateurs). Oh, and this was created a couple of years ago. Since there have been a HUGE number of "mods" and texture packs created for Minecraft since, one can only imagine what's possible. Bring on the fairy tales!

Note: Minecraft Jack and the Beanstalk pics posted were all apparently created for the Sky Limit Project Contest a few years ago. It just wasn't clear who had created which ones.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ask Baba Yaga: How Can I Make Peace With Death?

Ivan Ivanov-Vano, The Magic Lake, 1979

A big, and often scary, topic today: our personal D-day. How do you deal with it's inevitability? It's rare to find a completely satisfactory answer but I have to admit I'm curious as to what Baba Yaga has to say (as long as it's more than "it's gonna happen, deal with it - or don't. It's gonna happen...").

This question and answer (via poet and oracle Taisia Kitaiskaia* of The Hairpin):
(Originally posted at The Hairpin HERE)

Um. Wow. All those metaphors of bread and body, bread representing basic living, bread being symbolic of life.. they're all flooding back to me in a new way. That makes it seem so simple to death with the idea of mortality.. which I guess it is. It just isn't necessarily easy. I have to go pay better attention to my loaf(ing).

What do you think of Baba Yaga's advice?

Want to ask Baba Yaga a question of your own?
You can!
There's now an email address where you can send your questions
directly to Baba Yaga herself.
AskBabaYaga AT gmail DOT com
To encourage Baba Yaga to continue imparting her no-bones-about-it wisdom (ok, there may be some gristle in there... bones too), I suggest we not to leave her box empty... 

Thank you Baba Yaga (& Taisia).

Taisia Kitaiskaia is a poet, writer, and Michener Center for Writers fellow. Born in Russia and raised in America, she's had her poems and translations published in Narrative Magazine, Poetry International, and others.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Gans' "La Belle et La Bête" With English Subtitles/Dubbing? Yes Please!

It still doesn't look like the US or UK have a version we can easily watch (yet!)  BUT Amazon Canada finally has a French version with English subtitles available for pre-order! Yay! (Thank you Anonymous for the tip!)

Before you rush to order though, remember that there will likely be regional restrictions, so unless your player can handle all regions, triple check before spending your hard-earned money.

For those lucky individuals who are fluent in French there are many more choices available:
1) DVD and Blu-ray French only track and subtitles
2) this amazing, limited edition and very gorgeous looking package show at the head of the post and more details below:

Blu-Ray + DVD + Bonus BluRay72 page book of unpublished concept artCommentary by Christophe Gans (Director)Commentary by Louis Morin (Visual Effects Supervisor)Multi-angle feature - Raw film without VFX, storyboards, rough VFX, final movie83 minute making of documentaryDeleted scenes with introduction from Christophe GansYoann Fréget 'Sauras-tu m'aimer' music video
Yep. I want it. I don't care if my French is so rusty I can barely ask for directions anymore - I would dearly love to have this special edition in my library!

The US Amazon site has a lovely packaging picture but a prominent, in red. "Currently unavailable" with no information about a release yet.

One very good sign, however, is that this English-subtitled trailer was released just a week ago. Although it may not be the best looking English subtitling, it's still a big step in an encouraging direction for English-only speakers who have been dying to see this (and actually understand what's being said).

And then this has surfaced as well (get ready Belle et la Bete fans - this is very likely what it will look like when we finally get to see it);

If I get any more tips on a version of this movie being released thats' English audience friendly (with English subtitles at least), I'll be sure to pass them along.

Fairy tale bonus of the day:
Here's an image collection of all the various international posters Pathé films have produced for the movie. The one English one has a date of October 2, though I don't know what that means, or what region/country it's for. It may just take a while to get proper international distribution across the globe, so with an official English poster out there, it does send hope that there will be an English-friendly version available at some point.
This is a really large image - click to see full size!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Emily Blunt To Become (Villainous) "Snow Queen"?

Do you remember all the talks about Snow White and the Huntsman getting a sequel, but that there would be no Snow White.. etc etc? Well there have been other developments in the past couple of days, one in particular I didn't expect at all.

Emily Blunt, the amazing actress who played The Baker's Wife in Into The Woods, is looking to get involved in another fairy tale franchise (or two - more on that later*) and is officially "in talks" (negotiating a possible contract) to play the villain in the new movie The Huntsman (previously known as Snow White and the Huntsman 2). It's a character we already know and have seen a few different version of recently, both nice and not-so-nice. I have a feeling Ms. Blunt would have no trouble in making us shiver.

The sequel sends the Huntsman on a quest to find the magic mirror (which has been stolen), forcing him to face not only his past but the evil Snow Queen who’s set on avenging her sister Ravenna’s death. 

The Snow Queen is the role that Blunt is in talks to take, and Charlize Theron IS expected to return as Ravenna. Darabont actually wrote the current draft of the screenplay, but whether or not that will now go through any changes remains to be seen. (source)
 So the Snow White story will be dovetailing into a Snow Queen story, except that this queen isn't (and isn't related to) Snow White herself. And it now looks like this WILL be a sequel, not a prequel as it's been called for the past year+.

It's not the first time I've thought one could make a connection between the two stories but normally it would involve the Snow White character fairly centrally. This new movie/sequel looks to be working on a new fairy tale altogether. They're just setting in a world we already associate with Snow White. Unless there is some very interesting writing, there is the high probability that "a strong male protagonist will beat the evil woman", to much predictable criticism, but I hold out hope that people have their Bechdel tests handy to check the script against and maybe (maybe!) even consider looking at Andersen's original Snow Queen to consider balancing out the negative feminine energy with one or more of those other beloved characters (Little Robber Girl please!). The fact that Blunt is looking at the role at all, gives me optimism. She seems very particular in choosing smart roles that will reflect well on her and women in general.

Don't worry, my skepticism about this film-to-be is alive and well (why do I feel like we should be expecting a "Snow Trilogy"?), but after being impressed, despite myself, with what Kitsis and Horowitz (and the amazing Elizabeth Mitchell) did with the character of the OUAT's Snow Queen last year (right in the middle of possibly the worst storyline/arc/set-up to date), anything seems possible!  (We'll have to write about OUAT and Frozen another time...)

As an added hurdle for the film, The Huntsman (no Snow White in this film's title), has just lost their director due to creative differences but the film is still going full steam ahead in pre-production, aiming to hit the release date scheduled (April 22, 2016). A new director will apparently be announced next week.

I look forward to seeing their new director/direction and if Ms. Blunt will be part of it.

* Emily Blunt has also expressed interest in being involved in Frozen 2 - the Disney animated sequel movie currently in development.

Friday, January 16, 2015

"The Tale of The Princess Kaguya" and "Song of the Sea" Are Going to the Oscars!

The nominations are in for the Oscars and two animated films are fairy tales!

Here's what they're competing against:
Animated Feature Film Nominations for 2014 Oscars  
“Big Hero 6”  
“The Boxtrolls”  
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”  
“Song of the Sea”  
“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” (source)
Notably missing is The Lego Movie, and it appears everyone is surprised since it's been considered THE film to beat - all year. (The Lego Movie has been considered one of the best movies of 2014, not just a good animated film, and I'd have to agree. It, too, has classic fairy tale elements, [anyone up to doing a fairy tale elements in The Lego Movie guest post?], though they're far less obvious shown in lego form, but that's part of it's genius. It's one of the reasons I think it resonated so well.)

But Song of the Sea and The Tale of The Princess Kaguya nominations are both well deserved nominations and are to be enthusiastically congratulated, especially since they are essentially quiet achievers without big marketing machines behind them to make people take notice. (Distributor GKids - who represents both - must be tickled pink at the news.)

In other The Tale of The Princess Kaguya news, a Blu-ray and DVD are on the way! Coming February 17, 2015, the movie will be released in English with this cover:
Unfortunately, it doesn't appear we'll be able to watch it in the original Japanese with English subtitles, but people everywhere are hailing this as a classic. I even saw the quote: "One of the most important films ever made.." I haven't had time to research the translation and English dubbing to see people's thoughts on those but I'm really pleased we're going to be able to see it and have the option to get a copy to keep.