Friday, March 27, 2015

Reader Spotlight: Tale Spinner Steve Shilstone


Editor's Note: Steve Shilstone is a long time writer and shares his lovely fairy tale flash fiction for free on his blog Fiddleeebod. This gentleman tells delightful tales and when I asked if he could share a personal story about his love for fairy tales, the story he sent me was no exception. Enjoy! (I've included links to his website, which also showcases his available books, below.)
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A Yellow Fairy Book Tale
by Steve Shilstone

There it is, offered for sale on ebay, a bargain at $400, an 1894 first edition copy of Andrew Lang’s Yellow Fairy Book. It is a much healthier twin to the battered and tattered volume I discovered on a shelf of my mother’s bookcase around 1954.

If memory serves (sometimes it does), I was 10 years old and searching for something to read. Down a row of books I went, pulling, examining, rejecting, putting back, until I came to a volume so worn and tired (used and loved) that the printing on the spine was unreadable. The cover, however, though faded, beckoned. Well, have a look at it. Enticing, no? And so, like Dorothy opening the door of her house after it landed on a witch in Oz, I opened the Yellow Fairy Book and proceeded to lose myself in tales of dragons, witch-maidens, a glass mountain, and the occasional nixy.

Plucking the book, long lost now, from that shelf remains among the clearest of my memory shards. How did it come to be there on that shelf? What was its story? I don’t know, but I can take a pretty good guess.

Once upon a time, in 1894 to be exact, a newspaperman brought home the newest Fairy Book from Andrew Lang to read to his daughters. The two girls were delighted, enchanted, and pretty much over the moon about it. The fact that their father had interviewed Sitting Bull was okay, but it rated low compared to the new fairy story book. Years passed, and the book found its way from Evanston, Illinois to Los Angeles, California and later to the Ojai ranch home of the older daughter when she married. Four children and a lot of use later, the book was the beloved property of my mother, the youngest of those four children. Oh, the places it went (a bow to the good Dr. Seuss) – Colorado, Kentucky, Colorado again, the state of Washington (where I plucked it from the shelf), and back to California. And then what happened to it? Lost in the shuffle of many a move? I suppose so.

I do own this:
And all the rest:
C:\Users\Steve Shilstone\Dropbox\Camera Uploads\2015-03-21 12.05.21.jpg
But it’s not quite the same, is it?
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I will admit to having serious book envy right now! The Lang Folio books are on my imaginary gift registry for my personal fairy tale anniversaries... Thank you for sharing Steve!

Steve's series, Bekka of Thorns (eight books in the chronicles to date), are available through Wild Child Publishing HERE and should you have need of a tale spinner, Steve can be contacted at: steve AT bekkaofthorns DOT com.

Steve Shilstone is an elderly fellow living on a mountain in California. He has distributed mail, coached baseball, painted pointilist pictures, worked in department store stockrooms, graduated with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, and written many a tale. His fantasy blog, featuring several flash fairy tales, is HERE.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Basketball Jerseys

1. THE PLEASURE ISLAND MONSTROS

A Whale of a Team

The man-eating beast lurking around the shores of Pleasure Island has inspired this team’s monstrous stats. Watch out for their end game (and their toothier front, as well)!

Fairy tales and sports: it's one of those combinations I have to weed through daily to find the 'real' fairy tale news, but this time the two have been combined wonderfully by the talented graphic design team at shirt.com.

These guys looked like they had a lot of fun making these! 

4. THE FORBIDDEN MOUNTAIN THORN BUSHES

A Thorny Lineup

You’ve got to watch out for these players! They have infamous elbow jabs and they know how to use them. If they’re behind at the half, they become real fire-breathing hot heads.

15. THE SNUGGLY DUCKLING DREAMERS

Breakin' Femurs

The only team in the league that can somehow play with hook hands. They’ve got big dreams to win the whole thing and nothing is going to stop them except, perhaps, a spontaneous frying pan duel. 
Very clever!

Here's their introduction (and I like their notes about the teams too):

16. THE ARENDELLE ICE HEARTS

It Takes Heart

Beware the frozen heart!
They’ve got icy resolve to win at any cost.
They keep their home games as cold as an eternal winter,
 the cold never bothered their biggest fans, anyway.
It’s that time of year again: the sneakers are squeaking, the balls are bouncing, and you’ve finally spotted your first referee of the season. It can only mean one thing -- March Madness is here! 
While we’re all basketball mad around the office with our brackets all stacked with care, we noticed that we have a year-round-madness that is much more magical than even the hottest NCAA game. We’re speaking, of course, about Disney magic! So, we thought it would be a wonderful idea to take our two passions and mash them up. 
If the Disney universe held its own basketball tournament, these are the jerseys all the fans would be proudly sporting to every game.
I have to say, if these were real products, I'd be pulling out my wallet to order a couple of them right now.

14. THE XIAN LUCKY CRICKETS

Lucky Shot

If your team can deal with the incessant cricket noises throughout the game, we think they’ll have no problem winning the match. Either way, fans love the fireworks show at the end buzzer!

(I like the cricket one because it makes me think of lots of different folktales too, not just the movie source.)

You can go see them all, full size, HERE - and guess which jersey belongs to which team (movie).

Now we just wish they were real.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Monthly Discussion: "From the Forest" with Tales Of Faerie - March (Story)

Kristin & Gypsy discuss
12 MONTHS - 12 FORESTS - 12 TALES
UK Title: “Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales”

MARCH: Airyolland Wood & a retelling of Thumbling
(see the 1st part of the discussion at Tales Of Faerie HERE)
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Note: Welcome to a new monthly feature we're beginning, in cooperation with Tales Of Faerie! Kristin and I are both reading one chapter of this book each month, discussing our thoughts on both the chapter portion and the story/retelling at the end, then sharing that on our blogs. Each month we will swap discussion parts. This month Kristin started things off by posting the main discussion of the chapter (Part 1) and this is our chat about the story (Part 2). We will alternate who posts Part 1 and Part 2 each month and link to each other's posts so you can follow along. This is the first time for both of us reading this book, so you're getting our thoughts right out of the oven! Enjoy. (I'm putting the jacket summary below for this first round, only, to help you orient yourself. The story discussion is below.)

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 “Thumbling


SOURCE: Grimm’s Household Tales
SOURCE TALE SUMMARY: Childless couple have teeny miracle child; never grows bigger than mother’s thumb. Growing up is a hazard & still, he wants to see the world. Tricks & fast thinking help him escape disaster, death & circuses, to return home, no bigger but much wiser.
FROM THE FOREST THUMBLING SUMMARY: The classic fairy tale is retold from the mother’s perspective. After longing for a child, she gives birth to and raises a tiny son. As he grows, he begins to long for adventure and love. His parents agree that they need to let him go and experience life on his own, and despite their worry he returns home safe and happy, and the family continues on as before.
*******************
Thumbling by Kiri Østergaard Leonard
GYPSY: It wasn't... as absorbing to me as I expected when it started, because I was completely touched by the beginning. The story was told almost entirely from the mother’s point of view, which makes sense when you remember it came out of the author talking with her own son in the forest to start with (and telling him a tale).  It even fits as a “Mother’s Tale” choice in this instance,with Thumbling being so very small and the mother feeling like she has to be an “UberMother” - someone who has to do more than usual to care for and protect her child. I’m sure the situation in the forest, camping, feeling the weight of the forest in both actuality and metaphor at the same time, amplified that feeling for Sara, the author, so Thumbling was a natural choice of story.

The problem for me, is that I was ultimately left dissatisfied.

Initially, I loved hearing about Thumbling growing, the challenges of caring for him, how he was protected, how the village reacted and the couple grew together as people and as a family (and as a community too) during this time. But then, after a certain point, specifically when Thumbling went “adventuring”, it felt that there was no point to the story anymore, because all three main characters returned to a previous point in their lives/understanding/comfort zone and nothing really changed. They lived their lives afterward exactly the same way as they did before. Actually, no, not exactly the same way, with less “life” than before.

Artist unknown
Did the mother not learn anything about letting go? Or about anything at all after a certain point? What about the need to encourage her son into the forest? How does that fit with the beginning of the story in which she was at first over protective and then realized she had to let him go? When he comes back, she’s.. what? - relieved she doesn’t have to deal with reality? It felt odd. Didn't the mother find her own stories/freedom/adventure, just like she was talking about having done in the process of learning tales and exploring the woods? It seemed to me during the main portion of the chapter that this is the very thing the author was explaining to her son, Adam, and that she was pleasantly surprised to find that, not only was she helping her son, but he was able to add to her learning and journey (specifically with the fungi story) as well. While reading the main chapter I was most interested in this aspect of their conversation, and how his input ultimately informed hers. To the author’s surprise, she had a moment of realization that her son had matured enough to be teaching her as well as her teaching him. It’s like evidence that you’ve done your job as a parent, that your child can do this.

I guess I expected that to be reflected more in the story but instead it seemed like the opposite is what happened: keep him in the pretend forest forever and ever more. I know the Thumbling story was supposed to be partly about coming back home but I felt it started well and developed well then it just ended up being sentimental, without a good reason for coming home except to escape reality. The impression I’m left with is that he’ll be cared for and coddled the rest of his life now and never be encouraged (let alone forced) to experience the world as a mature person, and build his own future, add to the world and his village etc. (At least, until his parents die and he’s left with having to deal with that. Then what will he do? Yikes.)  I should state this is my immediate impression only. I wrote my initial notes straight away specifically as I felt it resonated while the words were still in front of me. I have a feeling there is more to my disquiet with the resolution (or lack of from my perspective) with the story but it would need some more read throughs and more reflective time to nut that out.

What were your impressions Kristin?
Illustration and text taken from "The History of Tom Thumb" from the Mary Bell's Series published by Peter G. Thomson of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Tom went with his mother to see a dun cow : The leaf of a thistle he took for a bough ; He sat down upon it, but, shocking to tell, The cow seized the thistle, and Tom Thumb as well. To the cow's upper jaw Tom manfully clung ; He kicked her front teeth, and he tickled her tongue. The cow could not ask him what he was about, So she opened her mouth and she let him out.
KRISTIN: I thought it was a sweet story (for most of it), I liked the theme of the importance of communicating well within a marriage and underlined a couple of quotes there. Then I liked the mother’s sacrifice in letting her son go and experience freedom, which I thought reflected the sacrifice every mother has to go through-but like you I was surprised by the ending, it seemed sudden and unrealistic that Thumbling would never again yearn for a normal life, or as an adult have increased conflicts with being dependent on his parents.  It missed the fact that letting go is an essential part of being a successful parent, in most cases, although it did remind me of many of the families I interact with who have children with disabilities (although this didn’t apply to the author…) because for them, their children grow up physically but never quite become independent. In a way it can be comforting because the parents know they don’t have to worry about their children rebelling and getting into sex/drugs/etc., but that ideal happy family life doesn’t stay that way forever. Even with people with disabilities, eventually their parents are going to get too old to take care of them but those individuals have to keep on living, so letting go and moving on is even part of parenting for those cases.
The Birth of Tom Thumb, illustration from Our Nurses Picture Book,
engraved by Kronheim and Co., 1869, a painting by Horace Petherick.
GYPSY: I think you nailed it: that fact about letting go is an essential part of being a parent. Especially with this being almost completely from the mother’s POV, it didn’t matter as much what Thumbling’s journey and arc was as hers, but her maturity as a parent didn’t happen. She didn’t fail either. She just… continued.
I like the parallel with disabilities. I never thought of Thumbling as having disabilities before! I can totally see that being a great metaphor, but even when children can’t become fully independent there is usually an effort to help them be as independent as they can manage and to live as vital a life as possible, including giving back to the community if they can. (That’s my experience anyway.) I would have like to see that type of development - or “shift” in thinking - toward a sustainable future for Thumbling beyond the natural life of his parents. Or the opposite - a complete “fail” in which the failure to encourage thriving becomes apparent. (But I’d prefer the happy ending please because that’s just me!)

KRISTIN: Absolutely, a healthy goal for people with disabilities is to point them towards as much independence as they are capable of (worked at a group home briefly)-in household tasks, getting jobs, etc. The ending of the story almost seemed like a creepy version of a mother’s desire to keep her kids innocent and childlike and with her forever, which was weird especially since she’s there telling it to her adult son. It almost seemed like we’re not supposed to take it seriously because it’s so obvious that any lessons learned were completely undone? The ending contradicts everything else in the story, maybe it was just a convenient way to wrap up and end it?
Different Toms: From Our Young Folks, Vol 1, No.1, An Illustrated Magazine (artist unknown); The National Nursery Book (unknown); The Beacon Second Reader (Edna T. Hart)
Come back next month to see Kristin & Gypsy discuss “April - Saltridge Wood” and Sara Maitland’s retelling of “The White Snake”.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wanted: The Right Shoe (Literally)

I got a little note from eBay UK last week, letting me know the "Cinderella status" of their website.

While I wasn't surprised to hear just how many products were tagged "Cinderella" (over 66,800 - "from tutu-style dresses to blonde wigs") and how many Prince Charming costumes they had sold in the past three months alone (over 1,000) or that somehow over 550 glass slippers have sold in the same time period (no reports on whether they actually fit or not), I was surprised to hear this:

eBay is drowning in shoes, specifically right shoes. They have over 4,100 right shoes available for sale but only 260 left shoes available*, and yep, you guessed it - they don't match.

What the...??

I have visions of people scrolling and clicking through hundreds of eBay pages looking for just the right shoe, or just the right size... and a lot of bare right feet on the part of the customers.


Is that a scientifically provable thing? That you're more likely to lose a right shoe than a left one? And what are people thinking in putting up single shoes for sale? Is there a market for this? (And what are people doing that they have all these right shoes to sell in the first place?!**)

And if you put in the search parameters "just the right shoe" you end up with a host of very fancy right shoe collectibles and displays. Who knew this was a thing?

It also makes you wonder about where a Fairy Godmother might "borrow her magic" from these days. eBay UK thinks she might be going incognito online, or people are being too impatient to wait for her to show up and taking matters into their own hands. This was the publicist's introduction:
As Cinderella hits the silver screen it appears that those who can’t find a Fairy Godmother of their own are flocking to online marketplace eBay.co.uk instead.
It's a different take on Cinderella I never considered, but clearly it's a more common "modern variant" than I could ever have imagined.

Someone is going to have to do a study of some sort - and soon.

My brain goes right from this to the whole concept of shoes being meant for individuals and reflecting their owners. This is actually something they've forensically proven. Shoes worn over time come to take the 'imprint" of the wearer and become unique as a result. It's even possible to identify which shoes belonged to which individual by way of looking at the wear, how the sole and heel were worn down, what the internal shape of the shoe ended up being, even in shoes that were fairly solid.

Shoe manufacturers and designers have known for centuries that shoes tell stories (and some evidence points to over 5,000 years of this). Shoes have something to say, both about where and why they were made, but, more interestingly to me, about the individual wearer and owner.

(If this subject fascinates you, take a look at this article HERE about vintage shoes found concealed in a wall and the history of such a practice. It wasn't the article I was looking for to reference but it will start you on a treasure hunt if you as so inclined!)

Shoes in fairy tales are fascinating too and there are many, many examples that immediately come to mind: The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Red Shoes, The Cobbler and the Elves, Puss In Boots, The Seven League Boots, The Girl In The Iron Shoes, just to start, and there are whole books on that subject as well.

Take a look at this journal entry from a gifted writer who passed too early:
"Suum Cuique," said Cicero, translating as "To Each His Own." And that is the way with this shoe, designed by his countrywoman Miuccia Prada.
To me this object is as astonishing as anything in nature, so clever in its mixing of color and so sensually pleasing in its juxtaposition of materials, and all pulled together in a mind bogglingly inventive way.
Look at the sleek wet scarlet slick of the top and the ancient Grinling Gibbons curls on the heel. All that gilt and heft on the bottom decorated with tender vines carved with the “loose and airy lightness of flowers.” And then buckled up on top with the little belt that kept Red Riding Hood’s picnic basket with grandma’s gift of wine inside closed up safe and snug.
After I first saw this fashion photo in Vogue magazine I couldn’t get it out of my head for a month. Then I encountered the same image on a smart, stylish woman’s blog, where the shoe was being completely dismissed and utterly ridiculed. The cost! The height! The vulgarity!
One can think of what a shoe will set you back, I suppose, but I prefer to think of all the places one can take you, as Eugene Field did in his nursery rhyme:
“Wynken, Blynken and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe -
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew… “
So now you see as I do. Or not. Suum cuique, then, but you know I’ll have an excellent view of any standing-room rock and roll stage come fall.
Theresa Duncan, Wit of the Staircase, July 10, 2006 
What we've done to the Cinderella story in the West (in particular) by changing her shoe to glass has changed the emphasis of the story overall, something which I was interested to see explored to some extent in the new Cinderella movie, by the way (more on this with my eventual review).

But if the Prince had figured out who Cinderella was from the individual imprint of her shoe (which would have had to have been worn more than once, and likely not been made of glass), he would have learned a lot about his bride-to-be while searching for her. In that case, if he still insisted on finding her after learning all these details about her and believed more than ever that she was "the one", that would make for a very different story!

It also makes you wonder what you could do if you just had the "right" shoe.

*Note from Ebay Publicist: *Data taken from the past three months (10.12.14 to 09.03.15)
** I probably shouldn't write posts like this after watching shows like Criminal Minds... my imagination just scared me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tin Can Forest's "Bremen Musicians" Is Coming

Tin Can Forest is working with more fairy tales! 

Sing Fire Like Dragons (print available)
I love Tin Can Forest's work. It's perhaps not for everyone, but there's no denying it's mythic and folkloric-full.

Just look at how at home in the forest their artwork is! (see right)

This time it looks like they're retelling a whole tale in a book, so I can't wait to see their take on it (and I do love this story with the old animals triumphing over the baddies!)

From the press release:
"We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians" by Geoff Berner and Tin Can Forest - Book Launch 
Thursday May 7th, 2015
Book Launch at 7pm, Geoff Berner Performance at 9pm
@ The Pilot, 22 Cumberland St., Toronto
Free Event
 
Come celebrate the TCAF book launch of We are Going to Bremen to Be Musicians by Tin Can Forest and Geoff Berner at the Pilot , 22 Cumberland St, Thursday May 7th. 
Internationally acclaimed graphic novelist Nina Bunjevac (Fatherland, Heartless) will interview Geoff and Tin Can Forest about the making of the book, followed by a live performance by fearless klezmer punk accordionist and self-proclaimed "whisky rabbi” Geoff Berner. 
Come drink and dance with us!
About We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians:
Accordionist and novelist Geoff Berner together with folk-surrealists Tin Can Forest, re-tell this dark, strange German folk tale about four animals running away from their masters to become town musicians in the city of Bremen.


Steampunked Cinderella by Goro Fujita

Steampunk Cinderella by Goro Fujita
This was created for a CG artists Steampunk Myths & Legends challenge in 2008/2009 and a few entries turned out to be fairy tales. I ended up posting a few but didn't get to showing this Cinderella one. What better time than when everything Cinderella is new again?

(I cannot quite believe this has been in my draft folder for nearly six years (!) but here is a steampunk Cinderella, waiting for her time to come again to finally be seen...)

The artist, Goro Fujita,  decided his steampunk fairy tale heroine would make a better escape in a hot air pumpkin - I really hope she touched down before the last stroke of 12!

Neat how Cinderella and he hot air balloon match. by the way - if you look at the close-up of the dress (just click on the image), you can see gear patterns on her dress (almost like lacy snowflakes).

I liked the original concept of the steampunk coach too, but the pumpkin hot air balloon concept is pretty innovative and fits the genre very well.

You can read the artist's concept for the story in a steampunk world HERE too, and hear the music his brother was inspired to create for it as well (talented family!). I would have liked to have seen something really different with the shoe, (she obviously forsook the standard steampunk lace-up boots for this ball) but I think the hot air balloon might work to distract from the shoe for everyone initially.

You can see the progression of concept to design to final HERE.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Let's Talk About... Maleficent-the-Movie (a very delayed conversation with Christie of "Spinning Straw Into Gold")

I have invited Christie of Spinning Straw Into Gold over to our corner of the web to talk Maleficent. That is, Maleficent-the-movie, not Maleficent-the-classic-Disney-character, and not which is actually a whole other conversation...

Gypsy: What I'm missing most about seeing the film is NOT having a conversation live with fairy tale people! I don't care if we all agree or disagree - I'd just love to have a conversation and hear everyone's thoughts. You up for digital scones and coffee? ;)

She replied:

Christie: Digital coffee--all the time, all the places! Thanks for the invite. I'm excited to talk about it with other fairy tale-ers, and maybe you'll change my mind!

While I never got around to posting a proper Part B "spoilery" review before I had to disappear for a while last year, you will get a good sense of a few of my thoughts as I "chat" with Christie (finally!).

Her review was titled "Bored to Death" so, from my notes, here's my part of the conversation, though you may want to read her post first, so you can see her POV and know what I'm referencing.

Just imagine Christie, holding her newest sleeping Prince-ling, kindly indulging me, munching on digital scones and sipping cyber coffee as I talk...


Also, you should be aware: HERE BE SPOILERS!

Thanks for the review! I'm curious what other fairy tale people think too and so here is my response (and please imagine we are sitting at a table having coffee & scones, discussing it all - my response is intended to be conversation rather than rebuttal because,really, I'm just glad we can talk fairy tales!). 

Anyway, I will - weirdly - say that while I understand exactly where you're coming from and that I think many of your criticisms are valid, I don't really agree overall. As my seven year old said to me today "..it's not the REAL Sleeping Beauty story, just one idea about it.." While I too was very disappointed Maleficent didn't turn into a dragon herself (I immediately wrote out three different and valid ways that could still have happened within that premise and context), if you didn't know she was "supposed" to turn into a dragon it wouldn't have been as irksome. In fact, it may have made perfect sense that it happened the way it did.

That said - I totally get where you're coming from with the boredom. It didn't help that it started with a completely unnecessary Narrator, as well as far too early in the actual story. (I've learned to give Hollywood movies about 20 minutes of unnecessary prologue/filler before they get to the real thing - ridiculous, but there you go.) Disney (these days) tends to not trust it's audiences so over explains or over simplifies and leaves out a lot of subtlety as a result. That said, in this case, seeing many of the critic reviews, I have to wonder if that isn't justified. The movie - by itself and separate from Sleeping Beauty (of Disney or fairy tale) generally succeeds. Considering, too, it was a first time Director I would have to say, if it had been my film, I would have been happier than not. However I do get the serious sense that scenes were cut *much* shorter than they should have been, and that too much time was given to the wrong things like flying scenes (nice, but we got it, thanks) as well as unnecessary prologues. 
                     
I'm still a little astonished at the lack of understanding that critics in general have shown about the old world and belief of faerie, which was a very large part of the "world building" and premise. (Much of the 'lore' of the movie premise was based off 'olde worlde' views of Faerie and specifically Spenser's The Faerie Queene). Perhaps my Australian & UK leanings skewed me toward having this as a normal part of my fairy tales and stories but Faerie was a formidable unknown world/dimension that scared many common people, or at least, they had a very healthy respect for it. While I think stating that it was set in Scotland was unnecessary, (too specific!) it did also make it clear (to my viewing group anyway) that this was a peoples that lived uneasily alongside the border of fairy, whose lives contained many little rituals and offerings/petitions to (rarely seen) faeries, so that their human lives wouldn't be beset with additional bad luck from the Fae. Perhaps this is one of the big mistakes made: that it was assumed people would automatically know this - but it turns out they don't. 
                     
I discovered, interestingly, and after the fact of seeing the movie, that one of the two novel retellings, includes an additional (!) prologue scene that is all about a shepherd and his son leaving a fairy offering from their lunch to keep the wee folk happy. The set up in the book is clear and sets the stage for conflict, uneasiness, wariness and mistrust on both sides, as well as extreme measures by faeries who don't tend to temper their responses but are either for or against you.* 
Another interesting thing that I sort of got a sense about in the movie but not very clearly, is that in both novels, the 3 faeries ask for asylum from Faerie (essentially they betray and abandon their home and fellow folk) for the comforts and seeming growing power of the human king. In the movie I really believe they are *intended* to be shown as caricatures as BOTH what people think fairies are (small, pixie-dust laden, 'helpful' etc) AND also what we really don't want them to be (selfish, capricious, lacking a soul and unreliable). Everything from the way they were designed, to their dialogue to their motivations and focus during the movie suggested these are the sorts of fairies you DON'T want to be allied with. This, however, seems completely lost on most folk, which would say the Director did a bad job of communicating the most basic thing about them. The whole point was that, thank goodness! Aurora's godmother/s were NOT these awful fairies at all.
I have to say I liked the thorns around Faerie. It was for protection rather than to be used as a weapon - which again works better with what earlier versions of Sleeping Beauty had. What, again, could have been clearer is that King Stefan also surrounded his castle with iron thorns (missing a clear visual for that Mr. Director!) and plated it in iron so it was toxic to the fae (yes - giant plot hole for the good fairies getting in at the end but anyway...). There were parallel set ups all through the movie but some just weren't very clear. The wings, too, were bound in iron and glass, and they only moved when Aurora reached out to them (which is supposed to be a huge metaphor and it's an excellent one. They also end up saving each other which is great from the usually-passive Sleeping Beauty criticism as well).




Diaval said a lot without using actual words, which I think was also the point. Though he started as a willing slave for Maleficent there's no way, especially in that era & setting, that a master would let their slave talk and behave toward them that way if they didn't have some sort of friendship and respect for them. When the final facing of Stefan arrived and she told him it wasn't his fight, basically freeing him of his slave status (another shift toward good for her) he essentially said: "You idiot -  don't you know by now that you're not alone any more?" It was subtle but it humanized her a lot and gave us a male/female relationship that developed without any sexual tension (the scene with them flying together - both free - at the end was great, and perhaps should have been the final one, but I digress..)

Your concern that this movie missed the point of "there is evil and ugliness in the world, just as there is hope and unspeakable beauty" - was actually what the whole movie was about as well. They even said it out loud. It's just that instead of the evil being Maleficent, it was King Stefan who not only made poor choices (like Maleficent also did) but refused to turn away from them and look for another path (which is the big turn for M). Your last paragraph before the poem was beautiful and the perfect argument for the movie - even with it's two-dimensional villain faults. But then it can only be considered that way if you let the movie be it's own entity apart from the fairy tale and Disney's own animated movie as well. (Note: in the script Stefan originally killed the king by smothering him with a pillow when he laughed at Stefan's offering of the wings, assuming he would then succeed to the throne - that's also in the books). 
The one ridiculous thing that I agree on with everyone was just wrong, is that Maleficent's "real" name was still Maleficent. That made NO sense at all (I cannot find any way the name "Maleficent" can be seen as 'good'), and seems to be this giant oversight. She didn't even need a proper name at the start (you know how sketchy giving your real name can be anyway - people in fairy tales often let themselves be labeled by others, rather than reveal their true name - it would have worked if she hadn't said her real one) and yet she has to be introduced with that name. #justno
My other big negative note would be that THE major marketing point was just outright wrong, therefore misleading and ultimately when people are processing it, confusing: Maleficent was not "evil"  or "wicked" and never became the true definition of such. She did some terrible things, yes, but it was clear she was making poor choices from a place a serious pain. The entire point of the movie was that she didn't let herself become exactly that (while Stefan, in contrast, did.). I think this marketing ploy alone, while "delicious" and tapping into what a lot of people DID want to see, just wasn't true. (And now people are both angry about that or confused.) Again, a major point people just didn't get is that it was intended to be a family movie - for all ages - (heck, it didn't dawn on me that's what they were trying to do until Angelina Jolie said she was looking forward to being in a movie that her whole family could see - even the little ones!) and while older people and teens might LOVE a movie about someone truly wicked and permanently twisted in some way (eg Batman Origins) even to the point of seeing her get her comeuppance, to focus on that story for a family movie (especially with that person as the main character) just isn't appropriate. So they didn't. But that's not what they said they were doing either. 

So, ironically, many people were set up for disappointment.
Overall the movie had most of what it should have had, but not enough. But it also shouldn't need supplemental notes from novels in order to make it's point either. It just didn't have it in the right proportions and at times both underestimated the audience and then overestimated them. The film took risks with content and themes that even Walt himself would have been concerned about doing but as a result it resulted in being "a better film than it should have been". As we all know, children's books are harder to write than adult ones and the same goes for film, especially if you're trying to make something more than throwaway entertainment. I think the film succeeded as much as it did because of Angelina Jolie's involvement and attention to detail, as well as her phenomenal acting of the part, but with a more seasoned director I think it would have done better still.
Time will tell how this really pans out. As it stands audiences are generally in the thumbs up category while 1st critic rounds are not. 2nd critic rounds, however, are not as quick to dismiss it though. While they're not saying it's "good" in general, more and more are agreeing that for all it's (MANY!) faults, that we need more films like Maleficent, with that heart, message and progressive thinking - just done better.

Now, the important thing: "Would you like an extra scone?" ;)

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss with a fairy tale friend!

* There are whole fairy tales about fairies who were invited to a banquet but were a) given the wrong plate instead of the one they wanted of so had a tantrum and held a grudge for generations or, b) were left standing at the gate too long to be welcomed personally by the King, so got upset. [In the tale I'm thinking of specifically, this is ironic because the King has gone to great lengths to make sure ALL the faeries are invited so not a single one would get upset, but the list is so long that he hasn't even finished reading off the invites to go out before the first ones start arriving.. and causing trouble!]

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ask Baba Yaga: How Can I Help People Who Resent Me?

Baba Jaga by Alicja Marczyk
Oh boy, yes. How do you keep trying and doing your best for people when they not only don't seem to care or appreciate what you're doing, but actually attack you as well? There are only so many times you can say to yourself "it's not about me - this is about them and their unhappiness.." but then what do you do?

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


Wow. Those kids are going to be her supper if they don't shape up! 

So: keep your white robe (or hat) on and make sure it's clean (and shiny) before descending into the morass of the masses... You are making a difference, even if you do not see it... And remember: Bog Queen! 

Huh. That actually does help.

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.