Monday, October 7, 2019

Of Glass & Fur Slippers (Appreciate A Translator Today!) + Our Top 10 List of Translated Fairy Tale Books

There is one group of magicians who are, too often, unsung in the field of fairy tales: TRANSLATORS.
(This post is dedicated to them, with sincere and ongoing gratitude for all their amazing work.)

We applaud writers, illustrators, storytellers, scholars, and researchers of all kinds fairly readily. After all, the work is impressive, eye-and-heart-catching and puts wonder into our hands. Yet their achievements would not have been possible without translation practitioners, who combine art, time-travel, and engage in, let's just call it what it is: "wizardry". (You may prefer the term alchemy, though that only covers part of what they do.)

What these "wizards" do is the work of fairy tale itself.
They are engaged, daily, in the ultimate fairy tale magic:
the art of transformation.

Cendrillon, Or the Case Of Verre vs. Vair
You've probably heard of the confusion regarding Cinderella's slipper, a.k.a. verre vs. vair a.k.a. glass vs. fur: "What if Perrault didn't mean to write "glass slipper" at all? And if he didn't, how did we end up with this iconic motif?"

Note: We think discussion of this notorious confusion over Cinderella's slippers is not only an interesting example of (mis)translation but a wonderful metaphor for discussing it, because of the properties of glass itself. We quote the insightful Midori Snyder to help explain:
"The properties of glass, like the properties of iron are transmutable, given enough heat. It is a substance that can waver between a solid-state and liquid. I know that blacksmiths have often been regarded ambivalently by traditional communities because of their ability to work with matter that is in a state of transformation--almost like a form of alchemy. Such power is regarded as both necessary, but also a little frightening. Add to it, the manipulation of fire and its ambiguous properties. So a glassmaker and the production of glass is similar to the Blacksmith and the production of iron object--making use of fire to transform matter, the very plastic nature of the element and its refusal to remain a solid (glass never entirely surrenders its liquid state, and even old glass windows are thicker at the bottom than the top because over time they "melt" back down)."
Apt, no?

Let's take a dive into the verre vs. vair translation controversy:
All the glass dress sculptures in this post are by the amazing glass artist Karen LaMonte
It began with someone looking at Perrault's text, the specific words chosen and written (and translated from French to English) and the word "BUT"*.

Let's follow those BUTs (there are more than you'd think) to unravel this translation knot, in the hope we can discover what the true intention of the author was. We're going to try and break it down step-by-step, so you can have an idea of the types of rabbit holes, detours and dead-ends researchers have to contend with when translating fairy tales.

Ready? (Hold onto your hats!)

Instead of transcribing well-known tales and collecting them into a volume, Perrault chose to write them down as literary fairy tales, embellishing as he wished and judged appropriate for the story. Cinderella's tale often involved a shoe but Perrault was very specific about it. He not only used a shoe but described it very deliberately, using his chosen detail three times in his text: pantoufle de verre (glass slipper). In fairy tales, three is NOT a coincidence! (Note: to check that number, you will need to check French texts, not English.)

BUT why verre?

Why did Perrault specifically choose/use the word verre, to describe the slipper? Other types of slippers are seen in earlier versions of Cinderella tales Perrault may have referenced, as well as variants further afield, but nowhere before was the shoe described as being verre - GLASS. It is peculiar to Perrault's literary version of the tale at that time. At first, it seems to be a simple case of "author's choice" in creating a literary fairy tale. After all, the French loved to add wondrous details (to reflect French society, or imply the wonder French society could become) and reference the fae (or fée) in their stories at that time.

BUT then...

... in the mid-1800's French novelist and playwright, Honoré de Balzac, and later a French lexicographer, Émile Maximilien Paul Littré, best known for an important French dictionary, (ie. each considered impressive regarding their scholarship) both insisted that someone had mistakenly substituted pantoufle de vair (fur slipper) for pantoufle de verre (glass slipper), when translating Perrault's French text to English, so that Cinderella's slipper was originally akin to "SQUIRREL FUR". So convincing were the pair's arguments (even twenty years apart) that Encylopedia Brittanica printed this conclusion at one point as part of their Cinderella entry. Despite the 'error theory' having been dismissed since the early 19th century, (and Encylopedia Britannica revising their entry) the theory has continued to make the rounds in (popular) media ever since.

(It's a very important 'but')

... Perrault's original text uses the word verre, meaning glass. So it was not a mistranslation from French to English at all. Neither was it a misprint. Perrault was apparently picturing glass slippers, along with his fairy godmother character, before 1697 (when his collection of tales was first published). He even subtitled Cendrillon with "ou la petite pantoufle de verre" ("or the little glass slipper"). He purposefully emphasized it.

BUT what if...

... Perrault, whom, most scholars agree, did not create these tales from scratch but wrote a literary work based on older, known tales**misheard vair, in an oral account, believing it to be verre? (This would make it an interpretation-and-translation error!)

BUT the problem with this...

... is that vair was a medieval word***, which had fallen out of everyday use in the French language by the time Perrault was taking notes and creating his version, so the effect of a tin ear creating an incorrect transcription is highly unlikely too.

BUT it turns out...

... there was an exception with regard to French texts in Perrault's time, referencing and discussing medieval knighthood and heraldry, as well as the associated riches, which include references to vair. In this context, vair is referencing a glamorous type of squirrel fur (specifically a special grey squirrel fur). So vair was in use as a specialized description for a luxury item. (See Language Log for text sources.)

BUT then...

... looking a little further into the word vair, an unverified source (a French-Wikipedia article, which we cannot adequately translate ourselves to confirm) states vair -squirrel fur- was never used for shoes! Which makes sense, since they would be somewhat clunky in having to retain fur, even using thin leather. If Cinderella had indeed shod herself in grey fur shoes, however elegant they were, wouldn't they likely have stretched out in having been tried on by multiple ladies with many different feet? (We are getting into physics here, rather than allowing a tale to have its own illogical logic in magic, we know. Bear with us. For part of this discussion is, in fact, whether logic should be applied.) "Vair" does seem an odd choice for a "most beautiful in all the world" shoe.
Mary Blair made Cinderella and the Prince into a glass slipper!

BUT not just...

... for that reason either. Folklorist, Elizabeth Andrews, in Ireland (a country which has its own old Cinderella stories, one of which is speculated as [possibly] pre-dating Perrault) had her own doubts about verre and vair, and an additional thought about the origins of a glass shoe. She mentions the following in a footnote, in a volume of Ulster Folklore# (1913), attached to a discussion of magic footwear made by a magical being, in this case, a dwarf. (Note that Andrews is aware of the work of BalzacLittré and Marianne Rolfe Cox. The full footnote includes reference to each scholar's conclusions.):
May it not be that Cinderella's glass shoe was really green and derived its name from the Irish word glas, denoting that colour, which is familiar to us in place-names? (FTNH Ed.. - eg. Glasgow, Glasnevin, Glaslough etc see HERE) I make this conjecture with diffidence. I know the usual explanation is that the shoe was made of a kind of fur called in Old French vairr... A fur slipper, however, does not appear very suitable for a ball. (pp. 47 of Ulster Folklore by Elizabeth Andrews, printed 1913 from research in the late 1800s)
Could the inspiration for a glass shoe -via glas either accidentally or purposefully mistranslated to verre-  have come to Perrault by way of an earlier version? Could he have actually been referencing a green glass shoe? Although a green shoe (not made of glass) is very possible for Perrault's time, what would it mean to actually wear a green pair of shoes then? The Sun-King, Louis the XIV, whose court, customs, edicts, superstitions and strict dress etiquette Perrault was intimately familiar with, no doubt would have some specific thoughts about the wearing of elegant green shoes. Shoes were very important in symbol and code for the Sun King's court. "Handing the king his shoes became the most important activity for the nobility". (source) King Louis the XIV was the ultimate power dresser (it's a fascinating subject) and different shoes told the court a lot. Red was the monarchy color, (D'Aulnoy, who wrote her own†† Cinderella the same year as Perrault, used the description of “red velvet mules completely encrusted with pearls”) and sumptuary laws restricted the wearing of red, or red-heeled, shoes.

BUT if...

... Perrault had intended that Cinderella wear green shoes, glass or not, perhaps to link her to the "green of Fairyland" or because green made a particular statement in the French court (we do know court ladies had directions on how to "green their hair", and that green Egyptian marble was a luxury item in the palace), he would have said so, and made it clear. Instead, Perrault uses verre, which is 'glass', not the Irish glas, or the French vert/verte (the color green), or émeraude (emerald) or any other variations that might allude to money or jealousy or any other forms of green. (See HERE for the numerous ways vert/e is used in French!) If there is anything to the green-to-glas-to-glass-to-verre theory it's a tenuous connection at best, and, considering the form and execution of Perrault's many other works, unlikely.

BUT apart from...

... the court ladies' hair coloring, there are no specific notes (that we've found) about the color green in fashion, or specifically, green shoes, in the Sun King's court. No matter what angle you approach this etymology from, if there is an Irish connection, it does not appear Perrault was focused on the color green. From the Folk-lore Journal Vol I; Vol 11 by Folklore Society (Great Britain), discussing Irish tales and, specifically, a Jack and giant tale from Ireland, which has blue glass shoes (which may have inspired Elizabeth Andrews' avenue of thought), it would appear that due to the estimated date of recording/noting the fact the Irish tale (ie. writing it down, noting its existence) it is more likely to have been influenced by the Perrault's French Cinderella, than the other way around.

Unless, of course, the Irish tale was in circulation orally, had found its way to France, was heard by Perrault and history was made.

Or not. Oral sources are nigh impossible to track and verify! (A constant challenge for fairy tale scholarship.)

BUT there has been...

... much more folklorist research on glass shoes than at first appears, with particular credit due to Marian Roalfe Cox, who published her extensive Cinderella tales research in 1893. SurLaLune includes this note among the annotations for Perrault's Cinderella on the website:
To read more about the shoes in Cinderella variants around the world, especially see Marian Roalfe Cox's Note 48 (about halfway through the note) in her Cinderella book. She addresses the vair vs. verre issue and tells of other materials comprising the shoes in other versions. (Keep in mind that Cox wrote the note in 1893.)
Another echo of a slipper shape by the pair, by Mary Blair
The link to an e-text version of Roalfe's Note 48, also hosted at SurLaLune, provides a fascinating look at vair vs. verre, along with other glass slippers. Her conclusion is that, although there are other tales (six, by her count) that include a glass slipper, most of them seem to have been influenced by Perrault's. So influence from other (a.k.a. earlier) tales looks highly unlikely at this juncture. After an enjoyable detour, (and we recommend a physical copy to accommodate flipping back and forth to check all of the above!), we find ourselves back in the same place we left, and the mystery remains.

BUT with regard to...

... glass shoes in pre-Perrault Cinderella tales, there is another lead. We can quote another researcher's findings:
“pantouffles de verre” (though in various spellings) are in Perrault’s tale, and also in Catalan, Irish and Scottish versions. The Grimm brothers’ has golden slippers — not much better than glass, I’d think, to dance in all night. "
We quickly find he is referring to a paper by Paul Delarue, titled "From Perrault to Walt Disney: The Slipper of Cinderella", included in Alan Dundes (excellent) book, Cinderella : A Casebook. Delarue writes:
"The motif of the glass slipper is traditional and can be found in several foreign tale types for each of which I will cite only one example." (See image of the relevant page portion below.) 
[NB: The Catalan version referenced is not included. Cox has a Catalan glass slipper tale, "La Ventafoches/The Fire-blower", in her six but it's dated as 1871, nearly 200 yers after Perrault.]

... the tales mentioned have no dates, sources or time periods attached to the descriptions so are difficult to find, let alone put in a timeline. How long before Perrault were they in circulation? It is these Scottish and Irish tales with glass shoes which, IF they pre-date the 1690's, AND had made it to Europe, MAY have inspired Perrault's use of a glass shoe. (That's a lot of conditions!)  And, importantly, is it even possible Perrault could have known about them? Without notes from Perrault's time suggesting the possibility, this appears to be another dead-end for a precursor to Perrault's pantoufle de verre.

BUT what about...

... the concept of GLASS ITEMS in other fairy tales, especially those older than Perrault's, that may have inspired the concept of changing the all-important, magically-bestowed shoes to glass? While there is no doubt glass, at this point in history, was considered a precious, luxury item, how common was it to have (magic) glass items or motifs appear in fairy and folktales?  
Fortunately, to help us explore this angle of origination, Delarue (in Cinderella: A Casebook) also gives an overview of other unusual items made of glass (ie. beyond the magic looking glasses of Snow White, The Snow Queen, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lady of Shalott). We've extended this into a list below and added the broad geographical regions these motifs were first used, according to information we can find:
  • glass shoes (France, Scotland, Ireland)
  • some glass castles (particularly in the regions of Russia, Romania, and Hungary)
  • a glass forest (Czech Republic, Romani tale)
  • a tree with glass leaves (France)
  • a few glass or crystal mountains, and also hills (esp. Northern Europe)
  • glass boats (Celtic & Middle East)
  • glass coffins and cases (Europe)
  • one glass beard (of a giant, origin unknown)
  • glass-covered land "sharp as razors" (Armenia)
  • glass bottles that trap spirits & djinn (Europe, Middle East & India)
  • a glass dog (America/US)
  • a glass tunnel (Italy, Middle East)
  • a glass man (Hungary)
  • a glass key (Europe/France)
  • glass knives/blades of glass (Middle East)
  • 3 glass distaffs/spindles (France - Special note: this motif was used in The Subtle Princess by Perrault's niece Marie-Jeanne L’Heritier de Villandon, also a fairy tale salon writer. The distaff was to shatter if the daughter given it, lost her virtue. Published in 1696, the year before Perrault published his Cendrillon, ou la petite pantoufle de verre, in 1697.)
(Note: While it would be more useful to list the dates when these tales were recorded, as well as speculated dates in which they were being orally circulated, we, unfortunately, do not have the resources available.)

Considering there are hundreds of tales, this is a short list. As uncommon as the concept of a glass item, often magic in origin, in fairy tales is, it is still common enough, especially in Europe and the UK, that using glass connected with fairy magic would have seemed appropriate. Glass shoes, however, remain unusual (and pinning down any that might have appeared before Perrault is proving troublesome to verify). Was Perrault just using a rare but proven fairy tale convention in creating his glass shoe?

BUT, historically speaking...

Mary Blair's castle also looks like glowing glass
... what about AMBER? (Yes - the fossilized tree-resin as shoe material). Scholar and writer of folklore Maria Leach writes:
"Amber mountains and amber islands were the forerunners of the glass mountains and islands in the folktales of Scandanavia, central and eastern Europe, and the British isles....The word glass, originally meaning 'resin' or 'amber' was applied to glass when that product was introduced into northern Europe."  (Quote via Ellen Datlow.)
It turns out that this almost-glass-like substance was indeed used for shoes prior to Perrault's literary writing, which may have influenced his word choice too. A theory about Perrault referencing slippers made of AMBER, makes far more sense in consideration than at first glance. Amber shoes were luxurious, designed to disguise sweaty feet in both sight and smell, and oh yes, were an existing item! (Novelty glass shoes, slippers and boots didn't appear until the 1800's.) Amber shoes were also a memorable part of the narrative of a notorious scandal of a beautiful Spanish actress named Elena Osorio approximately sixty-five years before Perrault penned his fairy tales. Osorio was said to have lamented falling from her high station in the scandal, and despaired of having to trade in her "amber slippers for crudely bound sandals"; a juicy and distinctive detail that Perrault likely would have known. Amber even has a linguistic connection, though it's a German one (glaesum/glesum are used to refer to amber in D.H. Green's Language and History in the Early Germanic World).


... amber in French is ambre, which is very close to ombre, French for 'shadow', which makes for a lot of confusion. It also doesn't sound as delicate as verre, and the sound of words in the telling of tales, even as they transformed to literary ones, remained important. Unless ambre and verre could be used interchangeably in France during Perrault's time (which, along with crystal, is a possibility, though a vague one, as seen in this article on the "new science" production of glass portraits of Louis the XIV, created in the late 1600's), this theory is still a little wobbly in its footing too. (All puns intended. Sorry, not sorry.)

So, if this is the case, we could be back to square one. Which leaves us with...


Why did Perrault decide to use such a specific (and impractical) description of Cinderella's slipper? Was it simply an author's educated conclusion that verre (glass) fulfilled all the criteria the fairy tale he was expanding into literary form, required? A memorable motif; a simple but evocative word that rolled easily off the tongue; implied luxury; symbolic purity (and virginity); fragility; innate, delicate nobility in being able to walk, run and dance without breaking them; magically fitting the one foot it was made (enchanted) for; but perhaps most simply of all: Magic?

And we've ended where we began.
(Except we now have extra BUTs!)

Perhaps you are now satisfied that verre was not a mistake; that it was both an informed and creative choice by Perrault as a writer.

Or perhaps, because it is not a solid theory, has been constantly debated by well-educated minds, is at odds with "literary logic" and cannot be completely proven... you are not satisfied. At all.

BUT - that is the point.
Word choice matters, and means different things to different people.

With the rabbit holes of speculation and theory that surround the single word verre, one begins to see how translation, specifically of fairy and folktales, is a fascinating, complicated, and often under-appreciated, process. (And we didn't even take all the detours on the Verre vs. Vaire journey available to us! We didn't consider sexual symbolism, social rebellion, colloquial terms, supernatural beliefs, courting customs, traditions and so very many more.)

As one blogger wrote (re exploring the concept of the slipper mistranslation): "This makes me think of a miscopying of letters in the genetic code resulting in a mutation of the original which is then repeated in all subsequent versions."

However we ended up with Cinderella having glass on her feet, the image has become inseparable from the tale. 

The term "glass slipper" now recalls Cinderella the world over, even for folks who have never read the tale, so ubiquitous has the association become. It is now intrinsically part of this canonical conte de fées.
by Mary Blair

A translator needs to take all these types of elements (and more) into account before settling on the best word for a translation. Though most words are unlikely to have as great an impact as verre, you can never know what the ripple effect will truly be until the new translation is out there. (No pressure translators!) A translator's work and final text is not only affected by linguistics but also by history, current use of language, social understandings past and present, and having to build bridges between cultures. When it comes to fairy tales, the translator has an additional, very important role too: they must also, ultimately, be a Storyteller.

So, to summarize: good translators must be wizards!

Now is the perfect time to show a little love for these heroes as September 30 was International Translation Day.
Hug a translator today!^

Our Top 10 Translated Fairy Tale Books
We thought it would be useful to give you a "Top 10" list of translated fairy tale books we love and greatly appreciate (in no particular order):

1. The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm, translated and edited by Jack Zipes, illustrated by Andrea Dezsö
Description: For the very first time, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm makes available in English all 156 stories from the 1812 and 1815 editions. These narrative gems, newly translated and brought together in one beautiful book, are accompanied by sumptuous new illustrations from award-winning artist Andrea Dezsö.

2. Giambattista Basile's The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies) by Giambattista Basile, translated by Prof. Nancy L. Canepa
Description: The first unabridged English translation taken directly from Basile's monumental Lo cunto de li cunti (1634-1636), this edition is fully annotated and illustrated, with an extensive bibliography.

3. Mother Goose Refigured: A Critical Translation of Charles Perrault’s Fairy Tales (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies) by Associate Professor Christine A. Jones, translations (also) by Christine A. Jones
Description: Mother Goose Refigured presents annotated translations of Charles Perrault's 1697 fairy tales that attend to the irony and ambiguity in the original French and provide a fresh take on heroines and heroes that have become household names in North America.

4. White as Milk, Red as Blood: The Forgotten Fairy Tales of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth, translated by Shelley Tanaka, illustrated by Willow Dawson
Description: This striking, richly illustrated edition of long-lost German fairy tales is not a book for children. It is a book for adults. ... Following the tradition of illustrated fairy-tale collections, this is the very first fully illustrated, full-colour edition of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's work.

5. The Oddly Modern Fairy Tales Series. For example, Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned: Enchanted Stories from the French Decadent Tradition edited by Gretchen Schultz and Lewis Seifert (a fairy tale newsroom favorite)
Description: A newly translated collection of subversive French fairy tales by writers from the Belle Époque. The wolf is tricked by Red Riding Hood into strangling her grandmother and is subsequently arrested. Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella do not live happily ever after. And the fairies are saucy, angry, and capricious. Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned collects thirty-six tales, many newly translated, by writers associated with the decadent literary movement, which flourished in France in the late nineteenth century... Subverting the conventions of the traditional fairy tale, these old tales made new will entertain and startle even the most disenchanted readers.

Description: In one of the most startling literary discoveries of recent years, Jack Zipes has uncovered this neglected treasure trove of Sicilian folk and fairy tales. Like the Grimm brothers before her, Laura Gonzenbach, a talented Swiss-German born in Sicily, set out to gather up the tales told and retold among the peasants. (Collection spans two volumes.)

7. Italian Folktales Selected and Retold by Italo Calvino by Italo Calvino, translated by George Martin
Description"800 pages of fairytale glory... 200 tales about villains with silver noses, queens that give birth to apples, talking birds, a pastry that’s a woman, and so much more." (BookRiot) This collection (Fiabe italiane) is a collection of 200 Italian folktales. Calvino began the project in 1954, influenced by Vladimir Propp's Morphology of the Folktale; his intention was to emulate Straparola in producing a popular collection of Italian fairy tales for the general reader. He did not compile tales from listeners, but made extensive use of the existing work of folklorists; he noted the source of each individual tale, but warned that was merely the version he used.

8. Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki, translated by Yei Theodora Ozaki
Description: This collection of Japanese fairy tales is the outcome of a suggestion made to me indirectly through a friend by Mr. Andrew Lang. They have been translated from the modern version written by Sadanami Sanjin. These stories are not literal translations, and though the Japanese story and all quaint Japanese expressions have been faithfully preserved, they have been told more with the view to interest young readers of the West than the technical student of folk-lore.

9. Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov by Robert Chandler, translated by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Sibelan Forrester, Anna Gunin and Olga Meerson
Description: In these folk tales, young women go on long and perilous quests, wicked stepmothers turn children into geese, and tsars ask dangerous riddles, with help or hindrance from magical dolls, cannibal witches, talking skulls, stolen wives, and brothers disguised as wise birds. Some of the stories here were collected by folklorists during the last two centuries, while the others are reworkings of oral tales by four of the greatest writers in Russian literature: Teffi, Bazhov, Platonov, and Pushkin.

10. The Complete and Original Norwegian Folktales of Asbjørnsen and Moe by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, translated by Tiina Nunnally, foreword by Neil Gaiman (2019)
Description: A new, definitive English translation of the celebrated story collection regarded as a landmark of Norwegian literature and culture. These stories, set in Norway’s majestic landscape of towering mountains and dense forests, are filled with humor, mischief, and sometimes surprisingly cruel twists of fate. All are rendered in the deceptively simple narrative style perfected by Asbjørnsen and Moe—now translated into an English that is as finely tuned to the modern ear as it is true to the original Norwegian.

Description: “The 1810 Grimm Manuscripts” is the first English language translation of the Grimms “Kinder und Hausmärchen” as they were in the Fall of 1810. It is the first written documentation of the tales as the brothers heard and saw them. It shows the very first written documentation of the Grimms versions of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Frog King and many other tales. The book contains several never before (in English) published texts written down by the Grimms as well as several translations of related texts: a new translation of a text from 1790 - "The Märchen of Franfreluschens Head," "The Moon and His Mother," "The Old Witch" and other unknown tales.(Note: We have yet to read this in full. It has been recommended by fairy tale friend and professional storyteller, Zalka Csegne Virág. You can read her review HERE.)

Has the topic of translation in fairy tales piqued your interest?
There's a lot to cover in this ongoing topic (and conversation) but for further exploration and to start to studying this field with regard to fairy tales, you may be interested in reading Fairy Tales Transformed? Twenty-First-Century Adaptations and the Politics of Wonder by Cristina Bacchilega. From the description alone it's clear the influences on fairy tale translation are many and change across time, making it all the more wondrous that fairy tales continue to retain their forms so very well. (Warning: it's quite an engrossing read. She sucks you in with images of Christmastime fairy tale windows and her concept of the Fairy-Tale Web, and doesn't let go. Your TBR pile might be neglected for a while...)

Intrigued by the art form of translation? You may also be interested in reading:
The Impossibility of Translating Franz Kafka by Cynthia Ozik for The New Yorker. Here are a couple of quotes from the article:
- ... the term “Kafkaesque,” a synonym for the uncanny, misrepresents at the root. The Kafkan mind rests not on unintelligibility or the surreal but on adamantine logic—on the sane expectation of rationality. A singing mouse, an enigmatic ape, an impenetrable castle, a deadly contraption, the Great Wall of China, a creature in a burrow, fasting as an art form, and, most famously, a man metamorphosed into a bug: all these are steeped in reason; and also in reasoning. “Fairy tales for dialecticians,” the critic Walter Benjamin remarked.  
- “Translation is not a duplicate of the original text,” (Ortega) begins; “it is not—it shouldn’t try to be—the work itself with a different vocabulary.” And he concludes, “The simple fact is that the translation is not the work, but a path toward the work”—which suggests at least the possibility of arrival.
Fairy Tale Bonus of the Day:
Leonora "Nora" Blanche Alleyne Lang & Andrew Lang:
Writing & Translating The Rainbow Fairy Books

The Rainbow Fairy Books
(Blue, Red, Green, Pink, Brown, Yellow, Grey, Violet, Crimson, Orange, Olive, Lilac) by Leonora and Andrew Lang, were a unique collection of fairy tales when they 
were published, and have remained so. Not only were there many lesser-known tales included but the beautifully rendered illustrations directly inspired multiple generations of writers and artists with regard to retelling fairy tales and their study. (H.J. Ford was the primary artist for the twelve books, with G. P. Jacomb-Hood and Lancelot Speed contributing to the first two books and some additional work by A. Wallis Mills.) 
HJ Ford for the Violet Fairy Book
Critics and educational researches of the day had previously judged fairy tales' "unreality, brutality, and escapism to be harmful for young readers, while holding that such stories were beneath the serious consideration of those of mature age". The Langs' collections did much to shift this public perception of fairy stories as unsuitable for children and unworthy of critical analysis. (Wikipedia)
Though the collection is commonly attributed to Andrew Lang, his wife, Leonora Lang, did the lion's share of the work, as Lang notes in the prefaces (quote): "The fairy books have been almost wholly the work of Mrs. Lang, who has translated and adapted them from the French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, and other languages."

The color fairy books collect a variety of tales from a large number of sources around the globe, making the books a very unique fairy tale collection until recent publishing. Though there are newer -and better- translations of most of these tales, which are far more authentic, this collection is the first of its kind, with many 'first' English translations included. Most of the new translations were Nora's work, but credit must also be given to her team, mostly women, who included Violet Hunt and May Kendall.

Despite ultimately adapting the tales for "Victorian and Edwardian notions of propriety", the Rainbow Fairy Books have rarely waned in popularity and are still a "go-to" source for exposing new generations to tales from all over the world.


* Do we need to define the specific meaning of the word "but" as used in this context? Perhaps we should, but we won't. ;)

** Almost all Perrault's tales could be seen to have possible sources in Giambattista Basile's Pentamerone, though there is no record of him having read, or learned, or been told of the Pentamerone or tales from the collection. (from notes section in Twice Upon A Time)

*** From Devious Derivations by Hugh Rawson:
(Vair, variegated fur, from the Latin varius, varied, also is a root of miniver, originally menu vair, small vair, which referred initially to the fur — perhaps squirrel — used as trim on medieval robes and later was applied to the prized ermine, or winter weasel fur, on the ceremonial robes of peers.)
 Glass is not on the list of special and expensive items, though it was considered a rare and expensive item in medieval times.

§ There is a French-Wikipedia article which discusses the whole vair vs. verre controversy, though it is, as you would expect, in French, so requires translating! Even using the very imprecise option of Google Translate to read it, it's both amusing and waxes poetically on fragility and creativity, as well as going into the details of "eruditious scholarship run wild" which insisted the 'original' was vair. If you are intrigued by this, it's worth your time to translate and read.

†† Perrault is specific about the use of his shoes, though his style and emphasis are vastly different from D'Aulnoy's in her Cinderella, which was published the same year. Perrault's version, however, shows a clever use of court etiquette in having the Prince - the Royal person - pick up Cinderella's shoe. D'Aulnoy's emphasis is much more on the particulars, showing how they influence anyone who sees them. 
(From "Louis XIV’s Use of Fashion to Control the Nobility and Express Power") Two French Cinderella stories were published in 1697, one written by Charles Perrault and the other by Marie-Catherine de Barneville, Comtesse d’Aulnoy. D’Aulnoy’s story had an especially strong emphasis on the importance of fashion: effectively, the dress and shoes were the main characters and Cinderella was only there to carry them. When Cinderella comes to the ball, she never even meets the prince, but simply shows off her glamorous gown and “red velvet mules completely encrusted with pearls,” a pair of glamorous shoes she would never have intended to lose. On the other hand, in Perrault’s story, Cinderella slips out of her shoe in an attempt to lure the prince after her, as she knows its beauty will attract him. D’Aulnoy extends the obsession with fashion to men as well, as Prince Charming finds Cinderella’s lost slipper and becomes entranced by its petit size and exquisite craft. He becomes enamored of the shoe, not eating or leaving his room for weeks. The doctors his desperate parents send for declare that the Prince is in love, and Prince Charming himself states that it is the shoe with which he is in love. D’Aulnoy’s story centers on Parisian fashion, which she makes magical and desirable with her fairytale setting.
Ulster Folklore by Elizabeth Andrews. Description: A"seminal work which traces the history of superstitions, legends, and myths in Ulster, especially the folk tales of fairies, dwarves and giants."

 An Egyptian connection would have been a neat nod to Rhodophis, thought to be the earliest identified Cinderella-type tale, though scholarship of tales in the 1600's likely wasn't discussing this yet. Perrault had an excellent classical education and may have known of Herodotus and Strabo, and the story of Rhodopis, and perhaps, in the salons, in which the French literary style préciosité was all the rage, these classics were discussed. However, Perrault is also said to have been rather rebellious against "the tyranny of the classics" and was instead focused on court politics and subversive social critique, expressed slyly through fairy tale parlor games and writings.

‡‡ "Relatively soft, amber has been carved into beads and jewelry since the Bronze Age, and it can be polished to a gleaming finish. Many people have believed that amber’s warm color and the way the material holds heat signify healing powers... The (Hispaniola) island’s  amber was used by the indigenous Taíno people for millennia, and when Columbus landed for the second time on Hispaniola, in 1493, he made a strategic trade: He gave a Taíno chief a strand of Baltic amber in return for shoes decorated with local amber." (From 'The Human Cost of Amber'/ The Atlantic)

^ Of course, by "hug" we mean "show genuine, but appropriate appreciation" - always ask permission before hugging. We had to add a footnote for clarity, in case that isn't implied in your reading of the actual text. ;)

Artist credits:

  • All glass sculptures are by Karen LaMonte (see below for brief artist info and statement)
  • The header image is composed of art by French illustrator Elsa Oriol, (see cover at right for full image) and glass curtain sculptures, also by Karen LaMonte
  • All other illustrations are concept art by Mary Blair, created for Disney's Cinderella.
Extracted from 'Mind Blowing Glass Dresses by Karen LaMonte', written by Laura for 
Karen LaMonte is a Czech republic glass artist. Her life-sized sculptures mimic the folds and pleats of material, draped over a female form inside. LaMonte’s anthropomorphosis of the dress is achieved with the hint of the female form beneath the folds. The essence of femininity and sensuality exudes from the sculptures despite the cold medium. She probes the disparity between our natural skin and our social skin, clothing which we use to obscure and conceal, to protect the individual and project a persona. It is a ‘vestmentary envelope’ which renders us as social beings.
We thought this made her artwork perfect for a discussion of Cinderella's glass slippers, and what they symbolize in the fairy tale. It is not a coincidence that many of the articles profiling Karen LaMonte, and discussing her life-sized glass dresses reference Cinderella, despite that the only shoes seen are "through a glass darkly". (Technically the dresses are "empty". Most don't even have shoes.) It is fascinating that a glass dress, including one without the suggestion of shoes beneath, recalls Cinderella for so many.

Sources Referenced:

No comments:

Post a Comment