Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stories for the Season: More To Explore - Story Roundup

This is my last "Stories for the Season" post but it's by no means a complete collection of fairy tales, and stories for fairy tale people that can be enjoyed during this end of year/beginning of a new year holiday time.

Here is an additional short list of stories I ran out of time to profile individually and why they can be included on your Christmas fairy tales list:

The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real
by Margery Williams
It's the classic Christmas toy story

The Wild Hunt
by Jane Yolen
Winter arrives and The Wild Hunt rides (excellent book!)

The Wooden Shoes of Little Wolff
adapted by Francois Coppee
A boy with a good heart unknowingly helps the Christ Child and is rewarded

Miracle of 34th Street
Novella written by Valentine Davies and made into the Oscar winning film from 1947 about a department store Santa insisting he's the real thing.
NOTE: Watch the black and white 1947 version - it's MUCH better than any of the remakes and has a gentle and special touch

Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?
by Jan Brett
A children's version of the Norwegian folktale The Cat on the Dovrefell (see below)

The Snow Princess
by Ruth Sanderson
Based on Tchaikovsky's Russian opera/ballet The Snow Maiden

The Cat on the Dovrefell
by Asbjornsen & Moe
A great white bear (yes, a bear - not a cat, but don't tell the trolls...) helps counteract an annual Christmas invasion by trolls - I love this one!

Why the Sea is Salt
by Asbjornsen & Moe
A poor boy goes begging on Christmas Eve and has a big adventure

by Asbjornsen & Moe
An invasion by trolls on Christmas Eve sets things in motion

The Christmas Cuckoo
adapted by Frances Browne
Poor brothers become rich due to their good treatment of a cuckoo found on Christmas Day

The Christmas Fairy of Strasburg
A German folktale about the origins of the Christmas tree

The Golden Cobwebs
A folktale about the origins of tinsel/tree trimmings. (It's still good luck to have a spider ornament on your Christmas tree in the Ukraine.)

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
by L. Frank Baum
Mentioned in my post on Jack Frost

The Mail Coach Passengers
by Hans Christian Andersen
A New Years story in which the Twelve Months take a ride
(I couldn't find a correlating image for the story sorry - so you're being reminded of Gennady Spirin's work. :)

Again, there are many more, especially if you look at all the little folktales, but I thought these ones would interest my readers most (that I'm aware of anyway). Of course, if you have others to add please feel free to add a comment.

I hope you've enjoyed this series of posts. If you want to find them all, just click on the 'Xmas tales' tag in the sidebar.

If you're interested in finding more make sure you visit The Fairy Tale Channel HERE - they have an excellent collection of fairy tales and often post appropriate to the seasons throughout the year too (an excellent resource!).

Merry storytelling!
May fairy tales fill and enrich your holidays and the coming year.

Christmas Bell Babies Grow in Australia
(They sing you joy)
by May Gibbs

Individual illustration credits (book covers show illustrators:
1. An engraving of "The Cat on the Dovrefell" from TALES FROM THE NORSE by George W. Dasent
2. Princess of Wands (Tatterhood) from THE FAIRY TALE TAROT by Lisa Hunt
3. The Christmas Cuckoo from GRANNY'S WONDERFUL CHAIR AND THE TALES IT TOLD by Frances Browne with illustrations by Florence White Williams
4. The Christmas Tree Fairy by Cicely Mary Baker
5. A Christmas spider ornament from the Ukraine (photographer unknown)
6. From THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS by Lyman Frank Baum, illustrated by Mary Cowles Clark

Stories for the Season: The Little Match Girl

You were probably wondering if I forgot this tale but I was just saving it as my 'book end', since it's the first tale I mentioned this month.

You're most likely all familiar with the story so I won't repeat it except to tell you that the translation of the danish title actually means "The little girl with the sulphur sticks" - which makes it seem even more sad for some reason.

In the middle of a stressful season it's good to remember to be thankful for all I have and to remember there are many who aren't nearly so lucky and that if I have the opportunity to help, I should.

I find different images/illustrations bring different emphasis to the story so thought I'd post a few - quite different from each other - that I've found in the past. (The SurLaLune blog has already had a "Little Match Girl" week and highlighted some lovely illustrated retellings so I'm focusing on one-off illustrations, although I've included a couple of classic for comparison.)

And one little charm in a matchbox - a collaboration by Zoe Sernack and Lang Leav.
In addition I found a special Match Girl book, by artist Chloe Lan, which cleverly uses text to both tell the story, set the scene and communicate the mood of the story. I've included one example below. Click to view larger and read the text:

Click HERE to view some other pages and to learn more about the book.

I couldn't complete this entry with at least a little film so found a lovely, 'conceptual art animation' for you by Charlene Wienhold (a.k.a. AuroraInk on deviantArt) who has an amazing portfolio HERE. Enjoy:

I also wanted to mention a story titled Little Piccola by Francis Jenkins Olcott. This story reminds me of The Little Match Girl very much except it has a happy ending - and the girl lives to see another Christmas.

You can read the original poem the story was adapted from HERE.

Stories for the Season: The Blue Bird

"The Blue Bird" was one of those fairy tales that had a huge influence on me as a child, thanks to the 1976 film adaptation which I saw in the theater. The story begins on Christmas Eve and is all about giving and new beginnings.

Here's a summary:
Two somewhat disgruntled children, Tyltyl (the older girl) and Mytyl (the boy) after wishing Christmas would be better for them (their parents are poor and cannot afford all the presents and wonderful food that other richer people are indulging in), are sent out by the fairy Bérylune on a fantastical trip into various lands (Land of Luxury, the Past, the Future etc) to search for the Bluebird of Happiness. They are accompanied by their dog and cat (given human form by the fairy - who also gives other objects like milk, sugar, light and fire a temporary human form), the characters of which provide their own complications to the search along the way. Finally returning home empty-handed, the children see in the light of the new day that the bird has been in a cage in their home the whole time. Tyltyl, having found happiness in herself, gives the bird as a present to a sick neighbor but the bird escapes to freedom.
The story was made into a play in the early 1900's by Maeterlinck, which was very successful and popular, and has been made into more stage adaptations, including ballets, as well. The play has also been made into a film a number of times: two silent films, another in color (which is the most famous, with Shirley Temple as Tyltyl) in 1940, another in 1976 (with Elizabeth Taylor, which I saw as a child) and later as a Japanese anime. Three of the films are now available on DVD (you can see a lot of images from all three films HERE).
The story is very much about teaching the value of family, love and 'the journey' (not 'getting the prize') and the importance of sharing and giving but despite being overtly didactic in this manner, the films and story have a lot of charm and all these 'lessons' contribute greatly to the overall Christmas and New Year feel.
As a child, I especially loved all the objects coming to life, the spirits of the forest/trees, seeing the children who were about to be born and the personified cat and dog and must admit these are still big draws to the tale for me today.
You can read the whole version (in prose, as written out for children from the play) HERE.

The Enchanted Conversation Begins... Tomorrow!


2010 promises to be a great year for fairy tales in more ways than one.
Our year starts off with the premier issue of a brand new fairy tale 'blogazine', right on January 1st - tomorrow!

Happy New Year indeed!

Enchanted Conversation is an online 'zine with new stories and retellings, poems, articles, book reviews, new and classic/golden age art and even contests! It's a fantastic and very welcome addition to our fairy tale reading, writing and research, helmed by an awesome woman, Kate Wolford,* who really knows what she's doing.
Sleeping Beauty
by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

The first issue's theme is Sleeping Beauty and there's lots to explore (see Kate's Introduction for a quick overview of what's in the issue HERE).

What are you waiting for? Go join the conversation!
Click HERE to get started.

*Kate Wolford is a university lecturer and teaches both creative writing and a course on fairy tales at IUSB (Indiana University South Bend). She kindly makes her fairy tale teaching and resource blog "Diamonds and Toads" available to anyone who's interested in the study and reading of fairy tales - a topic which is clearly dear to her heart. I consider it a great privilege to call her a friend of Once Upon A Blog. Kate is committed to furthering the interest and study of fairy tales for all (think fun with substance!) and her magazine employs this principle along with a high standard of excellence in writing and research, so expect great things in this issue and in the ones to come.

New Moon Meets Beauty & the Beast

I just saw this, though it appeared in early October, and had to share. It's a very well edited mock-trailer by a talented guy named Kenneth Campbell, who used the sound and voices from the second Twilight film trailers for "New Moon" and edited scenes from Disney's "Beauty & the Beast" to fit. While it shows how there are similarities between the two films*, it also shows how reordering scenes can greatly change a story (the power of editing - both in writing and in the film editor's room!)


*Please note, I'm not saying the Twilight series is like Beauty and the Beast, nor am I saying the Twilight series is a fairy tale. I haven't been able to read beyond a few chapters of the first book myself (sorry Twilight fans!) so can't properly comment. I just enjoyed the mash-up so thought a few of you might too. :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Stories for the Season: The Tailor of Gloucester

"The Tailor of Gloucester" became one of the Christmas stories read to children each year and because Beatrix Potter's work is so closely linked to fairy tales (in fact, that was often her aim: to write new ones) I feel I can highlight it here. The story was initially self-published by the author and not available in her collections but it's now included in the big box sets. (You can read the story online HERE.)

It also seems Ms. Potter wrote this story specifically for someone, as the inscription indicates (below):

Because you are fond of fairy-tales, and have been ill, I have made you a story all for yourself—a new one that nobody has read before. And the queerest thing about it is—that I heard it in Gloucestershire, and that it is true—at least about the tailor, the waistcoat, and the "No more twist!"
Christmas, 1901
The plot is as follows (from Wikipedia):
A tailor in Gloucester sends his cat Simpkin to buy food and a twist of cherry-coloured silk to complete a waistcoat the mayor has commissioned for his wedding on Christmas morning. While Simpkin is gone, the tailor finds mice the cat has imprisoned under teacups. The mice are released and scamper away. When Simpkin returns and finds his mice gone, he hides the twist in anger.
The tailor falls ill and is unable to complete the waistcoat, but, upon returning to his shop, he is surprised to find the waistcoat finished. The work has been done by the grateful mice. However, one buttonhole remains unfinished because there was "no more twist!" Simpkin gives the tailor the twist to complete the work and the success of the waistcoat makes the tailor's fortune.
On Christmas Day this year, some lovely person uploaded the wonderfully done live action film adaptation from 1989 onto YouTube for us all to enjoy.
All five parts should play in order. Enjoy!

New Promo Pic for Disney's Rapunzel

Most of you will have seen this by now but I feel I should post it anyway. An unnamed French magazine published this new pic from the Disney fairy tale feature currently in production and due for a November 2010 release.

Below is the largest version I could find of the image so you can click on it to view all the details and take a good look at the painterly style Glen Keane developed so the CG film will have more of a traditional look than most CG films.As you may have noticed the image has the French text from the magazine still on it (Raiponce is the French translation of Rapunzel).

And a little Princess and the Frog news: despite it's incredible popularity and rave reviews from all over, PatF hasn't earned anywhere near Disney's expectations in box office returns (remember, dollars from marketing products don't 'count', which still seems odd to me as it should be an indication of how much people want a piece of the movie/story/characters for themselves). What this means for future 2D animated Disney projects and future fairy tale films is yet to be determined. Either way, we'll be seeing Rapunzel at the end of next year.

How Fairy Tales Can Nourish Children's Bodies (Article)

This article by Nancy Mellon discusses both the power of storytelling and how the imagery in fairy tales can be used to promote healthy thinking toward our own heart, lungs, liver and more. The suggestion is that we can promote healthy body thinking in children by telling them such stories and fairy tales.I found the stories discussed particularly interesting as most of them aren't well known. The writer concentrates on Grimm tales so those who've read them all will find them familiar.Here are a couple of excerpts:
How do stories nourish children's organs as they grow?... We can look with wonder and fascination at the fundamental archetypes of our organs to find characters and plot structures that express them.
Editors note (from the end): Stories have many levels of meaning and many possible interpretations... Contemplation and meditation about the images in these stories and how they may describe organ functions can reveal to connections.
The fairy tales discussed are:
  • The Twelve Huntsman (a true bride tale)
  • Jorinde and Joringel
  • The Juniper Tree
  • Little Brother and Little Sister
  • Two Brothers
  • The Queen Bee (another Simpleton who-is-kind-of-heart wins story)
  • Gutta Percha (by George MacDonald)
  • The Prince Who Feared Nothing
  • The Frog King
A few other stories are mentioned too (eg Great Expectations) but the emphasis is on fairy tales throughout.Here's the article:

How-Do-Stories-Nourish-Childrens-Organs-As-They-Grow -

It's one way of using stories I haven't heard of before and although I admit I'm skeptical about children picking up this information subconsciously, I'm all for promoting health of mind and body through fairy tales.
You can download the article if you'd like to keep a copy HERE.

* All images are from the excellent fairy tale series "The Storyteller" by Jim Henson & Co. There's an overview of the epiosdes/tales with summary and images HERE and you can get your own copy of the DVD set which includes the Greek Myth series too, HERE.