Thursday, March 8, 2012

500 Rediscovered Fairy Tales & a Hollywood Article: Hollywood Fairy Tale Feeding Frenzy

There's not a whole lot of new information in the Hollywood article regarding the fairy tale films being made or what's happening on the small screen BUT there are some interesting theories on why we're having a fairy tale zeitgeist and it pays homage to the fairy tale's most exciting news this year - the discovery of 500 "lost"* fairy tales in Germany:

A quick aside: if you have not read Heidi's post on this great piece of fairy tale news:
       Five hundred new fairytales discovered in Germany: Collection of fairytales gathered by historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth had been locked away in an archive in Regensburg for over 150 years
-  and the Guardian article she's referring to, you should.
You can find it HERE.
I also like this neat and easy to read summary of the news from paperblog HERE.
King Golden Hair (from von Schönwerth's rediscovered tales) by Barbara Stefan
From's article Hollywood Fairy Tale Feeding Frenzy: “Mirror Mirror,” “Snow White and the Huntsman”:

The discovery in Regensberg of 500 long-hidden German fairy tales assembled by Franz Xaver Schbnwerth (1810 – 86), which was  reported in The Guardian on Monday, is potentially excellent news for Hollywood. At the current rate with which the studios are racing to reformulate the fairy tales of Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and other writers and collectors into modish, mostly live-action films, they will exhaust the familiar canon in two years tops.
[FTNH edit: May I just quickly interrupt to point out that one of the coolest things about these rediscovered tales is their rawness. Unlike the Grimm's who edited, revised, polished and essentially turned told tales into literary ones, these 'rediscovered' tales were faithfully recorded in their incomplete inaccuracies as retold by common folk, almost complete with "um's and ah's". While I would hope - would be excited to know - that there are directors, writers and creators in Hollywood who would happily be inspired and/or mine a story for a movie or series out of such stories, it's a lot harder than finding a book of tales [which is conveniently out of copyright] and remaking a version of those and so quite unlikely we're going to see these tales spawn Hollywood-happy material. I would love to be proven wrong on this.  
After summarizing what's coming to the screen Reporter Graham Fuller goes on to mention the two Little Mermaid projects that I haven't seen anything on for quite some time and speculates what else may be coming:]
Joe Wright (“Atonement”) will direct a live-action film of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” Shana Feste (“Country Strong”) is prepping the film of Carolyn Turgeon’s comparatively dark 2011 novel “Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale.” 
Thirty-six years after the flowery British musical “The Slipper and the Rose” and 14 after the limp “Ever After,” a new “Cinderella” can’t be far behind, whether it’s based on the Greek version recorded in the first century B.C., the ninth-century Chinese one, the 1634 Neapolitan one, Perrault’s, the Grimms’, or Turgeon’s 2009 “Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story.”
[FTNH edit: I greatly appreciate that there was quite a bit of research that went into this article but I especially like what he has to say toward the end as it's a point of view I haven't seen put forward before. :]
The fairy-tale craze – which TV, too, has exploited with ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” -- was triggered by the massive success and prestige of Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” and the three films adapted so far from C.S. Lewis’s “Narnia Chronicles.” After  a wave of bland but violent period adventure films in the nineties, “LOTR” and then “Narnia” opened the doors to “romance” cinema – by which I mean medieval or medievally inflected stories and their ilk, as opposed to stories of romantic love. They depicted great deeds of heroism, invoked mysticism, deployed state-of-the-art special effects, and, crucially for grabbing the attention of female tweens and teens, had women or girl warriors. “King Arthur” (2004), with Keira Knightley as an aggressive proto-feminist Guinevere, extended this idea less convincingly, though the film was a global hit.
He's particularly referring to Snow White and the Huntsman here but I think this may play a part in the reason fairy tales are so popular right now. I don't think it's the reason it was "triggered" as he says  but I think it certainly may have helped it along.
You can read the entire Hollywood Fairy Tale Frenzy article HERE.
While we're on the subject of the re-found tales, what Hollywood people MAY find interesting is the unvarnished versions of familiar tales reported to be in the collection. From The Guardian (emphasis in bold is mine):
While sifting through Von Schönwerth's work, Eichenseer found 500 fairytales, many of which do not appear in other European fairytale collections. ... However, the collection also includes local versions of the tales children all over the world have grown up with including Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin, and which appear in many different versions across Europe.
While I'm excited to see the new tales, I'm very interested to read unedited, raw versions of tales we already know - the popular culture versions of the time. My wish list now includes: a fully translated-to-English version of the whole collection, a book in which the raw tales are printed alongside the literary ones and a children's illustrated book of raw pop-culture tales from the mid-1800s (yes - like a children's storybook, only using those tales and having the artists use those as the source of inspiration). That would make for a fascinating reflection of society among the common people (like you and me) both then and now. (You know I'm not the only one wanting new illustrations!) The last on the list is a book in which a modern day "recorder" goes around and writes down familiar and not-so-familiar tales of the common/average people of today and contrasts it with the source (with illustrations please - children's stories today must have illustrations if they are to reflect how things are at present). I think we could learn a lot about ourselves, about our past and about fairy tales. Anyone up for it?
Mr. & Mrs. Vinegar at Home by Arthur Rackham
And for those that read Heidi's post and the Guardian article but not the comments posted on the Guardian article, I suggest giving them a read too, HERE. Among some superior comments and silly ones there are some useful insights, some great links and other useful notes. I'm including one that caught my eye by "Mercurey":
There is some interesting work being done my anthropologists on the cultural life of street people. And there, the oral tradition is very much alive. As a source of entertainment and as an education to those entering that world.
Very much like fairy tales once did for children.
Theater company called Cardboard Citizens well worth looking out for.

The 'homeless children' aka Hansel & Gretel, of ABC's Once Upon A Time
It reminded me of the myths told by homeless children in Miami, discussed years ago in the SurLaLune site boards HERE. The original article, Myths Over Miami, can now be found archived  HERE. It's an amazing read but I have to wonder, did anybody ever go and write them all down - as a collection of tales, I mean - or was it just recorded for study purposes only and eventually summarized for an article? If this BIG NEWS on rediscovering 500 fairy tales tells us anything, it's that we should be careful not to lose the treasures we already have. I would suggest that this very thing is happening too easily right now. It's the age of information overload but somewhere, somehow we need to distinguish what's important and find a way to record it - in a way that won't be lost - for future generations and history to grow upon.
Note: I have, of course, added Franz Xaver von Schönwerth to the board of Influential Fairy Tale People I have on Pinterest. I now have 73 pins of fairy tale people you should be aware of and be thankful for but and know I'm still missing some key people. While I don't have a picture of von Schönwerth I found his signature, which will have to do for now. :)
*There's some speculation about the "lost" thing. It appears they weren't really out of complete circulation (there are German texts available of some of the work online). They just weren't widely available or known. There's also no known English translation of the full collection but once that changes - go Dan Szabo! (this Munich based translator is working on it right now)- they won't likely fall out of circulation again. 

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