Wednesday, November 30, 2016

'Beauty and the Hulk' - A Fan Remix

Hulk and Black Widow by Huy "Wee" Dinh
It's no surprise to see different combinations and iterations of Disney live action Beauty and the Beast around the web right now. The trailer was received extremely well (yes there were critics, but with a Beauty and the Beast storyline, that's just par for the course), and it's not unusual to see parallels made between one pop culture icon or event and another. The Hulk has always been ripe for a Beauty and the Beast adaption and is nothing new, but it might be the first time this sort of trailer has been made.

This fan made trailer combines the fairly subtle romance of Black Widow and The Hulk from one of the recent Marvel movies, Age of Ultron, with the soundtrack (and dialogue - which spoils the effect a little unfortunately) of the recently released live action trailer for Disney's upcoming film. Although it tries to retell the Beauty and the Beast story a little too exactly to be it's own thing, it's worth a look.

Darth Blender portrays the more subdued romance of Mark Ruffalo's Hulk and Scarlet Johannson's Black Widow from Avengers... and overlays the wistful dialogue of Beauty and the Beast overtop of it. The reimagining works extremely well and actually makes that romantic arc seem much bigger than it actually wound up being. It's a fantastic mashup, and features clips from Ant-ManCaptain America: Winter SoliderCaptain America: Civil WarGuardians of the GalaxyThe Incredible HulkThe AvengersAvengers: Age of UltronIron Man 2, and Thor: The Dark World.
It's a testament to how fascinating people find the elements of this fairy tale and continually find parallels between it and perceived monsters.

That's the key word with King Kong connections and now, The Hulk: perceived. Neither of these characters are truly 'monsters' like people/humans are when you call them 'beasts'. They genuinely have no control over their appearance and nature and are, at heart, good, or at least neutral. They don't need 'taming' and the female involved isn't someone taken prisoner or depending on her looks* and charm to earn the beast's trust. The woman has to see him for who he really is and accept him - as he is. Unlike the Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, there is no bad behavior toward the heroine, other than is in the beast's nature, by the original fairy tale Beast, or by Hulk or by Kong. He just is - and remains - himself.

There are others who might say differently - that the beast is tamed - but we disagree. Yes, the Hulk 'changes' (back) to a man when no longer enraged, but more key is how Black Widow (and the blonde in Kong) both see the other side of the beast - while they are still a beast. The purpose is not to transform or tame, but just accept. In both cases it doesn't change the essential nature of the beast either, (they don't morph into men and stay that way), they just help those 'beasts' be their best selves, even in beast form.  That's a Beauty and the Beast tale we can get behind.
We think this is why we like these connections so much. They sidestep the whole possibility of Stockholm syndrome and put the tale back into its roots - seeing beyond the outer skin and learning to love someone as they are and always will be. (And yes, we still have an issue with the transformation to Prince at the end of the original tale, after learning to truly love the whole package 'as is' - and 'no' we do not want to get into a weird conversation about Beast-beaus!)

*(Yes, Kong is attracted by the girl at first but he is truly 'hers' when she sees the true being inside and rises to his defense.) 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Timeless Tales Snow Queen Issue Delayed, But Coming Soon!

Snow Queen by Christian Birmingham
Hi, friends! Tahlia from Timeless Tales Magazine jumping in for a quick update on our Snow Queen issue. 

We were planning on having it released by the end of November, but got slowed down by...well, what can I say--reading so many stories about frost and ice leads to taking lots of breaks for hot cocoa. 

But in all seriousness, it's just been a rough Oct/Nov for this part-time editor. I've been working as hard as I can, but it's time to face the truth: We're looking at early or mid-December. All the stories are selected, but we're still working with our writers to put the final polish on them. Then they're off to our audio narrators and the designer who formats the stories for the page. 

Our fans picked this theme and they will not be disappointed. Believe it or not, Snow Queen isn't one of my favorite fairy tales (Shhhh, don't tell anyone!), but our writers' twists really heighten the color palette of the original. Plus, it's the perfect season for this theme. 

Alright, back to the trenches! Will let you know when we finally launch it. So excited to finally be in the home stretch.

'Warm' regards, ;)

Tahlia Merrill
Editor, Timeless Tales Magazine
Snow Queen by Christian Birmingham

Saturday, November 26, 2016

'Moana' - A Movie We Need Right Now

Recent family movie releases have been both the break from stress, worry and confusion that families, especially kids, need right now, and they have uplifting messages to boot.

You know we were happily surprised by Trolls. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them not only brings magic and wonder in spades, it head-on addresses fear of the 'other' on many levels and underscores the importance of diversity. And, now Moana has hit theaters there's another reason to go.

From all reports, Moana is affirming the importance of supporting, believing in and training our young people to be truly great leaders (instead of doubting them), that girls can do whatever they truly set their hearts and minds to, that have a love interest isn't part of being a successful person and even more so, that platonic love can be a source of strength. It also sends an important message about how respectfully and correctly representing someone's else's culture (different than your own) can actually be a unifying force, strengthening communities, rather than widening the gap that tends to occur in fear of what is different; that there is much more value in respecting our various heritages equally than might be obvious.

Japanese poster
The echoes of happy, happy People Of Color feeling heard, are resonating across Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter and other social media right now, and, after recent weeks, that is a powerful and positive thing.

 (Diverse and respected review site, Rotten Tomatoes, that tallies both critic and audience responses, has a score of 98% positive for Moana at this writing - that's almost unheard of.)

Here's a handy PSA for all those who aren't Polynesian, just to help stop us all from putting our foot in it, and making everyone's jobs of trying to communicate, and build much needed bridges, harder than it has to be.

From Tumblr poster 96kwon:, a poster of Polynesian heritage who reports that, after concerns about misrepresentation, Disney did right by their culture:
A quick FYI for non pacific islanders for Moana
  • Even though you only know Hawaiians doesn’t mean she’s just Hawaiian, and yes, there are more islanders than just Hawaiians.
  •  Polynesian isn’t a language. Polynesia is a large group of islands that have their own distinct language, rich culture, and customs. There’s Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, Easter Islands, etc…
  •  Moana isn’t one race she’s everything mixed into one because there are too many cultures to just base her off of just one island.
  • Maui, as you might have guessed isn’t based off of just one legend either.
  • Maui’s “War Dance” is called the Haka and they do that dance to scare their enemies before battle.
  • Fun fact: Moana means Ocean
  • Please don’t group all of the Pacific Islanders and their cultures into one.
  • Another Fun fact: Pacific Islanders are some of the best navigators of the Ocean to have ever lived. There has even been evidence of them being the first to travel to America. sorry not sorry Columbus.

Spanish language poster
Spanish language poster
And now onto the legend/lore part. We haven't had the opportunity to view the whole film yet but reviews from a wide variety of sources point to it being a success - both as entertainment and as a proper representation of culture and related history and legends.

It's also reported to be full - chock full - of folklore Easter Eggs. Only problem is, we don't have access to a wide variety of Pacific Island folklore to ferret some of these out, but even if we did, we couldn't do better than to point you in the direction of the amazing Zalka Csenge Virág's storytelling, folklore and legend blog, The Multicolored Diary.  She's broken down all the Maui legend references in that character's key song, You're Welcome. The post is titled All the Maui legends crammed into Moana's "You're Welcome".

To explain what she's done, here's an extract from the intro of the post on The Multicolored Diary:
"..what really intrigued me as a storyteller was all the folklore Easter eggs hidden in plain sight. The best among them was Maui the Trickster's introduction song, titled "You're Welcome", which combined the features of trickster and culture hero perfectly.On top of that, each line of the song was a reference to an actual Maui legend."
Csenge goes on to explain the list she put together, with the encouragement that everyone should keep reading indigenous reviews in particular, to truly assess the representational success - both of culture and legends - in the movie. You can read the post (and hear the song in full) HERE.

True to Disney tradition, Easter Eggs , particularly from Ron and John's previous huge hit The Little Mermaid, are spread throughout, making the 'family' this film has come from clear. And,as we have been told over and over - stay until after the credits! There's an extra bit of happy at the very, very end.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Fantastic Beasts Are Given A Chinese Makeover

We so dearly wish to do a proper write-up of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them but are aware that many haven't had the chance to see the film yet. However, we did want to mention that whatever people think of the movie, we are thrilled - thrilled! - with the expanding creature folklore of the Rowling Wizarding World as it overlaps wonderfully with existing lore and legends from around the globe.

Spoiler-free review preview: all here loved it and are itching for a second viewing. Despite some flaws, we all agree that in the end, "fantastic" is still the overall best word to describe it and that our realization of such flaws hasn't dented our enjoyment of it at all.

We will go more in depth when we've had time to put together all the notes accruing on the news board, but for now, please enjoy these lovely Chinese-styled takes of the creatures for Fantastic Beasts posters, creatied for promoting the movie in Beijing during the cast's promotional tour there last week. (The movie opens on the Chinese mainland on November 25th.)

The Director of this newest Rowling movie franchise, David Yates, has revealed that there will be "a mythical creature from Chinese legend" in the next movie (sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), which has had fans predicting "dragon". Rowling, however, has denied this, which leaves open a lot of possibilities.

Here's a little more info from China Daily:
A Chinese artist inspired by traditional painting methods has created posters to promote 3D film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. 
The magical animals appear in a traditional Chinese circular fan pattern, and are painted using techniques similar to the meticulous brushwork style of traditional gongbi (FTNH: a refined, realist Chinese painting technique that includes careful layering and meticulous detail; considered high art and affordable only by the wealthy). 
The posters were created by Chinese artist Zhang Chun, and given as gifts to the cast, as well as the director and producer, during their promotional tour last week in Beijing. 
The Chinese-style posters portray six magical animals created by author J.K. Rowling, including occamy, demiguise, swooping evil, niffler, thunderbird and bowtruckle, who travel in Chinese landscape, resembling the rare animals from China's mythological collections Shan Hai Jing (Classics of the Mountains and Seas).

What is the Shan Hai Jing*? It's described as a classic Chinese text of mythical geography and myth - a Chinese mythical bestiary, in many ways.

From Wikipedia:
The book is not a narrative, as the "plot" involves detailed descriptions of locations in the cardinal directions of the Mountains, Regions Beyond Seas, Regions Within Seas, and Wilderness. The descriptions are usually of medicines, animals, and geological features. Many descriptions are very mundane, and an equal number are fanciful or strange. Each chapter follows roughly the same formula, and the whole book is repetitious in this way. 
It contains many short myths, and most rarely exceed a paragraph. 
So we're talking nine-headed phoenix, the nine-tailed fox, the Chinese form of Naga (a snake with a man's head), monsters of land and sea, dragons (of course), odd man-beast combinations and many, many more - all of which seem they would be equally at home in Rowling's world - or Newt's magical case. That these posters recall creatures from ancient myth is good incentive to go learn more about Chinese mythological beasts, and, once you have an idea of how popular the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts world is in China, (immensely so!) how much people around the world can have in common.

In the meantime, aren't these just gorgeous and amazingly made?
Director David Yates, producer David Heyman and actors Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol receive gifts of paintings of Chinese magical beasts created by Chinese artists at the premiere

*University of California Press released a book in 2003 titled A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas which sounds fascinating.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Whoa. We Are Definitely NOT In Kansas Anymore.

Just watch the trailer.
Got our attention!

Yes - this is the 'un-cancelled' series we posted on back in April 2015! Shades of GOT*? Maybe. More on this later. For now just... digest.
In the blink of a tornado's eye, 20-year-old Dorothy Gale and a K9 police dog are swept into a world far removed from our own - a mystical land of competing realms, lethal warriors, dark magic and a bloody battle for supremacy. Starring Vincent D'Onofrio (Daredevil, Jurassic World) as the guileful Wizard and directed by the visionary Tarsem Singh across three European countries, this is Oz completely reimagined - a place where familiar characters show up in fresh, unexpected ways, and where an unsuspecting young woman holds the fate of kingdoms in her hands. And as Dorothy navigates this dangerous world and uncovers her true destiny, we'll see there's no place like... Oz.
*Game Of Thrones 

Ask Baba Yaga: Will I Ever Fall In Love Again?

Baba Yaga by Julia aka CoalRye
There are many readers feasting today, hopefully focusing on thankful things, and although this questions doesn't appear immediately connected, you will find that it is.

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

May you feast well and be nourished by those around you; may you know when to save space for that dish of delights not yet on the menu, and know how to relish what is right in front of you while you wait.

Be kind. Live your day compassionately. Be thankful for the freedom to do so, and keep fighting for that right.

SPECIAL REMINDER: Baba Yaga's advice will be collected into a book, Ask Baba Yaga, to be published in Fall of 2017. Her oracle, Taisia, is looking for questions from our Once Upon A Blog readers that she can answer for special inclusion in the bookright now. Although there's no guarantee which ones will make print, the earlier the question, the more likely you will get Baba's attention and see your anonymous question - and answer! - in print. Although Taisia hopes she will be able to continue as Baba Yaga's oracle, it is uncertain this will be possible at this time, so consider this your chance to get those burning questions answered by our favorite crone. Don't delay - send that question today!
(And remember, IF we hear that Baba Yaga has had a good amount of questions from readers here, we will hold a special giveaway when the book is published! Now go: write those words!)

This is the 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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Other Guy Who Learned the 12 Dancing Princesses' Secret (Comic)

From a comic by Sam aka Charmingly Antiquated
We found this in our web wanderings focused on Twelve Dancing Princesses (the tale of the month for the next Australian Fairy Tale Society Member Exclusive Ezine), and had to share this short but wonderfully different comic, telling the story of the princesses who danced their shoes to pieces and one boy who found out their secret..
From 'Sam' the artist, aka charmingly antiquated:
In the original fairy tale, the princesses drug a whole lot of hopeful would-be princes, fully aware they’ll be executed in the morning. and then they dance all night, every night, so hard they shred their shoes. that’s…always unsettled me a bit. the princesses might not be actively malicious, but they’re not really kind, either, and they’re definitely not human.  
What always surprised me the most, though, is the guy who sees these casually murderous dance machines and goes ‘i wanna marry one’ instead of ‘f- this sh*t i’m out’. so this is the comic about that other guy.
And we will never see the tale the same way again. Sleep tight! (Except for those who will be dancing all night...)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Lego's 'Frozen Northern Lights' Trailer (Series Airs Dec 9)

The upcoming Lego four-part animated shorts, revolving around Disney's main Frozen characters, are set to air December 9th (a little later than originally anticipated) on the Disney Channel, and have just released their trailer for the series.
Frozen Northern Lights will be an original story spanning multimedia art forms including books and animated shorts.“It’s a new story that follows Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Kristoff and, of course, Sven on an epic adventure to restore the Northern Lights,” Josh Gad explains. (People)

With the original Frozen cast of Kristin Bell, Josh Gad and Idina Menzel, this is primed to be popular!

Take a look:
(Nice nod to Wicked there!)

The first book for this collection, Journey to the Lights was released in July 2016  and is likely the first of many more to come.

What's the fairy tale content? Likely more snow adventure that derives from snow fairy tales like the Snow Queen, the Snow Maiden. We might get some Polar bear King references, and some holiday-jolly ones too, considering the release season (though the plan was initially to stay away from it being particularly 'holiday'-seasonal). We can also look forward to lots of variations on ice magic and good doses of courage and friendship. If we're lucky we might get some legendary references to the folklore and stories surrounding the Northern Lights, which many cultures have, and possible more troll lore too, as a young troll is a new character joining them on the journey.

The Northern Lights Adventure Notebook (illustrated) is a great companion to the book and series and might inspire a little storytelling at home. Here are a couple of pages, with two more at the link. We wish they made more books for young kids like this that inspire fairy tale imagination and magical adventure!
What impact - if any - this will have on the 'mythology' of Frozen 2 remains to be seen, but in the meantime extra magic for the yule season is always welcome.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Movie Review: 'Trolls' Will Brighten Your Day In the Best Way

"Life isn't all cupcakes and rainbows.."

Approaching that strange season of random pupil-free days and the impending holiday chaos, our FTNH (Fairy Tale New Hound) found herself escorting some children to the only G-rated movie currently in the offering, Dreamworks Trolls. Here's her review:

If you don't know anything about this movie, it's quite a ridiculous set-up. Remember those ugly little troll dolls with the bright and colorful hair that kids collected in the eighties? It's based on that toy franchise. No story, no mythology to tap into, just those dolls. The only good thing I could think about it's existence was that a lot of animators and artists were going to be able to feed their families for that coming year, but it turns out they were doing more than most people realized.

I fully expected to plaster an insincere smile on my face and grit my teeth for 90 minutes, enduring an overload of glitter, rainbow colors and ridiculously upbeat songs, and for the first 10 minutes, that's pretty much where I was. Until I realized 5 minutes later that I wasn't gritting my teeth anymore. Instead I was genuinely enjoying myself, along with the kids who were delighted by the mix of textures and creatures and, yes, riotous color. I wasn't even cringing (much) at the remix of Peer Gynt's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" - and believe me, I was primed for outrage. (In the Hall Of the Mountain King, from the Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Griegwas one of those brilliant pieces of classical music I listened over and over as a child, sitting rapt in front of my father's speakers, imagining the story sequence of a brave hero invading the mountain fortress of the Goblin King.)

How did this happen? I'm not completely sure but Dreamworks did something right (and sadly underrated) with this movie. They took a serious look at how to be happy, did a great job of explaining how to get there, and they made putting it so simply look deceptively easy.

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that it followed some fairy tale principles. The peril is real (the trolls are in serious danger of being eaten) and that danger, though never graphic so as not to be suitable for young children, is never dumbed down or downgraded so as to be confusing. Being eaten means dying and never coming back, and that loss is real to the characters - no magical resurrection or going back in time to fix it. It's something kids understand and appreciate, making surviving - and a resolution - very satisfying for them.

The story premise is straightforward: trolls - who are the epitome of happiness, (and teeny, think insect size) are being eaten by the 'Bergens' (think ogres and house sized) every 'trollstice, as that's the only way the Bergen's can experience happiness - to eat the incarnation of it, literally. At the beginning the trolls are prisoners, and the Bergens are greedily looking forward to Trollstice, which happens to be the very next day, and to eating a troll and feeling happy again. The trolls make a run for it and escape into hiding, leaving the Bergens extremely unhappy, kicking out the power-hungry chef in disgrace for losing them all, and leaving the Bergen boy prince who was about to eat his very first troll, completely miserable, never expecting to experience happiness in his entire life... Cut to 20 years later and the Bergen prince is now and unhappy king and the King of the trolls daughter is soon to become queen. Queen-to-be Poppy wants to throw the biggest party of all time, against the advice of the one gloomy troll (called Branch), who believes they're still in danger. She does anyway, betrays their location to the disgraced chef and many trolls are captured and taken to the royal kitchen of Bergen town. Poppy, who managed to escape "by a hair", sets out optimistically, and ridiculously under-prepared, to save her friends and people, and discovers life is not all "cupcakes and rainbows".

I kind of love that the movie takes a real tongue-in-cheek approach to the use of color, glitter, optimism and scrapbooking, while at the same time celebrating those things. Take a look at the trailer:
Along with the undertones of troll and ogre mythology, which were very subtly sprinkled throughout the movie from start to finish, one fairy tale took center stage but in quite a different way. Cinderella motifs were immediately identifiable to the kids with me but the focus wasn't on 'the Cinderella' (who was not the main character by the way) having her dreams come true or being center stage when recognized by her prince. There are bigger, more important issues at stake at that point in the story and the Cinderella character is blessedly free of the 'where's my happy ending' focus. It was refreshing.

All the technical aspects meet today's high standards and, with a world of fabric and doll making materials, it's a pretty wonderful playground for the imagination - something the animators obviously had a lot of fun with. Backstory and occasional narration pops out in little scrapbooking sequences, which could easily be annoying if they weren't so funny. And yes - it's funny - wonderfully, innocently, purely funny, without all that self-referencing studio business that seems to be standard of animation these days.

A note should be made about the music, which was also done far better than I could have predicted. Again, I fully expected to be teeny-bopped to within an inch of my tolerance, (and admittedly the obnoxious party scene - which was supposed to be obnoxious, came close), but, after the first 15 minutes, I stopped cringing with every first bar of a new tune and instead found the pacing and treatment of the music throughout to be sensitively done, to the point that it even made for some extremely touching moments. By itself the soundtrack might be a bit much to take, but in context, it works far better than I could have anticipated.

While clearly aimed at including young children, I keep reading about adults who have been taken by surprise at how much they enjoyed the movie, and blown away by how wonderful the message is. The movie is unashamedly bright, positive and happy (something I can usually only take in small doses) and celebrates the enjoyment of beauty, song and dance, as well as other less obvious things, like the wonder in the world and the power of friendship. Though the 'turnaround' near the end was necessarily simplistic, by that stage I was happy to let it slide and enjoy the characters enjoying their hard won happiness.

If I had known what this movie was truly like, I would have collected every worried child I knew on November 10 and taken them to see this movie. There are a lot of people who could use a dose of this message right now, and its power to restore a little hope and happiness shouldn't be underestimated. Instead, we should be sharing it. (And if you have cupcakes, share those too.)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Baba Yaga's Guide To Feminism by Anne Thériault

Baba Yaga Flying (close-up) by Marylin Fill 
Reprinted with very kind permission of Anne Thériault, today we get a different, somewhat cheeky perspective from our favorite crone - artisanal spices and gristle included. Enjoy!
Note: Some strong language
Today we asked Baba Yaga—celebrated and infamous Russian witch—to share some of her wisdom and enduring tips on feminism. Here's the advice she had for all the young, struggling feminists out there:
1. Subvert traditional gender roles by taking a common kitchen implement and using it for your nefarious feminist activities. For example, fly around in a mortar and wield the pestle as your weapon. WHO'S MAKING ARTISANAL SPICE BLENDS NOW, EH?

The answer? Not you. Because you're too busy oppressing men to even think about setting foot in the kitchen.
2. Build a hut that stands on chicken legs. Not only will this be useful for getting you from place to place, but the legs will also be a deep metaphor for the lens through which society views women's bodies. Is the term “chicken legs” not synonymous with scrawniness? And yet are women not encouraged to be as slender as possible? It is this type of contradiction that highlights the absurdity of the expectations placed on women.
Your Chicken Leg Hut Performance Art will explore the idea that women can never win when it comes to their appearance; in a culture of pervasive misogyny, there will always be something “wrong” with how a woman looks. It will also ask its viewers to examine their own internal biases with regards to the objectification of women. Divorced of their context, are the chicken legs simply things? Or are they body parts deserving of love and respect? Remember that there are no right answers to these questions.
Plus you will be running around like the fucking boss of the forest in your hut on legs.

3. Free women from the shackles of domesticity by abducting their children. You can then indoctrinate these children in the ways of feminism and/or use them as free labour. Or just eat them. Whatever. It's hard to find good sources of protein deep in the Siberian forest.

4. Reject the male gaze by being an ugly old crone with long greasy hair and a hooked nose. Try dressing yourself exclusively in filthy rags, or, if those aren't available, maybe just wrap a huge bed sheet toga-style around your body. What's most important is that you're comfortable and can move your arms easily to cast wicked spells. Dress for you and your needs, not for anyone else.

Get yourself a set of iron teeth because why the fuck not, those are super metal. Like, literally metal.
Remind yourself that you don't exist to please men – you exist to be a terrifying witch who does whatever she wants.

5. Assert your independence by living deep in the woods, far away from any towns or villages. Prove that women can be self-reliant by going completely off the grid; make sure your only contact with other humans is when you want to fuck shit up and/or function as a sort of deus-ex-machina to help out some fairy tale hero. Use locally-sourced building materials—for example, the bones of your enemies can be constructed into a functional yet chic fence. 
6. Promote healthy consent by asking visitors to your hut if they came of their own free will. (Or were sent by someone else.) It's important for your students/admirers/victims to understand that they have bodily autonomy and don't have to wander around the woods looking for weird witchy huts if they don't want to. Have some diagrams and source materials ready, just in case you need to get more in-depth on the topic of enthusiastic consent.
Afterwards, you can show your visitors your cool collection of glowing-eyed skulls. After all, you don't get many strangers coming to your hut; you may as well use their time in your hut to your fullest advantage.
7. Whenever in doubt, remember the Deer Credo: does before bros, and hags before stags.
Ms. Thériault's original post can be found HERE,
and her Twitter account, which -wonderfully - pulls no punches,
can be found HERE.
More great words can be found by
her HERE at her blog, and you can support
her HERE via her Patreon account.
Thank you Anne!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

We Are Reading: 'Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned: Enchanted Stories From the French Decadent Tradition' (Oddly Modern Fairy Tales Series)

All images in this post are by Ray Caesar, (website) with the exception of the journal cover
"... enchanting yet troubling..."

It's easy to see why Fairy Tales For the Disillusioned is capturing rave reviews. Our cultural climate is ripe for such a round of stories and, as the series from which it appears states, these are, indeed Oddly Modern Fairy Tales.
Note: Special mention should be made here of eminent fairy tale authority Jack Zipes, who champions, and is Series Editor, for the Oddly Modern Fairy Tales, of which this book is the latest addition. "Oddly Modern Fairy Tales is dedicated to publishing unusual literary fairy tales produced mainly during the first half of the twentieth century. International in scope, the series includes new translations, surprising and unexpected tales by well-known writers and artists, and uncanny stories by gifted yet neglected authors. Postmodern before their time, the tales in Oddly Modern Fairy Tales transformed the genre and still strike a chord." (From the series introduction.)
To put it in very frank terms, these tales are the cynical and morose fan-fiction of largely angst-y fairy tale lovers. The characters are often familiar. Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Blue Beard make multiple appearances, as do familiar sounding fairies (of which there are many, as is more typical of French fairy tales than others) but their stories are not familiar and comforting and happily ever after is not only elusive, it's often become 'extinct'. Clearly written by those drawn to, and who deeply love, many things about fairy tales (and, perhaps obviously, the French incarnation of those), these aren't so much revisionist as just disenchanted (the editors say these tales "might better be called perversions rather than revisions"). Fairies feel redundant, true love means nothing and right and wrong depend where you stand, if they mean anything at all. Giving meaning to a series of events - even those with wonder - is pointless. Despite the presence of 'magic' there is often no wonder, or meaning, at all - which is the point. Disillusioned, as per the title, is, in fact, the perfect word to describe it; the tales as well as the writers.

Charles Baudelaire, one of "creative luminaries" of this collection (and the decadent movement in general) would, today, be categorized as "emo: "What do I care if you are good? Be beautiful and be sad!" but also more than a little "goth": “All that is beautiful and noble is the result of reason and calculation. Crime, the taste for which the human animal draws from the womb of his mother, is natural in its origins. Virtue, on the contrary, is artificial and supernatural, since gods and prophets were necessary in every epoch and every nation to teach virtue . . . the good is always the product of some art.” (Charles Baudelaire, from “Eloge du Maquillage”)

For those interested in exploring further, it's worth looking into the publication of the literary journal The Yellow Book (see image below) - the gaudy color automatically connecting it with illicit French novels of the time. Though the first authors and artists were generally much more conservative and non-radical in nature than readers anticipated, the public association was almost prescient with regard for how the journal developed.

From Wikipedia:
Upon its publication, Oscar Wilde dismissed The Yellow Book as "not yellow at all". In The Romantic '90s, Richard Le Gallienne, a poet identified with the New Literature of the Decadence, described The Yellow Book as the following: "The Yellow Book was certainly novel, even striking, but except for the drawings and decorations by Beardsley, which, seen thus for the first time, not unnaturally affected most people as at once startling, repellent, and fascinating, it is hard to realize why it should have seemed so shocking. But the public is an instinctive creature, not half so stupid as is usually taken for granted. It evidently scented something queer and rather alarming about the strange new quarterly, and thus it almost immediately regarded it as symbolic of new movements which it only partially represented".
It would be worth mentioning, at this juncture, that movements like these have a tendency to be "savagely attacked" by the critics of their time, yet championed by the passionate younger generation of artists, writers. These tales are an apt example of this. (The rear of the volume lists the authors with brief biographical notes and it's clear a common thread connects them all - lifestyles and interests both.)
It's too easy to say this movement of the 'decadent tradition' should be belittled or considered not to have literary value. Clearly it does (have literary value) - at least from this distance in time and space. The tales are a (now recognized) relevant reflection of the time period, and political and social discomfort and unrest that they came out of. They prove a fascinating counterpoint to the tales of Perrault and the eventual forty-one volumes of tales included in the salon 'workshopped' Cabinet des Fées. Changing times proved both exciting and fearful, (then as now) and even as more options, independence and opportunities were made possible, people (and fairies) began to feel displaced. Science, technology and education are seen to be the downfall of fairies - and of Wonder.

(A great overview of more of the types of stories and their connection to the postmodern fairy tale writings of Margaret Atwood, AS Byatt and Angela Carter, can be found in The Guardian's review by Alison Flood HERE.)

During the time period, however, such writing could easily have been described (read "looked down on") as indulgent and low-brow, which is also true. Just like the paintings of Ray Ceasar, an artist who blends Victorian aesthetics with Rococo and a dark, and yes, decadent, underbelly (his more mild paintings shown in this post), the tales aren't generally considered "high art". The average person is drawn to them, only to realize there is also something disturbing upon closer inspection. Ultimately the tales, just like Ceasar's paintings are indulgent, whiny and ultimately frustrating. From what we understand, the writers were the equivalent of somewhat privileged and inexperienced university students, impassioned with ideals, brilliant and keenly observant yet disillusioned and outspoken about their lot in life, often leading to an indulgent and decadent life style of keen unhappiness - a double-edged sword. But even as the reader swings between delight and annoyance, such a collection isn't easy to dismiss.
The general response to the book has been one of delight, and the tantalizing forms these tales take are made clear in the descriptionThe 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. ...In these stories, characters puncture the optimism of the naive, talismans don't work, and the most deserving don't always get the best rewards. The fairies are commonly victims of modern cynicism and technological advancement, but just as often are dangerous creatures corrupted by contemporary society. The collection underlines such decadent themes as the decline of civilization, the degeneration of magic and the unreal, gender confusion, and the incursion of the industrial. Clearly something of that ilk draws readers and writers today, but it is worth contemplating why. Why are we drawn to the "deliciously cruel"?

Just like the painfully annoying fifth book of the Harry Potter series, (The Order of the Phoenix) in which the 15 year old "hero" is perpetually petulant to the point of alienating everyone around him (and many readers), it's out of that same restlessness, fear and frustration that one of the best aspects of the series is born: Dumbledore's Army. (In which a group of students educate and arm themselves in secret, in case they need to rise up in their own defense - which they do indeed have to do.)

Does it justify the attitude? Absolutely not.

Is it understandable? Absolutely it is.

It's not wholly unlike where the Western world has revealed itself to be right now - something which gives this volume even more cause for consideration.

One of the Editors, Gretchen Schultz, stated:
“There’s a certain appeal today for literature having a cynical edge,” she said. “The theme of disillusionment, at this moment in the US election cycle, is timely. And more broadly, the social and political turmoil at the fin de siècle in France, which contributed to the decadent ethos and its reimagining of classic fairytales, offers some parallels to our world that are worthy of contemplation.”
It should be noted, this interview statement was made ahead of both the 2016 US Election results and the still developing fallout of the UK "Brexit" issue.

But the tale of these tales - fittingly - doesn't end there. We choose to end the review by quoting from the introduction by Editors Gretchen Schultz and Lewis Seifert:
At the turn of the twentieth century, one critic optimistically predicted that after their nineteenth century decline, fairy tales would regain visibility, prompted by science itself. Were not electric lighting, horseless carriages, urban underground railways, and moving pictures all cause for marvel?
... As the twentieth century dawned,

fairies and genies began once again to show themselves to people. The first automobiles they caught sight of convinced then that the prophecy had been fulfilled. They believed that women travelling in automobiles were fairies come to revisit the realms they once inhabited. (Goyau 18)  
Technology might just have given new life to the "last fairy".
Additional note of interest to fairy tale folk and scholars:
Many of the fairy tales in this volume are printed in English for the first time.
TALES [* denotes those translated & published in English for the 1st time]
Fairies' GiftsThe Fairies of FranceDreaming BeautyIsolina / IsolinThe Way to HeavenAn Unsuitable Guest*The Three Good Fairies*The Last FairyThe Lucky Find*The Wish Granted, Alas!The Suitors of Princess MimiLiette's Notions*On the Margins of Perrault's Fairy Tales: The White Rabbit and the Four-Leaf Clover*The Ogresses*Fairy Morgane's Tales: Nocturne II*Bluebeard's Little WifeThe Green She-DevilCiceMandosianeFairy Tales for the Disillusioned*The Living Door Knocker The Mortis*Sleeping Beauty Didn't Wake UpPrincess of the Red LiliesPrincess Snowflower*Mandosiane in CaptivityPrince CharmingThe Story of the Prince of Valandeuse*The Pleasant Surprise*The Last Fairy*The Seven Wives of BluebeardThe Story of the Duchess of Cicogne and of Monsieur de BoulingrinThe 28-Kilometer Boots*Cinderella Arrives by AutomobileCinderella Continued, or the Rat and the Six LizardsCinderella, the Humble and Haughty Child*