Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Theme For This #FolkloreThursday is Favorite Folk and Fairy Tales!

Do you know this Icelandic fairy tale? (Answer below)

If you're not a Twitter regular, may we suggest popping in on Thursday this week for a topic close to our hearts: Favorite Fairy Tales!

All you need to do is look up the hashtag:
(ie. put this hashtag into the search bar
and all the tagged posts will list automatically for you to peruse and enjoy.
Make sure you click "latest" instead of just "top",
so you see all the posts as they appear).

Everyone has the opportunity to chime in with their two cents and it's a good way to discover ones you haven't heard of, as well as see awesome artwork and fairy tale trivia and facts, all thanks to the enthusiastic folklorists and fairy tale aficionados who spend their days chasing and musing on tales - popular through the obscure. Just make sure you add #FolkloreThursday to your tweet so everyone will see it (especially on Thursday, people tend to follow hashtags first, then look up people afterward).

We are so much looking forward to this, we have it on the calendar and are organizing our day around it. Hope to see you there!

Note: #FolkloreThursday begins in the morning UK time, so US folks, you can start enjoying the posts on Wednesday night and early Thursday, but it does continue through to the end of Thursday (and sometimes trickles on a little the day after too).
Answer to header question: “The Witch in the Stone Boat" aka "The Giantess in the Granite Boat", found in Andrew Lang's Yellow Fairy Book, and in Icelandic Fairy Tales edited by Mrs. Angus W. Hall. Here is a storytelling video of the tale:

Disney's "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" Update

Although we announced the trailer release on Twitter the day it came out, we realize there may not be a handy summary of details, the trailer and screenshots etc regarding this highly anticipated Winter release from Disney, and thought it might be nice to gather them here to bring folks up to date, especially as the film will be released a little earlier than "Christmas week" as originally planned.

We posted at length during the development and pre-production of the film HERE and HERE, explaining the sources being used and the approach (along with the cast list) so we'll just get straight to the synopsis to remind you of where the plot is being hinted at going, and the limited looks so far. (They still have a lot of work to do with special effects etc, which will likely take most of the year.)

Here's the latest on how the production is going:
(In late December), the (Disney) studio announced it was planning a massive 32 days of additional photography on the ballet-inspired fantasy movie, bringing in “Captain America: The First Avenger” director Joe Johnston instead of original filmmaker Lasse Hallstrom. The studio said Hallstrom was unavailable due to scheduling issues — though he has no other projected publicly lined up — but he will be involved with postproduction. (TheWrap)
Here's the official synopsis, released with the trailer in December:
All Clara (Mackenzie Foy) wants is a key – a one-of-a-kind key that will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift from her late mother. A golden thread, presented to her at godfather Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key—which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. It’s there that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. Clara and Phillip must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to the tyrant Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), to retrieve Clara’s key and hopefully return harmony to the unstable world. Starring Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy and featuring a special performance by Misty Copeland, Disney’s new holiday feature film “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is directed by Lasse Hallström and inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale. In theaters on Nov. 2, 2018.
Here's the trailer:
No summary would be complete without a boat-load of stills. the fantasy aspect is very apparent, though the responses to the visuals seem to be quite mixed. Some people love them, others are calling it an "Alice in Wonderland reboot". It's early days yet, considering how much still needs to be done, but what do our readers think about it so far? (Note: Pictures shown in no particular order.)

We barely get to see Helen Mirren as Mother Ginger but she's intriguing, even in just a glimpse. And she has a wooden sword...

We get glimpses of Misty Copeland dancing "all the parts" as The Ballerina. 
While we have no doubt Copeland's dancing will be phenomenal, we're yet to be wowed by this sequence and hope the end result will have more innovation than what's been shown to date. The use of Tchaikovsky's score means we'll definitely be treated to another variation on this beloved suite; definitely a plus.
This sequence where Clara sees a tag on a string, rope or ribbon, then follows it in some sort of Victorian parlour Christmas game, is intriguing. We've seen a couple of games like this in films and TV episodes before (Reign anyone?) and even vaguely remember playing something like this as children but finding information on this game is proving difficult to dig up. We're quite curious about the significance and symbolism it may have with regard to the story and the four realms. Feel free to chime in and share links in the comments, if you find some online resources on this topic.
This tree opening and framing looks really familiar! (Pan's Labyrinth, Once Upon A Time, Maleficent, among others...)

And finally a little bit of odd trivia that folklorists should enjoy, from The Times:
Margaret Thatcher’s influence has been widely felt but few would have put money on the Iron Lady being the inspiration for a Disney heroine. According to Keira Knightley, the puffed-up pink hairdo flaunted by her character, the Sugar Plum Fairy, in Disney’s forthcoming film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, was based on Thatcher’s bouffant, in volume if not colour. “There were a couple of Tory female politicians I thought of,” Knightley tells Variety. “She’s Margaret Thatcher meets Marilyn Monroe.”


This shot of Clara in the toy soldier's uniform is possibly the most intriguing to us; it indicates she's not a passive child-heroine, but an active protagonist. While the other visuals are fine, this is the one that makes us curious. Bring on November!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

'Kindle In Motion' Brings Seven Gorgeously Illustrated Grimm Tales To Life

The Brothers Grimm: Illuminated Fairy Tales, Vol. 1 [Kindle in Motion] Kindle Edition

We only just discovered this wonderfully illustrated fairy tale e-collection, possibly because we prefer paper books for reading and holding, but the whole project appears beautifully done, and the audio sample is pretty nice too.

When e-books eventually make the transition to 'digital paper', (so you can carry one full size book and just re-load it with the novel or volume you want to read that day, still being able to turn pages etc) these sorts of moving books are exactly what we would love to add to our collection!

Here's the blurb for The Brothers Grimm: Illuminated Fairy Tales, Vol. 1 [Kindle in Motion]:

From “Rapunzel” to “Hansel and Gretel,” Grimm’s Fairy Tales have enchanted readers for generations. This dramatic Kindle in Motion edition presents seven classic stories—each restored to its original version and reimagined with modern digital illustrations. 

Each tale is lovingly portrayed by a different artist: Kali Ciesemier’s vibrant colors animate the thorny path of “Briar Rose.” The sinister course of “Hansel and Gretel” takes a twist in the candy hues of Peter Diamond. Daniel Krall’s richly detailed line work shines amid the wickedly dark “The Juniper-Tree.” Nicolas Rix’s charming storybook style delights in “The Frog-Prince or Iron Henry.” Ashley Mackenzie’s golden tones light up the ball in “Cinderella.” Horses, ducks, and birds turn macabre in Wesley Allsbrook’s wildly gestural portrayal of “The White Snake.” And Rapunzel lets down her hair in Rovina Cai’s hauntingly beautiful drawings. 
Experience the iconic classics you know and love, lavishly illustrated to breathe new life into age-old tales.
Did you take note of those illustrator names? No wonder this looks so good!

And a quick (re)listing of the fairy tales:
  • Briar Rose
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • The Juniper Tree
  • The Frog Prince or Iron Henry
  • Cinderella
  • The White Snake
  • Rapunzel
And in case you're wondering, these are the Grimm versions, not watered down 'Disney-fied' versions, but at the same time beautifully told with a lovely storyteller feel. (Audio preview is also available on the Amazon page.)
A note about viewing options for those who don't have an actual Kindle device:
Kindle In Motion This book can be read on any device, including Kindle E-readers. Kindle in Motion books include art, animation, or video features that can be viewed on certain Fire tablets and the free Kindle app for iOS and Android. You can switch features on or off at any time. 
There are a number of other 'Kindle in Motion' books available that might interest readers as well. The Amazon page shows previews of the animation. Each title is linked to its respective page: 

Friday, January 26, 2018

"I Kill Giants" Gives Us Much More Than (Just) A Female Version Of Jack the Giant Slayer

“Barbara Thorson is your new hero. A quick-witted, sharp- tongued middle-schooler who isn’t afraid of anything. As the only girl in school carrying an ancient Norse warhammer in her purse and killing giants for a living, why wouldn’t she be? I Kill Giants is the sweeping, bittersweet story of a young girl struggling to conquer monsters both real and imagined as her world crumbles at the feet of giants bigger than any one child can handle.”
Anywhere you have a child, or young person, dealing with giants, the comparison to Jack (of giant slayer and beanstalk fame), is inevitable, and with this film, and it's graphic novel source, there is some sense to that. Despite the lack of enchanted, cloud-reaching plants to climb, this world of the bunny-ear-wearing 5th-grader heroine, Barbara Thorson, is filled with all the magic and peril of Jack's, and the metaphors work too, with or without the, er, flora. And with the trailer showing the lines between reality and fantasy being more than a little blurred, the echo of "Jack themes" is stronger than ever.

Take a look at the newly-released trailer. (Note: it's followed by a pre-released scene, with Barbara showing her new friend one of her "Giant traps".):

In Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura’s comic book, I Kill Giants, it’s unclear just how much of young Barbara’s giant-slaying adventures are real and how much are part of an elaborate fantasy world she’s created in her mind to escape from the emotional stresses of her actual life. The new trailer for the film adaptation does a good job of getting that point across. (iO9)
The graphic novel*, and the movie, take the nerdy outcast type and, unlike making her silent and withdrawn as is typical (especially for female characters), Barbara is outspoken, witty and takes no prisoners with her speech and humor, very much like the typical Jack of the various Jack tales (from beanstalks to giant slayings and much, much more). 

Although she's just as brash and energetic (and imaginative), it's clear that, unlike most versions of "Jack" we've seen, she is dealing with a lot of pain. Uniquely, this loner type is a character whom you can't simply pity, despite her situation and life-troubles; she requires the audience's respect as well. It's great to see and, from what we can tell, strikes a fairly rare balance in drawing a girl who is very different from, and still very like, any regular kid, and it's clear that this emotional balance has made loyal fans and readers out of many different people.

Here's a description of Barbara and the graphic novel premise by Joe Kelly, the writer & creator of the comics, and screenwriter for the movie adaptation, from an interview with CBR.com:
“The story follows Barbara Thorson, a troubled but resilient fifth grader who’s a bit of an outcast — Dungeons & Dragons, fantasy and general mopery are her hobbies. But it looks like she’s taking the fantasy thing a little too far. She’s always talking about giants, reading books on giants, setting traps for giants, getting ready to kill a giant. Almost the entire story is told from her point-of-view, so we see what she sees: pixies, critters, and a monster that lives upstairs in her house, so terrifying that Barbara only sleeps in the basement. So is she crazy, or does she know something that we don’t? Does she have an active imagination, or does she see another world? The story kicks off as this fantasy world begins to crack because of some outside forces–a bully, the school psychologist, and her first real friend.” (Joe Kelly, from an interview with CBR.com)

I Kill Giants deals with issues similar to those in A Monster Calls** (highly recommended by the way), of sickness and family concerns, as well as bullying, loneliness and friendship, anger, the very real pain children can have, and a different "coming-of-age", but it also has it's own mark to make, and, might be even more in touch with present societal concerns. In other words, Barbara may just be the heroine many people - girls in particular - are looking for right now.

Does Barbara bring to mind another modern fairy tale-type heroine as well? How about Fionna, (of Fionna and Cake) in the animated TV series Adventure Time? And it's not just the bunny ears. In the Adventure Time universe, Fionna is the hero of the time, and this version of the 'universe' in which she appears, is deliberately gender-swapped. Not only is she not Finn, (of Finn and Jake), she's not a boy. Boys are typically the loners who "go out and save the world" and have tales created around their adventures - their angst, their journey to maturation and their eventual triumphs. In the gender-swapped universe of Adventure Time, it's Fionna who fills this role, much to the delight of audiences*** and fans who loved seeing a weird-but-strong female character saving princes who needed saving, and in I Kill Giants, it's Barabara Thorson who takes it upon herself to save the town and school from impending destruction by giants. It should be noted that the town and school typically view her with either derision or concern and unlike most heroes, she's not given a pass for her quirks, let alone respect. In this respect, a female hero is often more alone than a male hero. At least boys, who are derided for their crazy ideas, are still ultimately respected for 'wanting to be a hero'. In a girl, this quality and the various manifestations of that, is just seen as "cray-cray".

It's great to see this addressed and these issue being given the respect they deserve. Using the lens of a fairy tale is playing a major part in this, and that's no coincidence. Nothing tells us the truth, quite like a fairy tale.

I Kill Giants, directed by Anders Walter and also starring Zoe Saldana and Imogen Poots, hits theaters March 23, 2018.

*The graphic novel has been nominated for a lot of different awards, including an Eisner, and received the International Manga Award in 2012.
**I Kill Giants was apparently pitched and began development around the same as A Monster Calls, but the latter, made with a bigger budget, ended up making it to the screen a year earlier.
*** The debut airing of the Fionna and Cake saw "a dramatic increase in all boy demographics" and "marked a 42% increase in viewers compared to a year earlier". (Source)