Friday, September 27, 2019

Art: Conformed Fairy Tales

Who would have thought to put Snow White, freshly recovered from her harrowing run through the woods and peering out to discover the dwarfs cottage, next to Diana in huntress mode (from Titian's "The Death of Actaeon")? What are your thoughts about this character when you discover Snow White's legs have become those of the goddess, as she is discovering the tragic end of a hunt? When you realize Diana's legs are stepping into a scene of what remains of a man-transformed-to-deer, did the inclusion of the one hiding behind the tree (on Snow's left) suddenly take on a darker tone?

The ideas both conflict and reflect on each other, with your brain encouraging you to try to find a link, since your eye sees the limbs lining up so well. Though Snow White as a hunter isn't quite as foreign an idea as it used to be (thanks to ABC's Once Upon A Time TV series), thinking about Diana and Snow White conforming to each other, creates a new way to look at the fairy tale of Snow White in particular. 

Such an image, once you realize what is happening and the sources of the two halves, is incredibly thought-provoking... (Are we at 1000 words yet?)

It's titled "Confórmi [the forms do not belong to anyone]" and specifically adds text to remind us of this definition: "Conform": be similar in form or type; agree.

And, of course, it makes us think of those fairy tales in new ways too...

We could probably muse on any one of these juxtapositions for a while but instead, we'll leave you with the images and whatever thoughts they generate for you, though we'd love you to share any flashes of inspiration and questions they may prompt in the comments!

The two pieces of art used are noted below each picture (in the original Italian text from the Tumblr) so you can identify each of them, in case your curiosity wishes you to wander a little further.

Enjoy your fairy tale art meditation today!
Giotto, Compianto sul Cristo Morto, Cappella degli Scrovegni, Padova, 1303-1035
Walt Disney, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937
Sandro Botticelli, Annunciazione di Cestello, 1498-1499
Walt Disney, Cinderella, 1950 
Walt Disney, Sleeping Beauty, 1959
Giotto, Dormitio Virginis, 1312-1314
Giotto, Sermon to the Birds, Legend of St Francis, Basilica Papale di San Francesco, Italy, 1295-1299
Walt Disney, Sleeping Beauty, 1959
Wolfgang Reitherman, The Sword in the Stone, 1963
Eero Saarinen and Harry Bertoia, MIT Chapel, Cambridge | Massachusetts, USA, 1955
Gustave Doré, L’Enfer de Dante Alighieri, 1857
Benjamin Lacombe, Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, SOLEIL, 2003
Pirro Ligorio, Orco | Parco dei Mostri, Bomarzo, Italy, 1547
Spreepark, Berlin, Germany, 1969 - 2001

Thursday, September 26, 2019

"The Secret of the Tattered Shoes" - A Fresh, Dark & Poetic Retelling by Jackie Morris

Now available in the UK (and coming to the US in Fall 2020) is a new and "poetically dark" retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses (also known as The Shoes That Were Danced To Pieces). Always popular among fairy tale fans, and often voted as "one of the fairy tales I wish Disney would animate", there haven't been as many retellings as one would think, though it appears to have gained notice again recently and we're seeing projects bubble up using this fairy tale here and there...

The Secret of the Tattered Shoes is from publisher Tiny Owl's series One Story, Many Voices, in which authors and illustrators explore well-known fairy tales and folktales from different perspectives. (They are the same folks who are behind Cinderella of the Nile.)

Here's the description for the new Morris/Abdollahi collaboration:
The Secret of the Tattered Shoes is a fresh interpretation of the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tale about twelve princesses who are locked in at night, yet whose dancing shoes are still worn down by morning. A young soldier is tasked to discover their night-time adventures. But unlike the story told by the Brothers Grimm, this soldier seeks a different ending. Jackie's dark and poetic text updates this well-known tale and shows how stories evolve and adapt over time.
Beautifully illustrated by Ehsan Abdollahi, who has created stunning puppet-like illustrations in rich and delicate detail, this unique illustrative style brings the story to life and perfectly encapsulate the beauty and melancholy of the story.
Have a look at the lovely book trailer by publisher Tiny Owl:
Made known to the next generation most recently via her award-winning illustrations for The Lost Words, (with writing by Robert Mcfarlane) Jackie Morris, an illustrator and author for many years, has put her writing to work and created a poetic retelling of the fairy tale.

Iranian artist, animator, and teacher, Ehsan Abdollahi, who uses handmade papers in his collages, has created beautiful and eye-catching puppet-like illustrations that Morris says captures her vision for the tale exactly as she meant. "The paintings are so beautiful. With the echo of birdsong in the feathers become leaves. The textures are wonderful, the characters just lovely. "

About her story, Jackie says:
"It concerns a man, traumatised by the choices he has made, tired of life, weary of the world, a wanderer. He wanders, this lost soul, and meets a wise woman who lives in the forest, more at home with the creatures of the world than the human creatures. She sees the damage to his soul, sends him on his way, hopes he will find peace. Wishes it to be so. And she gives him a gift and a slight piece of advice. He meets women of another kind and undertakes a task, sure in the knowledge that it will end in his death.The ending might surprise. Does he find the peace his heart seeks, or does he choose death?"
Photo via Jon Biddle 
@jonnybid on Twitter

You can see a sort-of behind-the-scenes of the illustrations and layout as the book was being created that Jackie shared on her blog HERE, which reveals some of Ehsan's fascinating process. Ehsan's animator-eye is very evident as he assembles his collages! (A lovely example is shown below.)

Here's a review by Liz Robinson at LoveReading4Kids, explaining a little of how this retelling is unique:
In process piece for The Secret of the Tattered Shoes
by Ehsan Abdollahi
Exquisitely gorgeous illustrations accompany a well known fairy tale with a difference, an edge. Tiny Owl Publishing have a series of books called ‘One Story, Many Voices’, where authors and illustrators explore well known fairy tales from different perspectives. Here, the Twelve Dancing Princesses from the Brothers Grimm are transformed into The Secret of the Tattered Shoes by Jackie Morris. I opened the package containing the book and exclaimed in delight. The illustrations by Ehsan Abdollahi carry the story perfectly, the gold glistens, the pears call to be picked, the background as stunning as the puppet-like characters. The story by award-winning Jackie Morris sits boldly on the page, simple, evocative, familiar yet different. The love that Jackie Morris holds for nature shines through, while the ending made me smile, it suits, it feels, well, just so right. The Secret of the Tattered Shoes conjures the traditional fairy tale yet awakens new feelings and thoughts. I absolutely adored this rich and vibrant tale, both for the new interpretation, and the illustrations which adorn it.
Sold yet? We are!

UK fairy tale folks can go to Tiny Owl and order HERE. Keen folk in the US (who don't have the patience to wait till Fall 2020) can order a minimum of two directly from Tiny Owl, to help support their awesome indie mission of providing new perspectives on familiar fairy tales, (you can contact them through Twitter for the exact details), and they'll ship to you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Cinderella's Glass Arm Is More Magical Than Her Glass Slipper! (+ Discussion On Disability In Fairy Tales)

You want magic? This is magic.

Professional costume designer and one-armed cosplayer, Mandy Pursley, has become the Cinderella so many people need.

Asked by the mother of a girl born with one arm, for some princess-costume inspiration for her daughter, Pursley went above and beyond and created something beautiful, extraordinary and very inspiring.
She said: ‘When my daughter was studying Cinderella stories at school last year, I realized that even though there were so many beautiful tales from around the world, there were still no princesses who looked like me. ‘When I was growing up with a physical difference, I never saw girls like myself represented in the media, so it took me a long time to realize that what makes us different can also be the thing that makes us strong, beautiful, and unapologetically unique." (
She added this information when talking to
"I remember being enthralled watching Jim Abbott play baseball, because he was the only amputee I had ever seen on television," she told Insider in an email. "But I still never saw amputee women being portrayed as normal, beautiful, or strong, so it took me a long time to realize that being different and unique can actually be a positive trait."
"Representation is so powerful," Pursley said. "It is so much easier to believe in yourself when you are able to see people who look like you achieving the same dreams that you have. People who have differences really just want to feel included and accepted without feeling the need to hide what makes them unique."
With the request for this other little girl, who was having the same issues growing up, Pursley decided it was high time to change that. A graphic designer by trade, she created her own version of fairy tale princess. Pursley designed her costume, as well as her husband's (who plays Prince Charming in these shots), then with the assistance of artist Gilbert Lozano (and other specialists*), she commissioned this phenomenal prosthetic: a "glass" arm, for a different take on Cinderella.

When she tried on her custom-made and fitted resin arm for the first time, Mandy said she cried with happiness. "It really felt like a dream was coming true... it was so beautiful and amazing to see this be a reality.”
Initially, the cosplay was supposed to be for Comicon but Pursley ended up being ill and couldn't attend. Once she received the request from the little girl's mother, Pursley and her husband decided that, rather than wait until next year's Comicon, they would go ahead and create a photoshoot now, to post the images online. They enlisted Pursley's friend, Kelly Anderson, to take the photos which became an instant social media hit on September 19 (2019).
“I think it sends a really great message to little girls, especially,” Anderson said. “You can be creative. You can be beautiful. You can be the main character in your own story.”
Not all the images are not shown on all the sites sharing this story but Pursley and her husband did not shy away from the iconic scene of the story in which Cinderella loses her glass slipper  - in this case her glass arm - either, and we were thrilled to see it! (see he two-shot below) Possibly anticipating the inevitable trolls of the internet making horrible references to losing an arm (and all the ugly arm and hand references you can imagine), they didn't ignore or avoid this part of the story. Instead, here you have representation, without any glove or glass-glamor, of a one-armed princess, being pursued by the prince who wants her. It's the Cinderella story with a unique, personal and memorable twist.
Accompanying the lovely shots posted on her Facebook page, Pursley wrote:

This costume is dedicated to all the little girls learning to navigate the world with their "lucky fins" or other challenges. I hope you know you are beautiful, and that you are UNSTOPPABLE!!! Write your own story, and be your own kind of princess.

Mandy Pursley's whole story on Facebook can be read HERE, and we recommend you do. This wonderful act of creativity and courage is changing the landscape for the better.

Note: If you, like us, are not only enchanted but getting Cinder vibes (thanks to Marissa Meyer's wonderful sci-fi retelling of Cinderella) you're not alone. (And we do recommend picking up Meyer's retelling in which Cinder loses her cyborg leg, if you haven't read it.) You'll see some of the same issues being explored and it's an empowering read.

As For Disability In Fairy Tales...
Pursley's "glass arm" also brings to mind The Maid Without Hands and the plight of many (too many!) wronged women; some having permanent scarring and some, even today, having lost hands or arms despite a changing world that no longer sees this as acceptable 'punishment'. Unlike the fairy tale, in which the girl is given silver hands for a while, and then, eventually has her natural hands magically restored (or re-grown!), such an event isn't possible in real life. Though the happy end of the tale could have occurred when the girl, now queen, was given silver hands by a king who loved her, and had a son of her own that she loved and cared for, this fairy tale isn't done until she has her original human hands back. With even such a dark tale insisting that happiness isn't complete until this happens, is it any wonder it's difficult for differently-abled people to see themselves as the heroes, princes and princesses of fairy tales?

Whether born differently physically or mentally, or changed to be different due to trauma or accident, disability has so many forms. Some are obvious by being visible. Some are not, either because they can be hidden under clothes, or they are internal/mental. All those who live with these differences, however, have the "princess problem" in common: most don't see themselves represented in a positive light. They see themselves as incomplete, and many tales we tell reinforce this. Too often in fairy tales, disabilities are things that need to be overcome or transformed to able-bodiedness, or, just as problematically, be revealed as a "superpower" to make up for having the disability in the first place, in order for the hero or heroine to have a happy ending. The state of 'princess' is not possible until she is "fixed", but that is largely because we tend to equate disability with disadvantage. People like Pursley (who designed the concept, the costumes, sewed them, collaborated on her prosthetic and cosplayed it) show us disability shouldn't be synonymous with disadvantage. If you ask people what the qualities of a 'true fairy tale princess' are, disabilities can still exist within that definition, so why are we restricting this idea of what a princess is?

This beautiful creation of a "glass arm" by Pursley is in direct contrast to another thing that happens in older, more infamous versions of the Cinderella tale - that in which the step-sisters, (attempting to secure a happy ending for themselves), cut off part of their heel or a toe, so they can cram their own foot into the delicate glass slipper. In this horrible reversal, the stepsisters (and their mother!) decide they need to mutilate their bodies to fit the princess mold. (And these are - supposedly - able-bodied women feeling the unrealistic princess-pressure!) The truth is that so many more people (girls especially) choose this route, to the point of harming themselves - from fad diets and restrictive 'make-overs' to plastic surgery - while chasing the happy ending. If able-bodied people feel this, how much more so must differently-abled people? Sadly, many assume the role of hero or princess is impossible for their personal narratives, and relegate themselves to minor or supporting roles instead of seeing that their story is just as important as anyone else's. But it shouldn't be that way. Diversity and representation matter, and we, especially those of us who tell fairy tales, need to be conscious of this and tell more inclusive stories.

In the true-life story of Mandy Pursley using her difference as an opportunity for beauty and magic, instead of harm, or trying to mask or change her disability, we see a celebration of self and happiness. Instead of being "less-than" her actions make her "more" and a role model. Here is representation, and inspiration. Just like Cinderella, who was not who she was because of the glass slipper, Pursley is not a princess because she now has a glass arm either. The glass slipper and arm, were, are, tools. The difference is that we now see Pursley for who she is, and has been all along: a fairy tale princess. 

Pursley's sentiment that you don't have to be the princess others are expecting you to be is a powerful and empowering one. Be yourself and create your own version of a princess. There is real magic in that.

*Here is the list of heartfelt thanks from Mandy to all those key people who, in addition to her photographer friend Kelly Anderson, helped make her vision a reality. We thought we'd include it to show you, you don't have to create a fairy tale all by yourself - sometimes - often - friends and partners are part of the recipe:
Many, MANY thanks to all the people who helped turned this dream into reality! My real-life Prince Charming, Ryan Pursley, who didn't think I was crazy while I kept sewing for MONTHS. Gilbert, the brilliant artist who didn't even know me but believed in my dream and is now a cherished friend. Eric Morris and Nick Ibarra at Cemrock who generously offered their equipment and assistance to create the glass arm. Jennifer Woodard at Hanger Clinic in Vista, CA for helping me figure out how to attach the prosthetic, and of course the amazing Kelly Anderson for taking such beautiful photographs!! Wig is by On The Wall Wigs. Who needs magic when you are surrounded by such talented and generous people!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Kirsten Dunst & Sofia Coppola Want To Make A New Version of Faerie Tale Theatre But No One Will Bite?!

Yes. You read that correctly!

Here is the quote from an interview just this month (Vogue magazine speaking to Kirsten Dunst):

A contemporary version of Faerie Tale Theatre, helmed by Kirsten Dunst and Sofia Coppola? With great directors and a bunch of celebrities lined up and ready to jump on board?? And no studio is interested??!!! (a.k.a. willing to spend the $)

This confounding news was included in an article published in Vogue on September 9th (2019), interviewing Kristen Dunst, right after she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Shelley Duvall posing with a poster showing some of the stars
she worked with on various fairy tales during her series
Both Kirsten Dunst and Sofia Coppola (who are longtime friends and worked together on Marie Antoinette, Beguiled and many other projects) have been publicly enthusiastic about their love of fairy tales, and it's a massive, missed opportunity for any network or studio to not take the pair of them on, especially for a project that will hit all those buzz buttons: Star directors! Star actors! Fantasy settings & costumes! And the nostalgia-hook of the moment: 80's remakes & call-backs!

With regard to their love of fairy tales, it's been something both women have always been drawn to.

Kirsten Dunst
Kirsten Dunst has long proclaimed her love for her favorite book, Jane Yolen's Briar Rose, even admitting it has been her "bedside book" for many years. There were rumors she expressed an interest in being involved in a movie adaptation, (though we can't find any source online to confirm that), something Jane Yolen said she would have been thrilled to see but that hasn't eventuated, despite the book having been optioned for a film version quite a number of times. When Kirsten originally announced this, she would have been the correct age to play the protagonist, but odds are good she would still want to be involved in some capacity should a film adaptation of Briar Rose ever get off the ground.

Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppola, as anyone who has been following this blog for a while knows, was set to direct her own version of The Little Mermaid for Universal Pictures and Working Title Productions. The first news about her vision for retelling the fairy tale was thrilling, edgy, and promising and fresh - and representative - vision of the story. She was on the project for a year before things came to a fault. Unfortunately, it seems her vision was just a little too edgy (risky?) for the studio and Coppola left the project, citing creative differences. (No one has yet to revisit the project for Universal.)

But back to the concept of a contemporary version of Faerie Tale Theatre.

If no studio will take the plunge and trust it will bring in the crowds (and the $), how do we:
a) change their minds
b) go about crowd-funding this?

As much as we love Shelley Duvall's series, we all agree it could use some serious diversifying and updating to reflect proper cultural - and differently-abled - representation, which makes the concept even more exciting!

(Gosh - and we just missed the "pop-up exhibit", advertising poster shown below, of the costumes from the show too; which means, they still exist... and might be available for re-use, should any brave costume designer wish to take on the job of respectfully overhauling the originals for a new show...)

We know there are many folks who would be willing to support a project like this and show just as much enthusiasm and excitement as we have about the potential. Just take a look at these early social media responses now the word is getting out about this. Time to tweet this - and retweet this - and make sure to tag @Netflix, or @Hulu, or any well-funded Independent studio and get this happening.

And while you guys are doing that, go ahead and start making lists of fairy tales with current celebrity actors in the lead roles, then post them and tag those actors and @kirstendunst *, and add the #NewFaerieTaleTheatre hashtag to boost this project.

If enough people show interest, their wish (and ours) might just come true.

Fairy Tale Bonus of the Day:
A Look At How Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre Began
& Illustrating Those Beautiful Posters

If you haven't seen the full set of posters from Faerie Tale Theatre (we included 5 small ones in our header-banner at the top of this post), we recommend going and taking a look HERE.

Then you can go read an article on how those posters - and the show - came about HERE.

Here's an excerpt:
Once Upon a Time…It was 1980, the sun reflected brightly off the limestone cliffs surrounding Anchor Bay in Malta...The ramshackle locale was the set for the ambitious and original motion picture production of ‘Popeye’. From behind the camera, director Robert Altman was watching Robin Williams, a new talent chosen to portray the eponymous sailor. The energetic actor was performing a scene and was leaping about the set. 
Playing the role of Popeye’s lady love, Olive Oyl, actress Shelley Duvall sat reading under the shade of an umbrella... Looking up from her book, she watched Williams as he danced about. Duvall returned to her book, she had read it many times before but the stories felt as fresh and exciting as the time that she had first read them: 
‘Princess, why do you weep so bitterly?’ ‘Alas!’ said she, ‘what can you do for me, you nasty frog? My golden ball has fallen into the spring.’ ... 
Duvall smiled to herself; she looked up at Williams again and thought he would make a great frog in a live adaptation of the tale. The fact that this thought occurred to Duvall was not unusual. For the past few years she’d had the idea to create a live-action series that brought her much loved fairy tales to life. 
The idea became a reality in September of 1982, when ‘The Tale of the Frog Prince’, starring Robin Williams was broadcast on Showtime, the US cable television channel. The premiere episode of Duvall’s ‘Faerie Tale Theatre’ series was followed by 25 more adaptations of world-famous classic tales brought to life with creative scripts, dazzling special effects and lavish production design formatted aesthetically after the work of a famous illustrator or painter. With Duvall serving as executive producer, the series ran until 1987 and featured the most popular entertainers of the day playing the parts of the celebrated characters. Conceived with special consideration to entertain and instruct the young, the series was also executed to amuse and appeal to adults. By 1983, the immense popularity of ‘Faerie Tale Theatre’ led to the decision to begin releasing the episodes on home video. 
Released by CBS/Fox Video, the covers of the 26 titles in the series featured unique illustrations that depicted the actors rendered in the style of the famous illustrator or painter whose work had inspired the production design of the episode.
You can read the long-but-interesting article in its entirety HERE.
*That is the most official Kirsten Dunst twitter handle. Sofia Coppola is not on social media.

Of Cancer Giants & Recovery Beanstalks (A Health Update)

Yelena Bryksenkova

Our Fairy Tale Newsroom isn't in full swing yet but we are on the tail end of two back-to-back surgeries, two hospital stays and - so far - excellent recovery on both of those counts.

Both our Editor and her husband are now officially cancer-surgery-survivors.

Doctors appointments, ongoing tests, and recovery are still very much the flavor of the day but we are slowly finding our new normal this week. News and social media appearances are likely to remain sporadic for a while but we've conquered the fearsome giant that suddenly loomed large in our lives - twice now! - these past 14 months*, and are now working on the rest of that beanstalk climb... (sometimes climbing down is more challenging than climbing up!)

To all those lovely readers who have sent healing vibes and good wishes, thank you so much. We greatly appreciate your support in these challenging times.

Gypsy Thornton & Family

*14 months from our Editor's double-mastectomy, 19 months if you count from our Junior Editor's emergency apendectomy and subsequent two hospital stays early last year! We will be very happy if we never have to live at the hospital ever again.