Saturday, October 31, 2020

Happy Halloween 2020!

Congratulations are due to you - to us! It has been A YEAR and look at that: we've made it to the end of October and Halloween. Considering this year has been a challenge in every way - physically, socially, mentally, spiritually, creatively and more. Even the moon is a "blue moon" tonight and you know how often that happens! We thought we should take a moment to say "Glad you're still here, glad we're still here - hang in there and stay safe!" 

This year, most of us won't be doing our usual Halloween activities of trick-or-treating, going to Halloween parties and balls, gathering for spooky movie marathons or legend tripping, and it can be a downer. Some of us are still excited about Halloween and feel guilty for wanting to dress up and have fun today too, but we shouldn't. We should celebrate surviving the FEAR YEAR of 2020!


So if you haven't yet, take a moment to transform some of your space. It doesn't have to be extravagant - it can just be an artful arrangement in a corner of old fairy tale books (we know you have some!), a couple of pumpkins (grocery stores are still selling these in big bins outside for easy, safe access), some black cloth (pillowcases count), and a candle. Or you can go all out and turn your space into a witches apothecary complete with some great smelling soup on the stove, or just draw and cut out a bunch of bat shadows to stick on your wall for tonight for a spooky-magical edge. Transforming your space is a great way to mark the season, to acknowledge the time passing, and that you survived it.

We're busy at Fairy Tale News Headquarters with indoor candy hunts, making shrunken apple heads, pumpkin carving, spooky-fun movies full of magic and hope, and fairy tales - always fairy tales (this year, we might even write one!) and we'll also be popping in and out of the folkloric-filled fun happening in Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic's "Haunted: Online Halloween Extravaganza" - in costumes of course! We've earned a bit of respite from the monotonous and highly stressful norm of this year.


We thought we'd showcase a store in Newport Beach (Californa) that is known for going all out with their Halloween displays every year with the enthusiasm that's normally reserved for those gorgeously styled Christmas Windows in high-end stores. It'd called Rogers Gardens and they never disappoint. The Spooky Vegan took a lot of amazing photos, like the one below, so if you want to see more of the displays, go check those out HERE.

It's usually decorated around a theme and in 2016 that theme was Grimm Tales, and the pictures you see in this post are from then. There is a short but wonderfully atmospheric video of the display too. Take a look below and be inspired!

And don't forget there's a bonus: for those US states who have been on daylight savings all year, we get an hour back tonight! (Sleep in !!) So set your clocks back before going to bed and enjoy the magic of this weekend just a little longer.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Carterhaugh's All-Halloween-Day Online Event "Haunted" will be full of Folkloric Revelry, Ghostly Storytelling, Visiting Witches, Creating Fairy Tales and Spells and More! (last day to register!)

Art by Aaron Jasinkski

 It's Halloween Eve! So... All Hallow's Eve-Eve... yeah. 

The 31st is less than 24 hours away and if you're ready to get all dressed up but have no Halloween ball to go to and feel like you're going to turn into a pumpkin yourself at this point in the crazy, we have just the thing:

Carterhaugh's School of Folklore and the Fantastic's

Haunted: An Online Halloween Extravaganza!

In this all-day online Halloween event, you can get your witchy party on, let your purple locks down in full folklore mode, tell stories till you shiver, weave spells and magic with words and fairy tales, or pour bewitching drinks and sing ballads till you cackle and cry and much more, all in your Halloween best!

It's an extravaganza indeed: this is an all-day-long series of folklore-filled Halloween events with an amazing lineup of folklorists, artists, and authors at the top of their game. Look at these folks!

Dr. Theodora Goss, author of Snow White Learns Witchcraft and The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series
Lindsey Marton O’Brien, founder of Lumina Noctis
Shveta Thakrar, author of Star Daughter
Dr. Kay Turner, former president of the American Folklore Society
Dr. Stephen Winick, folklorist of the Library of Congress and folksinger
Dr. Margaret Yocom, professor emerita at George Mason University
-and, of course-
Dr. Sara Cleto & Dr. Brittany Warman, the folklorists and fairy tale professors who founded The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic

If you're wishing your Halloween had a bit more magic, or stories, or costumes, or mixed drinks and spooky ballads - this is the event for you. You can start in the morning and stay all day, or you can come to just a few (they will all be recorded)  - there are so very many different things to choose from!

Carterhaugh's Founders, Dr. Brittany Warman
& Dr. Sara Cleto a.k.a. Fairy Tale Profs

We are most excited about: 

  • the How to Write a (Halloween) Fairy Tale Writing Workshop
  • the mixing of drinks (recipes available NOW to prep!) and ballads in The Night It is Gud Hallowe'en
  • learning the way of Fairy Godmothers and Crones in the "Exploring the Witch's Way: Transgression and Transformation" workshop
  • discovering the secret transformation techniques of wood wives and other face and body painting magic with a shapechanger
  • hearing ghost stories told by authors who know how to bring the chill (and whom we're almost certain are real witches writing spells into their books!)
  • learning how to spin spells across a crowd and thoroughly enchant listeners with the "Tales from the Spirit World: Telling Our Stories" storytelling workshop
  • listening to Victorian Ghost Stories being told as the sun goes down and the veils thins..

Oh heck, we're excited about everything! 

Halloween Cat by tinca2

And there are bonus recipes! Bonus PDFs! A bonus playlist! And a Bonus Costume Contest! (That's right - wear that costume all day or change or for each event - Halloween revelry and celebration of all things magical and folkloric is highly encouraged and you know you want to anyway...!)

Go HERE for more details and to sign up. Today is the LAST DAY to get yourself a seat in this magical circle for Halloween 2020!

We would tell you more but we have to go create our costume for tomorrow! Go HERE for all the secrets, er, details and discover that the spirit of Halloween is alive and well and being celebrated like never before. There has never been anything like this folkloric-fantastic-fairytale-fabulous Halloween all-day event, and you do not want to miss out!

PS Cats and other familiars are welcome.

PPS Also: if you're in the US, and haven't already, GO VOTE! (We'll be ready to party with you when you get back)

Trick: Animated #govote jack-o-lantern to keep away the ghosts of low voter turnout.

Treat: Tell your friends to visit to find their polling station!

(animated gif by Bruce Willen)

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

"Alice In Lockdown" Reflects How Maddening the Pandemic Has Been To Date

All images in this post are by Marta Zubieta ©2020
"Equating the dream logic of Lewis Carroll with the lived political reality of Covid19. Alice in Lockdown is a self-directed illustration project where Zubieta explores the confusion and self-transformation journey we have gone through since the beginning of Lockdown. Bringing vibrant colour to often bleak subjects, Zubieta explores the millennial culture and its issues through pink-tinted glasses, neon colours, and dreamy characters. Zubieta found in Alice the perfect metaphor to explore the reality she was living in during the outburst of Covid 19." (Summary from
Marta Zubieta's quarantine-created "Alice In Lockdown" series has been getting a lot of attention on social media and it's easy to see why. The "logical nonsense" world of Alice In Wonderland speaks perfectly to the surreal challenges we've all been faced with since going into lockdown.

What isn't as well known is how this Spanish artist (based in Bristol, UK) came to create her paintings. It's a little more than "artist expresses feelings visually when stuck at home"... Here are two excerpts from Zubieta's first blog post as her new series was developing in May 2020:
First piece: Alice in Lockdown: Alice trapped in the new reality, in this piece I combine pop culture symbols and pastel colours to express the feeling of fake comfort in our houses while we are being hyper controlled.

The idea started at the beginning of the lockdown when some art contests where happening working with the concept of self-isolation and staying at home. I imagined myself trapped in my house forever and I envisioned Alice when she grew really big and got trapped in the Wonderland house.

My social commentaries about how coronavirus was being handed in England weren’t very welcome on Facebook so I thought I would put this social commentaries in pictures. The result was even better than expected, people who would normally criticise conspiracy theories were very impressed with the artwork even if when looking close you can find symbols of conspiracy theories.


...Second piece: Down the Rabbit Hole: Alice going through the rabbit hole of our digital world, a hyperreal maze of content that tell us what to believe, what to do, what to buy, and how to entertain ourselves, does that rabbit hole ever reach an end?

With this piece I want people to question themselves about their everyday interaction with the digital media and how it influences the way the think or act. I want to talk to everyone but I am sure it will resonate with my generation the most.
Zubieta's next post speaks about how she wanted to express the warped reality we all suddenly found ourselves in, and her thoughts on how to go about it so it would be heard.
From her second progress post:
Following my research of storytelling and the hero’s journey from last year, and my previous essay about hyperreality and its relation with social media, I wanted to get a broader knowledge on archetypes and the power of these in combination with pop culture for communicating ideas, as a global visual communication that goes beyond language, location or race.

What is the purpose? I want to create art that tells the other side of the coin, In a period where lot the artwork is being created to make us feel uplifted and hopeful, I want to create artwork that empathise with the feelings of impotency, loneliness, connection addiction, and misunderstanding of the uncertain situation we live in. (Ed.: All emphasis in bold is by OUABlog.)


She goes on to explain that by using a very familiar character and archetype, she can more immediately express well-known elements and it was Alice in Wonderland that resonated with her experience in quarantine, straight away (for example, Alice growing so large she can't fit inside the house anymore). As a result, she can immediately refocus the lens, twisting the images to express well-known aspects of the story in a different way and encourage people to consider things from this perspective. In a very real sense, it's a short-hand that allows for very direct communication with whoever sees the art.

It's clear in part this is because the rules - which society needs to live by for a stability - become distorted and topsy-turvy. What's less obvious to the viewer (or reader of Alice) is that by beginning from an illogical place but still attempting to proceed logically, is quite literally maddening. The more we apply logic, the less it makes sense, which is the opposite of what should happen. As a result, reality becomes even more distorted than it would have if the absurdity was thrown into the middle of something normal; something that wasn't already twisted. The madness of a situation - in our case, a pandemic in the middle of political upheaval - tends to creep up on Alice (us), until we realize that we've been trying to make sense of something nonsensical for a long time, only to find ourselves suddenly overwhelmed and exhausted, not knowing what to do or how to keep coping. It's a very real challenge.

Zubieta writes: 

Going down the rabbit hole in the book is a representation of going to the unconscious, connected with lockdown, the covid-19 seems to be the hole that has trapped us all at home, making us having to deal with our inner monsters but also with the voice we listen the most: the media.
Inner Jungles: How do we make sense of the outer world in our intimate spaces? (@wordincanvas)
Zubieta also connected with James Tuson (@wordincanvas), a writer who creates poems and spoken performance pieces based on other visual artist's work, and asked that he add his words to her images. (We adore artists collaborating!) Here's an excerpt of one of the results:
Alice in Lockdown

Have we gone mad?

Down the habit hole

...At least the hedgehogs can now roll free through our empty parks

Why sometimes I’ve disbelieved as many as six explanations to all this before breakfast

Getting curisor and curisor as the days drag on

Curious little oysters aren’t we whilst its’ all convenient for us in our shells.

Hell I even find myself talking to the flowers...
You can read Tuson's whole poem at the bottom of Zubieta's post HERE. We've included another excerpt by Tuson with a different thought process, a vignette, created in response to the Tea Party scene below.
The Mad Hatters Invitation the official Tea Party, by James Tuson, @Wordincanvas (excerpt)
The Mad Hatter inconveniently invites you to attend the corona party, come come all we must commence with this befuddlement and such it’ll be very very rude indeed if you don’t fall in line and keep your distance at our signs. We’ve gone to great many lengths to make this as straightforward for you as possible. Improbable you say? Do you have any idea why a raven is like a virus? Unkindness! Now now let’s not dampen spirits you’ve only just arrived, you must, you must have a cup of tea and have a go on our sweet sweet 5G, it’s truly the best in all of silly gits end. Am I making sense? (Continue reading HERE.)
Being fascinated with how people connect and use fairy tales for expression, reflection, and to consider changing social narratives, we also wanted to include this fascinating mind-map (below - click to enlarge) of the development process that Zubieta included on her blog. There is no commentary attached to the image but it's easy to see how the idea grew, marrying the resonant story to fairy tales and fairy tale characters and archetypes. (You can spot references to Peter Pan in there, along with Chihiro from Spirited Away.) It's clear that what wasn't palatable for people to see discussed (as she mentions, on Facebook) was a lot easier to consider and reflect on, by using the vehicle of fairy tales, fairy tale imagery and a reframed familiar story for people to think about on their own terms. 

It's an excellent study in the use of fairy tale relevancy and why revisions of beloved tales can be more communicative than regular forms of communication. In a world where it's harder and harder to trust words being spoken by authorities and the media, and many people are polarized, minds closed and defense mechanisms operating on a hair-trigger, sometimes it takes the reframing of a familiar fairy tale to bypass barriers and speak to the shared experience we are having. 

That's powerful stuff.
Going down the rabbit hole, in the book, is a representation of going into the unconscious. (When) connected with lockdown, Covid-19 seems to be the hole that has trapped us all at home, forcing us to deal with our inner monsters but also with the voice we listen to the most; the mass media. (Zubieta)

You can support Marta Zubieta and find her work online in the following places:

Main website:

Facebook: @martazubieta

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Double Baba Yaga News: Worldwide Popular Game Fortnite Adds A Baba Yaga Skin/ Prof & Pints Have Dr. Rappoprt Talking About Baba Yaga Live Online TONIGHT!

Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged hut, designed by Epic Games for Fortnite

It's "Halloweek" (week of Halloween) and this year we have a good reason to talk about our favorite witch! Though she wasn't originally a character to be pulled from folklore and fairy tales just for this season (any Slavic kid will tell you, she has the ability to scare you all year long!), Baba Yaga has slowly and steadily been entering Western pop culture during the spooky season for some time now and she - and her chicken-legged hut - are now familiar figures. This year, however, she's achieved another pop-culture milestone via the worldwide gaming community of Fortnite. There's enough interest in her now that experts are running live lectures online for special presentations about her... (Read on for details.)

1. Fortnite (one of the most popular video games in the world in 2020) Releases a Baba Yaga "Skin"
Do you hear the sound of chicken legs...?

Baba Yaga has been making appearances in video games for many years but they have tended to be more independent games for niche markets. Then came Baba Yaga in the Hellboy comics and last year the most recent Hellboy on the big screen had Baba Yaga and her walking hut as a very scary antagonist (rated R). She's been appearing more in pop culture references the past few years and has become a stock character in dark fantasy offerings in books and on screen, but this week, Fortnite, one of the most popular video games in the world, introduced her - and her hut - to over 350 million active players around the world. 

Epic Games' video game creation Fortnite is a powerhouse in the gaming industry. Their e-sport tournaments are intensely competitive and the world's top players vie for big money.  If you have a gamer in the house they either tend to love Fortnite and play a LOT, or they hate it with other allegiances but are still fully aware of just how big this game is. (It's a third-person shooter game with a few creative components and lots of emphasis on teams.) While they do have narrative arcs and themes (currently they are running a Marvel-superhero crossover) they still often dip into legends, myths, and even fairy tales for little bits of story and various special character "skins" that players can "wear" and play as, fully animated. Fortnite's Baba Yaga is clearly a folkloric witch, complete with sprouting mushrooms and forest vibes, sporting a red-eyed crow in a cage on her back (called a "back bling"). Along with her chicken-legged hut to function as a "glider", and a special broom with sprouting mushrooms and chopped off chicken feet hanging from its twigs to be used as a "pickaxe",  the Baba Yaga skin which any player can "wear" (by purchasing it with "v-bucks" ie., virtual dollars), is the first crone skin (read, senior female skin), and possibly the most ancient-looking skin to be added to the game (as far as we can verify - vampires not being counted as they're all timelessly youthful). She became available in Fortnite item shop on Sunday evening October 25th at the 5pm item shop change and remained in the item shop for the Monday 26th update too (usually skins change every day, although new ones often get a couple of days spotlight). The Baba Yaga skin has no special powers in the game - none of the skins do, so as not to disadvantage players who can't purchase them, but she can do everything others characters can, including all those infamous Fornite dances, and wield any weapon she finds in treasure chests, or takes from her kills, including seasonal pumpkin bazookas through to the classic Fortnite LMGs (light machine guns). While there's a good chance she will return later in the week for Halloween, chances are, after this week, we won't see her again in the item shop until Halloween 2021, so if you know a folkloric gamer, make sure they get her today. There's nothing quite like being run down by a Russian witch!

2. Prof and Pints Online Are Hosting A Special Baba Yaga focused lecture by Professor Philippa Rappoport Live TONIGHT 

Come join us as we tune in to hear a fascinating lecture by Slavic folklorist Dr. Philippa Rappoport, on Baba Yaga TONIGHT! All time-zones welcome!

Prof and Pints Online are dedicated to bringing faculty members into bars, cafes, offices (and now living rooms!) to share their knowledge, without the pricey cost of tuition, or the stress of quizzes or grades. Since moving all presentations online due to the pandemic, tickets cost just $12 for an approximately 90-minute lecture, complete with Q&A. Prof and Pints curate presenters (faculty members) on a very wide variety of topics, including politics, history, sociology, and, of course, folklore and fairy tales. (Our Carterhaugh Profs are frequent presenters!) We are HUGE Prof and Pints fans and have attended many lectures, by various experts over the past few months and remain impressed at the quality of educators invited to speak and how generous in sharing their knowledge and expertise they are. We highly recommend them.

Tickets to join live via Crowdcast (no app download needed) are available right up to a few minutes before it starts and anyone can join. (Please be advised, content is aimed at adults, so should be screened before being shared with anyone under 18.) Live chats are very active during the lectures and proposing questions for the end Q&A is open to anyone attending. Lectures are also recorded so are available to watch again later, or tickets can then be purchased to watch at leisure after the event.

TONIGHT at 4pm PST/7pm EST, Slavic folklorist Professor Philippa Rappoport, whose lectures are truly excellent, is talking about Baba Yaga, along with other "dark denizens". (She's also a good storyteller and wonderful to listen to.)


Profs and Pints Online presents: “Tales from Netherworlds,” an evening with Baba Yaga and other dark denizens of the imagination, with folklorist Philippa Rappoport of George Washington University.

[This talk will remain available in recorded form at the link for tickets and access given via this site. ]

The traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain—now known as Halloween—marked the opening of a door between our world and the world of deities and the dead. In honor of that day’s approach, Philippa Rappoport returns to the Profs and Pints Online stage to tell Slavic folktales about journeys to a strange netherworld beneath us.

Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin

The ticket to taking such a trip is being in possession of a magic doll. A mysterious element of folktales in Russia and other East Slavic nations, they’ll open doors in the earth for you. Beware, though. Although you might escape danger on one side, you’re likely to face it on the other.

Professor Rappoport will tell the tale of one heroine, Vasilisa the Beautiful, whose doll-aided plunge into a netherworld leads her to confront the witch Baba Yaga and a host of ooglie booglie spirits. She’ll take us on a journey of our own, exploring what such folktales tell us about beliefs about women, witches, fairy godmothers, and magical helpers. We’ll tour netherworlds as places where we can find both terror and refuge. You’ll be surprised by how relevant much of what you’ll encounter is to spiritual beliefs and practices all around us today.

Professor Rappoport has also wowed Profs and Pints audiences with talks about Russia’s house spirits treacherous mermaids. Her latest effort will change how you think about Halloween.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Do's & Don'ts of Social Distancing Fairy Tales by Erin-Claire

"DO be like Little Red Riding Hood: take essentials to elderly and isolated relatives (but don't bring home any wolves/viruses!)"

Important note: The need for human connection is directly linked to mental health, yet, right now, we need to stay physically apart from each other in order for us all to have our best chance at survival and to protect the most vulnerable. With mental health becoming a serious issue after months of being forced to keep in-person interactions to a bare minimum, and no end to the coronavirus threat yet in sight, it is now being suggested that we replace the term "social distancing" with "physical distancing", to emphasize the importance of maintaining physical precautions while encouraging people to have and create connections in other ways. 

When the pandemic hit and we all went into quarantine in a global effort to slow down the spread of coronavirus, Erin-Claire began making illustrations of fairy tales as both examples and cautionary tales about social distancing. 

It's a very fresh and timely reframing of fairy tales, showing how they can be read and re-read in constantly new ways, helping us to reflect on our current situations, telling tales to remind ourselves of both consequences and possibilities, but above all, that we are all human and struggle with similar things, no matter where we are.

The diversely talented Australian artist, storyteller, and speaker, Erin-Claire Barrow, better known as just Erin-Claire, has been working with fairy tales for quite some time now and is passionate about diversity and representation in stories and empowering people, women especially. Her feminist fairy tales illustration series led to her speaking at #TedXCanberra on this very subject (you can see that HERE) and she has many more stories to tell and feels fairy tales can help us in so many more ways.

The captions below each image are the companions for the illustrations and, in that mysterious and wonderful way of fairy tales, ground us amid a sea of false narratives, and encourage us to get to the heart of issues we're dealing with and face them, head-on.

With "vigilance-fatigue" setting in, sometimes it helps to get the same reminder in a different way to re-energize us into being vigilant and protecting each other again. We think Erin-Claire's #SocialDistancingFairyTales series might help to do just that. 

DON'T be like the True Sweetheart: Now is not the time to travel the world looking for an ex who forgot about you, attend his wedding ball three nights in a row, win him back then abscond to YOUR castle for yet another wedding party.

DON'T be like the Pied Piper of Hamelin: encouraging large gatherings in public places.

DO be like Rapunzel in her tower: just two visitors and only ever one at a time.

DO be like the witch in Jorinda and Joringel (especially if elderly and vulnerable): if any visitors you don't want come too close, turn them into birds or freeze them in place.

DON'T be like the Twelve Dancing Princesses: sneaking out of your home every night to dance your shoes to pieces with enchanted (or enchanting) princes.

DO be like the Lady from Llan y Fan Fach: if your partner is violent towards you, it is absolutely ok to leave your home to travel somewhere safe or seek help. Also to take all their cows, horses and other livestock.

Fairy Tale Bonus of the Day:
We had to include one of our favorite ink illustrations by Erin-Claire. Though this piece was created for a previous #Inktober (a yearly challenge for artists everywhere), rather than a specific work for her portfolio, it immediately caught our eye and showcases some of the lovely storytelling that comes through in her illustrations. It is titled "Wise Women", and reminded us that though we have to remain socially distant, we can still send magic into the world from where we are and help build a better future.
Thanks, Erin-Claire!
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  

Fearnot by Erin-Claire
The Six Swans by Erin-Claire
You can find Erin-Claire in these places around the web listed below (click to go to her sites), and continue to follow her #socialdistancingfairytales as she adds any, along with her continuing feminist fairy tales work and possibly even discover some lesser-known tales along the way:

Website -

Subscribers: We've Fixed the Email Updates! (We Think)

Hallmark Fantasy Pumpkins
We have been working on fixing an issue we've had most of the year with our subscribers not getting email updates for new posts. (In fact, we sincerely hope subscribers are reading this update via their emails, with morning coffees in hand, right now!)

If you are a Once Upon A Blog subscriber and are seeing this on the blog instead, please check you are still subscribed. If you are, but still haven't received an email update for the recent new posts in mid-October 2020, please let us know. 

We think we've gotten to the bottom of the problem but won't know for sure if there are any issues still needing to be addressed until we get some feedback. 

In the meantime, we will be working on our pumpkin coaches, which are our preferred transport of the season. 

One week till Halloween 2020!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Disney's "Raya and the Last Dragon" Pays Tribute to Diverse Cultures of Southeast Asia (Teaser Trailer)

It's clear there has been a deliberate shift to properly represent diversity in Disney's upcoming animated feature, Raya and the Last Dragon, and we are so here for this!


Take a look at the just-released teaser-trailer:

Official description: Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well.


People are already very excited about seeing real diversity in this teaser. Here are just a few of the many comments:

As for the specific efforts in representation during development and production, here are some examples of how the film's focus has shifted for this to become a major priority. From insidethemagic (August 2020):

" is clear that representation has become a major focus of the project.

Raya will be Disney’s first animated feature film to be inspired by Southeast Asia, and filmmakers Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, and Producer Osnat Shurer, told Entertainment Weekly they’re working hard to accurately celebrate the influential cultures. They are making efforts to send creative teams on research trips to several Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and collaborate with linguists, dancers, Gamelan musicians from Indonesia, and a Laos visual anthropologist who is said to review every design before it is finalized.

Adele Lim, the screenwriter behind Crazy Rich Asians, and Qui Nguyen are penning the script. Nguyen said that both his and Lim’s life experiences are being used to write this film and that it has meant a lot, personally to see their cultures represented in costumes and martial arts, as well as references to his Asian American Identity.

“When you’re telling a story and you’re just doing it based on research, you end up always having to do it from the high end,” he said. “To have the artists who represent those cultures in there to be able to give the subtleties of what our families are actually like, what our relationships are actually like, has given a lot of nuances to this great adventure.

“To be able to have some [heroes] that look like me and my kids,” he added, “it’s gonna matter to a lot of folks.”

(Note: poster shown above is from the Disney Lunar New Year collection, for Disney China.)


There is an important rumor about this representation though, and one that might be worth keeping in mind. It's being said that because Raya is not a musical the main character won't automatically enter the Disney Princess franchise. It's going to depend on numbers and how "successful" the film is (by Disney Executive standards). So, if it's safe by the release date, bring your feet into the theater, and if it's not, pay the extra for "movie theater streaming at home". We need to underscore how important this effort at representation is, and give all those millions of kids around the world the merchandise they could greatly benefit from, to help them continue the experience of seeing themselves in this story, with a princess that looks like them.


As for the fairy tale and folklore elements of the movie, we've only seen a small amount to date but it's clear this will delve more into the realms of legends and allude to Southeast Asian folklore along the way. That doesn't mean there won't be fairy tale elements though. For the moment, the standout touchstone for folklore is the Last Dragon of the title (from Why Southeast Asians Should Be Excited About Raya and the Last Dragon):

The titular dragon is named Sisu and is voiced by actress/rapper/comedian Awkafina. She is the last of her kind and the goal of Raya’s adventure is to find out what happened to the dragons that used to inhabit the land. Sisu herself is able to change into a more human-like form, and is based on the naga, the mythical water serpent that permeates all of Southeast Asian culture.

This deity can be found in Laos, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, with varying depictions of the dragon between cultures, but its general form and function as a water deity is preserved throughout. Evidently, Sisu isn’t going to be as tame as Mulan’s Mushu, and might just be a force to be reckoned with - like Maleficent’s dragon form.

We're very much looking forward to seeing the joy of exploring the diversity of Southeast Asian cultures in a Disney film, and seeing how it also represents the Southeast-Asian-American community as well, not to mention the stories, folklore, legends, and yes, the fairy tales, that are channeled in this film.

Disney's official posters for English and Japanese shown above.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Black Lives Matter and Black Fairy Tales Matter

"Dig A LIttle Deeper" (Tiana) by Heather Edwards

Black Lives Matter. Always.

And that means Black Fairy Tales Matter too.

There are Black opinions (more inclusively, BIPOC opinions) that should be heard on every topic and that - hopefully, obviously - includes fairy tales. There are also black, indigenous and people of color tales that should be being told and retold, which even they have trouble finding because stories and fairy tales been dominated by white voices for so long, and that needs to change.

Let's cut to the chase. The last thing you need is another white opinion right now. So, re this blog, the best advocacy we can think of, with regard to fairy tale discussion, is to point you to black, indigenous, and POC voices that maybe you're not aware of, or don't know how to find, first before you continue reading what we have to offer. We're going to pin this post right at the top so it's easy to find, and link to a longer entry with some important resources and names you should know and be accessing regularly when it comes to fairy tales.

 It's not a definitive list. There are so many still-unheard voices missing here, and we will do our best to update the main post as we become aware of them, but this, at least is a start.

Please see our list HERE for writers, scholars, and artists

whose voices should be listened to when studying and working with fairy tales.

Be the change we need.

Image credits: "Dig a Little Deeper" (Tiana oil portrait) by Heather Edwards; Maya Angelou quote graphic by Glashanda Lewis B