Thank you for visiting the cupboard. I now have a new blog here.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

New additions and call for submissions

Firstly, I want to welcome the newly expanded New Fairy Tales team:

Associate Editor for Fiction: Andy Hedgecock
Associate Editor for Poetry: Anna McKerrow
Art Director: Faye Durston

Andy, a freelance writer and researcher, is also the Co-Fiction Editor for leading UK science fiction and fantasy magazine Interzone. Anna is a poet, whose first collection The Fast Heat of Beauty came out in 2008. She's also recently been working on a writing project called Bookbite. Faye is a writer and children's illustrator whose first book is due out from Macmillan in September. She has also done some lovely work for the magazine before (the illustration above is one of hers as is my blog banner).

I'm incredibly excited about working with them all, and we're now looking for some fantastic new fairy tales for Issue 5.

The call for submissions is below:

New Fairy Tales call for submissions

We are currently seeking submissions for our fifth issue. We are looking for new fairy tales in short story format (max 3000 words), and in other formats such as poetry, flash fiction and comic strip.

We welcome works inspired by a love of traditional tales but we are not looking for retellings or reimaginings of existing tales. Show us what you think a new fairy tale can be.

For full submission guidelines please visit our website:

All submissions should be sent to the editors at

The deadline for submissions to our fifth issue is 20th April 2010.

Saturday 20 February 2010

10 rules

Not strictly fairy tale related, but today's Guardian contains 10 rules for writing fiction by lots of great writers. I wanted to link to it here on the basis that a. some of you may write and so find this interesting, and b. some of the writers who've contributed have done wonderful things with fairy tales.

Here's a little taste of the rules by the fairy tale writers:

Margaret Atwood: 'Don't sit down in the middle of the woods. If you're lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.'

Neil Gaiman: 'The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.'

Jeanette Winterson: 'Turn up for work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom.'

and I had to end on Philip Pullman who contributed this: 'My main rule is to say no to things like this, which tempt me away from my proper work.'

There are lots of other fantastic writers featured too (including Michael Morpurgo, Michael Moorcock, Annie Proulx, Hilary Mantel—I could go on) so it's well worth a read. The article is available online in two parts:
Part 1
Part 2

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Undine and Ondine

In The Fantastic Imagination, George Macdonald, one of my favourite fairy tale writers, said:
'Were I asked, what is a fairytale? I should reply, Read Undine: that is a fairytale; then read this and that as well, and you will see what is a fairytale. Were I further begged to describe the fairytale, or define what it is, I would make answer, that I should as soon think of describing the abstract human face, or stating what must go to constitute a human being. A fairytale is just a fairytale, as a face is just a face; and of all fairytales I know, I think Undine the most beautiful.'
Undine is one of the inspirations behind Neil Jordan's forthcoming film Ondine. Gypsy, at Once Upon a Blog, wrote a great post about the film last week, but I'm so excited about it I wanted to share the trailer here too:

Also, there is a beautiful digitised copy of Undine, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, available to read online here.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy

(I've just found out about this and had to post something straight away!) The Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy is a new and incredibly exciting project which intends to 'focus on the importance of fairy tales as a creative force both in literature and culture.'

Here's some information from their website:

The Centre will provide a forum where writers and scholars from various disciplines can discuss folk narratives, fairy tales and fantasy works, both as independent ‘genres’ (the literary fantastic, for example, may not always have obvious folk- or fairy-tale motifs), and also in terms of the resonances and dissonances between them, and other cultural forms.

Although the scope of the project is geographically and culturally inclusive, the founding impulse for the Centre is related to the specific locale of Sussex and its surrounding region. This area is rich in examples of all three kinds of narrative, ranging from folk narratives of various kinds, through literary fairy tales written in, as well as about, Sussex (for example, by George MacDonald and Eleanor Farjeon), to major works of fantasy and myth by Sussex residents such as MacDonald (Phantastes), David Lindsay (A Voyage to Arcturus), Mervyn Peake (Gormenghast) and Neil Gaiman (Stardust).

While the project is situated in Sussex, its planned scope is not only national but also international, bringing together writers and scholars, as well as publishing and curating scholarly resources, from around the globe.

The centre is being directed by Bill Gray, Professor of Literary History and Hermeneutics at the University of Chichester, and the advisory board includes a fantastic number of the most important fairy tale scholars working in the world today (including Cristina Bacchilega, Marina Warner, and Jack Zipes).

The project is going to create an online, multilingual, multi-authored, annotated bibliographic index consisting of links to primary sources of folktales, fairy tales and fantasy works available in the public domain, as well as to secondary sources for scholarly discussion on these subjects.

There will also be events, including a symposium to mark the centenary of author and illustrator Mervyn Peake (1911-1968) in 2011, and an international conference on ‘Folklore, Fairy Tales and the Fantastic Imagination’ in 2012, to celebrate the bicentenary of the publication of the Grimm Brothers’ Children’s and Household Tales.

Planned publications include an online newsletter and journal, and there is a Folktales mailing list, which is going to be used to facilitate interdisciplinary discussion of folktales, fairy tales and fantasy literature. Contributions can include research enquiries as well information about relevant publications and events.

So although the centre is physically based in Sussex it will bring benefits to fairy tale lovers worldwide. Make sure you visit their site to find out more.

Friday 5 February 2010

Profile: The Big Bad Wolf

Name: In the old tales he is most often referred to simply as 'the wolf'. It was during the recording of Disney's famous 1933 song (which you can listen to further down) that he acquired the 'Big Bad'. He was originally going to be called 'The Big Old Wolf' but reportedly Walt decided 'The Big Bad Wolf' scanned better.

Age: Impossible to figure out—but here's what we do know: Fenir, one of the first bad wolves, can be found in Norse mythology (he's mentioned in the Poetic Edda which was compiled from oral sources in the 13th century). The wolf and werewolf are thought to have been popular figures in oral folk tales for centuries—The Grandmother, which was collected in 1870, is representative of this tradition. The wolf, as we are perhaps most familiar with him, appears in three distinct fairy tales in the European literary tradition:

Little Red Riding Hood: the first literary version, by Charles Perrault, was published in 1697. In this version the wolf gets exactly what he wants and we're warned of wolves 'who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the street' (or as Grandmother so succinctly puts it in the film The Company of Wolves 'The worst kind of wolf is hairy on the inside'). The Grimms included their version of the tale, Little Red Cap, in every edition of their Children's and Household Tales; you can read the 1812 version, or the final 1857 version online. It was the Grimms who introduced the woodsman and the nasty ending for the wolf.

The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids: first published by the Grimms in Children's and Household Tales in 1812, the tale includes a very similar fate for the wolf.

The Story of the Three Little Pigs: first collected by James Orchard Haliwell in The Nursery Rhymes of England in its first edition of 1842. This was the source for Joseph Jacob's more famous 1890 version.

Location: Wolf and werewolf tales were common throughout Europe, particularly in France, but not so much here in Britain where unfortunately we'd managed to exterminate wolves by the 17th century—we have lots of Last Wolf tales instead.

Relationship Status: You might think a wolf who went round either scoffing small pigs, baby goats, or young girls and/or their Grandmothers might find it hard to get a date—but that's not always the case—whether it's Red herself that takes a fancy to him, as in Angela Carter's 'The Company of Wolves' (from The Bloody Chamber) and Carol Ann Duffy's 'Little Red-Cap' (from The World's Wife); or Grandma, as in the original ending to Tex Avery's 1943 cartoon Red Hot Riding Hood (which was cut because it was thought to be too close to bestiality), and in this 1931 cartoon:

taken from the Internet Archive

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

taken from the Internet Archive
As we've already seen not everybody, and although the wolf in the older tales is always bad there are a lot of reformed versions out there, from Bigby (sherrif, and son of the North Wind—from whom he inherited his Huff 'n Puff) in the unbelievably good Fables series; to the cross-dressing, rather lazy wolf in the Shrek films.

Some other places you'll find him lurking online:

An 1866 verse version of Little Red Riding Hood by Tom Hood, which includes the illustrations by Gustave Doré.

Little Red Riding Hood—A 1921 version with lovely illustrations by Jennie Harbour.

Roald Dahl's wonderful Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

An illustrated copy of The Story of the Three Little Pigs, from 1904.

A Wolf's Lament, by M. Lynn Johnson— a great story that featured in Issue 8 of Cabinet Des Fées

The wolf in myths, legends and stories at Wolf Country.

A collection of Werewolf Legends from Germany, translated by D.L. Ashliman.

The Bad Wolf site, created by the BBC to accompany the 2005 series of Doctor Who throughout which the ominous sounding 'Bad Wolf' message was scattered.

Any more sitings of the wolf online? Feel free to add links using the comments function below.

The wolf image at the top of the post is a detail from an illustration by Gustave Doré.