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

Monday 31 May 2010

New Fairy Tales: Issue 5

The trailer...

and the issue itself...

We hope you enjoy it!

Visit the website if you'd like to download the PDF version or find out more about New Fairy Tales. And please help us to spread the word about this issue; share the YouTube trailer with friends or 'Like' us on Facebook. Thank you :-)

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Manchester Children's Book Festival

I'm very excited about this! Here's the introduction to the forthcoming Manchester Children's Book Festival by Poet Laureate, Festival Director (and fine fairy tale writer) Carol Ann Duffy:

The 2010 Manchester Children’s Book Festival is the first festival of its kind to run in the North West of England. We’re thrilled to present a four-day programme of events and activities featuring some of today’s favourite children’s writers, illustrators, books and characters.

Aimed at everyone who has ever loved children’s books, our exciting series of events will run at Manchester Metropolitan University’s city centre campus as well as in a variety of schools, libraries and other venues across the region.

No matter if you can’t make it to Manchester – you’ll still be able to take part in our competitions and in our international Festival Readathon. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you can join us.

Carol Ann Duffy

There are far too many wonderful events taking place for me to list here, the full programme is available online. Highlights for me include: Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampsons' performance of The Princess' Blankets (the space will be decorated by Catherine Hyde's beautiful illustrations so that 'you'll feel you're stepping into the book'); the screening of Jeannette Winterson's Ingenious, introduced by the writer; wonderful pop-up book workshops; Michael Rosen leading a Bear Hunt!; a lecture on the World of Edward Gorey; an A-Z of Children's Books exhibition; Adele Geras and Mary Hoffman discussing their imaginative historical fiction; and a chance to meet three of the authors behind the latest series of Doctor Who novels (Daleks and Cybermen will be patrolling the building!). Phew.

Faye Durston and myself will be taking part in the Family Festival Fun Day on the Saturday. We'll have a New Fairy Tales stall and be running Family Fairy Tale workshops which will involve dressing up, drawing and lots of fun!

If you're too far away to make it to the festival there is still the international readathon you can take part in (and I'm planning a special fairy tale read as part of that which I'll blog about soon). If you think you might make the trip, and you're not familiar with Manchester, Creative Tourist is a great online guide to the city.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday 20 May 2010

Scheherezade’s Bequest

Issue 10 of Scheherezade’s Bequest is now online at the Cabinet Des Fées website. It's one of my favourite journals and I can't wait to settle down this evening to read it. I am also incredibly excited because I have a story in this issue.

It's a contemporary tale inspired by the opening lines of the Grimms' tale The Raven, in which a mother wishes her fractious baby daughter would become a raven and fly away so that she could get some peace; the girl promptly does. I wanted to see what would happen if the raven couldn't fly away. (In the original tale 'she flew into a dark wood and stayed there a long time, and her parents knew nothing of her'. The tale then follows the adventures of the man who must release the raven girl from the bewitchment.)

Ravens appear frequently in myth, fairy tales and folklore, joining a host of other birds (there's a wonderful article on bird lore by Terri Windling here). I have always been fascinated by tales in which people are transformed into birds. I suppose it's because of the sense of freedom I imagine in flight, although in fairy tales being transformed into a bird is as often an ordeal as it is the form someone chooses.

One thing I was intrigued to find out when I was researching real (as opposed to literary) ravens is that they are playful birds and one of the few species who make their own toys. There's lots more raven info on Wikipedia and you can also hear a raven here (as recorded by

Sunday 16 May 2010

The Beastly Bride

The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People is the fourth anthology in Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow's Mythic Fiction Series. The anthology contains tales and poems of animal-human transformation by writers including Gregory Frost, Jeanine Hall Gailey, Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, Delia Sherman and Jane Yolen. You can read the preface to the anthology here.

My copy hasn't arrived yet but I wanted to post about the book now because this week Charles Tan has been interviewing the writers who have contributed to the anthology for SF Signal and Terri Windling has been collecting the links to those interviews here. It's fascinating to be able to read about the creative process the writers went though, and to find out about their inspirations and thoughts on the Beastly Bride concept.

Midori Snyder has also collected together links to the interviews so far and links to a lovely selection of essays in the Journal of Mythic Arts Archives which relate to the subject. Shape Shifters: Art Inspired by Animal-Human Transformation Myths is another treasure from the JoMA site not to be missed and I'd also recommend Marina Warner's essay on animals in fairy tales. And if all that hasn't whetted your appetite enough there are also some reviews up here and here.

Also on Terri Windling's blog this week people from all over the world have been sending in the view from their window. A lot of the people work with fairy tales or in other realms of fantasy and art and it's wonderful to see so many distinctive views (I did send mine in and yes it is a bit grim looking compared to all the rural idylls but I like it anyway!).

The beautiful swan maiden painting in this post is by Romina Perez. You can see more of her work on her blog and website. (The image is used with permission). And if you'd like to find out more about swan maidens there's a wonderful selection of their tales here.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Quick Link: Germaine Greer on Old Wives' Tales

'There are thousands of learned discussions of fairy tales but very few that approach them from the old wives' perspective, with the result that the obvious goes unnoticed.'
So says Germain Greer in a fascinating and insightful article in today's Guardian which explores the tradition of tale telling by women. Well worth a read!

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Guest post: Matthew Finch on Playbox Theatre's 'The Bloody Chamber'

Going in for the kill: Playbox Electric Carousel’s
The Bloody Chamber

Cox’s Yard in Stratford-upon-Avon was the venue for last month’s stage adaptation of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, devised and performed by members of youth theatre company Playbox.

As the audience arrived, the stairs to the riverside performance space were strewn with pages torn from women’s magazines, blurring the transition from everyday life to a darker fairytale world. On stage, girls in heavy 1980’s make-up, with back-combed hair and red sashes, hands clutched to hearts, stood frozen by the sound of a high pitched alarm.

In the opening dance, a suited man – the malevolent husband of the protagonist – moved among the girls, posing them, dancing with them, tearing out their hearts in his search for the perfect woman. The show, which centres on Carter’s version of the Bluebeard myth, follows a newlywed’s discovery that her husband has murdered his previous wives in the chamber of the title.

As director Alice Trew explains, her take on Carter strips the 1979 story collection ‘down to the bare bones, giving the essence of a harsh and violent tale’. Trew’s magpie approach steals scenes from across Carter’s writing, but violence, control and desire are always at the fore of this potent staging. With virtually no dialogue in the show, Carter’s sensuous language is invoked by melodramatic choreography – most effectively in the sequence where the husband uses mirrors to multiply his wife into a ‘harem’.

One effect of the wordless, iconic approach is to remove the context of the Bluebeard story, which Carter set in post-revolutionary France. Place names are erased, and a red ribbon tied around the bride’s neck still stands for decapitation, but no longer relates to the ironic neckwear which aristocrats wore if they had escaped the Terror.

For Trew, this stripping out of detail universalizes the issue of women’s suffering under patriarchy, across nations and throughout history. In the story’s resolution, which is greatly changed, women’s capacity to jointly resist oppression is emphasised. Where Carter has the bride’s mother ride to the rescue toting a handgun, the husband here dies at the hands of the girls whose hearts he stole in the opening dance, with the mother delivering the coup de grace.

The original’s happily-ever-after conclusion is replaced by an extended sequence derived from Carter’s vampiric Lady of the House of Love. The widowed bride blinds herself with the key to her husband’s chamber and attacks the women’s magazines that litter the stage with their incessant bombardment of words and images. She feasts on stolen hearts…before turning on her new lover to quote her husband’s ominous words: ‘This is the key that leads to the kingdom of the unimaginable.’

All of this could seem like a blunt, though necessary and laudable, retread of 70’s and 80’s feminist polemic – The Beauty Myth For Beginners by a youth theatre company. In fact, the Playbox production offers something more complex. The opening sequence, set to the pastiche electro of La Roux, creates a kind of historical commentary on the 80’s – a decade of blood and opulence – from a company of players not born in the decade. As the music leads us through to the present day, the protagonist’s journey becomes also a journey from the feminism of the 70’s to women’s contemporary struggles, as charted by these young performers.

The show as a whole, with its fairytale atmosphere and uncompromising gender politics, is an invocation of fables in a 21st century that, from Twilight to Doctor Who and The Fairy Tale Cupboard itself, has returned to the fairy tale to make sense of the world around us. In this world, Trew suggests, ‘Women have forsaken trying to be angels and instead focus on simply not becoming monsters’.

Matthew Finch blogs at
Photographs by James Blay

Sunday 9 May 2010

Once upon a time...

I was going to try and write a short fairy tale as some kind of justification for including this post on what is essentially a topic blog. But fairy tales don’t deal in democracy. In the UK it doesn't always feel like we do either.

During my lifetime the UK has been failed, first by a Tory government, then by Blair and Browns’ false Labour. Our politicians have helped instigate an illegal war and facilitated economic disaster.

Our parliament is full of wolves. In Perrault’s version of Little Red Riding Hood the wolf eats the girl, she doesn't escape; in the Grimms’ version she must be rescued by the Huntsman. I prefer the version where she sorts things out for herself.

We don’t know what the ending of the current election tale will be but I’m one of the many people who feels, as not all votes count, we haven’t been given a chance to sort things out for ourselves. If you’re a British citizen consider signing this petition for electoral reform and joining the forthcoming demonstrations. In life there can’t be a happily ever after but there must be better than this.

Some additional links:
The BBC's Q&A: Calls to change the UK election voting system
The Electoral Reform Society
Fair votes now!, Comment at The Guardian
Kay Burley bullies a protester - an example of what passes for journalism in the Murdoch empire
Chris Riddell's 'fairy in search of electoral reform'

The image in this post is from ruSSeLL hiGG's Flickr stream and is under a CC license, it was photographed in East London the day after the election.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Call for submissions - Enchanted Conversation

Enchanted Conversation, is an online fairy tale magazine in Blogger format. They are currently publishing four issues a year, each takes the theme of a traditional tale as its starting point. Submissions are now open for 'The Little Mermaid' issue. They are also happy to look at submissions inspired by other watery tales such as Undine and The Nixy. The deadline is the 15th May and full submission guidelines are available here.

Also not to be missed are the two contests they're running alongside their current 'Beauty and the Beast' issue. One is a writing contest, and for the other you need only join in the conversation and comment on a piece in the issue to be entered.

Illustration by Edmund Dulac, taken from Stories from Hans Andersen (1911) on the Internet Archive.