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Saturday 26 June 2010

A competition

I've really deliberated over whether to post about this or not. In the end I decided I wasn't comfortable posting about it directly, but I didn't feel happy about not flagging up the opportunity for anyone who might be interested. A UK television and broadband provider (who are part of a multinational media empire) are running a competition looking for tweet length new endings to fairy tales. There are full details posted on the SurLaLune blog here.

The illustration is by the wonderful John Bauer (1882-1918) from the tale 'The Boy and the Trolls, or the Adventure' which is included in Swedish Folk Tales, a book I really treasure (and far be it from me to use my illustration choice to suggest Mr Murdoch is a money grabbing troll, and that one of his companies is simultaneously trying to bag themselves plenty of free advertising via social networking platforms and to associate the use of their services with a 'happily ever after').

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Some lesser known Grimms' tales

The Old Woman in the Woods by Adam Oehlers

I have several collections of the Grimms' tales, but I've had my favourite since I was seven. It's a big chunky book called The Illustrated Treasury of the Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Luděk Maňásek, with translations by Vladimir Varecha.

The illustrations are peculiar but vivid, the translations are written in a bright, simple style and the publisher is (rather fittingly) called Treasure Press. But, for me, the best thing about this book is how many tales it has in it: 87. Which is still only a portion of the 210 tales included in the Grimms' final (1857) edition of Children's and Household Tales, but it's more than are in the other collections I own. It's a book I can still get lost in.

I often wonder what makes editors choose a small number of the Grimms' tales to publish over and over again, particularly when it comes to illustrated texts and picture books. Perhaps it's because they think readers only want to revisit tales they are familiar with, but there are many other wonderful tales hidden away that I'm sure would become just as popular if they were given the chance.

I think my favourite is The Old Woman in the Wood. It's a strange name for a story in which the said old woman plays only a small (but villainous) part. The tale is really about a girl who finds herself lost in a forest. She is visited by a bird who brings her keys so she can unlock the trees... (I'm not going to say any more because I want to encourage you to follow the link and read it in full).

Some other tales I've long loved but haven't found elsewhere as often as I would have liked are: The Glass Coffin—which features a tiny castle and a princess trapped in glass chests (although AS Byatt has retold this and you can find her fantastic version in both Possession and in The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye); Jorinde and Joringel—which is a beautiful bird transformation tale; and The Seven Ravens—another bird transformation tale, which features a sister setting out to rescue her brothers from inside a glass mountain.

I have been reading from The Illustrated Treasury of the Brothers Grimm since I was seven and I can't see myself ever tiring of it. In Once Upon a Time: On the Nature of Fairy Tales, Max Lüthi has this to say about the appeal of fairy tales for adults, as well as children:

The fairy tale portrays, in a wider sense than is generally realized, a harmonious world. The confidence from which it flows is transmitted to both those who tell it and those who hear it. Thus, it is no wonder that not only children come under its spell, but that it repeatedly exerts its charm over adults. It gives not only pleasure, it gives form and inspiration; and we can readily believe the report of a north German storyteller that a soothing and healing power can emanate from fairy tales when told to sick people in hospitals. Every fairy tale is, in its own way, something of a dragon slayer.

The beautiful illustration at the head of this post is by Adam Oehlers, whose story 'Dear Little Emmie' features in the latest issue of New Fairy Tales. Adam is extending the story at the moment and it will be published as a book in early 2011.

The tales I have linked to above are from Margaret Hunt's 1884 translation. All 210 tales from this translation are available on the SurLaLune site.

Saturday 19 June 2010

There's a new issue of Enchanted Conversation online...

...and it features short stories, poetry and essays inspired by 'The Little Mermaid' and other mermaid, nixy and sea witch tales. I can't wait to settle down to read it!

There are also two contests you can enter, one which asks writers to explore what it would feel like to be a "Daughter of the Air" (as in Andersen's original tale) in a poem or story, and another asking readers to suggest a menu for a mermaid-related meal for the journal's Fairy Tale Food Editor (with a note from Kate Wolford, the Editor, to say they do not mean some type of hideous mer-cannibalism!).

I have a poem called The Blackpool Mermaid in this issue and I should probably explain for readers outside the UK that Blackpool isn't, as its name might suggest, a dark, enchanted pool but a famous Lancashire seaside town (not too far from where I live). Once incredibly popular with holidaymakers, it's been in decline since the mid 20th century but it still has some charms.

As with previous issues of this journal, readers are warmly encouraged to join in and comment. You can enter the Enchanted Conversation here.