Tag Archives: fairy tale

Book Reviews of March 2018

Two short book reviews for March since in March I went on a pretty epic re-reading jag, and then didn’t write reviews for most of them. These two made it through though, so I hope you enjoy!

Fairy Tale (The New Critical Idiom Series) by Andrew Teverson

Fairy Tale by Andrew TeversonLately I’ve felt a renewed interest in doing more ‘serious’ scholarly work, so I decided to add some more serious reading to the rotation. I’ve been interested in fairy tale research for some time and have a respectable start to a fairy tale research library, but before I go into Zipes and Bettelheim, I thought a re-introduction to the genre would be in order. The New Critical Idiom series seems to be Routledge’s answer to Oxford’s A Very Short Introduction, but instead of brief, much more in-depth. That’s not the best explanation, but it’s early and I’m tired. Fairy Tale by Andrew Teverson discusses the schools of fairy tale creation, both the presumptive oral tradition, and the 19th century fairy tale creation wave, as well as major critical schools. There is a relatively low-level of engagement with the Disney machine, which I personally appreciated, since I do not respect their adaptations. The book is relatively light on the the feminist and revisionist schools, but focuses more of its attention on psychoanalytic and Marxist approaches. Biographical criticism, which I feel is much more important for ‘recent’ fairy tales like “The Little Mermaid,” is mentioned, but almost discounted. Still, it’s a dense-yet-engaging read, which is not an easy balance, and I definitely feel like it helped prepare me for tackling more fairy tale criticism.

Benito Cereno by Herman Melville

Benito Cereno by Herman MelvilleI am re-reading this novella for, I believe, the second time since my first reading in 2013. After reading the dense text (above) I wanted to read something short that moved quickly, and I picked Melville’s anxiety-producing novella Benito Cereno, of course. My copy is bundled with Bartleby, the Scrivener which I cannot believe I haven’t written about already. Right now, since I’m dealing with adjunct hell and general meh-ness, I thought Bartleby might push me over the stay-in-bed-all-day edge, so Benito Cereno it was. The story is amazingly well-written (ah, Melville) and extremely stressful to read. The strangest part is that there’s a lot of Amasa Delano’s thoughts, then just random violence out of nowhere, but it’s so brief I wasn’t sure if I had read it right. Like I guess someone lost all their fingers? I felt bad about it! I should probably mention what the novella is about. It follows the charming Amasa Delano, American captain of the ship Bachelor’s Delight, that has come upon a ship in distress. Almost all of the Spanish crew has died, except for Benito Cereno and a handful of others, but around 160 slaves are roaming free on the ship. Because Delano is super nice he cannot figure out that the slaves had a revolt and killed everyone, that Cereno is a prisoner, and that the slave Babo (pictured on the cover above) is behind it all. Everything sort of works out in the end though, basically, except for the people who died. Note: the same cover image is used for an edition of Blake, or the Huts of America, which I find interesting, though the image doesn’t make a ton of sense for Blake.

9 Reasons that The Shirley Temple Show’s Version of The Little Mermaid is a Good Adaptation

Shirley Temple The Little Mermaid

Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid” is a short story that I teach year after year, and in one class I show a number of adaptations of the story. The Shirley Temple Show version from 1961 is surprising, both because it takes place pre-Disney adaptation (and as such hasn’t been corrupted by the Disney machine) and because it updates the original story in some intriguing ways.

First of all, Temple’s made-for-TV version is absolutely kitsch through and through, the character actors in the episode are iconic in that time period, and the sea witch and her minions are camp to an extreme, not to mention how early 60’s the makeup and costumes are (I can’t with Temple’s wig, the bangs, I can’t). All of that needs to either be enjoyed or overlooked to understand the significance of the changes the show made to the original story. How ever “dated” the Temple version, I still strongly believe that some of the changes made to the story actually act to modernize it while retaining the integrity of Anderson’s original story. I started this as a long form article, but, as I worked on it, I decided that it needed to be a list, so I humbly submit to you 9 Reasons that The Shirley Temple Show’s Version of The Little Mermaid is a Good Adaptation.

#1 No Soul, No Problem

In Andersen’s 1837 version the core of the story is love, yes, but also the mermaid’s quest for an eternal soul. After she learns about it, the mermaid never mentions the prince without mentioning the soul. Why? Simply put: in Anderson’s world mermaids are animals, and, when they die, they cease to exist. This is something that is always left out of reinterpretations because of the colossal Christian controversy that would follow if it were left in. When the soul is taken out, you just have the love of a newly teen-aged girl to drive the plot forward, which is not enough to die over, but is enough to learn from. Even Anderson gave the mermaid a reprieve and had the Daughters of the Air rescue her and give her a chance to “earn” a soul. In Temple’s version, without any discussion of a soul, the mermaid is given a second chance at life as a mermaid by the god of a sea (note: not her father). I feel this is an appropriate change considering that the stakes have been lowered so much by removing the whole soul controversy.

#2 Sea Witch + Minions = Fun

In Anderson’s story the sea witch is not “evil” as one would expect, and neither is Temple’s (the mer-witch), though both are slightly malevolent. Anderson’s witch has a toad that eats sugar from her mouth and snakes that cuddle with her bosom (Flotsam and Jetsam anyone?), and these pets clearly influenced the introduction of minions. Andersen’s sea witch is slightly antagonistic to the mermaid, saying that even though the mermaid is foolish, the witch will help, but Temple’s minions (a lawyer stingray and a hateful octopus) allow the witch to become a more fully-realized character without fading into the background as Andersen’s character does. Andersen’s sea witch is mentioned at the end of the story, but never appears again, whereas the mer-witch gets more screen time and, while she doesn’t have any strong feelings about the mermaid, she does have an ethical compass that she follows. The mer-witch is also given a back story that involves the mermaid’s grandmother, which means more complex character motivations and a richer story. Continue reading

Kokeshi #56 Little Dead Riding Hood

I know, I know, the name seems terribly morbid, doesn’t it? But for some reason, every time I write it, I crack a smile. Little Dead Riding Hood is one of the kokeshi that just happened to fall into place. A lot of the new kokeshi I’m unveiling were at least partially started in my “progress drawer,” but Little Dead is brand spanking new. I left her face natural wood and did her up in red and turquoise. This color combination will probably be a favorite of mine for the rest of my life, I love it that much!

The line work was done with my favorite brush. It’s at that perfect age where it’s broken in and can go from fatter lines to really thin, crisp ones with ease – a gem! Painting on wood is really hard on brushes though, much harder than the forgiving plastic faces of the Zombuki dolls, so I’m sure it won’t be long before I’ll have to retire it, but I don’t want to think about it! Little Dead fell into place so easily that I feel like she must be special, I want her to find a happy home, but I’ll be sad to see her go!

Update! Little Dead Riding Hood has been adopted!

~ Brigitte

Enchanted Doll Essay on Beauty and the Beast

Marina of Enchanted Doll (aka the doll above) is a genius. If you collect dolls in any way and haven’t heard of her work, prepare to have your standards raised. Below is part of an essay she wrote above the “Beauty and the Beast” doll (above) …

In my opinion, the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast is a romanticized hostage situation, where the Beast is a narcissistic psychopath while the Beauty is his vulnerable hostage who is losing touch with reality and “falling in love” with her captor to survive a deeply traumatizing ordeal.

Moreover, the very act of romanticizing a fundamentally disturbing account of a woman’s abduction, subjugation and unlawful imprisonment into a pretty fairy tale to teach girls compassion and kindness towards monsters, seems to be a manifestation of a Stockhom syndrome in itself, perhaps to facilitate survivial in a world of systematic abuse and violence against women.

The full post is on her site here though I’ve reproduced most of it above. Brilliant, non?