Can one have a favorite Fairy Tale??? That is the question posed by this month's Blog Carnival Topic for Etsy Bloggers' Street Team. Actually, we have been asked to either discuss the difference between Art & Craft or tell about our favorite Fairy Tale. I have serious opinions about Art & Craft and Art vs. Craft and Craftmanship vs. Crafty-ness and I tend to get a bit snarky and long winded about the whole thing so I think I'll avoid it and discuss Fairy Tales instead.
Fairy Tales are one of the great loves of my life. When I was small, my grandpappy's house had two huge books that I loved to look at. One was a book of nursery rhymes and one was a massive book of fairy tales, both with wonderful illustrations. The Princess and the Pea was a favorite and Puss in Boots was particularly fun - I liked the illustrations of the cat dressed up in boots. I remember really liking the story of the soldier and the tinderbox, though I cannot imagine why. Maybe it was the illustrations of dogs with really big eyes.
I also loved the Twelve Dancing Princesses. I was intrigued by the idea of a secret world where one might escape authority and responsibility. I was always disappointed that the soldier ruined the fun. I still often dream of finding doors to previously undiscovered parts of my house containing highly desirable rooms and furnishings. In my dreams I have discovered fully equipped fiber studios with tall windows and lots of cupboards & counter space, elegant and comfortable sitting rooms with curtained off reading nooks full of beautifully bound leather books (full of illustrations, I'm sure) and bedroom suites with gorgeous built-in cabinetry and drawers.
Can you tell that I crave solitude, time to create and better organization?
Still, I think it would be impossible for me to choose an all time favorite Fairy Tale as I'm still discovering them. My favorites change as I age and I delight in learning new stories, new reworkings of old themes, and new ways of telling tales. As a young Adult, I discovered The Maid of The North, compiled by Ethel Johnston Phelps. I was relatively unfamiliar with stories seperate from the classic Grimm and Anderson tales so thse multi-cultural tales were a real treat. The fact that I was discoverig feminism at the time made them all the more desireable.
Later on, as a married non-trad college student, I was assigned to read The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter in a class on the literature of Fairy Tales. For the first time, the magic of a tale and the crafting of exquisite words to tell it came together for me. The first story took my breath away - Bluebeard's eloquent bride, the sinister, stalking courtship, the astounding rescue by a resourceful mother - no sillyheaded victim with a team of blustering brothers here; "On her eighteenth birthday, my mother had disposed of a man-eating tiger that had ravaged the villages in the hills north of Haonoi. Now, without a moment's hesitation, she raised my father's gun, took aim and put a single, irreproachable bullet through my husband's head."
Oh -to have a mother like that - to BE a mother like that.
I must warn you, Angela Carter is no child's plaything. Her stories include the bawdy, the erotic and the truly sinister. You can't read them to your 5 year old at bedtime. You maybe don't want your 15 year old to read them, you may find them disturbing. Angela Carter's re-tellings remind us that Fairy tales were stories made to frighten children out of forests at night while entertaining the grown ups around the fire. Step between the covers of her boks with the greatest trepidation and infinite precautions.
Finally - a story you can, and should, read to your 5 year old at bedtime. The Story of the Eldest Prncess by A.. Byatt is found in Jack Zipes collection, The Outspoken Princess and the Gentle Knight. It is a story of a Princess who is set out on a quest that she knows she is destined to fail at so she steps of the expected role in order to discover and create her own story. The language is rich and descriptive - we would expect no less from Byatt, no? Listen to this:
"And the blue day were further and further apart, and the grens were more and more varied until a time when it became quite clear that the fundamental colour of the sy was no longer what they still called sky-blue, but a new sky-green, a pale flat green someweher between the colours which had once been apple and grass and fern. But of course, apple, grass and fern looked very different against this new light, and something very odd and dimming happened to lemons and oranges, and something more savage and hectic to poppies and pomengranates and ripe chiles."
Beautiful prose continues through the rest of the story to the end where the Eldest Princess finds her true home and we learn that "there is always an old woman ahead of you on a journey, and there is always an old woman behind you too, and they are not always the same, they may be fearful or kindly, dangerous or delightful, as the road shifts, and you speed along it."
Take some time today to stop speeding along your road and ground yourself with some fairy tales. Re-examine your motives, ponder the possibilities of True Love and listen for the wisdom in the old women in your life. You can find lots of annotated tales and illustratioons over at SurLaLune, one of my favorite places on the web. You'll also find links to and reviews of new fairy tale literature.