Sunday, 28 October 2012

Red Riding Hood dances with the wolf

A bit of fairy tale fun on Strictly Come Dancing this week...

The judges mentioned beauty and the beast in their comments as well, and I'd never considered the two together, but I suppose there's a link in the sexual connotations with girl and animal?

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Why the newest fairy tale magazine might reignite Britain's folk heritage

...Unsettling Wonder was officially launched at the beginning of the month - click the logo to explore the website!

If you follow any of the blogs I link to on my sidebar, then chances are this won't be news for you! But in case you missed the deluge of blog posts last week, here is a bit of information from the website:

Unsettling Wonder is about going back to...that troubling, entrancing glimpse into story. Childhood affords us the first glimpse, but it is by no means the last. And the oldest stories—the fairy tales we met in childhood, the folklore and folk traditions that gave rise to them—can still be woven together for telling today. We want embrace [sic] and celebrate, re-imagine and re-invent, our folk traditions, the wild and variegated scrapheap of story and theme and motif that lies open to the magpie gaze of the writer.

But why do I think Unsettling Wonder could 'reignite Britain's folk heritage'? 

After having a look around the site I was struck by a couple of things: firstly, of the five members of staff listed, four of them have strong links to Britain, particularly to Scotland. Secondly, in the 'about' section of the website, which provides a type of mission statement for the magazine, we can read that the magazine wants to tell the tales of 'Woods and princes, elves and fools, voyages and rolling cheeses, tricksters and righteous sages, kings dressed as beggars, stories told by thieves.' Rolling cheeses? Now, that's not something I've ever seen mentioned specifically before by a fairy tale magazine! Cheese rolling is an ancient - and possibly pagan - British tradition that is still celebrated today in the Cotswolds. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have never heard of such an event happening elsewhere in the world.

Does the British folk and fairy tale need a renaissance?

Maybe. Maybe not. I think when most people think of the British fairy tale, chances are they'll be thinking of the works of Victorian writers who, for all their moralising, produced great works and great names that stay with us: Andrew Lang, Charles Kingsley, Christina Rossetti...What I personally love is the slightly blurred boundaries between folk tales and fairy tales that occur: Victorians wrote moral versions of familiar fairy tales, but also incorporated that moral tone into stories of fairies, sprites and all the other mischievous little folk whose legends litter our countryside. Kingsley's The Water-Babies is an example of this, yet it is still called a fairy tale.

And things seem to have been a bit quiet since then (although perhaps the passing of time will make it easier to see otherwise...) Fantasy is something that Britain has always done well, in short stories and novels, but I'm not aware of any rejuvenated fairy tales that have had much impact. American writers seem particularly good at producing the 'modern' fairy tale set in, say, a desert or a high school. But I haven't seen many British writers take the fairy tale in that direction - perhaps we are struggling to move on from the unique blend the Victorians produced for us? A lot of fairy tale magazines/ezines seem to be based in America and have American editors too.

I don't know. I'm just speculating, and I won't pretend I've spent hours and hours researching this - I am basing this purely on my own observations (so criticise me, agree with me, attack me - lets debate this!) But perhaps Unsettling Wonder will allow British writers to shake off the dust covering their tomes of folk and fairy tales, and re-explore a land left behind long ago, creating new footprints in the dust...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Let nature be your teacher

Ah, I feel the shift! The leaves have begun to change colour, the temperature has dropped, and the first crisp chills have started to hang in the morning air...
by IgnisFatuusll @ dA

I'm sure I say it every year, and with every change in season...but I feel as though I must carry on sharing this feeling, because it is just too uplifting and inspiring to contain! I want to be out connecting with nature and finding inspiration in the wild places! I want to find a way to capture all the feelings of autumn in words! I love the way everything is on fire, and yet it can be so's magical!
Each year my birthday becomes more and more entwined with celebrating the first day of autumn, as I can welcome in the new season along with a new year of my life. Perhaps that explains why autumn is my favourite season - I'm an autumn baby!

As I am struggling to express all my crazy nature-loving feelings, and as I am using far too many exclamation marks in proportion to the number of words on the page, I've included a poem by William Wordsworth who, as always, says it best...



        UP! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
          Or surely you'll grow double:
          Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
          Why all this toil and trouble?

          The sun, above the mountain's head,
          A freshening lustre mellow
          Through all the long green fields has spread,
          His first sweet evening yellow.

          Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
          Come, hear the woodland linnet,                             
          How sweet his music! on my life,
          There's more of wisdom in it.

          And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
          He, too, is no mean preacher:
          Come forth into the light of things,
          Let Nature be your teacher.

          She has a world of ready wealth,
          Our minds and hearts to bless--
          Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
          Truth breathed by cheerfulness.                             

          One impulse from a vernal wood
          May teach you more of man,
          Of moral evil and of good,
          Than all the sages can.

          Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
          Our meddling intellect
          Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:--
          We murder to dissect.

          Enough of Science and of Art;
          Close up those barren leaves;                               
          Come forth, and bring with you a heart
          That watches and receives.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Feminist Fables

I have been reading various anthologies as part of my short fiction module at university, and I recently came across three of Suniti Namjoshi's Feminist Fables in an anthology edited by Angela Carter. I was struck by how her writing could be both humorous and deeply meaningful in such a small space - they can't be more than a couple of hundred words...

I particularly enjoyed 'A Room of His Own', which is a take on Bluebeard. Bluebeard goes through the usual routine with his new wife, goes on his travels, and when he comes back finds that she hasn't been in his room. He questions her and wants to know why she didn't look, and why she wasn't curious. When she tells him 'I think you're entitled to a room of your own,' he is so angry he kills her. 

It really made me think.

And it definitely made me want to try re-writing fairy tales again!

by fatamorgana1989 @ dA
The anthology I referred to is called Wayward Girls and Wicked Women (ed. Angela Carter) First published in 1986 by Virago Press.