heroines

March 26, 2020

I read mythology, folk lore and fairy-tales voraciously, yet certain tales felt inappropriate and even irritating long before I was capable of analysing why that might be. They annoyed me in the same way Barbie dolls did. These were the stories featuring passive girls, usually born or destined to become princesses, like Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. Girls whose physical attractiveness was the sum of their identity; girls who were not so much protagonists as prizes.

I yearned for heroines I could identify with and aspire to be like. Girls who DID things. Who underwent hardship and suffering and overcame the odds by use of their own wit or courage. And I found Gerta in Andersen’s The Snow Queen and the brave sister in the Grimms tale, The Six Swans. I found Gretel in Hansel and Gretel; Janet in Tam Lin; and the redoubtable, splendidly named Molly Whuppie – the female Jack who bests her giant. Molly may marry and disappear into ‘happy-ever-after’, but you know she will go on dominating life just the same.

Ellen Renner
HELPERS, HEROINES AND HAGS

REAL WITCHES

March 17, 2020

In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. The most important thing you should know about REAL WITCHES is this. Listen very carefully. Never forget what is coming next.

Roald Dahl
The Witches

Fairy tales are more than moral lessons and time capsules for cultural commentary; they are natural law. The child raised on folklore will quickly learn the rules of crossroads and lakes, mirrors and mushroom rings. They’ll never eat or drink of a strange harvest or insult an old woman or fritter away their name as though there’s no power in it. They’ll never underestimate the youngest son or touch anyone’s hairpin or rosebush or bed without asking, and their steps through the woods will be light and unpresumptuous. Little ones who seek out fairy tales are taught to be shrewd and courteous citizens of the seen world, just in case the unseen one ever bleeds over.

S.T. Gibson
Blog entry

literally spell-binding

February 11, 2020

I’ve loved fairy tales, folklore, and myth since I was a child, and then studied myth and folklore at university — so when I discovered fantasy (an entire genre full of fiction and art rooted in ancient, magical stories!) I knew I’d found my aesthetic home: the field I wanted to work in, and the professional community I wanted to be a part of.

As with myths and folk tales, a good fantasy novel is literally spell-binding, using language to conjure up whole new worlds, or to invest our own modern world with magic. To me, the particular pleasure of good fantasy comes from its unbroken link to the world’s oldest stories, expressed through an author’s skilful manipulation of mythic archetypes, story patterns, and symbols. And those are powerful things.

Terri Windling
Interview with ActuSF

master the tales

January 30, 2020

Fairy tales shaped me. I have since “put them away.” That is, the adult is a mostly rational creature, aware that fairy tales are not “real” but are a fantasy, an entertaining escape from the problems of the real world. As a man, I make such tales an object of my attention and maintain an analytical control over them: I read them. I interpret them; they don’t interpret me. I, placing them within my memory and my experience exactly where I wish them to be. Fairy tales dwell within the adult.

Walter Wangerin, Jr
Hans Christian Andersen: Shaping the Child’s Universe

everything you touch

December 22, 2019

Everything you look at can become a fairy tale and you can get a story from everything you touch

Hans Christian Andersen
The Fairy Tale of My Life

reciprocated acts of kindness

September 7, 2019

In [fairy tales], power is rarely the right tool for survival anyway. Rather the powerless thrive on alliances, often in the form of reciprocated acts of kindness – from beehives that were not raided, birds that were not killed but set free or fed, old women who were saluted with respect. Kindness sown among the meek is harvested in crisis

Rebecca Solnit
The Faraway Nearby.

People who’ve never read fairy tales, the professor said, have a harder time coping in life than the people who have. They don’t have access to all the lessons that can be learned from the journeys through the dark woods and the kindness of strangers treated decently, the knowledge that can be gained from the company and example of Donkeyskins and cats wearing boots and steadfast tin soldiers. I’m not talking about in-your-face lessons, but more subtle ones. The kind that seep up from your subconscious and give you moral and humane structures for your life. That teach you how to prevail, and trust. And maybe even love.

Charles de Lint
The Onion Girl

The Bad Guy

August 20, 2019

We are told in fairy tales that evil always loses and good eventually will triumph. That is what makes those stories so desirable to the general population. They want to believe that karma works and the bad guys are always defeated in the end. But in a world where no one thinks they are the bad guy and everyone plays the victim, it is harder and harder to find the black and the white of a situation. We are all the hero, and we are all the monster.

John Goode
Maybe With a Chance of Certainty

As in the tales of Grimm and Perrault [Tsvetaeva] suggests that it is the fear, the delight in our fear, we enjoy, a delight we cannot enjoy in reality since we fear for our skin. Conversely, Tsvetaeva tells us, a fairy tale that doesn’t frighten is not a fairy tale.  It is terror that transports us to the place where Dostoyevsky was transported when he was condemned to death, this most precious place, the most alive, where you tell yourself you are going to receive the axe’s blow, and where you discover, by the axe’s light, what Kafka made Moses say: How beautiful the world is even in its ugliness. It’s at this moment, as Blanchot would say, that “we see the light.” It’s at this moment, in extremis, that we are born and enjoy the strange things that can happen during such a dangerous, magnificent, and cruel experience as losing a relative while still in the freshness of childhood or youth. We feel,  to our unspeakable horror, something that is incredibly odd: on the one hand an infinitely greater loss than the one we feel when we are of a mature age, and on the other, an unavowable joy – difficult to perceive – that is simply the joy of being alive. The pure joy of feeling that I am not the one who is dying.

Hélène Cixous
The School of Dreams
Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing