Saturday, 29 March 2008

What's your favourite fairy tale?

In honour of Carl's Once Upon a Time 2 Challenge
I thought I'd throw this random question out on this sunny but very cold (VERY cold) Saturday morning here in Ottawa. What is your favourite fairy tale?

The reason I'm wondering is (other than natural curiosity and wanting to talk about fairy tales!) I recently went to a workshop on fairy tales and myths in our lives, and how to find the meaningful symbols that resonate in both the tales and our lives. What myth do we live by? What fairy tale is your favourite? was the question asked of us. Of a room full of 25 people, only a handful picked an actual written fairy tale. Everyone else picked either Disney or movies (Star Wars, Shrek) or comics. I, of course, was one of the ones who picked a written fairy tale - and if you notice the picture by my header, you'll know which one I'm talking about. The Princess and the Frog, the Talking Frog, The Frog Prince, are some names it goes under, though the central story is the same - the princess is unhappy and needs help, and the frog brings her what she needs to save herself. In return, she has to honour a promise, and in so doing, she frees him from his spell. I have always loved this fairy tale. I love the version with the golden ball she throws up and it lands in the well, and the frog jumps in to save it. I also like that she does not want at first to honour her promise because she is afraid of what people will say, and is eventually forced to because she gave her word. For me, this is a very powerful fairy tale, and very real because it's about change of consciousness and becoming aware of yourself as a person in your own right - and you need help to do it. I love the idea of princes being in disguise. I have a little stone frog with a crown who sits in my garden :-) and I always wanted that golden ball for my own'! -I think now we all have one of our own! We just have to find it.....

So.....I was curious. How many of us in the book-blogging world, love the word fairy tales, and which ones, and how many love a visual (movie or tv) fairy tale? I'm curious because I'd like to know if for readers, our roots are in the fairy tale books, versus the general public whose roots are more general (ie movies everyone experience). I am in no way making a judgement call here, since if I'd thought of applying it, I might have picked Star Wars or Star Trek as my fairy tale, but I'm a literal kind of person, so I thought fairy tale! (Maybe those two are my myths? h-m-m, I'll have to think on this.) I am mostly curious if we came to fairy tales through our childhood and having them read to us, or if we experienced fairy tales through Disney movies. I do confess here that I don't consider Disney as a real fairy tale - I always enjoyed the storybooks and the few Disney movies (CInderella etc) I got to see - but once I knew there were other versions of the fairy tales, I never looked back. Robin McKinley's Beauty is far more powerful for me than Beauty and the Beast Disney version (even if Belle reads and Beast has a great library!) Is this one reason everyone is reading Shannon Hale, because she is reinterpreting the fairy tales again in a modern way? I am so curious to read her now after seeing her books on many of your blogs.

So it's not a question that we need fairy tales and myths (I'll do a later blog on myths, this is supposed to be a lazy Saturday!!) - we do. It's which one appeals to us. So, dear Gentle Reader, please let me know what your favourite was, and how you came to find it. Drop me a line, or if you blog about this, let me know and I'll come see.

Happy reading! Are you turning your lights out for one hour tonight? We are.
I 'm getting my candles ready, and hope to have enough to read by.... Hm-m-m, maybe I could read some fairy tales to them by candlelight, what do you think?

By the way - I'm not dead set against Disney - I can hardly wait for Sleeping Beauty to be released!! I haven't seen it since I was a child, if I even saw it - I know we had the Disney book (you know the ones I mean, with the Disney classics, illustrated with bits of the animated movies).....I can watch Disney, but they don't resonate with me the way printed fairy tales do. I think it's the depth, the texture of the stories - Disney versions have erased a lot of the darkness and blood that the best fairy tales have. Because fairy tales were guides for how to live our lives.

Since I am in the process of reading many versions of fairy tales this year in many of my challenges - Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, the Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Fitcher's Brides by Gregory Frost, to name a few, I can't give a definitive account of my favourite versions of some fairy tales, except to say i love Robin McKinley's Beauty. I know I read Sheri S Tepper's version many years ago, but I have to reread it (given that I own Robin McKinley's, I'd guess it's fair to say which one is the one I prefer). There has been a great number written by Donna Jo Napoli and Shannon Hale recently- YA fantasy writers - and I haven't read any yet, so I can't give an opinion, but certainly many of you out there love them. More books on my wishlist/TBR lists!!!!

By the way, I do love Shrek and the kids have watched all three movies many many many times. I love Gingy (who can resist a gingerbread man who says "Eat me!" in defiance??), Puss in Boots, the whole fairy tale princess/ogre switch, everything. I'm not a snob! but the reason Shrek resonates for us older people is because we know the original stories all these characters come from, their original fairy tales. Do your kids? I know mine don't, which is why I think I will read some fairy tales to them tonight, in the glimmering darkness. My excuse is they are 3 and 5 years old, so some fairy tales they could only just start hearing now! Like the entire Brother's Grimm canon, which I happen to own, and my daughter got an illustrated version from my friend who likes horror!! *sigh*, I'll have to do another blog at a later date on horror and why it's fun to read....meantime, mine and *Nick Hornby's* English Premier League Soccer team is playing on TV, so I'm off to cheer for Arsenal! Have a lazy reading Saturday!!


Lady P said...

I will only be participating in the lights out challenge if a storm knocks our power out. There is no way in h--- I'm going to amuse a 15 yr old who can't survive without his DS, PS3 or tv/movies. That would be way too much NOT fun!!!

I like written fairy tales. I read many to the kids when they were young and I enjoy the imaginations their little minds conjured up. I do enjoy twisted fairy tales on film as well; "The Brothers Grimm" being one and of course the Shrek trilogy another. In another generation or two however, you might find a preference for watching fairy tales as our technology takes over in full force.

The ones we read as kids were more sombre than those I read to mine. I recall one tale about a fox and a wishing well and at the end someone cuts and skins the fox....remember that one? Or the not-so-friendly Hansel and Gretel versions? The ones that keep you up at night!

I will have to think about fairy tales and if I have a favourite. I don't dwelve deeply into the psyche behind my book collection or what I like and why. Maybe it is time too?? Although I always preferred to leave the thinking to you!!

Ok, you keep your bitter cold. The wet snow melts quickly and by late afternoon the roads are clear. What a dismal spring though, isn't it? Give me FLOWERS! GREEN GRASS!!

Chris said...

I always loved the darker fairy tales as a child and that sort of spilled over to my adult life as well. My favorite was Rumpelstiltskin. It used to terrify me and excite me all at the same time. Jim Henson did a great adaptation of it in his Storyteller series. Last year I read Oscar Wilde's complete fairy tales and fell in love with those...I wish I would've read them as a child. Great topic! I do like some of Disney's takes on fairy tales, but like you said..they take too many liberties...they're just not as good as the originals and they're too "disney-fied" They make them so happy when the originals had that dark element to them. Oh well...I wish we were doing the lights out thing here tonight, but we're not :/ New Orleans just isn't into respecting the earth apparently.

Emily Barton said...

You mean I have to choose just one? I don't think I can do that. I read through all the many colored fairy books as a child, and I much prefer written fairy tales to the Disney (or other visual) versions. Anderson's tales are so sad (some too sad for me like The Little Match Girl, although I love The Little Mermaid, despite its sadness), and The Brothers Grimm so wonderfully macabre. I'll have to think about this some more and maybe do a post soon.

Bybee said...

Disney's Sleeping Beauty --- Malificent scared the crap out of me more than *any* villain ever has. I'm too embarassed to tell you how old I was before I stopped fearing her.

I found out about the lights out challenge too late. :-(

Andi said...

I wrote up my thoughts on your question at my blog - - but in short, I picked "Snow White and Rose Red", and I hate Disney.
Thanks for making me think.

Susan said...

Lady p: We had the tv on - the Bee Movie, animated with Jerry Seinfeld - but that's it, everything else including the computer were turned off for an hour! It was fun but very difficult to read by candlelight, so I didn't try. The kids liked the candles too.

You're right about the Brothers Grimm and the Hansel and Gretel - they were creepy and scary. And I think that's the real point about fairy tales, because the world is creepy and scary too. Remember Hans Christian Anderson? Which tale did you like best? And his were all full of sadness and death. And they made me cry.

Let me know if you come up with one, sis!

Chris: I haven't read Oscar Wilde's fairy tales yet, but I know you mention them on your blog too, so now i have another book to add to my TBR list (ever-growing..) I'm curious to how he would write them! And I like how you say you prefer the darker fairy tales -Rumpelstiltsken is dark! And Jim Henson Storyteller series - I saw the Frog Prince version, where Kermit's nephew Robin played the enchanted frog (I forget who plays the princess but she was an actress- human) and there is an ogre somewhere, and I loved it! I hope someday to get a copy of the Storyteller series.

Emily - You can choose as many as you want!!! I like the Armless Maiden, but the one that I grew up with that I loved was the Frog Prince, that I also keep coming across as an adult. Though i find lots of books/references to the Armless maiden now, which might have to do with my creativity and struggle with it.....I loved Hans Christian Anderson too, I was thinking of that last night long after I wrote the blog. I had completely forgotten about it, and yet the other story that I loved as a child was the Snow Queen. I always cried when the girl gets to the north finally, and he has frozen and doesn't love her, and her tears free him. I might have to add this to my blog! HCA was so sad, and the stories ended horribly sometimes - The Little Match girl dies, Little Mermaid. One book that uses the myths and fairy tales in our lives is Women Who run With the Wolves, and I love how the fairy tales are applied - very interesting in how fairy tale symbols pop up in our dreams and private stories. Rats, i might have to do a follow-up blog now!!

Bybee- I was just telling my husband that I don't believe I have ever seen a full Disney movie as a child. We had the books (illustrated from the movies) but don't recall seeing the movie. then I was too old for Pocahontas, Little Mermaid when the second wave of Disney movies came out....I've seen them now as an adult, of course, and they're fun, but they're not dark and they're not real. I think it's why I always WANTED to see Sleeping Beauty so badly, even as a child. Malificanet, Aurora, the fairy godmothers (I loved the colours of their gowns), Philip, the enchantment, it was/is probably as close to a real fairy tale as Disney ever got. So I'm counting down the days until the movie is released now! I like how Malificent scared you - my eldest son had the same reaction to Ursula the Sea-witch in the Little Mermaid. He saw the movie once, saw her, ran from the room crying out, and never saw it again, even though his cousin watched it endlessly at our house for several years after! He always left the room. I think he recently saw it once with his little sister - he's 19 now, she's 5.....

Andi: I will visit your blog shortly, my kids are restless - thanks for dropping by and letting me know!

Becky said...

I'm going to try to be reading Household Tales by the Grimm brothers this year. Some I've never read, some I have.

One of my favorite books growing up was the World's Best Fairy Tales collection by Reader's Digest. It's 830 pages. And it was one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon growing up.

As for a particular favorite, I'd have to say Beauty and the Beast as my favorite and my best. But there are so many others ones I adore as well.

Movies. I like some Disney. I love Disney's Beauty and the Beast. But for Cinderella, give me Rodgers and Hammerstein. I love, love, love that musical. Love it. And Ever After is great too. Love that one. But my favorite favorite favorite of the moment is Enchanted. It is oh-so-magical in all the right ways.

Nymeth said...

My favourite fairy tale is East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I also really like Beauty and the Beast and any of the variations of the animal bridegroom theme. The Green Serpent by Madame D'Aulnoy is another GREAT one.

I've yet to read any novelizations of my favourite fairy tale, but I noted down the name of a few thanks to Once Upon a Time.

I did read fairy tales when I was a child, but I never went beyond the most well-known ones. It was only in my teens that I truly discovered fairy tales, and became obsessed with reading several versions of the same story told in different cultures, etc. I guess I'd never asked myself why this passion started, but I think it was because, given my love of fantasy, it was the next logical step.

Great question, btw!

Susan said...

Princess Bubble
she finds that true happily ever after comes from loving God, helping others and liking who you are already.

DesLily said...

I think the most impressed I ever was with a fairy tale (though I did grow up with Disney versions of most) was the first very old black and white movie I saw of Beauty and the Beast.

Susan said...

Andi - I've just left a comment on your blog. Great post as well! thanks so much for mentioning my blog :-) (btw: she said Snow White and Rose Red was her favourite fairy tale.) I'm going to use your GK Chesterton quote in my update since it is relevant especially to the points we are all making here, I think. Thanks!

Becky: I don't think I've seen the Reader's Digest book, but it sounds really interesting. Were there illustrations as well?
A Rodgers and Hammerstein musical of Cinderella! that i've never seen. Is it on dvd? I love Ever After, saw Enchanted with my daughter in the theatres (we'll be buying it shortly), and I love Ella Enchanted,
I do like Beauty and the Beast, it is among my top four fairy tales - Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, and the Frog Prince. Like you, I have to go read the Brothers Grimm again, and remind myself of fairy tales I knew long ago....

Nymeth - East of the Sun, WEst of the Moon I have read before and really liked it. All the help and treasures along the way :-) I haven't heard of the Green Serpent - by the author who did wrote of my favourite books on my shelves, The Bluebird! I will have to look this one up!!
I think childhood introduces us to fairy tales and myths, and then as teenagers we become able to hear different versions - and I think that's when certain ones make an impression on us, as we find our 'myth' or fairy tale that resonates with our soul, our personal story. so it makes sense that that is when your knowledge broadened, certainly that is when mine did. I am fascinated by the recreations - new retellings by fantasy writers too, and what we are doing with fairy tales now. some of the books being written are really good retellings. Let me know (or all of us on Carl's site as you read them) how you find them, :-) please!

Susan - I'll check out the site shortly, thanks for dropping by and letting me know what you like.

Susan said...

Deslily - an old black and white version of Beauty and the Beast? who starred in it? How old was it?

Does anyone remember the tv series Beauty and the Beast starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman? Just curious....I watched some of it, but not the whole series. I just couldn't get into it after a while (it seemed silly).

Tasses said...

Great post to read on a lazy Sunday night! I'm not certain that I could choose a single tale. I love everything Grimm and I'm still angry that I didn't think up The Sisters Grimm.

The fairy tale that I remember best from my childhood was Rapunzel. I've been trying to psychoanalyze why this is so, but can't seem to come up with an answer... I also liked Rip Van Winkle.

As far as Disney goes .... they can serve as a jumping point to get kids more interested in fantasy/fairy tale/etc... so that we can turn them on to the better stuff!

Becky said...

Susan, they've got three Rodgers & Hammerstein DVDs to choose from. The original 1957 one starring Julie Andrews, the 1965 one starring Lesley Ann Warren, and the 1997 one starring Brandy Norwood. I've seen (and own) two of the three--the first and the last--and would definitely recommend them. The second comes highly recommended by my friend. But I haven't added it to my collection just yet because I can't seem to justify yet another Cinderella :)

Rhinoa said...

I love fairy tales in all forms. My favourite written tales as a child were The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde and The Brave Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen. I didn't read them though, mym mum used to tell meand my sister the tales over and over again whilst we ate dinner (when she wasn't telling us Arthurian tales or Greek myths). As an adult I still really fairy tales and re-tellings and have really enjoyed a few dark versions of The Princess and the Pea lately.

Visually I love The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth as well as The Spiderwick Chronicles which I watched over the weekend. My all time favourite Disney film is The Little Mermaid (so different from the original tale!), such a classic.

Anonymous said...

Well, in this household there can be only one possible answer; it has to be 'The Three Bears'. And, it has to be the original version, that is the one before the golden haired little minx appeared and the villain of the piece was a wicked old lady. This is the version that stresses several times that the bears were good bears. But then we never doubted that for a moment.

Becky said...

I think Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast are my favourites, in the old Ladybird book edition that was the first time I encountered them.

I worked on a product that included a whole host of fairy tales a couple of years ago and it was fascinating to see that the same stories reoccur in different cultures.

And one more thing - Inkheart. I know exactly what you mean. I got through that one and the second one, but all the characters are horrible! And in the second book they compound their horribleness by being very, very stupid. I've given up.
You're not, by any chance, the only other person in the world who doesn't like Philip Pullman, are you?

Susan said...

Once again, thanks to all for answering! Now, to catch up:

tasses - welcome! and Rapunzel! one of my favourites - have you read Anne Stevenson's poem on Rapunzel (if I find it I will post it here)? It really is a good modern take on the fairy tale, and kind of fun too.

I like your idea of the Sisters Grimm, but I think that could only have been done last century or this one! Way too modern for when the Grimms were collecting the fairy tales - for women to be collecting them, I mean. Certainly we were the main tellers for most of mankind's history.

Becky - all of a sudden my movie TBW list has grown by three! I don't think I knew there was a musical of B &B....and now Deslily has told me of the black and white old one, so it's four TBW!! Fingers crossed they can be found. I think my daughter would really like them, she likes music and singing along, which funnily enough is what i loved to do as a child too. Thanks for the recommendations and i will let you know if I find them.

rhinoa - someone else who read Oscar Wilde! I am really going to have to find this book (Chris over at Stuff Dreams are Made of also put this at the top of his list) now!! and a Hans Christian Anderson! I was most surprised when I finished my original blog that I hadn't considered Hans at all, but when I thought about it, I read most of him too, well before I was a teenager. I found them bittersweet, and dark and tragic and sad (I always cried during them!)and I couldn't stay away. The Snow Queen was my favourite. I love the girl's tears melting the shard of ice in the boy's heart. Your mom sounds very cool for telling them over the dinner table, too!
And...Labyrinth, which I saw again recently (I must buy a copy), very good. I'm not sure i've seen the Dark Crystal yet. i love the tone and mood of Labyrinth, and the actors too. My daughter is trying to talk me into Spiderwick Chronicles, but she is 5 and I'm not sure it's not too dark for her (she says no, and she has seen Harry Potter 1-4!)
thanks very much for your comments, and very happy (again) to meet you!

Table Talk - The Three Bears! Although....I only know the Goldilocks version! Where is yours from (book, writer/collector, edition....)? I'd love to read it!!

Becky: I love the Ladybird editions too, the pictures are really for adults, aren't they? really interesting, I loved the depth and detail in them. And the books were built for small hands :-)
What book did you work on? (I'm assuming it's a book, since you're in publishing....)
I'm still struggling with Inkheart - I think you're right, there's something wrong with the characters. I want to like this book so much, and some of the settings are great, but something is missing. I'll try to finish it, but if it doesn't get any better, I'm not bothering with the second one! I'm glad to know we're a group of two, now! :-) As for Phililp Pullman, I did enjoy his books, though it did get strange by the third one and very Christian oriented, I felt. At this point I prefer His Dark Materials to Inkheart! so sorry, you're still a group of one there.....

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