Thoughts from a tree

Archive for the ‘Fairy Tale Fridays’ Category

Fairy Tale Fridays – Re-discovered Fairy Tales

Wow, I didn’t realize it had been a year since the last time I did one of these. I’m such a slacker 😦

This is a short one too, but I wanted to share this link before I forget: Newly re-discovered fairy tales

I’m always excited about new fairy tales. While the ‘classics’ are great, it’s important to remember that they cover a somewhat small spectrum of the world, and were compiled by people with an agenda. One of the fascinating things the article discusses is how the new collection makes obvious the gender-bias and white-washing done by the Grimms in their collection.

However, what I’d really like to start seeing more of is non-European fairy tales. And I’d like to see a Disney Princess moved based off one of them. One of my biggest disappointments with the Disney Princess movies has been their treatment of non-white characters. Why is it that every non-white character has to have a historically-based story line, instead of a fairy tale?

When they decided to do a black princess, for instance, why not celebrate a folk tale from Africa? They could have even just followed the book closer (I mean “The Princess And The Frog” by E.D. Baker, not “The Frog Prince” fairy tale), and it would have been a fairy tale type of story.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love all these movies, and I’m glad they at least *tried*. I just feel like they could have done even better. Studio Ghibli has several great examples of fairy tale stories that aren’t European, and they’re awesome! Wouldn’t it be great to see something like Princess Mononoke based on Native American mythology? How about a heroine that has to deal with Anansi?

Every culture has their own type of fairy tales, even if they don’t necessarily have “fairies” in them.  Stories of myth and magic. Stories originally composed to teach morals or lessons. Legends. Folk tales. I want all of these stories to be shared and remembered.

Fairy Tale Fridays – Beauty And The Beast

My second-favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast. An old fairy tale, it has more versions than can be counted. The traditional versions follow a similar thread: a merchant loses his fortune when all his ships go missing and he is forced to move to the country. Upon hearing that one ship has been found, he goes back to the city, but first asks his daughters if there is anything they would like him to bring back. The other daughters ask for frivolous and expensive things, but Beauty only asks for a rose (or flower seeds). When he gets to the city, he discovers the ship was taken by pirates. Still poor, the merchant heads home with nothing, gets lost, and ends up on the Beast’s property.

The Beast (unseen) lets him eat and sleep there unmolested but becomes enraged when the merchant takes one of his roses. The merchant explains about Beauty’s simple request and the Beast agrees to let him go if Beauty comes instead. The merchant goes home, tells the story, but doesn’t want Beauty to go. She insists, sometimes with the encouragement of her sisters. What happens once she’s in the castle varies widely, but he asks her to marry him every night, she always says no, and eventually the Beast falls in love with her. When he finds out she wants to see her family again (sometimes because her father is sick), he lets her go but sets a time limit and tells her that he will die if she does not return before then.

Once at home, Beauty delays, or is tricked by her sisters (who are jealous of the riches the Beast has given her) into staying past the time limit. Then she realizes that she has been gone too long (from a vision in a mirror, a dying rose, or something else), panics, and returns. The Beast is near death when she finds him, but she cries and says he must live because she loves him and will marry him. He then transforms into a prince, tells her he was cursed by a dark fairy, and they live happily ever after.

I couldn’t tell you which version I read first, but my favorite is Robin McKinley’s version, Beauty (she also revisited the tale decades later with Rose Daughter). Of the versions I’ve read, it also seems the closest to the Disney version, with a more liberated and intelligent heroine, though it was written first.

As far as the Disney movie goes, the detail that bothered me the most is that the entire thing takes place in a handful of days (the little mermaid at least gave an excuse for this, though it annoyed me there too). On the other hand, I liked that she was a bookworm and had a horse. The whole Gaston issue was new too, but that added tension and fit well enough. Magical or cursed servants exist in other versions prior to Disney, including McKinley’s.

I was also a big fan of the original television series, Beauty and the Beast, starring Linda Hamilton, which was a much more modern version (at the time) and also involved fighting crime. More recently, there was the modern-day retelling, Beastly. I haven’t read the book, but did enjoy the movie. It bothered me that the “Beast” didn’t seem very ugly to me, and just had what looked like a lot of odd tattoos, but I did like the modern detail of her complaining about her imprisonment on Facebook.

A long time ago I read another version that I wish I could find. It was also modern-day-ish, but the Beast had been disfigured by either a disease or an accident. I don’t think she ends up with him at the end, but she does convince him that he should see a doctor and try to get some of his injuries fixed so he can look and feel normal again. It was a very different story than usual and I regret I can’t remember enough details to find and re-read it.

The theme of Beauty and the Beast is one of the most ubiquitous story themes, particularly in romances or stories with romantic elements. There is something very compelling about a story wherein someone learns to look past appearances. Interestingly, this theme is rarely gender-reversed. I’m not sure if that says something about men, or just our faith in women. Women do seem much better to me, in general, about looking past physical attributes, both in regards to romance and otherwise (though maybe not during high school).

My current work-in-progress is loosely based on the beauty and the beast theme as well, though my beast was never human and isn’t going to turn into one. At least not permanently.

Disclaimer: Although I work for Disney, I just work on computers, and have nothing to do with the movies, marketing, or anything like that. My thoughts have nothing to do with the company, nor have they been encouraged or paid for by the company.

Fairy Tale Fridays – The Little Mermaid

Ariel's Grotto

At Ariel’s Grotto in Disneyland.

The logical next fairy-tale for me to talk about is Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, since it’s my favorite. Although my first memories of it are theatrical in nature, it was years before the Disney film existed. I believe the first one I saw was Shelly Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre version, and this remains one of my favorites. There was also a version I saw by Toei Animation that was pretty good, and, sometime later, the Shirley Temple version.

I can’t say when I first read it, but my mother owned some large books that were collections of fairy tales, fables, and other stories, and I remember starting to go through them at a very young age. These were not kid-sized versions, but books meant for adults and intended to be accurate translations of the original works.

For those who are unaware, this is the basics of the original story: the little mermaid (she does not have a name) is fascinated by the world above and in great anticipation of the day when she will finally be allowed to go above the water, as her older sisters can. The day arrives, she sees the prince’s ship, sees the prince, the ship is wrecked, and she rescues him. She leaves him on an island (he does not see her), where he is found and nursed by a girl. The mermaid goes home and asks her grandmother some pointed questions about humans. It turns out that mermaids live for ~300 years, while humans live shorter lives. However, humans have a soul and go to heaven when they die, whereas mermaids simply turn into sea foam. The only way a mermaid can get a soul is to marry a human male.

Determined to get a soul (and find the prince), she goes to the sea witch, who is KIND and tries very hard to talk her OUT of it. Undeterred, the little mermaid insists, trades in her voice, becomes human, and is discovered by the prince. She becomes his faithful companion and is given the honor of getting to sleep outside his door (I guess that was something *good* back then). While he is reluctant to get married at first, when he see his betrothed bride-to-be is the girl he thinks saved him, he is overjoyed and the little mermaid is devastated. Not only has she lost her love, but, as part of the spell, she will die the morning after he marries another.

The sisters of the little mermaid beg the sea witch for more help, and obtain a magical dagger for the little mermaid. If she kills the prince with it, she will turn back into a mermaid and live a full life. But she can’t do it, because she knows him well by then and loves him, and she jumps into the sea. Instead of just turning into sea foam forever, her love for the prince allows her to become a ‘daughter of the air,’ which will allow her to earn an immortal soul eventually.

Despite all its differences, I loved the Disney version. As a fan of happy endings, it didn’t bother me that they changed that (and I never liked the bit about mermaids not having souls to begin with). I was sad that they made the witch evil, but they needed a villain from somewhere, I guess. I also loved the music, which helped a lot. At work we often are asked who our favorite character is and my answer is always Ariel.

In ‘researching’ a mermaid-based story I’m writing, I acquired many other theatrical versions of the story. The ones that were made before the Disney version tend to stick much closer to the original story, whereas the newer ones prefer to have a happier ending (and one even throws in a subplot about trash in the ocean). While I like different aspects of each one, Shelly Duvall’s is still my favorite of the non-Disney choices.

I’ve thought a lot about why the little mermaid always resonated so strongly with me (and millions of other people). In some ways she is an explorer, the only one of her species that wonders about other creatures, and wants to see outside her world. The Disney version takes this a step further, and has her determined to not listen to the prejudices she was taught, nor fear others. She believes there is more to humans than what the mermaids can see.

In addition, she exemplifies the concept of ‘true love’ when she decides to die instead of killing the prince. In the original version she never claimed to love the prince in the beginning; it was the eternal soul that she was after. It was only after the significant amount of time that she spent with the prince that she fell in love with him. I’m not really a fan of ‘love at first sight.’ That seems more like ‘lust at first sight,’ than love, to me. So the fact that she loved him for an actual reason made her feelings much more real to me than those of most other fairy-tale heroines. And sacrificing yourself for another is the ultimate expression of that love.

Although Frozen may have replaced The Little Mermaid as my favorite Disney movie, the original story is still my favorite fairy tale, and Ariel is still my favorite Disney character.

Disclaimer: Although I work for Disney, I just work on computers, and have nothing to do with the movies, marketing, or anything like that. My thoughts have nothing to do with the company, nor have they been encouraged or paid for by the company.

Fairy Tale Fridays – Frozen

Disclaimer: Although I work for Disney, I just work on computers, and have nothing to do with the movies, marketing, or anything like that. My thoughts are in no way associated with the company, nor have they been encouraged or paid for by the company.

I was originally going to cover a different fairy tale first, but since the movie is still out, and it’s AWESOME, I’m going to talk about Frozen instead. Unless you just don’t like musicals, you should go out and see it right now if you haven’t already (I’m looking at you, Mars and Jim). I have seen it three times in the theatre so far, and would gladly see it again. I don’t do that. I don’t even like going to the movie theatre at all. Prior to the Avengers, the only movie I’d seen in a theatre more than once was Serenity, and for most movies I just wait for the DVD to come out.

I was, like many, skeptical that Frozen would be any good. Their initial ads for it basically lied to us, making it appear to be a stupid kid movie with annoying sidekicks. But, it’s not. I swear. The songs are amazing, the visuals are dazzling, and the story is epic. I cried. A lot. Don’t believe me? Just go and watch it already, if you haven’t. If you have, then you know what I mean. Do you want to build a snowman?

Frozen is loosely based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson. Loosely, as in, it has about as much in common with it as the movie Lost World did with the book. In The Snow Queen, there are two children, a boy and a girl, who are best friends. One day the boy gets a goblin-made piece of glass in his eye and heart. The glass makes his heart cold and his eye can only see the bad things in life. The snow queen abducts him for unclear reasons and takes him to her palace, where he is slowly turning to ice, though he can’t feel it.

The girl goes off to search for him, and wanders through several adventures. A number of plants, animals, and people help her along the way, including a not-terribly-nice robber girl, who eventually lets her have a reindeer she had been tormenting. The girl finds the boy at the snow palace and cries, melting the pieces of glass and returning the boy to normal. They travel back home and live happily ever after, though they realize they have become adults.

Now, prior to the release of the movie, I read an article lamenting the fact that several female characters of the original story had been “replaced” by the obvious love-interest Kristoff, who appeared to be in charge of the quest to save the kingdom. However, not only do I think Disney’s story is better than the original (there, I said it), it is also has a lot more ‘girl power’.

In the original version, the girl survives and rescues the boy through her ‘innocence and kind heart.’ She is a passive participant as the events unfold around her, with her only real choice being to try to find her friend (and she only intended to go as far as the river). Although there are also two witches, a princess, and the robber-girl, those characters don’t really do a lot either, and most of what they do is bad, except for the princess. I’m not sure how any of that is supposed to be good for girls to see.

****** Major Spoilers Past This Point ******

Also, make sure you stay till the end, and pay attention to the credits.

****** Really ******

****** I warned you ******

Anna (pronounced ‘Onna’), on the other hand, is determined, brave, and loyal. While she has not one, but two love interests, what she really wants is her sister back. In sharp contrast to the cold Snow Queen, Elsa has spent her whole life trying to do the right thing and gives up everything in her attempt to protect her sister.

And then there’s the end. I was so incredibly thrilled at the way that played out. While Gary was disappointed that Anna never got any powers of her own, I was okay with it. It was so poetic, and beautiful, and so NOT the stereotype that people always claim is in the Disney Princess movies (note I said ‘claim’, I will do a whole other post on that one of these days). The trick with the prince was also fantastic. I will admit I did not see that coming.

Even Olaf was not as annoying as I had feared he would be. Him and Sven both provided nice little bits of humor at opportune moments.

I ordered the soundtrack as soon as I got home, and I’ve memorized all the songs pretty much. I like all of them, which is rare, but “Let It Go” is my clear favorite. I think that in addition to it pertaining to the movie, it is also a song of empowerment. It resonates particularly for women, but anyone could feel inspired by it. I was going to list all the lines that support this, but then I realized it would be most of the song, so I’m just going to paste the whole song in and bold them.

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I’m the Queen
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in; Heaven knows I tried

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well now they know

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on

the cold never bothered me anyway

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry
Here I stand
And here I’ll stay

Let the storm rage on

My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back, the past is in the past

Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand
In the light of day

Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway

While it’s not nearly as tear-inducing as “Do you want to build a snowman?”, this is now my favorite Disney song, even beating out Ariel’s “Part of Your World,” which I am very emotionally attached to. I’m sure it helps that Idina Menzel is such a talented singer. I can’t wait for “Let It Go” to come out on Karaoke!

Fairy Tale Fridays – Intro

I’ve struggled with what to write about on my blog. Although there are many things I’ve considered, when it comes down to sitting down and typing up a post, they rarely seem worth it. At one of the panels at the Florida Writer’s Conference I attended, a discussion about blogging occurred (it was not the main intended topic of the panel) and someone made a comment that struck me. I wish I could remember the exact words, or who said it, but it boiled down to this: write about the things you like, rather than the things you don’t, and try to make it something that relates to your book(s) in some way.

Some examples included things like, if you write books for middle-grade boys, you could talk about fun activities to do with your son(s) (since it’s usually going to be the parents reading the blog/buying the books, rather than the child). If you have a main character that likes to rock-climb on occasion, you could talk about rock-climbing.

I had an epiphany. I *love* fairy tales, and their relatives of mythology and legend. Most of my stories are at least tangentially based on a fairy tale, and are meant for that particular vein of fantasy. As soon as I made that connection, the theme presented itself “Fairy Tale Fridays.”

So that’s what I’ll do. I don’t promise to update *every* Friday, but I think I will be more successful than I have been in the past. Sometimes I will just discuss a particular fairy tale, the cliff-notes if you will, and its current adaptions. Other times I might talk about a mythological creature, or a particular adaptation of a fairy tale.

Disney is bound to get mentioned a lot, since not only do most other people know the movies, but also because I really like them (that’s a large part of the reason I work there, after all).

So that’s my plan, we’ll see how it goes.

Starting … now 🙂