Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fairy Tales Are Weird - Take This Tale About A Twig

This morning, I was absolutely delighted to read "10 Totally Psychotic Fairy Tales That Hollywood Should Film Next" on io9.

Fairy tales are mad.

Take Basile's "The Myrtle."

A woman desires a child so greatly, she "wouldn't care if it were a branch of myrtle!" She presently gives birth to a twig. She cheerfully plants the twig in a pretty pot and puts it up on the windowsill, watering and pruning it tenderly.

As if that isn't odd enough, a Prince passes by and falls head over heels in love with the twig. He begs and pleads to be given the twig and then scurries away with it to his bedroom where "he hoed and watered it with his own hands." In the middle of the night, he senses something getting into bed with him. It's all soft and lovely. He cosies up to it. However, by morning, his bedmate is gone. This occurs several nights, so, of course, in order to discover who's sharing his bed, he ties the girl's plaits to himself, calls for candles, and discovers that she's both gorgeous and a fairy. They become very happy.

But when the Prince has to go away on a trip, the Prince's spurned "women of vice" come and grab the myrtle, summoning the fairy. Seeing how gorgeous she is, they immediately rip her into little bits and flee. The Prince's servant comes upon the crime scene and hastily tidies up all the blood and flesh and hides it away in the pretty pot, watering it for good measure.

The Prince is devastated to discover he has lost his lover. Fortunately, however, she's regrowing in the pot and seeing him so miserable, she pops right back out and consoles him by telling him she is still alive despite being ripped into little pieces by the women.

The Prince invites the women and the lords of the land to a great feast. He asks them all what punishment would be just for someone who would hurt such an attractive fairy. The women come up with all kinds of colourful responses involving gallows, wheels, pincers and being thrown off cliffs. The Prince puts these punishments into effect and he and the fairy live happily ever after.

(Quotes taken from Nancy Canepa's translation in Giambattista Basile's The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones, 2007: pp 52-60.)

You can't make that stuff up...


You can.

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012: Is it the year of the fairy tale?

Shhhhh... I am working on writing up an article. Honest I am. I am not distracting myself by figuring out whether I can make a trip along the Italian Riveria during the weekend off from teaching in Prato. I am not distracting myself with Golden Globe fashions. No siree.

However, I am wondering if this year is the year of fairy tale. Those of us in Australia have started seeing the channel 7 promotional spots for Once Upon A Time, which is excellent news. Grimm went to cable and I don't have cable.

There are fairy tale films due out soon, including Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Jack and the Beanstalk.

There is a lot of buzz about a cyborg version of Cinderella in Marissa Meyer's Cinder. You can see the prequel short story here on Tor.com.

The trouble with what appears to be a resurgence of fairy tale is that people will expect the trend to end. Admittedly, we still haven't seen the end of vampires and Harry Potter doesn't seem to be melting away into obscurity (although, SNL has an especially funny take on his adult years), and I'd be thrilled if fairy tale keeps getting 'bigger' as the twenty-first century progresses. What I would like to see, though, are new tales and less popular tales emerge from this trend. It's incredible how limited the canon of fairy tale really is. It is time to expand that canon and introduce new generations to Viola, Finette, the Ram and their like.