Every year I really do mean to celebrate Halloween. I mean to join in on the All Hallow's Read. I mean to remember to stock up on candy. I mean to watch one of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Halloween episodes.
Alas, every year, I'm spooked not by goblins and ghouls... but by piles of papers to grade, Excel spreadsheets, and requests for the following year's reading lists. That kind of takes the fun out of it.
I did briefly get into the spirit though. I'm working on an essay about - what else - fairy tale princesses and I was scouring Henriette Julie de Murat's "The Savage." This is fast becoming one of my favourite tales and has more than a little Halloween spookiness to boot. Take this passage:
"Obligeantine had a chariot prepared that was made from the skull of a giant who had been found on her lands and whom she had exterminated through her art. This giant had been ninety-six feet high, and the fairy had the skull crafted in such an admirable way that one could find there all that was necessary with regard to attendants and wheels. Since she only wanted to travel at night, she had it given a black gloss. She harnessed two large mastiffs to it, and they were provided with bat wings from the Indies that were as large as cows." (from The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, selected and edited by Jack Zipes)
Murat is such a fantastic character in her own right. She arrived at the court of Louis XIV at the age of sixteen, wearing her Breton folk costume, and flung herself headlong into a life of scandal, excitement and danger. Zipes mentions that she also wore a red cloak to church... I can't help but briefly wonder if she inspired Perrault's wolfish censure?
There's some great scholarship coming out on fairy tales. I can't wait for my copy of The Teller's Tale: Lives of the Classic Fairy Tale Writers (Ed. Sophie Raynard). I'm also looking forward to reading Jo Eldridge Carney's Fairy Tale Queens: Representations of Early Modern Queenship.
A quick side note, I saw good friend and colleague, Dr Michelle Smith's recent talk at the Wheeler Centre, "From Prim to Poledance: Girls, Sex and Popular Culture." It was terrific and the video is up here. I think she had one of the best opening lines. Watch it and see if you agree!