Things Happening in Australian Fairy Tale

This is, again, a bit of a cross post from the Monash Fairy Tale Salon website, but since I wrote the original, I think that’s allowed!

The great news is that there’s a bit of buzz developing around Australian fairy tale!! I wrote an article a couple of years ago for Marvels & Tales, hoping to see much more work done, because there’s no way that one article covered everything! Although I did enjoy having an opportunity to write about Shaun Tan’s work, which is amazing. Have you read his new book?


I picked my copy up from The Little Bookroom and it came with its own bag!

Okay, down to details!

The Griffith Review is releasing its special issue, Once Upon a Time in Oz. I’m happy to be involved in the launch on November 7. There’s details on the Monash website here. (I’m trying to decide whether to go with red or silver shoes…) Those interested are welcome to RSVP (link on website).

In other great news, two of the salon’s great friends, Reilly McCarron and Jo Henwood, are co-founding the Australian Fairy Tale Society! I’m so excited about this. There will a conference next year and you can find more details at the salon’s blog.


Fairy tale in Italy



This is a bit of a cross-post from the Monash Fairy Tale Salon, but the good news is, Fairy Tale in Italy is part of the 2014 Monash Prato programme.

That’s right – a chance to study fairy tale in Tuscany! We’ll be looking at the first European authors of fairy tale, Straparola and Basile, Collodi’s Pinocchio and the tales collected by Italo Calvino, including those which were originally sourced from the area right around Prato itself.

There’s an information session, details below:

Date – Monday 28th October
Time – 1:00pm – 2:30pm
Location – R1 (Bldg 8), Clayton Campus
More information is available at
We always have a fantastic time. The programme is full and challenging, but you do get to study in Italy! I can also advise on the best place for gelato and gluten free food and the best museums in which to see Cinderella’s shoes (okay, perhaps not her actual shoes, but close enough!).

A World of Her Own

Anyone who studies women’s writing is familiar with Virginia Woolf’s ‘room of her own’ equation, but I was delighted to discover that Margaret Cavendish in the seventeenth century didn’t bother with a room… she wanted a world. In the preface to The Blazing World, she notes “though I cannot be Henry the Fifth, or Charles the Second, yet I endeavour to be Margaret the First; and although I have neither power, time, nor occasion to conquer the world as Alexander and Caesar did; yet rather than not to be mistress of one, since Fortune and the Fates would give me none, I have made a world of my own” (see Penguin Classics edition, p124).*

Margaret Cavendish

Margaret Cavendish

The Blazing World has a claim as early science fiction. There’s a fairy tale quality, but the Empress of the Blazing World has a scientific mind and wonders are grounded in scientific theory. Margaret Cavendish writes herself into the tale as the Duchess of Newcastle, becoming the great friend of the Empress, not unlike how d’Aulnoy wrote herself into her tales as a renown author. Faced with war, the two women examine their options. They ask the giants to learn the art of making ships that sail under water. The giants oblige, creating, it appears, submarines. The Empress sadly rejects the notion of having spirits enter dead bodies so as to create an army of the undead, though. Yes, Cavendish was on the verge of writing about a zombie army.

It’s rather amusing to find such ideas in a book published in 1666.

Cavendish herself was a lover of spectacle and passionate about experimenting with fashion. Such liveliness led to her nickname of Mad Madge. I’m still reading up on her, but she’s certainly caught my attention some three and a half centuries later.


*Woolf actually references Cavendish in her work as someone rather monstrous.

Predicting Today’s Tech: Fairy tales and recognisable magic

The other day I was re-reading Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve’s “Beauty and the Beast.” I came upon a passage in which Beauty is investigating the rooms of the Beast’s palace and she finds one with several windows. Only, these windows look out onto theatres and festivals in far away cities. Beauty can open the curtains and watch operas, comedies, puppet shows, tragedies and the to-ing and fro-ing of their glamorous audiences. However, after a while, she becomes disturbed by her nightly dreams of a beautiful lover and her daily existence in the home of the beast. Villeneuve tells us, “The only distraction she could find was in the theatre. She attended an Italian comedy, but after the first scene she departed for the opera, which she left almost as quickly. Her melancholy followed her everywhere. She opened each of the six windows many times without finding a minute’s respite from her cares.”

She’s channel surfing! She doesn’t quite have a remote, but her cable plan seems pretty good, actually.

After this, I noticed in Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy’s “The Golden Branch,” a reference to an ancient book with vellum pages and gold and enameled binding. Only, the hero “suddenly noticed that on one of the pages, with an illustration with musicians, the figures began to sing; on another page, where players appeared at Basset and Trictract, their cards and dice were in motion. Turning the page over, he saw people dancing at a ball; all the ladies were in full dress and marvelously beautiful.” There’s even smell-o-vision when he turns the page to an amazing dinner party. One of the guests directly addresses the reader.

An ancestor of the Kindle or iPad, possibly?

I think I’m going to be keeping an eye open for further references.


Further information on quotes

“Beauty and the Beast” quotes from:

Zipes, Jack (Trans. & Intro). Beauties, Beasts and Enchantment: Classic French Fairy Tales. New York: NAL Books, 1989, p180.

“The Golden Branch” quotes from:

Zipes, Jack (Trans. & Intro). Beauties, Beasts and Enchantment: Classic French Fairy Tales. New York: NAL Books, 1989, p364.

Pulp Fairy Tale

A strategic flash from the camera

A strategic flash from the camera

The other day I found this excellent Mexican comic book of d’Aulnoy’s fairy tale, “The Blue Bird,” complete with flying frogs on the cover and a rather amazing artistic interpretation of Florine, the heroine. I just love these quirky finds!

I also gave in and finally obtained my own copy of Planché’s translations of d’Aulnoy’s tales. Planché is rapidly becoming one of my favourite people. He had a great interest in costume, so his translations are sensitive to the fashions described in d’Aulnoy’s tales. He also wrote and produced fantastic fairy tale extravaganzas, often based upon d’Aulnoy’s tales. You can find many of them digitalised here. They’re quite fascinating in terms of how contemporary references have been woven through the tales.

I also love the cover of this particular edition. Who wouldn’t wish to fly about on a horse?

Gadding about

Gadding about