“Baba Bobs Her Hair” and other bits and bobs

I recently published a fairy tale over at Timeless Tales Magazine as part of their Baba Yaga issue. Baba Yaga tales are always such great fun! Who doesn’t love a house on chicken legs?

The tale has a 1920s spin, with loads of fantastic 20s slang and a little movie glamour. Just a little! This is a Baba Yaga tale, so most of the story takes place in a less than savoury setting. I also recorded an audio version of the tale, which for a little magazine patronage, you can download. I’ve been incredibly nervous about that audio! It seemed like such a fun idea to record until I started trying to get Baba’s voice right!!!


I’ve also published a short piece in The Victorian Writer, “The Heart of the Princess.” I explore the glamorous history of princesses, because it never does to forget the glamour.


I’m also happy to be in such great company in the issue. Louisa John-Krol‘s story, “The Yellow Mansion,” ends with gold slippers, which made me very happy! Kate Forsyth also has a darker take on fairy tale history. It can’t all be about sparkly things!

The Australian Fairy Tale Society is calling for presentation submissions for its annual conference in June next year. The deadline is January 29. The conference will be in Melbourne next year, which I’m really excited about! The theme is “Into the Bush: Its Beauty and its Terror.” I wonder if we’ll run into Prince Eucalyptus  in the Bush?




Salons to Sydney

It’s been a busy few weeks! The Alice Salon at the Glen Eira Storytelling Festival was fantastic fun. My co-conspirators put together the most wonderful tea party and publication displays and we had a great selection of music and papers.


I loved learning about Alice’s many media manifestations, her influence on Japanese fashion subcultures and the history of playing card people. Louisa John-Krol as always led us in amazing song, bewitching us with images of flowers! She was joined by her merry, colourful band including a rather intrepid white rabbit child and a surprise appearance by a bunyip! Copious invited us down into Wonderland with wonderful, dark melodies and lyrics. We were exhausted, but happy by the end of the day!

Soon after the Alice Salon, I headed to Sydney for the Australian Fairy Tale Society’s second conference. It’s a fantastic opportunity to re-engage with my peers in fairy tale! And this time I didn’t have the ‘flu! I gave my first paper on Australian pantomime, pantomime rapidly becoming one of my research interests. There’s such fabulous material. This time I focused mostly on Djin Djin.


We had papers from a number of academics and non-academics interested in the field, including my honours student, who gave a great interview for the Sydney Morning Herald. We also heard from a range of authors, including the keynote speaker, Sophie Masson. Louisa John-Krol was there too and she sang us into each session, which was the best treat. I was especially thrilled as she premiered her new song, ‘Glindering,’ based on my short story, “The Death of Glinda.” What an honour! She knows me so well, too, since there is spindling and swindling in the song! You can find more on the conference in the coming weeks at the society’s website.

I popped down to Sydney a little early, too, because I really wanted to visit the Undressed exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum. Yes, there’s references to underthings in fairy tales, so it was all research! Plus, I did get to see a pair of Queen Victoria’s knickers! I didn’t know this, but the Powerhouse Museum also has the most amazing shoe collection. If you have an interest in shoes, I can’t recommend it highly enough and may have had a little ‘shoe comma’ afterwards. So many red shoes, too!

The Inaugural Australian Fairy Tale Society Conference

The one thing I hate about writing conference posts? There are so many great papers and you want to discuss them all, but you also have a pile of marking to catch up on, papers to review, feedback to provide in your normal day to day life… so I’ll do my best with a quick post!

Reilly McCarron and Jo Henwood put together an incredible day, bringing together storytellers, authors, academics and artists of all sorts. As our fabulous MC, Jackie Kerin, said, we’re now ready to take on the world with our tales!

I was particularly thrilled to finally meet Kate Forsyth, whose Bitter Greens deals with the Rapunzel tale. It’s a work of historical fiction featuring one of my favourites, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. I think we were a little like excited school girls on the final panel, both enthusiastically speaking to the tales of French women like La Force, d’Aulnoy and Lhéritier! And Kate mentions Basile, too, in her novel! Can’t get better than that, right? Do read it!

It was also great to hear Danielle Wood, author of Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls and the forthcoming Mothers Grimm. I was a little suspect of Mothers Grimm, I admit. I always get slightly squinty-eyed when the topic of motherhood and the Grimms comes up! But I love Danielle’s take on the ‘good mother.’ It’s wicked, in more ways than one.

Carmel Bird gave a terrific keynote that spoke to the ‘great lie’ that informs Australian Fairy Tale. I’ve dealt with the topic before and I know how difficult it is to address and she did an amazing job.

It was so great to hear about early attempts at an Australian fairy tale tradition, too. Belinda Calderone, who steers the Monash Fairy Tale Salon, raided the Monash Library’s rare books collection and uncovered some notable gems. I think she inspired a few people to go and explore their libraries and rediscover the tales hiding away there. Robyn Floyd gave a marvelous account of one of those early fairy tale pioneers, Olga Ernst, wearing a period-inspired ensemble that sort of distracted me because her puffed sleeves would have been the envy of Anne Shirley! Teena Hartnett then performed one of Ernst’s tales about the fire elves and she injected a good dose of vernacular that I think is the trick of bringing these tales back to life. Indeed, I think there were a few fire elves in the building… there may have been a small incident with flame! Jo Henwood also gave a performance of a tale about an Australian Thumberlina that had some terrific references to local Sydney locations and botanicals. It’s fantastic to hear the storytellers do what they do best! It’s one of the ‘treats’ of working in the field that we get an excuse to listen to wonderful storytellers. Tobby Eccles did a great job of speaking to just this issue and how important it is to recognise and catalogue these oral tellings.

Sarah Gibson also expanded on her work on the Re-enchantment project. It’s still growing! There’s an e-book now that you can download on iTunes. I was particularly enthused by her take-away that there is no single way of interpreting tales. I have to admit, when you’re wound up in trying to make your own stand, you do sometimes forget that other people will see things differently! (Her enthusiasm for Shaun Tan also made me happy!)

It was something of a privilege to be on the final panel, even if Jackie was mischievously encouraging me to spark debate by being pro-Disney!! We were discussing cultural editing and I think that panel could have gone on the whole day if you had have left us to it!

All in all, it was a brilliant day and if I’ve forgotten to mention anyone or anything, it is only because I’m in a rush and it’s all still sinking in! Plus I very cleverly left my conference pack with Belinda, because I didn’t have room in my overnight case… so I don’t have all my reminders with me! However, the new AFTS website will be up soon and I’m really looking forward to keeping in touch with everyone and continuing about fifty different discussions that were begun.

PS: Apologies if I did pass my cold on to the entire Australian fairy tale community. Of all the times to come down with a cold…

Quick Note – Australian Fairy Tale Society

I admit it, right now I’m suffering a little case of writer’s block. I have two pieces of writing sitting up on my desktop and each time I look at them, I decide to make a cup of tea. This is even when there is a perfectly good, hot cup of tea in front of me.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to write a quick blog post (because oddly, I really only ever get writer’s block when it’s something academic) to let you know about the fundraising being conducted by the Australian Fairy Tale Society. You can see their fundraising site here and hopefully you’ll be able to support them. They have some great rewards. Here’s a quick quote from the site:

We don’t just want your money! We hope to gather a rich and diverse collection of fairy tale folklore to preserve in a public archive. Did the fairy tales you grew up with differ from Disney’s? We want to hear about them. Does Grandma tell a bawdy version of Little Red Riding Hood? Record her (with permission of course) and send it in. Has someone in the family knitted a Cinderella doll for the kids? Take a photo – we want to share it.

As well as collecting folklore, our new national website will promote current events, share fairy tale news, inspire new works, and encourage a strong network of fairy tale lovers.

Okay, I think it’s time to go and make another cup of tea now…

June is for fairy tale!

There’s a lot happening on the fairy tale front in June!

The Australian Fairy Tale Society is having its first conference in Sydney on the 9th. I’ll be there giving my paper, Baroque in Oz: From Giambattista Basile to Shaun Tan. Notice the little Beauty and the Beast nod? I’ll also be on a panel about fairy tale in Australia – I’m really looking forward to that!

Then on the 29th, our Monash Fairy Tale Salon is holding a symposium, Transporting Tales. It will be run as part of the Glen Eira Storytelling Festival and everyone is welcome. The call for papers has just gone out – it’s a bit of a tight turn around, but we’d love to hear from everyone!


Transporting Tales – Fairy Tale Symposium
June 29

Australian Fairy Tales by James Hume-Cook; with illustrations by Christian Yandell

As part of the Glen Eira Storytelling Festival, the Monash Fairy Tale Salon will be hosting a day exploring fairy tale migrations, with a special focus on Australian tales. Fairy tales cross oceans and continents. How do people carry their tales with them? How are tales transformed by migration? In particular, how have fairy tales come here to Australia and how is our own fairy tale tradition based on migration?

This Melbourne event explores many of the ideas that will be raised at the Australian Fairy Tale Society conference to take place on June 9 in Sydney.

The day is open to academic papers as well as fairy tale readings and performances. For the bold at heart, come dressed as your favourite fairy tale character and be in the running to win a prize! This event is open to anyone who has a love of fairy tales, and will take place at the Theatrette, Glen Eira Town Hall, on Sunday June 29, from 1pm-5pm.

We are looking for interested participants who would like to present original work and/or papers on fairy tales. Preference will be given to material dealing with or inspired by Australian themes, but other material will certainly be considered.

Areas of interest:

– Scholarly analysis of fairy tale (incl. literary studies, translation studies, film & TV, drama studies, gender studies)
– Live performance of fairy tale (incl. new & established fairy tales)
– Fairy tale readings (incl. new & established fairy tales)

Please send a 100-200 word summary or abstract to arts-fairytale@monash.edu by May 10.


At the Australasian Children’s Literature Association for Research’s conference in Geelong, June 30 – July 2, there’ll also be a fairy tale panel. I’ll be on the panel to give my paper, “Between Princesses: Fashion, Pleasure and the Gaze.”

After all that, I’ll be taking off to Tuscany where I’ll be teaching fairy tales at Monash’s Prato conference! Phew. It’s going to be busy!