The Future of Fairy Tale in Film

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The other week, the Monash Fairy Tale Salon set off to see the Christophe Gans La Belle et la Bête (2014). It is a scrumptious film and while some found the transformed dogs a little too on the nose and the emotional transformation of the Beast a little undercooked, the visuals were more than enough to delight a fairy tale fan. I particularly loved the giant stone sculptures that were the Beast’s hunting comrades transformed and Beauty’s devotion to her pumpkin patch. As always, the Beast is better as a Beast. It’s always a little disappointing when he becomes a prince again.

There is a lovely, short piece on animal transformation on the Fairy Tale Review site, particularly notable for including female examples.

There is so much cinematic potential in animal transformation and while I’ve loved watching multiple versions of the Beauty and the Beast narrative, I really would love to see filmmakers break out a little.

What about d’Aulnoy’s The White Cat, for instance?

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Not only would it be a film beloved of cat people everywhere, but whenever I read about the disembodied hands, I think of Labyrinth (1986), so I can see definite potential!

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Not to mention d’Aulnoy’s other transformed Princess, Babiole.

a9442These tales have largely fallen out of our popular fairy tale corpus, but they’re amazing tales and have so much to offer the adventurous filmmaker.

An Afternoon with Alice: June 13, 2015

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1pm, Saturday 13 June 2015

Glen Eira Town Hall — Theatrette

The Monash Fairy Tale Salon will be hosting a curious afternoon of madness and muchness as we go down the rabbit hole in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Come along and learn about the author and illustrators who shaped literary history and gave us such wonderfully uncommon nonsense. For the bold at heart (or the Queen of Hearts), come dressed as your favourite wonderland character! This event is open to anyone who has a love for nonsense.

There will be music from Copious and from Louisa John-Krol with her merry band including Naomi Henderson, Nicholas Albanis and Gilbert. There will be papers on illustration, fashion, cats, playing cards and all things transmedial from Madeleine Hunter, Megan Russell, Rebecca-Anne C. Do Rozario, Fiona Price and Laura-Jane Maher.

Of course, there will also be a tea party with drinks, sandwiches and sweet treats! No sleepy dormice will be injured.

Entry is free and no bookings are necessary. Join us down the rabbit hole!

For more details:

http://www.gleneira.vic.gov.au/Connect/Arts_and_culture/Glen_Eira_Storytelling_Festival/Alice_in_Wonderland_%E2%80%94_150_years

Why is there a question about happy endings?

I was just at Transporting Tales, which was held yesterday on a very grey, windy, cold, wet day. It was rather nice to be snug in the Glen Eira Town hall talking about fairy tales! However, I will tell you about that later as I’m off this afternoon to give a paper on princesses at the Australian Children’s Literature Association Conference and I still have to check that all my slides are in order and… you know, get dressed so that I’m not delivering a paper in my pyjamas.

However, this is something close to my heart. Before I headed off to Transporting Tales, I saw a piece in the guardian, “Should children’s books have happy endings?” Seriously, I thought, that’s a question? Still? This has been a debate raging for a while in children’s literature and I find it particularly frustrating. Surely there is room for books with all kinds of endings? And what is so wrong with a happy ending, anyway? Sometimes things do work out. People achieve their dreams on the odd occasion. In the article, Robert Muchamore writes:

Happy endings necessitate a black-and-white world. But what is the mindset of a child who has grown up exposed only to goodies, baddies and happy endings? A hundred years ago, young men queued at recruitment offices to fight the evil Kaiser. Today, they watch online propaganda, switch fast-food uniforms for Kevlar and head for Iraq and Syria. After childhoods crammed with clear-cut villains and happy endings, is it any wonder they’re conditioned to believe in fighting for justice and that ultimate happy ending: the promise of eternal life?

I would profoundly disagree. Happy endings can occur in a world of greys as easily as an unhappy ending can occur in a world of black and white. Happy endings can provide hope and motivation to make positive change. They can also provide comfort. Meg Cabot wrote a wonderful blog post about this issue, in which she articulates how books about trauma and misery might be attractive to some teens, but as a teen herself, handling a number of serious issues, she wanted an escape from that and she found it in romance fiction with all its happy endings. I think the ‘fight for justice’ card is a little overplayed too – I’m not convinced that reading a book with a happy ending will prompt any teenager to sign up to the military. I’ve read a lot of books with happy endings and I can assure you, I myself have no desire to sign up. This goes beyond fiction and involves a great many political and social factors. Fiction can provide a possibility of the happy ending. I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. And those happy endings aren’t all about eternal life or the ultimate justice – many happy endings are about finding a family, celebrating friendship, healing old wounds or simply discovering that the hero is going to be okay after all.

When I began my journey into children’s lit. scholarship, I read a lot of articles deriding novels like Pollyanna, but the thing to remember is that the heroine had to journey through grief, loss, despair, loneliness and disability before she could find her happy ending. There was a reason she had to play the ‘glad game.’ Don’t look at the happy ending and judge the book by it.

 

 

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!