Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday likes fairy tales -- and she isn't late!

So, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “It’s after midnight on Monday, and Cassie hasn’t posted yet! Hehehe, she’s totally gonna get punished!” Well, you would be correct – were I still in Ohio. But, sorry to disappoint you all, I am not. I am in Seattle, Washington, and it is only approaching ten o’clock out here. FYI, I will also be in this time zone next week, though by the week after, I should be back in home sweet Eastern Time Zone home.


Favorite weather: mid to high 70s, sun with a few clouds, no humidity. Mix that up with a few warm summer rains and a few impressive thunderstorms, and I am good to go.

Favorite thing about the 90s: 90s Nickelodeon TV. Clarissa Explains it All, Boy Meets World, the original All That, yes please. Kthnxbye.

Alexandra: I agree with your assessment of the first two HP movies. I know they get a lot of slack, but I really liked them, and I thought they were really pretty faithful, especially the first. I felt like I was watching the book play out in front of me, and that’s always gonna win this book lover’s heart. I disagree concerning Order of the Phoenix, but that’s a conversation for another day. :)

Carlyn: No shame concerning Little Mermaid – I loved the film when I was younger. I was actually a little obsessed. I had a Little Mermaid themed birthday party the year I turned five. I hold people in no shame for loving the movie as a child. But then I watched it after spending time researching fairy tales and learning about storytelling . . . and then I was appalled. As for the original story, it’s certainly not perfect (Anderson is very heavy-handed with his Christian morals and messages), but it’s overall message is beautiful, and it’s certainly worth the read.

Casey: I’m really enjoying your themes thus far! And I completely agree with Ella Enchanted – I liked the film for what it was, but it was not an adaptation of Levine’s beautiful novel. It wasn’t even Cinderella anymore. And while I don’t mind what the movie was, at some point, in my mind, you should really just write your own story if you’re going to change things that much.

Christina: Lord of the Rings: yes, yes, and more yes. I love the movies so much. I struggled through the books, and I feel like the movies captured the essence of the story so incredibly well! It’s like my mom and Jane Austen – I love the story. I have a really hard time reading the way it’s written. If I’d gone top five, it likely would have made my list.

And speaking of top fives, onto this week’s theme!

I went back and forth on what to do, but if the end, I settled on what I feel is most fitting for me. I have told you I’m a storyteller, I have discussed my favorite books, I have given you a taste of my opinion on The Little Mermaid, but it is time to truly break out a list uniquely suited to me:

Cassie’s Top Five Favorite Fairy Tales

5. Janet and Tam Lin (Scotland)

This is an old Scottish ballad. A young maiden by the name of Janet is warned never to go through the woods on her father’s land, because it is haunted by the fair folk. But she goes anyway, to an old ruin called Carter Hall, and when she breaks off a rose there, she is greeted by a young man named Tam Lin. Tam Lin is a servant of the fairy queen, and he and Janet fall in love, and eventually, one thing leads to another, and Janet becomes pregnant. Desperate to be with Tam Lin and give her child a father, she asks how she can break the spell that holds him to the fairy queen. He outlines the trials for her, and it is her task then to overcome them and rescue him.

I love this story because Janet is so incredibly kick ass. Here’s a girl, pregnant, who goes into the woods in the middle of the night to outwit the fairy queen through bravery, physical strength, and a test of her love – and wins. Janet is an incredibly strong character, rescuing her prince rather than the other way around. She is anything but passive.

Retelling worth reading: An Earthly Knight by Janet McNaughton

4. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson

A young boy, named Kai, is kidnaped by the Snow Queen, the ruler of the winter. His best friend Gerda is left behind, and though everyone else believes him to be dead, she insists he is still alive, and so she sets out to find him. She must journey through each of the seasons and its challenges until she reaches the palace of the Snow Queen. There she must not only battle the frigid queen herself, she must also free Kai from the splinter of enchanted mirror lodged in his heart.

Again, kick-ass heroine, but what I love about this story is that there is no romance in it at all. It’s a girl going to save her dearest friend, the boy who is like a brother, but it’s not a romantic story. It’s a story of pure friendship, and there really aren’t enough of those. I also love the creation myth in this story, the origin of the seasons, and the personification of each that Gerda meets on her way.

Retelling worth seeing: The Hallmark movie with Brigit Fonda

3. The Lute Player (or, in my mind, the Minstrel Queen) from Andrew Lang’s Violet Fairy Book

A Queen’s husband is lost in battle, and for three years, all in his kingdom believe that he is dead. But then, one day, a message from the king gets through to his wife. He has been captured and is being held prisoner in a distant kingdom. He urges his wife to sell the castle and empty the coffers to gather money for his ransom. But the Queen doubts that the enemy king will release her husband for the gold, so she devises a different plan. She disguises herself as a minstrel boy and travels to the distant kingdom, using her music to free him from his prison. He doesn’t recognize her, however, and so once he is returned to his kingdom, he denounces her for her selfishness until she reveals her secret.

Are you noticing the pattern with these stories? I love this queen, unnamed, and her cleverness and initiative and bravery. She wasn’t content to let someone else free her husband – she took the risk herself. And in the end, she showed her true worth and how clever she really was until the king saw and appreciated her for her true self.

Retelling worth hearing: Heather Forrest’s minstrel storytelling version

2. The Squire’s Bride (Norwegian)

A greedy and selfish squire decides that he wants to marry the most beautiful girl in the lands under his command, who happens to be the daughter of a farmer who owes him money. The squire tells the farmer that he will forgive all the debt if the man gives him his daughter in marriage. The farmer tells the squire it is up to the daughter, who refuses to marry anyone for money. But the squire bullies the farmer into agreeing anyway, but the farmer can’t bring himself to tell his daughter. On the day of the wedding, the squire sends a servant for the girl, but neglects to tell the servant what exactly he’s fetching, and the farmer is too embarrassed to tell his daughter, so he sends the servant in his place. The daughter, figuring out what has happened and taking advantage of the situation, sends the horse back to the squire. Hijinks ensue.

This story is hilarious. Seriously, it’s one of the funniest fairy tales I’ve ever encountered. My summary doesn’t do it justice – you have to go read it for yourself. Again, another clever heroine, who takes her life into her own hands and doesn’t let herself be led around.

Retelling worth hearing: Heather Forrest’s minstrel storytelling version

1. East of the Sun, West of the Moon (Norwegian)

A White bear appears to a poor family and says he will improve their fortunes if they give him their youngest daughter. The family protests, but the daughter agrees to go. She is given every grand thing in the White Bear’s palace in the mountains, but every night a strange thing happens. The lights go out and cannot be relit, and someone slips into her bed and sleeps beside her. She cannot solve the mystery, but she grows accustomed to it, until she begins to sicken with homesickness. The White Bear agrees to let her visit her family. While home, her mother gets the story of the stranger out of her, and before she leaves to return to the white bear, her mother gives her a magic candle that will stay lit no matter what. Frightened of what sleeps beside her, the girl uses it, and discovers a young prince shares her bed. But the wax from her candle drips onto his shirt, and he wakes, revealing that he is the white bear, cursed by the trolls to live as a white bear by day and a man by night unless a maiden could sleep for a year beside him without seeing his face. She had nearly broken the spell, but she had failed, and so he would be taken to the land of the trolls, east of the sun and west of the moon, to marry the troll princess. And then she sets out to save him.

This story is far too complicated to summarize well. If I had to compare it to anything, I’d classify it as a Beauty and the Beast story, but it’s so much better than Beauty and the Beast. I love the heroine – because she’s human. She’s too curious, and it gets her into trouble. She’s flawed, and giving into her flaw has serious consequences. But rather than give up, she sets out to put things to rights. She journeys east of the sun and west of the moon to undo the damage she did and save the man who was a white bear from an unwanted marriage. I love that she makes mistakes and isn’t perfect, and I love that she rescues her prince in the end.

Retellings worth reading: East by Edith Pattou; Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George; Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

That’s my list. I’m curious. What are your favorite fairy tales?

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