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Free Fairy Tale listening: Courses, podcasts and talks.

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If you’re like me, the tasks of hanging out clothes, driving, shopping, etc are made bearable through the act of listening – either music, or audiobooks and podcasts. Podcasts are what I listen to most, but I also use iTunes U a lot for their free audio of lectures and talks. I promise not to turn The Bone Lantern into a listicle blog (three in a row – oops) but I would like to make a list of the fairy tale related listening I do, for my own pleasure, and hopefully yours. Lets start with my favourite;

Podcasts.

Disney Story Origins podcast takes a look at the relationship between the Disney movie version of a fairy tale (so far he has covered Frozen, Sleeping Beauty, Mulan and Aladdin) and the lineage of the story behind it. The podcast episodes can seem pretty few and far between, but that’s because he takes a lot of time to research and produce the content. Topics often stretch over several episodes, and it’s always a fascinating look into how stories change over time. Unlike many comparative theorists in the genre, he doesn’t hold up Disney as the evil destroyer of ‘true and pure’ stories; instead he recognises their place in the evolution of fairy tales. A great listen. The feed link above also has an extensive bibliography list for each podcast. See? Good research. You can follow the podcast on Twitter too: @DSOpodcast.

Amy and Sophie discuss fairy tales at Tabled Fables. They aren’t currently releasing new episodes, but there’s a back catalogue of podcasts still available. Each episode looks at a specific fairy tale, and they chat happily about its origins and and significance, often drawing in interviews with experts and other interesting folk. They still post fairy tales snippets on Tumbler, and you can follow them on Twitter: @tabledfables

Not specifically about fairy tales, or currently releasing new episodes, but my children have loved listening to Kara Shallenberg read old stories and tales since they were little. In fact, I went in to say goodnight to my 11 year daughter last night, and she was listening to Kara read In the Nursery of my Book House via Librivox. Kara has volunteered her time for many years, recording books and stories in the public domain, for both adult and children listeners. As well as her podcast, she has a huge library of free audiobooks on Librivox, a wonderful online service that provides many thousands of hours listening. It’s the audio version of Project Gutenberg, and if you haven’t discovered it yet, go now. I’ll wait.

The wonderful Kara also tweets @kayray

Online Courses and Lectures.

Ever felt the urge to go back and take a class, without actually having to turn up to lectures, endure other fidgeting students, and line up for sad sandwiches at the lunch hall? Online courses are the next big thing in education, and a lot of them are free, provided you don’t want the actual piece of paper at the end. There are some many fascinating lectures on everything you could imagine. I’ve subscribed to courses in physics, psychology, creative writing… you name it, but right now I’ll stick to those relevant to fairy tales.

La Trobe University’s History of Children’s Literature and Genres of Children’s Literature are fabulous. Australian lecturer David Beagley discusses many aspects of Children’s Literature in both of these subjects, and he’s lovely to listen to. The history subject comprises 29 individual lectures, many of them covering aspects of fairy tales, myth and folk tales. These are real lectures – you’ll hear students coughing, shuffling and asking questions – it’s just like being in the lecture hall! But on your couch.

Faerie and Fantasy is a complete undergrad semester long class on Fairy Tale and Fantasy by Professor Corey Olsen at Washington College. Focus on weeks 6-9 for specifically fairy tale related topics. He covers Andrew Lang and The Book of Wonder, and several of the better known tales within. Again, real lectures, given to real fidgeting students. Love it. You can follow Corey Olsen @tolkienprof

Introduction to Pre-Modern Japanese Literature and Culture is a series of 27 lectures focussing on, as is obvious from the title, pre-modern Japanese Literature. This includes many old tales, and the cultural context from which they came.

Invitation to World Literature includes lectures on Gilgamesh, The Thousand and One Nights, The Bhagavad Vita. I haven’t listen to this one yet, but I have it bookmarked. It looks like a great overview of some of histories most referred-to texts.

Discussions and Interviews 

Kate Forsyth has been a monthly guest on ABC Radio National‘s Life Matters program, discussing fairy tales with Natasha Mitchell, as part of their ‘Once upon a time: fairy tales reimagined‘ series. See also episodes on Rapunzel and The Little Mermaid. Kate Forsyth tweets @KateForsyth

Listen to an interview with Phillip Pullman about his recent translation of some of Grimms’ Fairy Tales on NPR.

While you’re at NPR, you can also listen to a short piece about Jack Zipes’ translation of the first edition of Grimms’ Fairy Tales.  He talks to Weekend Edition’s Rachael Martin.

Well, I hope that gets you through a few loads of washing and a trip to the supermarket at the very least! Happy Listening.

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Early Women Writers of Fairy Tales

I wrote recently about women fairy tale illustrators, so now it’s time for some writers. The writers I have listed here are pre-Golden Age, and mostly wrote in France during the 1600s. I’ll write at a later date on Golden Age and contemporary writers, but there are already plenty of writers I’m brushing over here. French writers appear heavily in the canon, as fairy tales were very much in vogue in 17th Century France.

200px-D'AulnoyMarie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness d’Aulnoy (1650/1651–4 January 1705), AKA the more easily pronouncable Countess d’Aulnoy, was the first writer to define the term ‘fairy tales’ or rather, ‘contes de fées’. Many of her works were of a style that we define as the classical fairy tale – whimsical and tied up neatly at the end with a marriage or proper morals. They were also very French (oddly enough), and very linked to her aristocratic background, with titles like The Bee and the Orange Tree, Princess Belle-Etoille and The White Doe. She held a salon in Paris, and was linked to a good numbers of rumours and scandals involving adultery, treason and espionage. I like her very much.

220px-Liselotte_von_der_pfalzCharlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force (1654–1724) seems to the just the kind of woman you want at your party. No stranger to scandals (do you see a pattern forming here?), she was a maid of honour at the court of Louis XIV, until he banished her to a convent for writing ‘satirical verses’ and being embroiled in various mischiefs and a rumoured affair. It is here that she wrote many contes de fées, including her most famous story ‘Persinete’, based on an older Neapolitan story, and later rewritten as ‘Rapunzel’ by the Brothers Grimm.

Author Kate Forsyth’s wonderful book Bitter Greens is based on the time Charlotte-Rose spent in the convent. It’s a brilliant read. Kate has also written about Charlotte-Rose on her blog.

2855b2b50fd3152c15ce6e3b08231c46Henriette-Julie de Murat (1670-1716), not pictured. More controversy! What a surprise! In addition to fairy tales, Henriette wrote some scandalous faux memoirs, which had her exiled to the French provincial town of Loches for several years. She also wrote in France in the late 17th Century, and some of the fairy tales attributed to her are Bearskin and Starlight.

Marie-Jeanne L’Héritier de Villandon (1664-1734) was a refreshingly scandal free writer of fairy tales, and niece of the more famous fairy tale writer Charles Perrault, though she published her first tale a year before he did. She was a protégé of Madeleine de Scudéry, and inherited Madeleine’s salon after her death.

Like the three aforementioned writers, she was instrumental in the enormous popularity of fairy tales in 17th Century France.

Jeanne-Marie_Leprince_de_BeaumontJeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont (1711-1780) wrote the best known version of Beauty and the Beast, though the earliest known version was written by fellow French writer Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Marie’s childhood was beset by poverty and the death of her mother at the age of 11, though she claims not to have mourned her. Those looking for more scandal will find it this time in her first husband. He spent her large dowry on his debts, then bought a hotel with the rest. He used the hotel as one would expect of an unwelcome patron, by throwing wild parties and inviting all sorts of disreputable characters. Consequently he contracted a disease typical of such a lifestyle, and Jeanne-Marie was able to obtain an annulment. Not long after, she moved to London, where she wrote her many fairy tales, remarried and had a large family. Her works were very moralistic, more so than many of her scandalous French counterparts, and she also wrote schoolbooks and other moral stories and poems.

Wild-349While not technically a known fairy tale writer, it would be remiss of me not to mention Dortchen Wild. She was a neighbour of the Grimm brothers in Cassel, Germany in the early 19th Century. They met in 1805, when she was 12. Napoleon invaded Cassel in 1806, and this is the same year that the brothers began collecting fairy tales. Dortchen struck up a friendship with the brothers, much to the disapproval of her autocratic father. They met in secret, and Dortchen told the brothers many of the fairy tales included in their collection. Dortchen had several siblings, but all eventually moved away, leaving her to care for her ailing parents. She and Wilhem Grimm had fallen in love, but could not marry, even after her father’s death. The brothers were destitute, and it was only many years later, after the overthrow of Napoleon, and the eventual success of the Grimms’ stories, that they were finally able to marry. Dortchen and the Grimm brothers lived together for the rest of their lives.

Kate Forsyth has also written about the life of Dortchen Wild in The Wild Girl, in fact it is she who introduced me to her. Read more about Kate’s exploration of Dortchen’s life here.

Women Illustrators from the Golden Age of Fairy Tales

Yesterday on Twitter, I shared a few of the Golden Age’s female illustrators and thought I’d go into a bit more depth here. There is a difference between the ‘Golden Age’ of fairy tales, and the one of illustration, but the artists I share here cover both. They were illustrating fairy tales at the time when both fairy tales and illustration was at their peak, around the first two decades of the 20th Century.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

12618351_1198685337_e279793bc0560b5207Ida was an Australian Illustrator, and she often included local flora and fauna in her fairy tale illustrations. She worked predominantly with pen & ink, and watercolour. Her use of silhouettes, and the detail within them, is breathtaking. She was born in Melbourne, Australia, and worked and lived there all of her life. You can read more about her life here, and do make sure you view a google image search of her works here.

I had a couple of her books as a child, and loved her work. I still do. The illustration shown is taken from her 1921 book The Enchanted Woods, which she collaborated on with her husband Grenbry, and you can see here how she often imbues her work with a gentle humour – a koala with a top hat and walking stick – of course!

Virginia Frances Sterrett

Old_French_Fairy_Tales_(Virginia_Sterrett,_1920)Poor Virginia only lived a short 31 years, after contracting tuberculosis at 19, around the same time as she received her first commission. Her ability to work declined over the 12 years she had left, and her last collection of works, based around the Arabian nights, took several years. She’s one of my favourite fairy tale illustrators.

Dark but full of light, delicate but with an incredible strength of line, her work always catches me deep in the chest. Go, bask in her genius here.

 Florence Harrison

tumblr_n83tdaOdRN1rtdn1mo5_500There’s very little on Wikipedia on Florence, and her true identity has been disputed, but this website dedicated to her and a collection of her works looks like it may clear things up, and is a fascinating read into one woman’s love for Florence’s work.

Florence was an Art Nouveau and Pre-Raphaelite artist. She illustrated the writings of Christina Rossetti and Alfred Tennyson, as well as poetry and fairy tales. She also wrote poetry and short stories herself.

In the illustration pictured here, you can feel the chill wind and lonely melancholy of Rapunzel in her tower.

Frances MacDonald (MacNair)

Frances was a Scottish artist, whose every claim for fame seems to have been overshadowed or thwarted by others. Not only was she the younger (and lesser known) sister of Margaret MacDonald, who in turn was overshadowed by her husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh, but her husband also destroyed many works after her death. Makes you want to scream doesn’t it? Anyway, she certainly wasn’t a shrinking violet in her lifetime (she was a founding member of the Glasgow School), and she deserves to be better known. View more of her works here.

Frances_Macdonald,_Sleeping_Princess

Anne Anderson

anne_anderson_little_mermaid_foamAnne Anderson was a Scottish Illustrator, and by the sound of it, had a nice, normal prolific life. No TB (though she did only live to 56 now that I look again), no obvious overshadowing by others, and no disappearing into obscurity. She married fellow illustration Alan Wright, and they collaborated on many projects, on which she is believed to have been the driving force.

Her work, mostly in watercolour, is much like her life appears to have been (though of course who are we to assume?): beautifully executed, probably conventional for her time, but really quite lovely.

That was by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a start. Do you have a favourite illustrator that I missed?

Hedgespoken

I tried to work out yesterday how long I’ve been following Rima Staines at The Hermitage. A few years? As long as ten? I really couldn’t tell you. I feel like her work has seeped its way into my being; like it’s been there forever.

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Rima’s work feels both contemporary and a very real part of the myth and story of her heritage; as if it has been in our collective conscious for the whole history of storytelling. Her work is about storytelling, and myth, and history, but it has the magic of speaking not as an observer of all that, but from within. Which is why I was so exciting when she announced her new project Hedgespoken.

Rima and her equally incredible partner Tom plan to convert an old Bedford truck into a travelling, off-grid theatre, and home for the two of them. It’s the kind of thing many of us dream of doing. It’s a ‘one day’ thing. But Rima and Tom are doing it now. An artist and a storyteller, both a little of each other, will roam the countryside telling stories; bringing some of their magic to all they touch.

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I’ll let them describe a little bit more themselves.

With its drop-down stage, fancy awning and proscenium arch, Hedgespoken will serve as a stage wherever it goes. Whether it’s Tom and Rima telling tales and making mischief with handmade puppet shows, or it’s other actors, musicians or sword-swallowers using the stage-space as part of the Hedgespoken travelling show, our aim is to spread a little old magic by doing what we love. Hedgespoken has the wherewithal to act as a mini-theatre, a cabaret stage or acoustic music venue, anywhere. Perhaps your village green, or that disused urban space, wayside or park – Hedgespoken arrives, makes magic, plants seeds of imagination, and then leaves, in the tradition of wandering bards, travelling storytellers and itinerant puppet theatres and circuses that are so much part of our heritage.

Don’t you wish they’d roll into your town? Tomorrow, at the latest, thank you. I’m writing from afar, and it will be a very long time, if ever, before I see the fruition of their labour in the flesh, but it doesn’t make me any less excited for their project. I have made a donation, for which there are incredibly generous rewards, and I hope you will too. It’s an investment in a dream – one they are living for real, and one I will be living vicariously, all the way down their winding road.

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You can follow Rima, Tom and Hedgespoken on Twitter, donate to Hedgespoken on Indigogo and visit Rima’s website and blog to see more of her work.