A few of my favorites: fairy tale quotations

“A fairy tale is a type of short story that typically features European folkloric fantasy characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants, mermaids, or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. Fairy tales may be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends (which generally involve belief in the veracity of the events described) and explicitly moral tales, including beast fables.” Wikipedia

Rapunzel - an illustration from the Brothers Grimm adaptation
Rapunzel – an illustration from the Brothers Grimm adaptation

Are parents reading fairy tales to their children today? I hope so. At Thanksgiving, people often tell us to ponder what we’re thankful for. That’s probably to keep us from thinking it’s all about food, football and getting stuck washing dishes in the kitchen. I’m thankful for fairy tales, the ones my parents read to me, the ones I read to myself, and the ones kept alive in all their forms and versions by those who love the stories enough to spend their lives collecting, translating and studying them.

Here’s what those lovers of the stories have to say about them. . .

  • “The more one knows fairy tales the less fantastical they appear; they can be vehicles of the grimmest realism, expressing hope against all the odds with gritted teeth.” – Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers
  • “The fairy tale is in a perpetual state of becoming and alteration. To keep to one version or one translation alone is to put robin redbreast in a cage.” ― Philip Pullman, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
  • “Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life.” ― Friedrich von Schiller
  • Father Frost acts as a donor in the Russian fairy tale Father Frost, testing the heroine before giving her riches.
    Father Frost acts as a donor in the Russian fairy tale Father Frost, testing the heroine before giving her riches.

    “Fairy tales begin with conflict because we all begin our lives with conflict. We are all misfit for the world, and somehow we must fit in, fit in with other people, and thus we must invent or find the means through communication to satisfy as well as resolve conflicting desires and instincts.” ― Jack Zipes, The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre

  • Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― Neil Gaiman, Coraline
  • “Fairy Tales always have a happy ending.” That depends… on whether you are Rumpelstiltskin or the Queen.” ― Jane Yolen, Briar Rose
  • “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” – Albert Einstein
  • “Fairy tales were not my escape from reality as a child; rather, they were my reality — for mine was a world in which good and evil were not abstract concepts, and like fairy-tale heroines, no magic would save me unless I had the wit and heart and courage to use it widely.” ― Terri Windling
  • “People need to believe in more than what they see in everyday life. Somewhere inside, we all know that there is more out there than we experience normally. A belief in the other world can help explain why things happen to us. It can give us hope. I feel that we all hope we never get to be too old to fly to Never-Never Land or go through a wardrobe into Narnia. We want to think that there is something looking back at us when we look at the stars. We want to think that just around the bend in the forest, we’ll find fairies dancing in a ring. I hope that my work affirms those beliefs,” she continues. “I want people to think of my work as a key to that other world.” – Wendy Froud
  • beasttoblonde“The child intuitively comprehends that although these stories are unreal, they are not untrue …” ― Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales
  • “ Truly, I think the degree to which the bourgeoisie has appropriated the culture of the poor is very interesting, it’s very shocking. Fairy tales are part of the oral tradition of Europe. They were simply the fiction of the poor, the fiction of the illiterate. And they’re very precisely located.” – Angela Carter, author and also the translator of Charles Perrault’s work
  • “More effectively than any of the other tales, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ established Andersen’s reputation as a man who created stories for children — not just in the sense of target audience, but also as beneficiaries of something extraordinary. The lesson embedded in it is so transparent that its title circulates in the form of proverbial wisdom about social hypocrisy. But more importantly, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ romanticizes children by investing them with the courage to challenge authority and to speak truth to power.” – Maria Tatar, author of The Classic Fairy Tales
  • “I will tell you, too, that every fairy tale has a moral. The moral of my story may be that love is a constraint, as strong as any belt. And this is certainly true, which makes it a good moral. Or it may be that we are all constrained in some way, either in our bodies, or in our hearts or minds, an Empress as well as the woman who does her laundry. … Perhaps it is that a shoemaker’s daughter can bear restraint less easily than an aristocrat, that what he can bear for three years she can endure only for three days. … Or perhaps my moral is that our desire for freedom is stronger than love or pity. That is a wicked moral, or so the Church has taught us. But I do not know which moral is the correct one. And that is also the way of a fairy tale.” ― Theodora Goss, In the Forest of Forgetting
  • fairy3“Far more often [than asking the question ‘Is it true?’] they [children] have asked me: ‘Was he good? Was he wicked?’ That is, they were far more concerned to get the Right side and the Wrong side clear. For that is a question equally important in History and in Faerie.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories
  • “The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in.” ― W.H. Auden
  • “People who’ve never read fairy tales, the professor said, have a harder time coping in life than the people who have. They don’t have access to all the lessons that can be learned from the journeys through the dark woods and the kindness of strangers treated decently, the knowledge that can be gained from the company and example of Donkeyskins and cats wearing boots and steadfast tin soldiers. I’m not talking about in-your-face lessons, but more subtle ones. The kind that seep up from your sub¬conscious and give you moral and humane structures for your life. That teach you how to prevail, and trust. And maybe even love.” ― Charles de Lint, The Onion Girl

The two illustrations are from Wikipedia. Click on the book cover graphics to see Amazon’s listing for them. Happy Thanksgiving and happy reading.

Malcolm

emilyebookMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, including “The Betrayed,” and fantasy short stories, including “Emily’s Stories.”

Briefly Noted: ‘New Fairy Tales: Essays and Stories’

New Fairy Tales: Essays & Stories by John Patrick Pazdziora and Defne Çizakça (Unlocking Press – Sep 6, 2013), 456 pages

newfairytalesIs there a market for a book that mixes academic writing and stories? Normally, I wouldn’t think so outside the world of college textbooks. But this book works. Maybe it’s because so many of us who love reading fairy tales also like reading about what makes them tick.

In the introduction, the editors write,

“In New Fairy Tales, we have worked with both writers and academics, as well as with writers who are academic and academics who are writers. Fiction and critique appear within the same sections rather than separately. We hope the interplay between critical thought and aethetic practice will inspire even more new fairy tales to come to life.”

The stories an essays are divided up into five sections: Miniatures, Storytellers, Shadows and Reflections, Fairy Brides, and Fairy Tale Pedagogy. The book includes offerings from Claire Massey, Katherine Langrish, Christopher MacLachlan, Elizabeth Reeder, Joshua Richards and Kate Wolford. The thematic sections are supported with notes for readers who like following up on sources.

From the Publisher

New Fairy Tales unites critical research and creative retelling of the fairy tale tradition from the Early Modern period to the present day. Academic essays intersect with new fiction and poetry, to create a unique, polyvalent discourse. The essays discuss influential works from authors including Hans Christian Andersen, George MacDonald, Oscar Wilde, J. R .R Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, and Tifli. Original literary fairy tales by Katherine Langrish, Elizabeth Reeder, and others, appear alongside, discovering and re-creating the art form while as is being discussed. The result is an audacious and innovative dialogue about fairy tales and storytelling.

Interview With the Book’s Editors

In a two part interview in “Enchanted Conversation: a Fairy Tale Magazine” (posted here and here), Çizakça says  she hopes readers of the book will take away a “belief that fairy tales still contain endless possibilities for growth and innovation. That there are many different ways of writing a new fairy tale, and that there are many different traditions one can take inspiration from.”

According to Pazdziora. there’s been heightened interest in fairy tales in the English speaking world during the last two decades. “Of course there’s a long and distinguished tradition of folkloristics, and there’s been the German study, but looking at literary fairy tales both as a distinct genre and as a subgenre of children’s literature—and like it or not, it’s both those things—that’s fairly new, at least in the form it’s taking now.”

Perhaps this book will result in a follow-up anthology with an even wider representation of the world’s old and new fairy tales.

–Malcolm

emilyebookMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels, including “The Betrayed,” and fantasy short stories including the three-story set for kids and adults, “Emily’s Stories.”

The Bare-Bones Structure of a Fairy Tale

Most authors who use mythic elements in their work are familiar with the hero’s journey structure introduced by Joseph Campbell in the 1940s. Campbell’s sequence of steps in a journey from beginning to end has been criticized by some for missing important aspects of themes, contexts and cultures, and over-used by others to explain the plots of all movies and plays. Nonetheless, it’s a handy structure. See updates at the end of this post.

proppAuthors who want to write fairy tales have a similar sequence worthy of study in Vladimir Propp’s structuralist approach to fairy tales that suggests all tales follow a similar sequence even though each tale doesn’t use all of the thirty-one steps. In addition, Propp says the major characters in fairy tales usually include a hero, false hero, magical helper, dispatcher, villain and donor.

Like the hero in the hero’s journey schema, the hero in a fairy tale is sent out by a dispatcher (wise person, king, friend) who knows of the hero’s needs and sends him/her out to seek a prize, such as the princess/prince, and is assisted by a donor and magical helpers, then fights against by the villain and a false hero (who wants the prize).

Dmitry Olshansky, writing in the “Toronto Slavic Quarterly,” says that “in his research Propp separated variable and constant elements in different fairy-tales, seeking a wonderful uniformity in the labyrinth of multiplicity. (Propp, , Morphology of the Folktale). In other words, he was less interested in the matter than in the structure of the narrative, trying to establish a stable scenario in the relation between parts and whole in a totality of tales.”

Catherine Orenstein, in Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked, calls these elements structural building blocks. These elements are looked at by Propp in chronological order rather than studying the patterns underlying the tale. Propp looks at tales outside the context of culture and time period, a problem that also confronts those who use the hero’s journey sequence too much like a formula.

Sequence

Arthur Rackham's 1909 illustration for "The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm"
Arthur Rackham’s 1909 illustration for “The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm”

You can find Propp’s sequence of steps in multiple places online including Wikipedia and in a nice post by Jerry Everard. However, here is the basic sequence. It’s worth a look, I think, if you’re studying fairy tales with a thought of using the genre yourself:

  1. Hero leaves home. (e.g., Little Red Riding Hood heads for Grandmas’ house.*)
  2. Hero told NOT to do something or go to a certain place. (e.g., LRRH warned about talking to strangers or getting off the path.*)
  3. Hero goes there anyway and meets the villain. (e.g., LRRH picks flowers.*)
  4. Villain tries to find out “treasure/prize.”
  5. Villain extracts information from victim.
  6. Villain deceives victim.
  7. Victim unwittingly taken in by villain begins helping the villain in some way.
  8. Villain harms or injures somebody and/or their property.
  9. Hero discovers misfortune and goes to help.
  10. Counteraction decided upon.
  11. Hero leaves home.
  12. Hero is tested, helped or attacked.
  13. Hero reacts to donor by passing tests, solving problem, performing a service.
  14. Hero obtains magic.
  15. Hero reaches prize/treasure s/he is seeking.
  16. Combat between hero and villain.
  17. Hero “branded” via injury, mark, object (ring, cloak, scarf)
  18. Villain defeated.
  19. Problem/misfortune resolved.
  20. Hero heads for home.
  21. Prince wakes Snow White - Wikipedia photo
    Prince wakes Snow White – Wikipedia photo

    Hero pursued. (e.g., Snow White rescued by prince)

  22. Hero rescued from or hides from pursuer.
  23. Hero arrives home, though friends/family usually don’t recognize him/her.
  24. False hero claims s/he did what the hero actually did.
  25. Hero faced with difficult task or ordeal.
  26. Hero successfully does task or faces ordeal.
  27. Mark on hero brings others to recognize him/her
  28. False hero exposed.
  29. Hero is made whole (looks, clothing).
  30. Villain punished.
  31. Hero marries prince/princess, ascends throne, or rewarded in other way.

surlaluneIt’s fun comparing the steps in this sequence with popular fairy tales. This is easy on the SurLaLune site which has annotated versions of many old favorites.

If you’ve read a lot of fairy tales, you’ve probably already internalized the structure. If not, Propp will prop you up.

Resources – Last Updated 6/30/18

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Series: “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Lena. “