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.”

Katniss and Harry – Orphans in the Storm

“We find them everywhere in fantasy fiction: the “orphaned heroes,” young men and women whose parents are dead, absent, or unknown, who turn out to be the heirs to the kingdom, the destined pullers of swords from stones, the keys to the riddles, the prophesies’ answers, the bearers of powerful magic.” – Terri Windling in Lost and Found: The Orphaned Hero  in Myth, Folklore, and Fantasy

“The hero, Tristan, is a conventional orphan-hero. Mythic heroes are typically orphans and/orfoundlings of some sort. This symbolic convention was first discovered by psychoanalyst OttoRank (1914/1964), described in his classic work, ‘The Myth of the Birth of the Hero.'” – Ronald L. Boyer in “Key Archetypes in the Celtic Myth of Tristan and Isolde: A Brief Introduction”

hungergamesposterOrphans in literature and in fact are portrayed as beginning life behind the figurative 8-ball. In novels and classic myths, they grow up in an uncertain world, often without love and often with cruel or other substandard conditions. Sometimes we find them in institutions, sometimes with relatives or foster families, and sometimes as street-smart children living on the fringes of society in major cities.

Variously, society often pities them, mistrusts them, intrudes into their lives purportedly in their best interests and views them as broken children who will have a long, hard climb back into  the normal world of commerce, relationships and other traditional forms of success. We also see them as underdogs and, in spite of whatever else we may feel about their birth and circumstances, we root for them  in literature and life.

In J. K. Rowling’s series of Harry Potter books and movies, Harry is the unwanted orphan forced to live in a cupboard beneath the stairs. In Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games, the fatherless and –practically speaking–motherless Katniss Everdeen struggles to support the family in a coal mining district. Do they have an extra axe to grind? Has their childhood made them more suspicious and/or more resourceful than children in happy families? Perhaps.

The first real help they get comes from outside their families. Harry is mentored by Hagrid. Katniss is mentored by Haymitch Abernathy. Harry leaves his everyday world when he goes to Hogwarts and Katniss leaves her everyday world when she takes the train to the capital city.

harrypotterfilmsIn their stories, Katniss and Harry follow a long literary tradition. According to John Granger (aka, the Hogwarts Professor), their “hero’s journey — one in which the principal character plays the part of what the Bible calls ‘the heart’ and their story is about their apotheosis or spiritual illumination, something like divinization — has a tradition of its own in English literature we can call ‘literary alchemy.’”  Twilight, The Hunger Games and Rowling’s series contain similar tropes and symbols.

Whether we consciously know what those themes and symbols are, we resonate to them when we read myths and modern fiction that contain them.  One way or another we know what it takes to turn lead into gold and to turn an orphan into a heroic figure.

We have seen this story in many forms with many characters. As Windling writes:

“We can trace the archetype back from the popular fantasy books listed above to the literary orphans of the 19th century (Dickens’s ‘Oliver Twist’, Mark Twain’s ‘Huck Finn,’ Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre,’ to name just a few), and then further back through “foundling” stories such as Henry Fielding’s ‘The History of Tom Jones’ and William Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale,’ to a world–wide body of folk tales and myths about children orphaned and abandoned. Alongside these stories is another deep cache of tales on the “stolen child” theme: children whisked away by fairies, trolls, djinn, gypsies, Baba Yaga. . .sometimes reappearing many years later and sometimes never seen again. We discussed changeling and stolen child stories in a previous article, so well leave these tales aside for the moment and focus on the orphan archetype.”

Stories about orphans in the storm can be powerful because of the authors’ art and craft in creating memorable plots and characters. They’re also powerful because such stories are part of a long literary tradition than rings a bell, subconsciously perhaps, when we pick up a book about an orphan on a larger-than-life journey.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels.

 

How could Red Riding Hood Have been so very good

lrrhsongHow could Red Riding Hood Have been so very good And still keep the wolf from the door? – from A. P. Randolph’s 1926 hit song

Midnight, the clock strikes. It is Christmas Day, the werewolves’ birthday; the door of the solstice stands wide open; let them all sink through. See! Sweet and sound she sleeps in granny’s bed, between the paws of the tender wolf. – from Angela Carter’s retelling of the fairy tale in The Company of Wolves.

Little Red Riding Hood
Went walking through a wood.
She met a wolf and stopped to chat.
Don’t ask what happened after that!
Armand T. Ringer (Martin Gardner) in Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?: Discourses on Gödel, Magic Hexagrams, Little Red Riding Hood, and Other Mathematical and Pseudoscientific Topics

Traditionally, Little Red Riding Hood was one of the first fairy tales most of us were told as children, and then later, it became one of the first stories we told our children.

I heard the Grimm’s 1812 version first, probably because my parents liked the happy ending in which LRRH is rescued by the hunter. The moral of this version was don’t stray from the path. Charles Perrault’s 1695 version, which is grimmer than the Grimm’s version, admonishes children not to talk to strangers.

Like many children, I probably thought the story was just another example of a bad day in the woods and/or that this is just the sort of thing that happens to kids who don’t listen to their parents about strangers and paths. The prospective bawdy messages behind the story were lost on me in the days when I listened to bedtime stories.

Gustave Doré's 1901 illustration
Gustave Doré’s 1901 illustration

Adults, from psychologists to folklorists to parents, have variously found deeper meanings in the story or missed the point altogether.  In Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, Catherine Orenstein notes in the introduction that two California school districts banned the book in the 1990s because of an illustration showing a bottle of wine in LRRH’s basket.

“The story line of Red disrobing and climbing into bed with the wolf passed muster,” writes Orenstein. “But the wine, they said, might be said as condoning the use of alcohol.”

The Objective Observer

As I grew older, questions came to mind about the story. They were, in fact, very similar to those of Dr. Eric Berne’s  (Games People Play, What do you say after you say hello?) questions of an objective observer: “What kind of a mother sends a little girl into a forest where there are wolves? Why didn’t her mother do it herself, or go along with LRRH? If grandmother was so helpless, why did mother leave her all by herself in a hut far away?”

These questions sound similar to those a police officer might ask. And, in real-life events, they make sense.

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”

Berne further speculates that maybe mom wanted to get rid of the kid and hoped for the worst out in the woods. This would would allow mom to play the “Ain’t it Awful” game. Berne was, as always, delightfully cynical and LRRH certainly provided food for thought for those studying transactional analysis, psychological games and scripts. But, rather than uncovering what the fairy tale means, the objective observer approach primarily suggests there’s more in the story than initially meets the ear.

A Treasure Hunt

I like searching for potential meanings and versions. The LRRH story came out of an oral tradition long before Perrault’s version was published. Orenstein writes that it began as a tale for adults, has changed over time, and that various versions include bits and pieces of the fairy tale’s earlier incarnations.

In his 1983 book  The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, Jack Zipes found at least 147 versions of the story. Of these, Perrault’s version wasn’t the most morbid. Since Zipe’s book came out, more versions have been added, including  Philip Pullman’s 2012 rendition in Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version. (You can see Marina Warner’s review of Pullman’s approach in Fairy tales licked clean.)

Psychologists have had a field day with LRRH and have supplied their views of the fairy tale’s meaning in books, including Erich Fromm’s 1951 Forgotten Language: An Introduction to the Understanding of Dreams, Fairy Tales, and Myths and Bruno Bettelheim’s 1976 The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.

Fromm believes LRRH is experiencing unconscious sexual impulses and wants to be seduced by the wolf. Bettelheim says she’s in the nymphet stage of life and is less innocent than she seems. Other psychologists search fairy tales, including LRRH, and find them to be communicating eternal archetypes.

beasttoblondeWhile I see the archetypes in the larger-than-life worlds of myths, I’m less sure about their importance in the domestic-related arena of fairy tales. In a way, the tales seem to relate more to the time, place and moral issues of their settings—like snapshots. In From the Beast to the Blonde, Marina Warner says that searches for a tale’s universal significance tend to overshadow the human behavior illustrated by the story.

“I began investigating the meanings of the tales themselves, but soon found that it was essential to look at the context in which they were told, at who was telling them, to whom, and why,” writes Warner.

Unfortunately, her beautiful book is out of print and that makes the treasure hunt of looking for meanings in fairy tales a little more trying. However, it’s still listed on Amazon along with third-party sellers.

So Where Are We Now?

uncloakedOrenstein suggests that society has a vested interest in LRRH, “in the messages she wears, and those she covers up.” Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale is, fortunately, still in print, and well worth including in a LRRH treasure hunt.

I also like Jane Yolen’s thoughts about the fairy tale from Touch Magic:

“Anthropologists have read it as a folk memory of old menstruation myths or sun/moon myths. Freudians point to it as a possible incest story, or a pregnancy fantasy. Marxists have seen it as the triumph of the proletariat over the evil capitalists who would lure them into a cozy relationship and then devour them. And moralists through the ages say it means simply: You women should not go to bed with strangers who may turn out to be ‘wolves.’ Who is right? They are all right. For as the writer writes about himself or herself, so the adult reader reads.”

Personally, I like the ambiguity of multiple versions, meanings, tellers and time periods.

Finding Out More

Annotations for Little Red Riding Hood on SurLaLune

The Path of Needles or Pins: Little Red Riding Hood by Terri Windling

Excerpt from The Company of Wolves by Angela Carter

Little Red Riding Hood, Wikipedia overview

Malcolm

EScoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of fantasy novels and short stories including “Emily’s Stories,” available on Kindle.

This and That, Mostly About Books

While Georgia’s heat wave continues, I’m doing just fine when I’m inside working on short stories. The A/C can hardly keep up with temps over 90, much less over 100. As long as I’m working on my story about a Florida river, I can imagine floating in its cool waters even though “in real life,” the river is a mess due to the recent flooding from Debby.

Lately, I’ve been wondering what’s going on in the world that’s causing so many people to search on the phrase “light conquers all.”  A year-old post here on Malcolm’s Round Table about author Pat Bertram’s novel Light Bringer has been getting dozens of hits per day for about two weeks now. If you’re one of the people searching for that phrase, leave a comment and tell me what’s happening.

After reading author and artist Terri Windling’s recent post about artistic inspiration, I felt inspired to use her words as a springboard and post a few words about where authors get their ideas on my Magic Moments blog. Stop by and tell me what inspires you to write, draw, compose music or make a quilt or create a new sculpture.

Long before I was born, my father’s family lived in Fort Collins, Colorado before moving to the California coast. Because my father loved the Colorado high country, I followed in his footsteps and climbed mountains there one summer before finishing school and being summoned by “my friends” at my local draft board to join the Navy. So it is, that I watch the news about the Colorado fires, the people who have been driven out of their homes and the heroic efforts of the fire fighters with horror and awe mixed together with memories of better times. The news from the fire lines seems better at the moment.

On July 9th, author Melinda Clayton will stop by for a chat about her third novel Entangled Thorns, including why a Florida author is lured to Appalachia again and again for her stories. I enjoyed the interview!

Publisher’s Description

Beth Sloan has spent the majority of her life trying to escape the memories of a difficult childhood. Born into the infamous Pritchett family of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia, she grew up hard, surrounded not only by homemade stills and corn liquor, but by an impoverished family that more often than not preferred life on the wrong side of the law.

After the mysterious death of her brother Luke at the age of thirteen, seventeen year old Beth and her younger sister Naomi ran away from home, never to return. As the years passed, Beth suppressed the painful memories and managed to create a comfortable, if troubled, life with her husband Mark and their two children in an upscale suburb outside of Memphis, Tennessee.

But the arrival of an unwelcome letter threatens to change all that.

Against her better judgment, and at the urging of her sister Naomi, Beth agrees to return to Cedar Hollow, to the memories she’s worked so hard to forget. When old resentments and family secrets are awakened, Beth must risk everything to face the truth about what really happened to Luke that long ago summer night.

With three out of four of my novels partly set in Glacier National Park, Montana, I’m usually distressed when I read about the continued absence of funding, especially for such mundane sounding line items as infrastructure and maintenance. The good news this summer is the Glacier National Park Fund’s plan to begin an adopt-a-trail program to help pay for the upkeep on the remaining 750 miles of trails (down 250 miles since I was first there). As a member of the Fund, I heard about the plan via a letter and a brochure. The details are not yet on the Fund’s web site, but I think they will be soon.

When I write my next Montana novel, I really don’t want to hear that more trails have been abandoned due to Congress’ continued lack of support. Maybe all of us can help pick up the slack.

Otherwise, I know newspapers, websites and magazines often feature the summer’s hot reads every year about this time. What with the heat wave, I’m ready for books about snow and ice.

Malcolm

Only $4.99 on Kindle