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Roots

Hey! I'm still here. Let's talk about fairytale re-tellings.


The stories we know as fairytales and folk tales have been a part of human history for longer than we will ever know. They existed first as stories passed down in the oral tradition from generation to generation, and though we can find the first times these stories were written down, we can't say for sure what they were before that. It's like a big long game of Telephone; what we got written down in the 9th century is likely a garbled version of whatever our 4th century ancestors were telling each other. And ever since they were written down, they have continued to evolve and change with each generation that tells them. The basic stories - the rags-to-riches tale of Cinderella, the cruel queen persecuting the innocent princess in Snow White, the beautiful maiden falling in love with a gruesome suitor in Beauty and the Beast - are a template that each generation uses to tell stories that tell us a lot about wh…

The Next Disney Movie That Will Never Be: Tipingee

This short little story doesn't exactly lend itself easily to film adaptation, but it's a story I think could be fleshed out in interesting ways. The main point here that is something I would love to see in film, particularly in children's films, is girls working together and supporting each other. It's no mistake this is the story I chose to talk about on International Women's Day; a story showcasing the power women have when supporting and protecting each other would not only be timely, but timeless.

Tipingee is a Haitian story that begins in a rather Cinderella-esque way. Tipingee is an orphan who lives with her wicked step-mother. The step-mother is selfish and keeps all of Tipingee's father's belongings to herself, giving the child nothing. One day while Tipingee is at school, the fire goes out at home and the step-mother ventures into the woods herself to find more firewood. She gathers a heavy bundle, then cries aloud for help.

An old man suddenly ap…

There Is, There Was, There Will Be: On Creating a Fairytale Story

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There's been radio silence here because the next post I wanted to do, and felt like I probably should do, I was scared to write. It's not even just that I hate confrontation and have no desire to argue with people on the internet, but I'm just generally tired of making the same points ad nauseum; I'm very aware that no one actually cares about fairytale storytelling but me. And Guillermo del Toro.* I could do a whole series on his fairytales. And likely will, now that I think of it.

But I digress. The point I mean to make is that criticism of genre storytelling needs to engage with the story within its medium; criticising a fairytale for using fairytale storytelling devices is just a bad faith engagement with the story.You don't have to like fairytales, but the fact that you dislike something doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. A fairytale story can use those devices badly, but to criticise it for using them period is to misunderstand how a fairytale story …

Fairytales in Space: Mass Effect, the Disbelieved Heroine, and Breaking the Cycle

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A long time ago (in this galaxy, not one far, far away), I wrote a bit about Star Wars and fairytales and mentioned I'd like to write more about space fairytales. That time has come!
Star Wars is a straight-forward fairytale: a fairytale story, fairytale characters. It is the fairytale as we have always known it, set a long time ago, somewhere far away. We know the story, we're familiar with the characters, but we're along for the journey, not the destination. The best thing about fairytales is that they have always been with us; we've told the stories around fires, by the hearth, in royal courts, in children's bedrooms. We take these stories and play with them, taking the familiar and transporting it somewhere new. Space fairytales are the fairytales of the future - and not just because that's where they're set. Space fairytales take the familiar and transport it somewhere we can only imagine, into a world we will likely never see in our own lifetimes. Thi…

Sic Itur Ad Astra: Mass Effect and Mythology

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This was originally written last year for another website, but in planning my next post, I thought it would also be useful to have it here for reference. It was written prior to the release of the fourth game in the series, Andromeda, to put it in context.



One of the best things about studying mythology is it enhances your enjoyment of everything. Mythology references are made in almost all media you encounter, often giving you hints about the story or the characters, or just as a funny reference to make you smile. Mass Effect is no exception to this, jam-packed full of mythology references, and as with all things Mass Effect, some of them will make you laugh and some of them will make you cry.

Before I continue, I want to make clear that the term ‘mythology’ is not analogous to ‘fictional,’ nor do I ever intend it that way. The blanket term ‘mythology’ refers to stories and does not inherently imply those stories are false. ‘Mythology’ is used often to encompass both religious and cu…

Blackberry Blue, Aladdin, and Representation

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As is turning out to be unfortunately usual, I had something to write that was topical last week but didn't have time to write until this week. I've been on my work placement as part of my MA studies at a children's literature museum, which has been absolutely wonderful for many reasons, not the least of which is the mountains of children's books surrounding me at all times. I recently came across Blackberry Blue, a collection of fairytales by Jamila Gavin, and absolutely adored it. The tales are not specific stories like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty but use elements of many fairytales and related tropes to tell new stories with canonically non-white protagonists. They are beautiful, enchanting, well-told stories and I could not recommend it enough.



I was reading this book as the news that Disney is apparently unable to find a single middle Eastern actor to play Aladdin was making the rounds. There is, of course, an entire film industry full of middle Eastern actors b…

The Kitchen Witch

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I turned in my assignments for the semester yesterday, so today I'm baking! And being in the kitchen for long periods of time always makes me think of the kitchen witch.


The kitchen witch is a witch doll or puppet hung in a kitchen to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. The origin of the tradition is difficult to pin down precisely - European in general, at least, but it pops up both in Scandinavian and German regions.

For what it's worth, the kitchen witch I remember belonged to my Norwegian grandmother. I wish I had a picture of it, but I remember it. I can't remember if my mom had a similar one, or if she just ended up with my grandmother's witch, but I remember the same witch or a very similar one in both my grandmother's and my mom's kitchens. She had curly brown hair peeking out under a yellow bonnet, and little wire glasses. I think her dress was yellow, too, or perhaps it was white and the kitchen lighting was unkind.

I remember asking about the …

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

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Hurra for Syttende Mai! Today I'm going to talk about my favourite Norwegian fairytale, "East of the Sun and West of the Moon."




I meant to talk about this back when Beauty and the Beast came out, as one of several more interesting alternative takes on the same basic story, but just never found the time. I might still talk about a few more another time, but today it's all this one.

The story begins with a white bear encountering the heroine's father, offering endless riches to the poor man in exchange for his youngest daughter. The man likes the idea, but won't send his daughter away without her consent, so he tells her and she steadfastly refuses. The father tells the bear to come back in a week, and after a week of bribing his daughter with the promises of riches for her and their family, she consents.

At the bear's castle, she is given a bell to ring if she needs anything. After eating, she rings the bell and finds a bedroom in which everything is gold …