Faery Tale Friday; Snow White

Snow White is probably the most famous fairy tale brought to us by the Brothers Grimm, although arguably they have Walt Disney to thank for this particular story’s popularity. It was first published in 1812 as Little Snow White and in its original form was far darker than their finalised edition of 1854. This was because they were now aiming their stories at children. Disney’s animated film, released in 1937, owes much of its influence to the final version but he lightened the mood even further.

 

In the original story the villain is in fact Snow White’s mother, not step-mother, which puts a shocking slant on things. So jealous is she of her daughter’s beauty that she instructs a servant to take the girl into the forest and kill her. To prove that her daughter is dead the servant was required to bring back Snow White’s liver and lungs. (Not heart as in Disney’s story). The servant, however, takes pity on the child, who it should be mentioned is but seven years old, and lets her run away. On his return the servant slaughters a wild boar and presents its lungs and liver to the Queen. And what does she do? Orders the cook to prepare the offal and eats it for her supper. Ah, cannibalism. That wasn’t in Disney’s version.

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Snow White comes across the house of seven little men. As none of them are at home the  girl helps herself to their food and wine and then looks for a bed to sleep in. “But none of them felt right-one was too long, the other too short- until finally the seventh one was just right.” Sound familiar? When the seven dwarves return from their hard day down the mine they are somewhat perplexed to find that their lovely house is not the way they left it. Contrast this to Disney’s version where you may recall Snow White started cleaning up after the dwarves. Mind you, what seven year old’s first thought is “Hmm I must tackle the housework” The dwarves are so bowled over by the girl’s beauty that they let her stay. (It must also be noted that the dwarves were never named. That came along hundred years later in 1912 in a Broadway production called Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. And you thought that was Disney’s idea.)

Snow White by one of my illustration hero’s Yvonne Gilbert

 

Meanwhile, back at the castle, the Queen is shocked to hear from her magic mirror that Snow White lives and is a thousand times fairer than she. Now, unlike Disney’s version the Queen visits Snow White three times in an attempt to kill the child and on each occasion disguises herself as a peddler woman selling her wares. Firstly she offers silken bodice laces with which she tightens Snow White’s corset so severely the child cannot breath and passes out. And the second time with a beautiful comb for Snow White’s hair. The tines are poisoned and when it touches her scalp Snow White falls to the floor. On both occasions the dwarves arrive in the nick of time and save the child. To be fair to the dwarves they had warned Snow White to not let anyone into the house while they were gone. But as in all good fairy tales good advise goes unheeded. Finally the Queen uses all her evil powers to produce an apple so delicious that Snow White can’t possibly refuse. One side of the apple is white and the other red and it is the red side that is poisoned. To convince Snow White that there is nothing amiss with the fruit, the Queen cunningly takes a bite from the white flesh. When Snow White bites into the red half she falls down dead.   The queen looked at her with a gruesome stare, laughed loudly, and said, “White as snow, red as blood, black as ebony wood! This time the dwarfs cannot awaken you.”

Snow White illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia

 

And indeed they could not. Not wanting to bury her under the ground they fashioned a coffin from glass, placed Snow White within it and gazed upon her every day. Along came a prince and this being the very best of fairy tales he fell instantly in love with her. And being a prince he thought nothing of demanding that he take her home with him. The dwarves gave in but when the coffin was moved the piece of apple becomes dislodged from Snow White’s throat and she wakes up. (You may be interested to know that in the original 1812 version the Prince’s servants had to carry the coffin around all day every day so Snow White could be near the Prince. One servant got fed up of this, removed the lid and took his anger out on Snow White by slapping her around the face, so dislodging the offending piece of fruit.)

 

Well of course the Prince is overjoyed, automatically asks Snow White’s hand in marriage and she says yes. They get married and the Queen, who is blissfully ignorant of this new queen’s identity, is invited to the wedding.  When her mirror tells her that the new queen is the fairest of them all the woman has to go to the celebrations to see for herself. Instantly, she recognises Snow White and in her terror cannot move.

Then they put a pair of iron shoes into burning coals. They were brought forth with tongs and placed before her. She was forced to step into the red-hot shoes and dance until she fell down dead. 

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Disney opted to kill off the Queen by hurling her over a cliff, but I prefer The Grimm Brother’s shockingly cruel ending.

What do you think?

 

But Who Will Look After the Froglets?

There has been a considerable amount of action down on the pond recently; the Frogs have been a courting. My goodness, but what a racket! Splishing and splashing, dipping and diving and croak, croak, croaking.

A few days later and the writhing froggy bodies have been replaced with a thick clotted mass of jellied eggs. A tasty meal for someone. So who will look after the froglets? Well, surprisingly, up to 20% of frogs make pretty good parents. Sometimes Dad takes on the responsibility, sometimes Mum, either attached to their legs, on their backs or inside their stomachs. But what about the other 80% who are left to the forces of nature? Well it might surprise you to learn that…..no, wait….let’s have some froggy facts first.

  • a group of frogs are known as an army
  • a person who studies frogs is called a herpetologist
  • frog bones form a growth ring every year. So you can count the rings to see how old they are, just like tree!
  • frogs don’t drink water through their mouth, they absorb it through their skin
  • when a frog swallows its prey it blinks. That’s because the eye balls drop down in its head and pushes the food down the throat.
  • but it can only see in black and white
  • the Golden Dart Frog is the most poisonous frog in the world. The skin of one frog could kill up to a 1000 people

Golden Poison Frog

Frogs also feature in folk-lore and fairy tales, the most popular story being The Frog Prince in which a princess has to kiss the frog. They were believed to be a witch’s familiar and had an unfortunate habit of allowing their body parts to be used in spells and dropped into steaming cauldrons.

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But back to my original question; who will look after the froglets? Well, it is none other than the Frog Elf, a strange little creature with bulging eyes and abnormally long legs. I’ve spotted him on occasion while walking Mischa down by the pond and managed to sketch him. He sits hunched in the grass by the edge of the water waiting to chase away predators, be they heron, duck or small child with jam jars. If you listen carefully you’ll hear him singing a little tune;

A frog he would a-wooing go,
Heigh ho! says Rowley,
A frog he would a-wooing go,
Whether his mother would let him or no.
With a rowley, powley, gammon, and spinach,
Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley.

I’ve noticed he often sucks his fingers as if he’s just popped something in his mouth. Should the frogs trust him to be their protector? Hmm, I wonder.

Ziggy's Frog Elf

The Frog Elf

Fact or Fiction? You decide.

Faery Tale Friday; Little Red Riding Hood

I absolutely adore fairy tales, the darker the better, and one of my favourites is Little Red Riding Hood or sometimes known as Little Red Cap. It is French in origin and dates back to the 10th century. Of course it would have been told orally and over the centuries each story teller would have embellished the tale with each and every telling.

Illustration by Gustave Dore (1883)

The earliest known printed version was called Le Petit Chaperon Rouge by Charles Perrault. This is a very moralistic tale where the hapless Miss Hood naively gives the wiley wolf directions to her Grandmama’s house. He arrives before the girl, devours Grandmama then, after donning the old lady’s clothes, gets into bed and invites Little Red Riding Hood to join him. After pointing out all his distinguishing features, yet still failing to notice his wolfish good looks, Miss Hood follows the fate of her dear Grandmama and is gobbled up by the beast. There is no happy ending.

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Little Red Riding Hood by one of my favourite artists Carl Larsson (1881)

Of course the Brothers Grimm version cleaned things up a bit and introduced a woodcutter who saved both Granny and Little Red Riding Hood. There is of course no happy ending for the wolf. But my favourite adaptation is The Company of Wolves by Angela Carter. Taken from her book of short stories, The Bloody Chamber, it tells the dark and savage tale of a werewolf who charms a young virgin walking through the woods to her Granny’s house. As in the original story he tricks her into telling him the location of the cottage then races ahead. Poor Granny is devoured and he lies in wait for the girl. However, on entering the house she spies a tuft of white hair burning in the fireplace.

When the girl saw that she knew she was in danger of death. “Where is my Grandmother?” “There’s nobody here but we two, my darling” Now a great howling rose up all around them…the howling of a multitude of wolves….”These are the voices of my brothers darling; I love the company of wolves.”

Carter’s story is inspired by the very early versions of the tale and her young woman triumphs over the wolf.

There must be as many illustrations for this story as there are versions of the tale itself. So I thought I would add to them.

Faery tale Friday Sketch

My Little Red Riding Hood

 

Faery Tale Friday Composition

What big eyes you have.

FaeryTale Friday Little Red Riding Hood

Faery Tale Friday; Little Red Cap

Do you have a favourite version of Little Red Riding Hood?

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Dinner with Edward Lear

Today’s Google Doodle alerted me to the fact that the 12th May 2012 is Edward Lear’s 200th birthday. Here are some interesting facts about the British writer and illustrator

  • He was the second youngest of 21 children
  • Suffered from epilepsy of which he was ashamed and kept secret
  • proposed to the same woman twice but was rejected
  • suffered bouts of depression which he referred to as “the Morbids”
  • his closest companions were his Albanian chef Giorgis and his cat Foss
  • he had a lifelong ambition to illustrate Tennyson’s poems, but his vision was never fully realised
  • he was asked to give drawing lessons to Queen Victoria
  • in 1988 the centenary of his death was marked in Britain by a set of Royal Mail stamps

Actually, laid out like that it’s no wonder the poor man was prone to depression.

As a young man Edward Lear earned his living as a zoological artist and worked for the Zoological Society and the Earl of Derby who owned a private menagerie.

He spent much of his adult life travelling and illustrated his journeys. Lear was an accomplished landscape artist but gave it up because he didn’t think anyone was interested. He finally settled in Sanremo, north-west Italy, in a house he named Villa Tennyson.

But of course it is for his nonsense songs and rhymes that he is best known. And although he is not the inventor of limericks, he certainly popularised them with the publication in 1846 of A Book of Nonsense. (He wouldn’t have used the term “limerick” himself as it didn’t come into use until after his death).

Edward Lear’s most famous nonsense rhyme is the Owl and the Pussycat. But it is The Jumblies for whom I have a soft spot. This is because I have the dubious honour of actually having been one in my Primary School production. I remember being very hot in my green balaclava and blue gloves, scrambling in and out of a cardboard box that served as a sieve.

Do you ever play that game where you make a  list of people you would invite to a fantasy dinner party? Lear is on my guest list, although I feel sure he would decline. He had an abject fear of dogs you see so wouldn’t have tolerated my two. Ah well. So I will leave you with my personal tribute to Edward Lear; my own nonsense poem and illustration.

There was a young elf from The North                                       

Who decided to venture forth

To lands further afield

But he stopped in South Shields

That intrepidsom elf from The North