Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for Fairy Tales

Today’s letter in the month long A-Z challenge is F. (No, we’re not going there! Get your mind out of the gutter, people. LOL!) Our guest today is Oberon Wonch, lover of Medieval romance, Renaissance Faires, fairy tales, gardening, and a soon-to-be-published romance author.
 


F is for Fairy tales, those magical stories we all heard growing up, the ones that feature youngest sons, princesses, cruel stepmothers, and talking animals. The stories where good triumphs over evil and an honest knight or virtuous princess earns a blissful happy ending. 

Scholars who like to debate this sort of thing actually don’t agree on what exactly distinguishes a fairy tale from other folk tales. Though most agree an actual fairy needn’t be involved, they dispute whether magic is an integral part of a fairy tale and whether some form of mythical being—goblins or giants, for example—must be included. Despite the arguments, several motifs are common: a handsome prince, a beautiful maiden, a fantastic location such as a castle or a beanstalk that climbs to the clouds.

Though stories resembling what we identify today as fairy tales go back thousands of years, the term fairy tale was first coined in the 17th century by Countess d’Aulnoy. She compiled anthologies of French folk tales meant to be discussed by adults in Parisian salons. Gathering her stories from nursemaids and other laboring class women who told stories to children, she emphasized the magical elements in such tales and built up the motif of strong female characters who prevail over evil stepmothers and overbearing royal fathers. (Perhaps because those were the subjects that appealed most to her fellow salon-goers.)


One thing that seems to be a modern invention is the idea of a happily ever after. This might be attributed to the Brothers Grimm, who in the early 19th century recorded on paper many German folk tales from oral tradition. Hoping to market their books as family-friendly but finding the stories too gruesome for children, they took the liberty of cleaning up the tales. Stabilized through printing, their versions have become the standard in cultures of English descent.

Did you know Hans Christian Andersen mostly wrote new stories rather than relayed traditional fairy tales? He employed some familiar motifs, but the characters and plots were all his. Eloisa James did a series of historical romances where each book was founded upon a fairy tale. When Beauty Tamed the Beast was my favorite.




Let's chat: What are your favorite fairy tales, the ones that resonate with you? Do you recognize the fairy tales in your nodern reading?




A two-time Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist in Historical Romance, Oberon Wonch writes passionate tales about heroes, both modern and medieval, winning the hearts of their lady loves. Visit her at http://www.oberonwonch.com/ or her gardening blog at http://www.gardeningwithoutfairies.com/.


The "F" book list:

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley: historical fiction, paranormal, romance all in one. I love just about everything this author writes.

Judi Fennell: lighthearted romance. Her early works are paranormal romance, and now she's coming out with contemporary romantic comedies about a group of brothers working as housemaids!

Firefly: Graphic novels, multiple authors/artist. The comic-book continuation of the beloved television space opera series that, like most of Joss Whedon's stuff, died a tragic and far-too-early death. They live on in these. Start with this one. 



Images: The Frog Prince y Anne Anderson (1874-1930) (http://www.artsycraftsy.com/anderson_prints.html) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Red Riding Hood: By Charles Perrault, Harry Clarke (ill.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

39 comments:

Kat Sheridan said...

Good morning, Oberon, and welcome to Over Coffee! My favorite stories tend to be the Beauty and the Beast tales (my own novel has that at the core). I heard a rumor that you're also well versed in what goes into a medieval garden. True?

Liza said...

I have a very old book of "fairy" tales that came from my parents, and probably originally my grandparents. The stories are horrible with bad endings. Not at all what I'm used to in a "good" fairy story.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'm really into fairy tale retellings these days. It really keeps me reading them.

Jo said...

I didn't know Grimm cleaned up the endings. What a pity. I know Disney does that with its movies. When I first read The Little Mermaid I cried my eyes out at the ending, but Disney made it all happy. Shame.

Don't think I have a favourite story, I loved them all. Maybe Cinderella.

Carolyn Brown said...

I don't mind immersing myself in a fairy tale occasionally, always a favourite way to pass some time.

I like to read adult versions now, which are a little darker than the childhood ones I read.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Interesting debate about what constitutes a fairy tale. For me, it's a tale that brings out the kid in you :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The original Brothers Grimm tales were very dark and twisted. I think a fairy tale needs an element of magic.

saraleee said...

Great post, Oberon! A second grade teacher at a local elementary school in my area has for years held a "Fairy Tale Ball" event with her students. The kids act out fairy tales from all over the world -- from Africa, native American traditions, as well as Europe. It's really neat that similar stories appear in nearly all cultures. I think the stories contain hidden wisdom about life, which is why they are so enduring.

Diana Jillian said...

Interesting info. I know that children's songs were too gruesome back in their day, but were still sung. Like ring around the Rosie was all about the plague.

Great post! :)

~~DJ

oberongwonch said...

Hello, Kat, and thank you for having me today! Thank you, Sia, too. I hope you're well on the mend.

Yes, I can see Beauty and the Beast in your Echoes in Stone, for sure, Kat! What a wonderful book. Beauty and the Beast tales are my very favorite, even reverse B&B stories! :-)

As for gardening, I've had to research medieval gardening for my books, so I might know a thing or two. What I would really like to do for real is some beekeeping in the medieval way. I studied that for one of my stories. It's not much different today.

oberongwonch said...

Liza, that's cool that you have one of those older-style books of fairy tales. My reading has lead me to some pretty gruesome folklore, too. I suppose it was the reality of the day, and the stories weren't necessarily meant for children back then. Thank you for visiting us today!

oberonwonch.com said...

Me too, Natalie. I think most romance novels are a version of the Frog Prince or the Beauty and the Beast. I enjoy picking out the familiar elements while I read(like a beast who becomes handsome through a woman's love or girl believing a wolf's lies). Thanks for visiting!

Kat Sheridan said...

Jo, I felt the same way about Little Mermaid. When I was little, and read the original, I was pretty shocked to find one without a happy ending, but I respected it. I was really surprised to hear Disney was making a movie of it and wondering what they'd do to it. Needless to say, they totally sanitized it, and I wasn't really happy abou that. I haven't seen Frozen yet, but I expect they did the same kind of thing to the original Snow Queen, which was pretty dark.

oberonwonch.com said...

Jo, I don't remember the original ending to Little Mermaid. I'll have to go refresh my memory. And I love Cinderella also. It's current form is European, but similar tales (of an abused servant girl marrying a king) go back to antiquity.

The Grimm brothers may have cleaned up the stories some, but there are still some truly gory bits. Disney really sugar-coated the tales.

oberonwonch.com said...

Carolyn, the familiar is comforting somehow, isn't it? Thank you for stopping by!

oberonwonch.com said...

Optimistic, that is a terrific definition. :-) Stories that remind you of the wonder of childhood, when magic was still real, and good things happened to good people, bad things to bad people. Thanks for visiting!

Carol said...

Hmm. I'm not much of a fairy tale reader but I continue to be enthralled with Firefly long after its premature demise. I love Joss Whedon's work.

It occurs to me that while Firefly for one is a classic hero's journey, fairy tales frequently are not.

oberonwonch.com said...

Alex, magic does make a fairy tale, doesn't it? At least something otherworldly, a setting like our own, but "a long time ago" where the reality is a bit different from what we're used to so that a frog can speak or a wolf can dress in Granny's nightgown.

And you're right about the Grimms. What I see is they left some pretty gruesome stuff even in the later versions for children. What's more, the Grimms added (or emphasized) moralizing and lessons for youngsters. And of course, more recent publications of those same stories have sanitized the tales even more.

Thank you for stopping by!

Chrys Fey said...

My F is also for Fairy Tales, but my post talks about how to write a fairy tale, but I guess scholars would disagree with what I said. :P

I just love fairy tales. They speak to my soul and inspire me with my writing. Sometimes I don't even notice their influence until later.

Fascinating post!

oberonwonch.com said...

Carol, I'm one of the few who haven't caught on to Firefly. I just haven't had the opportunity to watch an episode and get hooked.

Interesting what you say about fairy tales not being a hero's journey. We shall have to discuss sometime! Thanks for coming by!

oberonwonch.com said...

Diana, thank you for commenting. Yes, when I first heard about Ring Around the Rosie I thought, "Ugh!" I can't sing it or even think it to this day! :-)

oberonwonch.com said...

Chrys, neat to hear you took on Fairy Tales too! And that's an intriguing observation about not realizing the influence of a fairy tale until after you've written. I've noticed that too! Could be that fairy tale motifs, plot twists, and resolutions are so fundamental to our lives and desires that they come out subconsciously.

Thank you for visiting!

cleemckenzie said...

Happy F Day! I loved fairy tales when I was little and read them to my kids, so I had a chance to enjoy them again.

I always thought Hansel and Gretel was scary, and when Rumplestiltskin didn't get his way at the end, I cheered. Guess these were two of my favorites.

oberonwonch.com said...

Cleemckenzie, Hansel and Gretel is horrifying, isn't it? Yikes. I forgot about Rumplestiltskin. Yeah, what was THAT all about? LOL! I always wondered what he was going to do with her firstborn if he got a hold of him/her. Shiver.

Thank you for visiting!

Melanie Schulz said...

I've been reading some "real" fairy tales to my daughter; so much better than the "happily ever after" ones.

Kathryn Maeglin said...

Thanks for the fairy tale history lesson, Oberon! Cinderella is my favorite. The idea of being a common waif who's rescued by a handsome prince has never-ending appeal.

oberonwonch.com said...

Hi, Melanie! Sounds great. What book(s) are you reading from?

Thank you for coming by.

oberonwonch.com said...

Hi, Kathryn! I have to believe Cinderella is the all-timest of the all-time favorites, for the very reason you mention. I especially enjoy versions where the mistreated heroine takes matters into her own hands and at least gets the wheels rolling toward her own salvation. The handsome prince is required, of course!

Thank you for stopping by!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Oberon, what an interesting article and discussion! Glad to see you visiting us Over Coffee.

I am doing better, thank you. First stage of PT has started and that's rough.

I loved reading Fairy Tales and read them all. Aesop was a favorite of mine probably because I love mythology and read about everything I could in that--Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Norse etc.

Didn't like some of the darkness of Grimm but, they were very interesting reading. And, yes, Fairy Tales have become highly sanitized, :-)

Favorites? I can't think clearly right now but as a romance reader who didn't love Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty? Then Beauty and The Beast...pattered this romance/paranormal reader's heart. Even Snow White had a happy ending.

Herding Cats - Burning Soup said...

Oh how interesting. I'd never thought much about their origins and what differentiated the two.

My favorite. Goodness. I don't really know I have one. I do love book adaptations of them but I don't think I have a particular favorite.

And aws Judi Fennell! I just read my first by her and loved it!

Happy A to Z-ing!
~Anna
herding cats & burning soup.

oberonwonch.com said...

Hi, Sia! Glad you could chime in. I hear you about Beauty and The Beast. That story makes my heart go pitter-pat too. With Snow White, I never could get past the-girl-hanging-out-with-little-old-men thing. Even as a kid that seemed weird to me.

Did you know Gary Cooper was in a movie version of Snow White where HE was the innocent Snow White character, a professor of some sort, mentored by these seven elderly and scholarly professors all working on a project? It was a hoot.

oberonwonch.com said...

Herding Cats--Thank you for stopping by! Happy reading.

Kat Sheridan said...

Herding Cats, so glad you stopped by! And aren't Judi's books just delightful? In fact, her logo happens to be "fairy tales with a twist", and her early books all had the Little Mermaid at their heart!

Judi Fennell said...

Hmmm... I heard my name.

You know this is a post near and dear to my heart! :)

And I'm a total Disney fan, even if all the moms are dead in the stories...

Thanks, Anna! Glad you enjoyed What A Woman Wants!

Herding Cats - Burning Soup said...

I really did! I can't wait for the next one :) I'm loving these brothers :)

Slamdunk said...

Yes, I enjoyed fairy tales. Grimm was always a special interest--though some were scary.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Anna, this Manly Maids series is really a good one. I love these brothers! Glad you enjoyed Judi's book. She makes you laugh and feel good.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Oh, and by the way, if you like erotic romance you might want to check out Raven Morris. Just sayin' Her stories are fun.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sia, Kat and Oberon - I lived on Fairy Tales as a kid .. we had all the Andrew Lang volumes - each a different colour ... and I loved all the stories and the pictures/illustrations ..

Brothers' Grimm too .. all of them! Cheers Hilary