I’ve been studying Frog Prince tales. You know the ones: princess meets frog, he does her a service, in return he asks for a kiss, she kisses him, and hey presto, he’s turned into a handsome prince. Right? Wrong. If you look at the Grimms’ version—tale #1 in the CHILDREN’S AND HOUSEHOLD TALES—you’re doing okay until you get to the kissing part. It’s not there. It quite simply doesn’t exist. The act that gets the prince unfroggified is one of gross violence: the princess chucks the frog against her bedroom wall (in the 1812 version, with a lovely onomatopoeic “Splat!”). That’s right, attempted murder. When he falls down from the wall—I’ve always had trouble visualising that bit—he’s a handsome prince with “friendly eyes,” and the princess happily goes to bed with him.
That’s fine, you say. There are other versions of that story that have the kiss in it, aren’t there? Well, not that I can find, at least in the old tales…
Enchanted Conversation recently republished an older post by Elizabeth Creith, a highly informative article on flax that is aptly entitled “STRAW INTO GOLD.” As a fairly new convert to spinning, it caught my interest—and it reminded me of one of my pet peeves where “spinning and fairy tales” is concerned.
Full disclosure: I let my fascination with “Sleeping Beauty”—my favorite fairy tale—led me down the garden path into learning to spin. First it was a drop spindle, then a little castle wheel, and now I own an old Ashford Traditional, which is one of those really classic items that look exactly like what you’d expect to see when you hear “spinning wheel.” You know, a big flywheel; a treadle; a thing that whizzes around; sharp pointy bits sticking out at every angle for unwary princesses to prick their fingers on and fall into hundred-year sleeps…
Actually, no. My spinning wheel, which is one of the earliest iterations of this model of wheel, has no pointy bits on it anywhere. None. Zero. Nada. It does have the flywheel and the treadle and the thing that whizzes around, though. The latter item is called the flyer, and it contains, right in its center, the spindle. Which, on this kind of wheel, is a hollow tube. Did I mention “no pointy bits”?
So what, then, did the princess prick her finger on?
… which is a fairy tale adaptation of mine that just got published in Enchanted Conversation Magazine’s August issue!
Here’s a taster:
There’s always one thing in a man’s life that he shudders to think of. If it hadn’t been for Milo, this would have been mine.
Milo is the little brother of Albert Zwergmann—him and me went to grade school together—and he was a klutz from the time he was little. He’d trip over rocks, he’d trip over the end of the teeter-totter, he’d trip over other kids’ book satchels or their legs—even the ones that weren’t stuck out on purpose—and if, by a miracle, there weren’t any of those around, he’d trip over his own big feet. During his first grade, almost every other day Albert had to pick him up out of the dirt, dust him off, wipe his nose, and send him home to Mama.
Well, Mama Zwergmann ain’t around anymore, and Milo is no longer a little klutz on the playground. Matter of fact, he’s six feet two and has broader shoulders than even Rufus, who’s the biggest of all the Zwergmann brothers. But he’s still a klutz—except when he gets his hands on some precious stones. Then all of a sudden he’s the most skilled of the lot. For almost a dozen years now, he’s done all the original design work for the business, and Zwergmann’s Jewelers has become a byword for the rings, bracelets, and fancy cuff links they put on the market.
Albert’s still the one who has to pick people up out of the dirt, though. That’s how they ended up with her—Whitney, I mean. She was their cousin. One day, Albert tells me, there she was, sitting on their front room sofa, looking like something the cat dragged in…
The snow kept falling thicker and thicker. Whirling, blowing, biting, cutting. Clinging to his whiskers, to his eyelashes, to the hair on the side of his face. His nose and cheeks had grown numb, his fingers so cold he could no longer bend them. When he tried to raise them to his face to brush the snow out of his beard, they felt like hard claws on the end of big, clumsy, fur-covered paws; claws that had no feeling in them and could not move to his will.
He tried to climb up the side of the ravine, reached for a snow-covered branch. Could not close his hands on it—where were his thumbs? He staggered on his clumsy legs, then dropped down onto all fours.
I wrote this last November during NaNoWriMo, when I was doing a retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red“. It was sort of a prologue to the story, the moment when the “prince” turns into a “bear” – except in my adaptation, he’s not a real bear, just a very hairy guy (and he’s not a prince either, being an ordinary 21st century Canadian). But then it occurred to me that this could work as a standalone Flash Fiction, a regular adaptation of the regular fairy tale, so I sent it to Amanda at Enchanted Conversation. And here it is.
You can decide for yourself if you want to take the transformation as an actual guy-turned-into-bear thing, or keep it metaphorical. I’m not entirely sure yet which one I prefer.
Sauce Robert, Julia Child says in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is a brown mustard saucewith lots of onions and white wine, and is served with roast or braised pork, boiled beef, broiled chicken, hot meat leftovers or hamburgers. Obviously, Julia Child hadn’t read “Sleeping Beauty”, or she would have added “roast or broiled baby” to that list of acceptable meats. Well, at least the ogress thinks that Sauce Robert would go well with cooked toddler; her chef disagrees.
What? You didn’t know about the ogress and the broiled baby? What version of “Sleeping Beauty” were you looking at? Oh, probably the same one I’m familiar with—lovely, tender Grimms’. That’s right, when it comes to “Sleeping Beauty”, the Grimms were the sweet, child-friendly storytellers; Charles Perrault’s version is a whole lot more grim…
Go here to my post on Enchanted Conversation magazine to find out more about the Sauce Robert version of Sleeping Beauty and get my recipe for White Sauce (I’ve never done Sauce Robert).
One of the features of Enchanted Conversation Magazine is a monthly “Artist Spotlight”, an article that highlights the work of an artist who does work on the fairy tale/folklore/mythology theme.
For June’s Artist Spotlight, I got to interview my favourite artist: Eveline Wallace! That’s right, her of my “Peace Angel” painting. I went over to her house, interviewed her, and took pictures of her paintings; then she fed me lunch and we had a great visit. Win-win all around.
Hop on over to Enchanted Conversation and check out the interview and Eveline’s great paintings – she’s amazing:
“Once upon a time, there was a pregnant woman. In her neighbour’s garden, there was a planting of beautiful rapunzels. The woman had an irresistible craving for these rapunzels and told her husband that if she could not have any, she would die…”
Of course, we all know what happens—the husband steals rapunzels for his wife; the neighbour, who happens to be a sorceress, catches him; when the child is born the sorceress takes her as payment for the rapunzels; she imprisons the girl in a tower and calls her “Rapunzel” … and so on and so forth with the long hair and the prince and the happily ever after.
I loved that story as a child. I had only one little problem: What on earth, I wondered, are rapunzels? And why are they so amazing that a mother would give up her child for a handful of them?
Back then, I didn’t let it bother me—I just skipped on ahead to the satisfying conclusion where the prince gets back his eyesight when Rapunzel cries on him, and all is well. But once I grew up and the world became so much smaller thanks to Google, I made up for my childhood ignorance. And here is what I found out: Rapunzels are a salad vegetable…
To find out more about rapunzels (rampion) and learn how I make salads (with flowers, no less), go here.
I did not hear my first fairy tales at the knee of my grandmother. Nor did someone read them to me as bedtime stories out of a venerable fat hardcover copy of Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales. No—I got my introduction to the Land of Faerie through the record player. That’s right, children: Once upon a time, in a world far away from that of today, stories were told by a magic machine. Flat black discs with thin grooves engraved on them were placed upon a platter, a magic wand was laid on top, an enchanted lever was pressed, and suddenly the strains of music and the voice of a storyteller filled the room—though of the musicians and the tale teller there was no sight to be seen.
Oh, we did of course have paper books of the stories, as well. I still have on my bookshelf our first copies of Andersen, Hauff, and the Arabian Nights, all of which I enjoyed reading. But some of my favorites were, and still are, the Grimms’ tales I got from those vinyl records: “Snow White and Rose Red,” “The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats,” “Puss in Boots”…
The other day, I was listening to audio versions of fairy tales again. By now, the magic machine I use is so small that it fits in my back pocket, and it can do all sorts of other magical things (such as making phone calls)…
Unlike the previous stories I had published on EC, which were re-tellings of traditional tales, this one is an original. I was trying to go for the classic formula and tone – but of course, I’m no Wilhelm Grimm (or Dortchen Wild, as it were), so it’s not quite as classic as it, perhaps, might be…