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Would you trust these girls with your beard?

What with all the Snow White going around these days, I thought I’d bring the OTHER Snow White tale to your attention: “Snow White and Rose Red.” It’s not as complex and wonderfully evil as the seven dwarves tale, but it’s still a sweet story with enough weirdness to satisfy. And what it lacks in wicked witches, it totally makes up for in uncomfortably flirtatious bears.

I would love to see someone do a mash-up of the two versions someday…

Snow White and Rose Red

THERE was once a poor widow who lived in a lonely cottage. In front of the cottage was a garden wherein stood two rose-trees, one of which bore white and the other red roses. She had two children who were like the two rose-trees, and one was called Snow-white and the other Rose-red. They were as good and happy, as busy and cheerful, as ever two children in the world were, only Snow-white was more quiet and gentle than Rose-red. Rose-red liked better to run about in the meadows and fields seeking flowers and catching butterflies; but Snow-white sat at home with her mother, and helped her with her house-work, or read to her when there was nothing to do.

The two children were so fond of each other that they always held each other by the hand when they went out together, and when Snow-white said, “We will not leave each other,” Rose-red answered, “Never so long as we live,” and their mother would add, “What one has she must share with the other.”

They often ran about the forest alone and gathered red berries, and no beasts did them any harm, but came close to them trustfully. The little hare would eat a cabbage-leaf out of their hands, the roe grazed by their side, the stag leapt merrily by them, and the birds sat still upon the boughs, and sang whatever they knew.

No mishap overtook them; if they had stayed too late in the forest and night came on, they laid themselves down near one another upon the moss, and slept until morning came, and their mother knew this and had not distress on their account.

Once when they had spent the night in the wood and the dawn had roused them, they saw a beautiful child in a shining white dress sitting near their bed. He got up and looked quite kindly at them, but said nothing and went away into the forest. And when they looked round they found that they had been sleeping quite close to a precipice, and would certainly have fallen into it in the darkness if they had gone only a few paces further. And their mother told them that it must have been the angel who watches over good children.

Snow-white and Rose-red kept their mother’s little cottage so neat that it was a pleasure to look inside it. In the summer Rose-red took care of the house, and every morning laid a wreath of flowers by her mother’s bed before she awoke, in which was a rose from each tree. In the winter Snow-white lit the fire and hung the kettle on the wrekin. The kettle was of copper and shone like gold, so brightly was it polished. In the evening, when the snowflakes fell, the mother said, “Go, Snow-white, and bolt the door,” and then they sat round the hearth, and the mother took her spectacles and read aloud out of a large book, and the two girls listened as they sat and span. And close by them lay a lamb upon the floor, and behind them upon a perch sat a, white dove with its head hidden beneath its wings.

One evening, as they were thus sitting comfortably together, some one knocked at the door, as if he wished to be let in. The mother said. “Quick, Rose-red, open the door, it must be a traveller who is seeking shelter.” Rose-red went and pushed back the bolt, thinking that it was a poor man, but it was not; it was a bear that stretched his broad, black head within the door.

Rose-red screamed and sprang back, the lamb bleated, the dove fluttered, and Snow-white hid herself behind her mother’s bed. But the bear began to speak and said, “Do not be afraid, I will do you no harm! I am half-frozen, and only want to warm myself a little beside you.”

“Poor bear,” said the mother, “lie down by the fire, only take care that you do not burn your coat.” Then she cried, “Snow-white, Rose-red, come out, the bear will do you no harm, he means well.” So they both came out, and by-and-by the lamb and dove came nearer, and were not afraid of him. The bear said, “Here, children, knock the snow out of my coat a little;” so they brought the broom and swept the bear’s hide clean; and he stretched himself by the fire and growled contentedly and comfortably. It was not long before they grew quite at home, and played tricks with their clumsy guest. They tugged his hair with their hands, put their feet upon his back and rolled him about, or they took a hazel-switch and beat him, and when he growled they laughed. But the bear took it all in good part, only, when they were too rough, he called out, “Leave me alive, children,

“Snowy-white, Rosy-red,
Will you beat your lover dead?”

Right. He totally said that. Find out what happens next.

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In which the Marvel universe comes to the aid of a damsel in distress...

Today’s fairy tale is a simple, fun one that features not one, not two, but THREE magical helpers: Long, Broad, and Quickeye. Each one of these fine fellows possesses a unique talent, much like the members of the Fantastic 4, or the X-Men. One of them even blows stuff up with his incredible eyesight, just like Cyclops!

If that’s not enough to pique your interest, there’s also a sad, enchanted maiden, a prince who falls in love with her (emotionally unavailable people are so attractive), and a mean, old wizard.

From Andrew Lang’s Grey Fairy Book.

LONG, BROAD, AND QUICKEYE

Once upon a time there lived a king who had an only son whom he loved dearly. Now one day the king sent for his son and said to him:

‘My dearest child, my hair is grey and I am old, and soon I shall feel no more the warmth of the sun, or look upon the trees and flowers. But before I die I should like to see you with a good wife; therefore marry, my son, as speedily as possible.’

‘My father,’ replied the prince, ‘now and always, I ask nothing better than to do your bidding, but I know of no daughter-in-law that I could give you.’

On hearing these words the old king drew from his pocket a key of gold, and gave it to his son, saying:

‘Go up the staircase, right up to the top of the tower. Look carefully round you, and then come and tell me which you like best of all that you see.’

So the young man went up. He had never before been in the tower, and had no idea what it might contain.

The staircase wound round and round and round, till the prince was almost giddy, and every now and then he caught sight of a large room that opened out from the side. But he had been told to go to the top, and to the top he went. Then he found himself in a hall, which had an iron door at one end. This door he unlocked with his golden key, and he passed through into a vast chamber which had a roof of blue sprinkled with golden stars, and a carpet of green silk soft as turf. Twelve windows framed in gold let in the light of the sun, and on every window was painted the figure of a young girl, each more beautiful than the last. While the prince gazed at them in surprise, not knowing which he liked best, the girls began to lift their eyes and smile at him. He waited, expecting them to speak, but no sound came.

Suddenly he noticed that one of the windows was covered by a curtain of white silk.

He lifted it, and saw before him the image of a maiden beautiful as the day and sad as the tomb, clothed in a white robe, having a girdle of silver and a crown of pearls. The prince stood and gazed at her, as if he had been turned into stone, but as he looked the sadness which, was on her face seemed to pass into his heart, and he cried out:

‘This one shall be my wife. This one and no other.’

As he said the words the young girl blushed and hung her head, and all the other figures vanished.

The young prince went quickly back to his father, and told him all he had seen and which wife he had chosen. The old man listened to him full of sorrow, and then he spoke:

‘You have done ill, my son, to search out that which was hidden, and you are running to meet a great danger. This young girl has fallen into the power of a wicked sorcerer, who lives in an iron castle. Many young men have tried to deliver her, and none have ever come back. But what is done is done! You have given your word, and it cannot be broken. Go, dare your fate, and return to me safe and sound.’

So the prince embraced his father, mounted his horse, and set forth to seek his bride. He rode on gaily for several hours, till he found himself in a wood where he had never been before, and soon lost his way among its winding paths and deep valleys. He tried in vain to see where he was: the thick trees shut out the sun, and he could not tell which was north and which was south, so that he might know what direction to make for. He felt in despair, and had quite given up all hope of getting out of this horrible place, when he heard a voice calling to him.

‘Hey! hey! stop a minute!’

How does the prince find Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters his way through the terrible forest? Find out.

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Pucker up!

Come write fairy tales with me!

After nearly two years on hiatus from teaching, I have just secured a fabulous classroom for a new Intro to Writing Fairy Tales class!

This is what I sent out to the mailing list:

Learn how to write your own fairy tales on Saturday afternoons from April 14 – May 19
(12 pm – 3 pm).

The Intro to Writing Fairy Tales class is a terrific choice for authors of all experience levels. I tailor the class exercises to meet the needs of each student, so everyone has fun, works just hard enough, and ends up with a complete fairy tale by the end of the class.

Visit http://www.writefairytales.com to learn more or register now.

This six-week class costs $250. But you can save $50 if you register before March 18.

Not sure it’s worth it? See what other people think about the class.

We’ll meet at the Phinney Neighborhood Center – my favorite place to teach in the entire city. Ample parking, gorgeous classrooms, and a lovely neighborhood to stroll around before or after class.

Class description:

Intro to Writing Fairy Tales
Spend six weeks in the land of Fairy. Learn the basic rules of the genre, plus a variety of approaches to fairy tales as readers and as writers. Study western European tales from the late middle ages to modern times. Write a lot! Writing exercises assigned after each class. By the end of the course you will have written at least one original fairy tale of your own. All experience levels welcome.$250.

I hope to see you there!

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It's hard work!

There are lots of hard things about writing, but one of the hardest is editing your own work. Editing brain is an entirely different animal from writing brain, and flaws that seem obvious in someone else’s work often go unnoticed in our own. So what’s a poor writer to do?

Fortunately for us, Carol Saller, senior manuscript editor at the University of Chicago press and an editor at the Chicago Manual of Style, has compiled a list of errors she sees in manuscripts over and over again. For instance:

* Throat-clearing. When writer Richard Peck finishes a novel, he claims, he throws out the first chapter without reading it and writes it anew. He reasons that when we begin a work, we’re rarely certain of where it will end. Revisiting the beginning after the end has emerged makes sense. This time it will be easier to eliminate all the bush-beating.

* Personal tics. Most writers have a few pet words or phrases: decidedly, or by no means, or incredibly, or most important. Ditto for favorite sentence constructions: “Not only X but Y” is always popular. Once you identify your own foibles, they become more difficult to ignore.

* Repetition. Word-processing encourages this to the same degree that old-fashioned typewriting discouraged it: why say something once when you can say it three times? A common keyboard error is to copy and paste when you mean to cut and paste, so that whole passages are accidentally repeated verbatim.

Read the whole list.

And hook yourself up with an incredible blog about language and writing, while you’re at it.

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With Halloween right around the corner, it seems only right that today’s fairy tale should feature Baba Yaga, monsters, violent deaths, and unnatural resurrections. For bonus points, there is also a warlike princess whose future husband falls in love with her over the bodies of the 1,000 soldiers she’s just slain. (Russian ladies are fierce!)

The Fearsome Baba Yaga

Without further ado, I present you with this thrilling tale from Andrew Lang’s Red Fairy Book:

The Death of Koshchei the Deathless

IN a certain kingdom there lived a Prince Ivan. He had three sisters. The first was the Princess Marya, the second the Princess Olga, the third the Princess Anna. When their father and mother lay at the point of death, they had thus enjoined their son: “Give your sisters in marriage to the very first suitors who come to woo them. Don’t go keeping them by you!”

They died, and the Prince buried them, and then, to solace his grief, he went with his sisters into the garden green to stroll. Suddenly the sky was covered by a black cloud; a terrible storm arose.

“Let us go home, sisters!” he cried.

Hardly had they got into the palace, when the thunder pealed, the ceiling split open, and into the room where they were came flying a falcon bright. The Falcon smote upon the ground, became a brave youth, and said:

“Hail, Prince Ivan! Before I came as a guest, but now I have come as a wooer!” I wish to propose for your sister, the Princess Marya.”

“If you find favour in the eyes of my sister, I will not interfere with her wishes. Let her marry you, in God’s name!”

The Princess Marya gave her consent; the Falcon married her and bore her away into his own realm.

Days follow days, hours chase hours; a whole year goes by. One day Prince Ivan and his two sisters went out to stroll in the garden green. Again there arose a storm-cloud, with whirlwind and lightning.

“Let us go home, sisters!” cries the Prince. Scarcely had they entered the palace when the thunder crashed, the roof burst into a blaze, the ceiling split in twain, and in flew an eagle. The Eagle smote upon the ground and became a brave youth.

“Hail, Prince Ivan! I Before I came as a guest, but now I have come as a wooer!”

And he asked for the hand of the Princess Olga. Prince Ivan replied:

“If you find favour in the eyes of the Princess Olga, then let her marry you. I will not interfere with her liberty of choice.”

The Princess Olga gave her consent and married the Eagle. The Eagle took her and carried her off to his own kingdom.

Another year went by. Prince Ivan said to his youngest sister:

“Let us go out and stroll in the garden green!”

They strolled about for a time. Again there arose a storm-cloud, with whirlwind and lightning.

“Let us return home, sister!” said he.

They returned home, but they hadn’t had time to sit down when the thunder crashed, the ceiling split open, and in flew a raven. The Raven smote upon the floor and became a brave youth. The former youths had been handsome, but this one was handsomer still.

“Well, Prince Ivan! Before I came as a guest, but now I have come as a wooer! Give me the Princess Anna to wife.”

“I won’t interfere with my sister’s freedom. If you gain her affections, let her marry you.”

So the Princess Anna married the Raven, and he bore her away into his own realm. Prince Ivan was left alone. A whole year he lived without his sisters; then he grew weary, and said:

“I will set out in search of my sisters.”

He got ready for the journey, he rode and rode, and one day he saw a whole army lying dead on the plain. He cried aloud, “If there be a living man there, let him make answer! Who has slain this mighty host?”

There replied unto him a living man:

“All this mighty host has been slain by the fair Princess Marya Morevna.”

Find out what happens next!

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What’s better than a fairy tale? A fairy tale with KUNG FU!

Jet Li and Eva Huang bring an old Chinese fairy tale to life in this kung-fu-tastic film version of the Legend of the White Snake. The CG looks a little shady, and the storyline has certainly wandered far afield from the traditional version, but hey – kung fu!

For those who prefer their Chinese fairy tales to be text-based and not full of Whirling Fists of Death, please enjoy this lovely version of the traditional tale:

The Legend of the White Snake

“Good old man, please give us a ride!” Lady White shouted to the boatman from the bank. The young man asked the boatman to stop and let them go aboard. They thanked the young man and Xiaoqing asked him his name. He replied,”Xu is my surname. I am told that I once met an immortal near the Broke Bridge when I was a child so my father gave me the name Xian.” (Xian means immortal in Chinese.)

And so Lady White’s wish was fulfilled. The handsome young man was indeed the little boy who had always stayed in her heart.

Because of the downpour, Xu Xian lent Lady White his umbrella to carry home. Later, whenever she looked at it, she felt a longing for Xu Xian. Xu Xian also felt himself falling in love with Lady White. On the day he went to get back his umbrella, he asked Xianqing to act as go-between to arrange a match between Lady White and himself. Xianqing did her job well and the pair married.

After their marriage, the couple and Xiaoqing moved to Zhenjiang and set up a herbal medicine store. Lady White wrote out the prescriptions while Xu Xian and Xiaoqing gathered and dispensed the herbal medicine. Patients unable to pay ere given free treatment and medicine. The store quickly became well known and popular.

At the time of the Dragon Boat Festival, it was the custom for every household to fasten plants such as calamus and Chinese mugwort on the ground to drive away spirits. These were, of course, dangerous to Lady White and Xiaoqing, since there were spirits, after all. Lady White was by now pregnant so she had even more reason for staying at home. Xu Xian decided to spend the day at home with his wife. He prepared a pot of old wine with realgar, for realgar not only drove away evil spirits but was also considered beneficial to pregnant women. Under her husband’s coaxing, Lady White could not find a reason to refuse the drink and she took a sip, thinking that her superior magic skills would make her immune to the power of relgar. But she immediately was stricken ill and barely managed to get to bed. Xu Xian rushed to the bed and drew aside its curtain. Lady White was no longer there. In her place was a large white snake coiled on the bed. So great was Xu Xian’s shock that he fell to the floor and died.

When the power of realgar’s power faded, Lady White resumed her human form. She was heartbroken to find Xu Xian lying dead beside the bed. But she knew that the glossy ganoderma, a celestial herb on the Kunlun Mountain, could restore him to life. She flew to the Kunlun Mountain to steal the celestial herb but encountered the white crane and heavenly guards responsible for looking after the glossy ganoderma. They fought to prevent her from taking the herb and Lady White was losing the battle, when suddenly a voice commanded them to stop. It was the voice of the Immortal of the Southern End. Lady White begged him in tears to help her. Impressed by her sincerity and perseverance, he granted her the glossy ganoderma.

Lady White ground the herb and fed it to Xu Xian who soon came back to life. But he was still frightened at the memory of the snake that had appeared in his wife’s place.

Lady White made up a story to set his mind at rest. The snake he saw, she told him, was in fact a dragon descending from heaven. The sight was a good omen. She regretted that she was unconscious at that time, otherwise she would have burnt some incense to the dragon.

Xiaoqing added she also had seen something white resembling either a snake or a dragon and that it flew from the bed to the window and disappeared. Xu Xian’s suspicions were allayed by this colorful story.

Story courtesy of Chinapage.com

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Who wouldn't love a face like that?

If you’re a fan of the classic old fairy tale illustrators like Dulac and Rackham, you’ve probably enjoyed the many and marvelous artists coming up in the world of Pop Surrealism in the past decade or so. From intensely creepy (but still enchanting!) works from Ray Caesar to the light and sugary images of Julie West, magical landscapes and enchanted creatures seem to be hiding around every corner in the art world lately.

And I, for one, couldn’t be happier.

So it pleases me greatly to announce a new show by up-and-coming Dutch artist Femke Hiemstra at the Roq la Rue art gallery here in Seattle. Her beautifully realized paintings and drawings of magical creatures in the midst of peculiar circumstances make me swoon.

The show opens November 1, but if you can’t make it to Seattle you’ll have to content yourself with her marvelous blog and website. She’s got a rich online gallery and a nice selection of prints in her shop. Prints start around 80 euros, plus shipping, and are totally worth it.

She’s cute, too.
Ze artiste

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How dare you want to write a story?

So I’m blatantly stealing this content from the Nanowrimo site. And I’m even lazier than that because I didn’t even find it there. My friend David sent it to me.

But since Nanowrimo is almost upon us (five short weeks, kids), and since this is a brilliant, beautiful, absolutely necessary piece of information, I think it’s okay.

Lemony Snicket’s Pep Talk to Writers

Dear Cohort,

Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it’s nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.

For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and paperback, every website and most walls near the freeway trumpet the news that nobody reads anymore, and everyone has read these statements and felt their powerful effects. The authors of all those articles and editorials, all those manifestos and essays, all those exclamations and eulogies – what would they say if they knew you were writing something? They would urge you, in bold-faced print, to stop.

Clearly, the future is moving us proudly and zippily away from the written word, so writing a novel is actually interfering with the natural progress of modern society. It is old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy, a relic of a time when people took artistic expression seriously and found solace in a good story told well. We are in the process of disentangling ourselves from that kind of peace of mind, so it is rude for you to hinder the world by insisting on adhering to the beloved paradigms of the past. It is like sitting in a gondola, listening to the water carry you across the water, while everyone else is zooming over you in jetpacks, belching smoke into the sky. Stop it, is what the jet-packers would say to you. Stop it this instant, you in that beautiful craft of intricately-carved wood that is giving you such a pleasant journey.

Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one. One could devote one’s entire life to reading the work of Henry James, for instance, and never touch another novel by any other author, and never be hungry for anything else, the way one could live on nothing but multivitamin tablets and pureed root vegetables and never find oneself craving wild mushroom soup or linguini with clam sauce or a plain roasted chicken with lemon-zested dandelion greens or strong black coffee or a perfectly ripe peach or chips and salsa or caramel ice cream on top of poppyseed cake or smoked salmon with capers or aged goat cheese or a gin gimlet or some other startling item sprung from the imagination of some unknown cook. In fact, think of the world of literature as an enormous meal, and your novel as some small piddling ingredient – the drawn butter, for example, served next to a large, boiled lobster. Who wants that? If it were brought to the table, surely most people would ask that it be removed post-haste.

Even if you insisted on finishing your novel, what for? Novels sit unpublished, or published but unsold, or sold but unread, or read but unreread, lonely on shelves and in drawers and under the legs of wobbly tables. They are like seashells on the beach. Not enough people marvel over them. They pick them up and put them down. Even your friends and associates will never appreciate your novel the way you want them to. In fact, there are likely just a handful of readers out in the world who are perfect for your book, who will take it to heart and feel its mighty ripples throughout their lives, and you will likely never meet them, at least under the proper circumstances. So who cares? Think of that secret favorite book of yours – not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they’d never understand it. Perhaps it’s not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you’ll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.

Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop. Most people are not writing novels which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jet packs soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor’s waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your novel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.

In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it. Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power. Extinguish it so we can get some sleep. I plan to quit writing novels myself, sometime in the next hundred years.

Lemony Snicket

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Have you heard the one about the monk and the mermaid? I confess to having a soft spot in my heart for rhyming poetry, especially if it was written before 1900. How can I resist Pushkin’s sad tale of the old monk and his mortal temptation?

He looks; his heart is full of trouble,
Of fear he cannot quite explain;
He sees the waves rise more than double
And suddenly grow calm again.
Then, white as first snow of the highlands,
Light-footed as nocturnal shade,
There comes ashore and sits in silence
Upon the bank a naked maid.

Read the whole, tragic tale

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In case you missed this as it made the rounds on Facebook last week: Treat yourself to the mean-spirited pleasure of reading the 30 harshest author-on-author quotes in history.

Some choice examples:

Friedrich Nietzsche on Dante Alighieri

A hyena that wrote poetry on tombs.

Lord Byron on John Keats

Here are Johnny Keats’ piss-a-bed poetry, and three novels by God knows whom… No more Keats, I entreat: flay him alive; if some of you don’t I must skin him myself: there is no bearing the drivelling idiotism of the Mankin.

Vladimir Nabokov on Ernest Hemingway

As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early ‘forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it.

W. H. Auden on Robert Browning

I don’t think Robert Browning was very good in bed. His wife probably didn’t care for him very much. He snored and had fantasies about twelve-year-old girls.

Read them all.

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