“Very, very long ago in an Old Russian village there lived an old couple: the woodcutter and his wife. They barely made the ends meet, owing to the old man who cut logs in the forest and carried them into the nearest town. They were poor and had no children, so as they grew older they became sadder and sadder. The old woman often asked, “Who will take care of us? We are so old.” Her husband used to answer, “Don’t worry, old woman. God will not leave us alone, he will help us, if necessary.”
One cold winter day they both went to the forest, the old man to chop wood and his wife to help him. The frost that day was severe. The old man said, “Shall we make a little snow-girl to solace us, as we have no child?” In a short time they had made a “Snegurochka” – a Snowmaiden. It was so beautiful that no tale could describe it and no pen could portray it. They were looking at it and becoming even sadder and the old woman said, “If only the almighty Lord had sent us a little girl looking like this Snegurochka.
Suddenly the Snowmaiden’s eyes twinkled and she became alive, may be owing to the strong desire of the poor good people. There was a precious tiara on her head, her hair was white as snow, a brocade cape covered her shoulders, and embroidered boots were on her feet. The woodcutter and his wife were amazed and could not believe their eyes. Snegurochka breathed, trembled and stepped forward. They grew numb thinking they were dreaming. Snegurochka came toward them and said, “Good afternoon, kind folks, do you want to be my parents? I will be a good daughter to you and honor you as mother and father.” “You will be the joy of our old age. Come home with us,” answered the old man and they led her from the forest.”
A lot has been said against the “Disney-fication” of fairy tales, and for the most part I agree.
Check out the introductory sequence of Snow White, which was released in 1937. It’s dark, dramatic, and exquisitely animated. It leaves The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast in the dirt. The evil queen is genuinely disturbing and, well, evil. The peacock throne is a nice touch.
“… I want to say a word about…the sense of closure and completeness…that I believe every satisfactory story must have. As anybody can testify, experience is a continuous shower, without beginnings or endings. It ravels off from previous experiences and frays off into new ones. Because the record of any experience is not complete without a thinking pause after it, and because most readers have a short attention span, the writer’s job is to contrive a positive conclusion that will pass for an ending of the limited segment of life the story covers. In a plotted story there is a rising action, a series of complications, a climax, a denouement. Somebody or something wins or loses, lives or dies. That is what Hemingway had in mind when he said that all stories end in death—there is no other ending that really ends anything. So we must contrive little symbolic deaths that seem to end something, and we must be careful when we do it; for beginnings and endings, Chekhov said, are the places where writers are most inclined to lie.”
Join us next Thursday evening (that’s April 23) from 7 – 10 pm at Vermillion to hear the latest crop of stories that’s come out of the Factory. Readings will start around 7:30, drinking and talking will go indefinitely!
“[The writer] must be in his story but not apparently in it; the story must go his way while appearing to act itself out. For this sort of skill, the short story is the practice ground. It is so short that a flaw in the point of view shows up like a spider in the cream; it is so concentrated that it forces a writer to develop great economy and structural skill; and it is so intense that like a high-velocity bullet it has the knock-down power of a heavier missile.
And a writer must knock readers down. This is what he must constantly have in mind: to make people listen, to catch their attention, to find ways to make them hold still while he says what he so passionately wants to say. He is an ancient mariner laying hands on wedding guests, staying them with his skinny hand and his glittering eye. And though creative writing as an intellectual exercise may be pursued with profit by anyone, writing as a profession is not a job for amateurs, dilettantes, part-time thinkers, 25-watt feelers, the lazy, the insensitive, or the imitative. It is for the creative, and creativity implies both talent and hard work.”
-Wallace Stegner On Teaching and Writing Fiction
Nick Kazan has written scripts for the films Reversal of Fortune, At Close Range, Frances, and more. In this 10-minute clip he talks about his process as a writer, from engaging storyline to authentic dialogue.
The March ‘Intro to Fairy Tales’ class is going swimmingly, thanks for asking! We have six full-time students and one who drops in when he can take time away from working on his Ph.D. in mythopoetic studies at the Pacifica Graduate Institute (this is an unusual privilege – don’t go getting any fancy ideas). In terms of age, I think we’ve got a representative from each decade of life from the teens to the fifties (with a few doubling up in the 20s and 30s); in terms of experience, we span the entire spectrum, as well. And it works beautifully! Class discussions are funny, intelligent, and engaging thanks to the cool folks who came out to play this time.
Last night was the third class in this series, so we have officially hit the halfway mark. There’s no turning back now! With each class we move steadily closer to our goal of a complete, polished, original fairy tale for every student. There’s some great imagery on the table, and I’m looking forward to the stories that are in the pipeline.
Check back in three or four weeks (at the very least), when I will post student stories – if the students in question don’t get too shy!
This video is not, on the surface, related to fairy tales or the creative process. But it is if you look under the hood. Aimee Mullins is a double amputee who has prosthetic legs of every variety – sprinting legs modeled after the hind legs of a cheetah (she broke a world record for speed in the ’90s), carved wooden legs like baroque fantasies, polyurethane legs that look like glass, and more. She talks about that ability that is imperative, vital for artists to have: true sight, the ability to see beyond the surface of things, the ability to breed seemingly unrelated ideas to create exotic, miraculous offspring.
Hopefully her short lecture will inspire you to see new wavelengths of creative light.