Monthly Archives: May 2014

Refugee Wolf

 

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Last week we sat down to chat over Skype with T.D Luong, author of the short story Refugee Wolf. You may recognise him from our ‘Academics and Writers’ page. Given that our theme this year has been ‘Old and New Fairy Tales’, we have been interested in fairy tale adaptations, so we were very excited to sit down to talk about this book.

Inspired by “The Three Little Pigs” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Luong’s short story deals with the serious issue of refugees seeking entry into Australia, but through dark comedic satire. As the front cover cautions: “WARNING! This is a dark and comedic, futuristic fairytale about the terms of the asylum seeker and refugee debate in Australia. It contains mild coarse language, biffo, beer, pork and a lot of hot air.”

Playing around with the plot of”The Three Little Pigs,”  Luong has his central character, Big Bad Ben, escape from Earth on a rusty space shuttle to seek asylum. He first arrives at the Planet of Sticks, then the Planet of Straw and, finally, the Planet of McSpaceMansions. At each planet, the wolf encounters obstacles to being accepted as a refugee.

Indeed, from beginning to end, Refugee Wolf is a wacky ride, even featuring a three-headed pig robot!

After chatting with Luong, we gained a lot of insight into his  short story. The themes in Refugee Wolf are very close to the author’s heart. Born during the Vietnam War, Luong came to Australia as a refugee with his family on 20 June 1975, shortly after the war ended on 30 April 1975. Thang’s father, Hai Ngoc Luong, was a persecuted journalist during the war (1945-1975) and died, at age 91, on 2 February 2006. Since that time, Thang has reflected on the impact of war on his family.

 


T.D. LuongT.D Luong

 

An important aspect of the story that we picked up on was that the wolf, Big Bad Ben, is depicted as a true blue, fair dinkum, ridgy didge Aussie. Luong could have easily written a tale about a Vietnamese refugee seeking asylum in Australia, but decided to have an Australian wolf seek refuge on other planets. This is an element I see as so integral; it urges Australian readers to identify with the wolf, and imagine themselves on his journey.

The fact that Refugee Wolf is based on a fairy tale also makes it accessible to younger readers, and provides an introduction to an important matter in our country. And indeed, Luong’s book has already  been accepted into the library of a NSW high school.

Another key issue we talked about was the idea of using comedy to start a conversation about serious issues. There are some subjects that many wish to avoid talking about. The taboo breeds silence. And silence can be dangerous. Comedy can galvanise a topic some may wish to avoid, it can spark a discussion, get people laughing, and then considering the deeper implications. I feel that this is exactly what Refugee Wolf achieves.

We thank the author for taking the time to chat with us about this exciting book!

 

Enchanted regards,

Belinda Calderone

 

 

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Registration Open for Transporting Tales!

Well, the Call for Participation has closed, the presenters have been selected, and registrations are open for our event, Transporting Tales!

Again, this is a free event, so all you need to do is RSVP to arts-fairytale@monash.edu and we will add you to the list.

We are so excited to bring this event to you. And here is a our shiny new poster below:

Transporting Tales poster v1b-page-001

 

Enchanted regards,

Belinda Calderone

 

 

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Donkey Skin on the Silver Screen

 

PEAU D'ANE - French Poster by Jim Leon

source

 

Our last two MFTS meetings have centred around Jacques Demy’s 1970s French film Peau d’Âne (Donkey Skin in English) – an adaptation of Charles Perrault’s fairy tale of the same name.

In Perrault’s tale, a young woman flees her kingdom because her father insists on marrying her. (Earlier versions of the tale include Giovan Francesco Straparola’s “Doralice” and Giambattista Basile’s “The She-Bear.”) Given the taboo incest theme, it’s unsurprising that the tale has rarely been adapted for film and television, making Demy’s film quite unique.

The first meeting we had was a viewing of the film, complete with popcorn, snacks and giggling. Indeed, the film involves blue little men reminiscent of oompa loompas, a king who sits on a giant stuffed cat instead of a throne, and a time-travelling fairy who flies a helicopter!

Oh yes, you read that second one correctly, and I have proof:

 

King on Cat

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At the second meeting we sat down, minus the giggling, to analyse the film in the context of an academic book chapter by Anne E. Duggan:

“The Camping of ‘Donkey Skin’: Jacques Demy’s Cinematic Re-Vision of a Classic Tale” in Queer Enchantments: Gender, Sexuality, and Class in the Fairy-Tale Cinema of Jacques Demy. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2013.

 

Duggan’s main argument is that Demy intentionally ‘camps’ Perrault’s fairy tale. Here Duggan is using Jack Babuscio’s notion of camp “(1) as subversive of heteronormative sexuality, (2) as aesthetic incongruity, and (3) as theatricality or self-as-spectacle” (Duggan, 47).

Looking at the first element, Duggan argues that Demy uses the theme of incest to destabalise normative sexualities. As a group, we found this problematic, given that it associates homosexual desire with incest, though Duggan does acknowledge this as an issue.

Duggan relates the second element to the mixing of high and low class, the clashing colours and images, and temporal inconsistencies in the film (think time travelling fairy godmother).

As to the third element, Duggan contends that Demy makes his characters into objects of “marvel and admiration who display themselves as works of art” (Duggan, 61).

Overall, though we agreed with many of Duggan’s points, we were a little hesitant to accept all arguments in the chapter, especially the idea that all of this was intentional on Demy’s side, rather than one reading of his film. Then again, this is hard to assess with our limited knowledge of Demy’s films. I do recommend reading the article, and I definitely encourage you to give the film a watch!

Before I sign off, I shall leave you with this clip from the movie in which the heroine sings while baking a cake for her future husband. I sing something quite similar when I bake… Enjoy!

Enchanted regards,
Belinda Calderone

 

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June 2014 – Month of the Fairy Tale!

 

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Illustration of “Ashenputtel” by Arthur Rackham

 

Let me tell you, I am super excited about June this year! 

Not only are we running our third annual symposium,  Transporting Tales, but our partners at the Australian Fairy Tale Society are also running their first conference, The Fairy Tale in Australia.

To top it off, I am honoured to be on a fairy tale panel with Dr. Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario and Victoria Tedeschi at the eleventh biennial international conference for ACLAR (Australian Children’s Literature Association for Research), Emotional Control: Affect, Ideology and Texts for Young People. All details can be found on our ‘Upcoming Events’ page.

Here are some updates for you:

The Call for Participation for our symposium, Transporting Tales, will be closing soon. If you do wish to submit a proposal, please do so by May 10 to arts-fairytale@monash.edu

The Call for Participation for the Australian Fairy Tale Society conference, The Fairy Tale in Australia, has now closed, but tickets for attendees are now available online. They have also started fundraising for their future website. Do take a look at their project on Pozible as it’s a great cause!

The Call for Participation for the ACLAR conference, Emotional Control: Affect, Ideology and Texts for Young People, has also closed. Tickets are available on their website.

So, it looks like June is going to be big! I am officially dubbing it the Month of the Fairy Tale. I can’t wait to immerse myself in the world of fairy tales…

 

Enchanted regards, 
Belinda Calderone

 

 

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