I finally have a chance to report on the Australian Fairy Tale Society conference, which I attended on the long weekend!
That weekend, Paddington NSW was buzzing with storytellers and academics, many of whom had flown in from around the country for the Australian Fairy Tale Society’s very first conference.
From the outset it was nothing short of magical. Held in the beautiful Paddington Uniting Church, we had stained glass windows and high arched ceilings to set the mood. Not to mention that each table was adorned with candles… very magical indeed!
The day couldn’t have run as smoothly as it did without Jackie Kerin from Storytelling Australia (VIC) who took on the role of MC with grace and enthusiasm and really fostered the positive and friendly atmosphere.
Carmel Bird kicked off the day with her keynote speech, “An Australian Fairy Tale? That is the Question.” How exciting to have such a fabulous Australian novelist in our midst! The most thought-provoking statement was that a fairy tale is a lie, but the lie tells the truth. Love it.
Next Danielle Wood had us fully engaged when she read a piece from her soon to be released book, Mothers Grimm. As someone doing a PhD on motherhood in fairy tales, I was hanging on every word! This one will be out in September so keep on the lookout! We’re honoured to have Danielle Wood speaking at the Monash Fairy Tale Salon event, Transporting Tales, in a couple of weeks on Sunday June 29.
After morning tea it was my turn and I presented my paper, “Strange Lands: The Transportation of European Fairy Tales into the Australian Landscape.” My main focus was how in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century many well-know European tales like “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” were inserted into Australian surroundings. In my research, I found a gem of a story from 1930 called “The Three Koala Bears and Little Goldilocks: An Australian Fairy Tale.” Gold!
All presenters were gifted with a beautiful fairy tale illustration after their talk. I was so thrilled to receive this one of “Hansel and Gretel.” This is getting framed and going straight up on my study wall!
Then came Robyn Floyd and Teena Hartnett working together in such a special way. Robyn, the academic, told us all about early Australian fairy tale writer Olga Ernst. Teena, the storyteller, brought one of Ernst’s tales to life in an exceptional performance of “The Fire Elves.” I just love to see academics and storytellers working together like this. In fact, the conference overall displayed this beautiful coming together of academia and the art of storytelling. If you haven’t read any Olga Ernst, try to get a hold of her 1904 collection Fairy Tales in the Land of the Wattle.
We were so lucky to hear the very talented writer Kate Forsyth speak to us about “Rapunzel in the Antipodes.” Who knew there were so many retellings of “Rapunzel” in Australia? Kate also delved back into the history of this tale in her discussion of earlier versions: Giambattista Basile’s sixteenth-century Italian tale “Petrosinella” and Charlotte-Rose de La Force’s seventeenth-century French tale, “Persinette.” You must read them!
After lunch we got down to business with the first official AFTS meeting during which we voted in the 7 committee members. I was lucky enough to be elected into this wonderful team!
Left to right: Reilly McCarron (President), Danuta Raine (Treasurer), Julie Mundy-Taylor (Vice-President), Thang Luong, Pam Blamey (Secretary), Jo Henwood, Belinda Calderone.
Jo Henwood got us back into the fairy tale zone with her lovely performance of “An Australian Thumbelina.” Simply precious!
Toby Eccles wowed us with his talk, “Stealing from the Sky, Stealing from the Underworld: The Heroic Thief in Australian Fairy Tales.” Did you ever notice how a lot of thieves like Jack in “Jack and the Beanstalk” are celebrated? As his talk went on, the afternoon sun started to fill the church through the stained glass windows and Toby was bathed in magical light! We will also be seeing Toby again in at Transporting Tales in a couple of weeks!
Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario took to the stage with her paper on “Baroque in Oz.” She discussed Baroque fairy tale author Giambattista Basile and related him to contemporary Australian author Shaun Tan. Plus we got to hear a bit about farting in Basile’s tales!
When we were suitably filled with tea and tim tams, we reconvened for the final part of the conference. Sarah Gibson talked about her interactive website on fairy tales (abc.net.au/re-enchantment), which has now been made into an ebook: Re-Enchantment: Ways To Interpret Fairy Tales. The ebook is only $4.99 on itunes so what are you waiting for? If you do have a free afternoon, I highly recommend taking a journey through the interactive website. You won’t want to come out!
We ended the day with a discussion panel with Kate Forsyth, Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario, Thang Luong and Jenni Cargill Strong.
It was with heavy hearts that we reluctantly left the now darkened church. The conference was sadly over. But we walked out into the night with enchanted memories and our heads buzzing with questions and new ideas.
The conversation isn’t over though! The Australian Fairy Tale Society is on Facebook and Twitter and the official website has now been launched! Take a look at ausfairytalesociety.com.au. I’ll let you know when photos and recordings of the conference are available.