I can finally report on our fairy tale symposium, Transporting Tales, on June 29.
What a wonderful event – if I do say so myself!
Presenters and attendees gathered at the Glen Eira Town Hall on a very chilly winter afternoon, dressed with a touch of magic, and ready for some fairy tale enchantment.
The Theatrette was the perfect venue for our magical afternoon (thank you, Glen Eira Council!)
The beautiful Louisa John-Krol kicked the afternoon off by singing her original song “The Last Centaur” and playing the mandolin. She drew us all in and set the mood for what was to come.
I welcomed the gathering with excitement, making sure to bring the mic down to hobbit level!
Our first presentation of the afternoon was Dr Danielle Wood’s academic paper, ‘A Fair Dinkum Australian Fairy Tale? Alan Marshall’s Whispering in the Wind.’ I was delighted to hear Danielle speak at the inaugural conference for The Australian Fairy Tale Society in early June, and she was just as wonderful this time. She illuminated for us the ways in which the book attempts to acknowledge and incorporate Aboriginal themes, but at times falls short. Danielle left us mulling over some important questions about the potential issues with the Australian fairy tale genre.
Jackie Kerin brought us into the storytelling zone with her tale “No Horse, No Cart, No Shoes: Walking the Track.” Based on the true adventures of the courageous German women and girls of South Australia, Jackie’s tale reminded us that Australia was first enriched by Aboriginal story, song and dance. Jackie even threw a bonus tale into the mix! And let me tell you, when a storyteller as good as Jackie Kerin offers to do a bonus tale, you just thank your lucky stars. That lady can spin a yarn!
We switched back into academic mode with Mia Goodwin’s paper, ‘The Transmission of Early Modern French Fairy Tales in Australia.’ Mia shared with us part of her research at Monash University on the tales of Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy. As a researcher of d’Aulnoy’s tales myself, I was so looking forward to Mia’s paper, and she did not disappoint. I learned so much about d’Aulnoy’s influence in Australia due to French immigration during the gold rush. Sadly, d’Aulnoy’s name is hardly known in contemporary Australia, but Mia highly recommends that you take a look at her wonderful tales. A great anthology to get hold of is Beauties, Beasts, and Enchantments:Classic French Fairy Tales edited by Jack Zipes.
The room was silent as Ali Alizadeh weaved his magic spell with his original tale “Snow White and the Child Soldier.” Published last year in The Griffith REVIEW‘s special issue Once Upon A Time in Oz, this tale brings Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s classic tale “Snow White” into a contemporary Australian high school. Snow White is a high school girl named Lisa, the evil stepmother is a cruel classmate named Charlize, and the prince is an ex child soldier from Somalia named Hassan. Ali’s revisioned fairy tale is chilling, powerful and brilliant. I definitely recommend getting a copy of Once Upon A Time in Oz and reading this tale!
With so many ideas and images buzzing around our brains, we needed a little afternoon tea to de-brief!
After we were full of sandwiches and plum cake (thanks Simply Sensational Catering!) we got straight back to business with Anna McCormack’s paper, ‘”The Handless Maid”: An Archetypal Tale of Child Abuse?’ This is a tale of trauma in which a daughter has her hands cut off because of her father’s bad decision. She leaves home, facing many obstacles until she finally reaches a point of healing and her hands are restored. Anna explained that many children’s books with child abuse themes do not reach this healing stage, and finished by telling us about a new Australian book called The Duck and the Darklings, which does this successfully. The book, which tells of a wounded duck that eventually heals, is very moving. Definitely one for the reading list.
Roslyn Quin wowed us with her tale “The Dirt Sister.” This was a moving tale of a daughter losing her father, and how grief can manifest into vengeance. Roslyn took us on this girl’s journey towards healing and releasing grief. Roslyn actually attended our very first event back in 2012, and later went on to develop her storytelling talents. You may even remember her from her sell-out Melbourne Fringe Festival show ‘The Red Bird and Death.’ I can absolutely vouch for Roslyn’s talent as a storyteller – the audience was hooked from beginning to end!
I heard Toby Eccles speak at The Australian Fairy Tale Society conference in June, and he impressed me again with his paper, ‘The Emigration of the Black Thief.’ He discussed “The Witch’s Tale” or “The Black Entire,” told by Simon McDonald in 1967, who remembered his father telling it from his childhood growing up in a bush hut near Creswick in Victoria. The tale is in fact an Irish-Australian version of ATU 953 (The Robber and his Sons).Toby showed off his detective skills in examining variants from Ireland, Scotland and Canada, and tracing the journey the tale may have taken to get to Simon McDonald. It’s fantastic watching a folklorist at work!
No one could bring our event to a close quite like The Moth Fairy. Moth has been weaving the web of Storytelling for nearly eighteen years – and it definitely shows in her sophisticated storytelling style. She performed “Tom, Tit, Tot,” an English version of the Grimms’ “Rumpelstiltskin,” and engaged the whole audience by asking us to call out possible names for the ugly little male protagonist. We threw names at Moth from Obi Wan to Sauron (thanks, Danielle and Toby!) and couldn’t stop giggling over Moth’s antics. An amazing final performance!
It was with a heavy heart that I gave my closing speech for the day – but not before awarding the prize for best costume! Linda Loganathan came all the way from the U.K, dressed in her gorgeous and colourful outfit. Her prize was a copy of Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales. Well done, Linda!
Thank you to the Glen Eira Council, and to our sponsors, Monash University Centre for Australian and Postcolonial Writing and Louisa John-Krol. And most of all, thank you to all of our brilliant presenters for making the afternoon unforgettable…
Photos by Dave Jacobson and Jackie Kerin