Let Down Your Hair

Now that February is in full swing, I’m finally coming out of holiday mode and I’m ready for a great book to sink my teeth into. At the top of my reading list is Dr. Fiona Price‘s novel, Let Down Your Hair.

 

Let-Down-Your-Hair_Cover

 

 

Have you ever wondered what the “Rapunzel” tale would look like in contemporary times? Price’s novel offers us her idea of a modern-day Rapunzel:

At 22, Sage Rampion has led a strange and cloistered life. She’s been homeschooled, and she’s never owned a cell phone, watched TV or spoken to a man on her own. Everything she’s seen, read and watched has been vetted by her grandmother Andrea, Professor of Women’s Studies and hardline old school feminist.

But before long Sage starts asking questions about the way she was brought up, and the beautiful teenage mother who abandoned her.

Price’s novel has a strong feminist flavour, and draws on the older, darker versions of “Rapunzel,” rather than the more sanitised Grimm and Disney versions.

When I asked Price what brought her to write the book, this was her answer:

“The core idea came to me when I was pregnant with my first child, and found myself pondering how best to raise a daughter in a world where women’s bodies are continually judged and sexualised. I concluded that I’d need to arm her against those messages, because there was no way I could stop her from hearing them.

Then I got to thinking. What if I did try to shield her from those messages? What would it take? For a start, I’d have to home-school her, and be draconian about vetting everything she saw, heard and read. I’d also need to be very strict about the company she kept, and teach her how to analyse media critically as soon as she was old enough to do it.

In short, I’d more or less have to lock her away from the world, rather like the Witch in Rapunzel.

And with that, Andrea Rampion, Professor of Womyn’s Studies, stomped out of the ivory tower and into my head, determined to give her abandoned granddaughter a completely feminist upbringing…”

Can’t wait to read it!

Let Down Your Hair is currently available as an ebook on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo and from the publisher Momentum Books

Happy reading!

 

Enchanted regards,

Belinda Calderone,
The Monash Fairy Tale Salon

 

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Special Fairy Tale Workshop in Sydney – Feb 20-22

 
 

MWH

 
 

As a fairy tale researcher, I read A LOT of fairy tales. But I must admit, the Grimms’ “Das Mädchen ohne Hände” (The Maiden Without Hands) has always been a favourite of mine. There are over a hundred variants, often known as “The Handless Maiden,” “Silver Hands” or “The Armless Maiden.”

So when I was told that there was a fairy tale workshop this month in Sydney that centres around the tale, I was super excited!

This beautiful workshop is run by Heather Keens, an experienced individual and family therapist, and Joan Harcourt, an experienced body psychotherapist and group leader. Together they will help attendees explore this rich fairy tale from a Jungian psychological perspective.

As Keens and Harcourt remind us, “The Handless Maiden is a story about individuation, about developing one’s inner strength, resilience and creativity. It is a story about losing your hands, living with silver hands and finding your hands.”

The part I love the most is that these inspiring women take this tale of loss and healing, and make it personal to the attendees: “there will be an opportunity to explore your own journey to the conscious feminine and the inner positive masculine in a safe and contained setting. We work through discussion, metaphor and symbol, movement, dream work and art in this process.”

Sounds incredible!

This workshop will be of interest to health professionals, counsellors, expressive therapists, storytellers, writers or anyone engaged in their own psychological journey.

To download and print a PDF with all the details, click here: Handless Maiden Flier.

 

Magical regards,

Belinda Calderone
The Monash Fairy Tale Salon

 
 

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Fairy Tale Conference in June

Hello and Happy New Year to our fairy tale lovers!

I’m delighted to start the year by announcing that the Australian Fairy Tale Society is holding its second annual conference on June 21.

 
 

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The theme is “Transformations: Spinning Straw into Green and Gold.”

The call for papers is still open until February 27, so get in quick. See the call for papers here: AFTS Call for Papers 2015

Looking forward to a great year of fairy tale discussion!

Enchanted regards,

Belinda Calderone
The Monash Fairy Tale Salon

 

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Maleficent

MALEFICENT-poster

 

It’s about time I reported on Disney’s latest release, Maleficent.

When a few of us from the Monash Fairy Tale Salon went to see the film at the cinema, we had mixed feelings.

Two of our members, Dr Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario and Louisa John-Krol have reviewed Maleficent on their blogs. You can read Rebecca-Anne’s here and Louisa’s here.

What got me thinking was Disney’s creation of the villain, Maleficent, in the 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty. She’s an all-powerful, wholly evil fairy, who terrorises the heroine throughout the entire film, and eventually transforms into a giant dragon to have a final showdown with the prince.

 

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sleeping-beauty-1959-disney-maleficent-dragon

 

While Maleficent is the central and constant source of evil in Disney’s 1959 animated film, the character doesn’t hold such a strong role in earlier literary antecedents.

In European literary fairy-tale history, the tale has been through several incarnations. In the 1630s in Italy, Giambattista Basile wrote “Sole, Luna e Talia” (Sun, Moon and Talia). Then during the fairy-tale vogue of seventeenth-century France, Charles Perrault published “La Belle au Bois Dormant” (The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood). And of course there’s Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s nineteenth-century German rendition “Dornröschen” (Little Briar Rose).

In Basile’s version, there is no scorned fairy at all. At the heroine’s birth, her father simply consults his seers and wise men, who inform him that harm will come to his daughter from a sharp piece of flax. And indeed, the prophecy is realised when a piece of flax becomes lodged under her fingernail (ouch!) and she falls into the famous death-like sleep. The villain only appears later in the tale, after the heroine has been raped by a wandering king during her slumber and has given birth to twins . Despite this disturbing start to their relationship, the pair decide to give it a go as a couple. Except the king hasn’t been completely honest. ‘Oh, by the way, honey, I’m already married to an ogress who likes to eat small children … Hey, have you seen the twins??’ The bloodthirsty scorned wife becomes the villain of Basile’s tale, and is eventually burned alive to delight of the happy couple.

 

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“Sleeping Beauty” by William A. Breakspeare

 

Perrault’s version introduces the scorned fairy that would become Disney’s Maleficent. At the heroine’s birth, a celebration is held and seven fairies are invited, but one is forgotten. Granted, nobody has heard from her in fifty years so they assume she’s dead. But she turns up  looking like a sour grape and sulks through the celebration before cursing the baby. But this is the last we hear of the nameless fairy, who is more sulky teenager than arch nemesis. The real villain is still the cannibalistic ogress carried over from Basile’s version – though re-written as the hero’s mother to avoid the taboo issue of adultery. Again she attempts to eat the heroine’s twins (born within wedlock this time) and again she is eventually defeated – this time thrown into a vat of snakes and vipers. Nice one, Perrault.

Finally, the Grimms’ “Dornröschen” begins in a similar fashion to Perrault’s tale, except twelve fairies are invited and the thirteenth is forgotten, causing her to curse the baby. The reasoning behind this always cracks me up though – the king only has twelve gold plates, so he could only invite twelve fairies. Really? You’re a king. Buy an extra plate. But then there would be no story, would there? Again, the uninvited fairy is nameless and isn’t heard from after the beginning of the tale. But in this version, the second half of the tale is missing – no pregnancy, no twins, no bloodthirsty, evil ogress to be the villain. The story simply ends with the heroine’s wedding to the prince.

It seems to me that Disney had to make some choices here. We know they were familiar with both the Perrault and Grimm versions, and so were aware of the cannibalistic ogress, who would have made a great villain. Can you imagine her on the big screen? However, using this character would mean showing the heroine having children. Disney films typically end with marriage, seldom venturing into the post-marriage experience of heroines. And so they had to find another villain. Thus, the uninvited fairy was made larger than life and given an unforgettable name – Maleficent.

If you have a free night, re-watch the 1959 classic! Though, personally, I do like the new 2014 film for giving Maleficent a more legit excuse for cursing the heroine. ‘Your Dad betrayed me, drugged me, and cut off my wings’ seems a bit more valid than… well… pretty much this:

 

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Enchanted regards,

Belinda Calderone

 

 

Belinda Calderone - PhotoBelinda Calderone is the chief organiser of the Monash Fairy Tale Salon. She is currently teaching and completing her PhD in Literary Studies at Monash University. Her thesis is entitled Mothers, Monsters and Midwives: The Evolution of Motherhood in European Fairy Tales. She has published and given conference papers on various aspects of the fairy tale genre and has a forthcoming book chapter, “The Monster Inside Me: Unnatural Births in Early Modern Italian and French Fairy Tales” in Beyond the Monstrous: Reading from the Cultural Imaginary. View Belinda’s academic profile at monash.academia.edu/BelindaCalderone or contact her at belinda.calderone@monash.edu.

 

 

 

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Fairy Tale Talk Tomorrow in Melbourne

Wondering what to do tomorrow night in Melbourne? Look no further! Australian author Kate Forsyth will be giving a special fairy tale talk at The Wheeler Centre from 6.30pm-8.30pm.

 

Kate Forsyth

 

Forsyth is an award-winning and internationally-acclaimed writer, who has brought us such books as Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl. In this talk, she will illuminate the lost origins of many well-known tales and the reason why fairy tales continue to be told and retold. I was very lucky to see her present at the inaugural conference for the Australian Fairy Tale Society last June, and so I have no doubt that it will be a fascinating talk!

For more information and for bookings, click here.

 

Enchanted regards,

Belinda Calderone

 

 

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Mothers Grimm – A Must Read!

Danielle Wood’s new book, Mothers Grimm has been released at last! I’ve been hanging out for this one.

 

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Danielle Wood lives in Tasmania and teaches writing at the University of Tasmania. Her previous books include The Alphabet of Light and Dark (2003), a collection of short stories with a fairy tale flavour, Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls (2006), and a work of non-fiction, Housewife Superstar: The Very Best of Marjorie Bligh (2011).

 

Danielle Wood

Danielle Wood

 

Wood has already received accolades for her writing – she’s won the Australian/Vogel literary prize (2002), the Dobbie prize for Australian women’s writing (2004), and she has twice been named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist of the Year (2004, 2007).

 

So, as you can imagine, I’ve been hanging out for Mothers Grimm, a collection of four contemporary fairy tales about the dark side of motherhood.

 

I was lucky enough to hear Wood speak at the inaugural conference for the Australian Fairy Tale Society in June this year where she read one of the stories from the collection, “The Good Mother.” This story about a new mother struggling to live up to the perfect maternal ideal had the whole audience captivated, and I know the other stories will be just as wonderful.

 

If you’re a lover of fairy tales, or a mother, and especially a mother who loves fairy tales, put this one at the top of your reading list!

 

Enchanted regards,

Belinda Calderone

 

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Transporting Tales

 

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. 

Danielle Wood's Red Riding Hood Shoes

Dr Danielle Wood’s Red Riding Hood Shoes

Attendees in fancy dress

Two of our enthusiastic attendees!

Louisa's sparkly shoes

Louisa John-Krol’s sparkly shoes

 

 

The Theatrette was the perfect venue for our magical afternoon (thank you, Glen Eira Council!)

Theatrette, Glen Eira Town Hall

The Theatrette

 

 

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.

Louisa John-Krol

Louisa John-Krol

   

 

I welcomed the gathering with excitement, making sure to bring the mic down to hobbit level!

Belinda Calderone

Belinda Calderone – Me!

 

  

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.

Dr Danielle Wood

Dr Danielle Wood

 

 

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!

Jackie Kerin

Jackie Kerin

  

 

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.

Mia Goodwin

Mia Goodwin

 

 

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!

Ali Alizadeh

Ali Alizadeh

 

 

With so many ideas and images buzzing around our brains, we needed a little afternoon tea to de-brief!

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

 

 

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.

Anna McCormack

Anna McCormack

 

 

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!

Roslyn Quin

Roslyn Quin

 

 

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!

Toby Eccles

Toby Eccles

 

 

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!

The Moth Fairy

The Moth Fairy

 

 

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!

Linda Loganathan and Belinda Calderone

Me and 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…

Presenters

Me, Linda, and our Presenters (Mia absent)

 

Enchanted regards,

Belinda Calderone

 

Photos by Dave Jacobson and Jackie Kerin

 

 

 

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