Once upon a time there was a girl, there was a boy, there was a poor woman who wanted, there was a queen who couldn’t have, there was a witch who lived under, there was a green frog at the bottom of, there was a troll, a tree, a bear, a bright-eyed bird who knew the secret of, there was a fairy who had lost, there was a child who had found, there was a wizard who had made, there was a princess who had broken, there was a story trying to be told. Listen. The wind is speaking.
Curious History: The Origins and History of All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween)
Halloween’s origins date back more than 2,000 years. On what we consider November 1, Europe’s Celtic peoples celebrated their New Year’s Day, called Samhain (SAH-win). According to Irish mythology, Samhain was a time when the ‘door’ to the Otherworld opened enough for fairies and the dead to communicate with us; Samhain was essentially a festival for the dead.
On Samhain eve—what we know as Halloween—spirits were thought to walk the Earth as they traveled to the afterlife. Fairies, demons, and other creatures were also said to be abroad. It is still the custom in some areas to set a place at the Samhain feast for the souls of dead kinfolk and to tell tales of one’s forebears. However, the souls of thankful kin could return to bestow blessings just as easily as that of a murdered person could return to wreak revenge. Fairies were also thought to steal humans on Samhain and fairy mounds were to be avoided.
People stayed near to home or, if forced to walk in the darkness, turned their clothing inside-out or carried iron or salt to keep the fairies at bay. The Gaelic custom of wearing costumes and masks was a bid to befuddle the harmful spirits or ward them off. In Scotland, young men would dress in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. They were known as ‘guisers’ and the practice was common in the 16th century in the Scottish countryside. Candle lanterns, carved from turnips, were part of the traditional festival. Large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces and set on windowsills to ward off evil spirits.
Samhain was later transformed as Christian leaders co-opted pagan holidays. In the seventh century Pope Boniface IV decreed November 1 All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day. The night before Samhain continued to be observed with bonfires, costumes, and parades, though under a new name: All Hallows’ Eve—later “Halloween.”
Children going door to door ‘guising’ or ‘galoshin’ in costumes and masks, carrying turnip lanterns, offering entertainment of in return for food or coins, was traditional in the 19th century and continued well into the 20th century. At the time of mass transatlantic Irish and Scottish immigration, the custom of Halloween in North America began.
The great thing about new original fairy tales is the way they take old motifs, old themes and older tales and remix them in a new way to create a new story. “The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” by Delia Sherman combines several motifs of trickster tales along with myths and legends featuring musical instruments. The story that unfolds is a wonderful down to earth tale surrounding a trickster fiddler set in a deep south bayou.
The main character is a young albino girl named Cadence who lives in the swamp with the woman that adopted her, Tante Eulalie. Her mother serves the local loup-garou community as a medicine woman and plays the fiddle. Her mother cautions her against tricksters by sharing with her tales of warning. When her mother passes one winter Cadence ends up getting into trouble and being confronted by the very trickster her mother warned her against. Are the warnings and tales her mother armed her with enough to help protect her and allow her to survive?
There is a podcast of this fairy tale on the website Podcastle that features a fantastic reader, Elizabeth Green Musselman, and I really recommend hearing this fairy tale orally in this way almost more than reading it. It definitely adds to the experience.
I spoke to a Tumblr Support rep this morning and she agreed that my recent Once Upon A Time related subject was not malicious in nature, just a sensitive one people completely took the wrong way and pushed too far. That been said, the reblog tree will be cut down within 2 days. Sorry, haters and sheep. You were wrong. Once you truly understand that all people are equal… even you (not higher or lower), you too will rise above the “I won’t touch that” crap. My only issue was with politics getting involved in our entertainment. Changing classic stories suit support political correctness should be considered unethical. Also know that I have reported each and every single one of you for harassment. I warned you but you just had to keep pushing. I run 2 very public businesses so I can’t let things like this stand.
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Just so we’re clear this is the guy that wrote this post. I really want Tumblr to explain to me how reblogging his bullshit & debunking it thoroughly = harassment.
Once again Tumblr’s official position is that debunking racist bullshit is harassment, but actual racist bullshit is not.
Reblogging so everyone gets the context and can see how fucked up tumblr support truly is.
sweet fucking christ, tumblr, just hire me so i can teach your support how to do basic ass shit
what the hell is this
One of the main points I emphasize over and over again on this blog is the fluidity of fairy tales. Harping on the sanctity of “classic” fairy tales is a farce in the first degree. There is no such thing. The “classic” are merely the literary, taken from oral and other sources and re-written to promote current ideals and beliefs. Ironically the very idea this individual is arguing against.
For the Grimms it was the bourgeois view of how the lower classes should live and should behave, written to indoctrinate German children with these perceived values. For Perrault it was veiled instructions on proper decorum for young ladies at King Louis XIV’s court that occasionally contained warnings about specific personages there. Some literary fairy tales even combined fairy tales, or invented new ones, in light of current values in order to protest them, such as those written by Hans Christian Andersen. Many of his fairy tales were his personal expressions of fury and despair over his homosexuality and the fate it condemned him to in the 19th century, that’s why so many ended in misery.
The narrative in many centuries old fairy tales, Grimm ones especially, are no longer valued by 21st century audiences. They depict antisemitism and white supremacy, contain messages of racial purity and xenophobia, and have deep seated views on misogyny and able-ism. Their stories are a celebration of such beliefs as they are ones held dear at the time they were written.
Newer retellings celebrate newer beliefs. 20th century retellings, from the Victorian brand of fairy tales popular for the nursery to Disney’s retellings on the big screen, show new ideals and new beliefs and celebrate those instead. They became the new “classic” fairy tales. That’s how fairy tales work.
Fairy tales are meant to be retold, it’s how they survive. That is why they have been told over and over for generations, each time they have been changed and morphed and twisted to suit each century’s narrative. To argue against the retelling of a fairy tale is to argue against the very thing that has allowed you to know that fairy tale exisits in the first place.
This week is banned book week. In the spirit of standing up against censorship I thought I would share fairy tales that have been banned in the United States, and their very silly reasons for doing so.
In 1987 a children’s book was published by Houghton-Mifflin that retold the Grimm version of Little Red Riding Hood, find a copy here. It was awarded the Caldecott Honor Book Award. In 1990 the school board of a district in Empire, California objected to the book because of the depiction of wine in Red’s basket on the cover.
That same year in Clay County, Florida parents of fifth and sixth graders also challenged the fairy tale because of the wine. Because fifth and sixth graders commonly read picture books in Florida.
The fear in both cases was that the book was promoting alcoholism and drinking to minors. Because grandmothers are commonly under the age of 21 in their school districts, apparently.
In 1991 a Bradford County, Florida school teacher complained that the wolves actions were too violent in this book. Because children should be taught that wolves (both literal and metaphorical) are not dangerous.
Interestingly enough none of these school districts have any problems with the sexuality inherent in the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. The first song ever known to be banned from radio back in 1925 was “How Could Red Riding Hood (Have Been So Very Good)?” by A.P. Randolph. It was banned for “sexual suggestiveness.”
When it comes to Grimm though they keep things pretty prudish, the sexuality is more between the lines than usual. And while Grimm tales have a lot of problems, violence being the least among them in my opinion, a grade school child should be able to read this fairy tale. They are old enough to question and, as all lovers of fairy tales know, nothing breaks the power of a fairy tale like reason.
So…you’ve been accused of witchcraft.
What to do? Are you a woman? Well, there’s your first problem. Never fear, because Lapham’s Quarterly has provided you with a handy chart to explain your options. Join us on a hilarious trip of torture, death, and excommunication!
The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World, Second Edition by Jack Zipes
I often have difficulty expressing the fact that the Grimm collection of fairy tales is a retelling of what rich people thought poor people’s storytelling (and experiences) should be like, not the actuality. Most of the stories do not even come from the peasant class at all and are largely French and not German. Zipes sums it all up nicely.
"The Twelve Brothers: Pan" and "The Twelve Brothers: Raj" by Wonderland-chan
Beautiful concept art for The Twelve Brothers. In this rewriting of the fairy tale Pan is the princess while Raj is the youngest son Benjamin. I love the Arabic setting versus the traditional European setting the fairy tale takes place in.