Fairy Tale or Not? The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland

Is The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – For A Little While (By Catherynne M. Valente) a fairy tale? Why or why not?

Whether or not this story is a fairy tale, I really liked it – but then again, I’m not an especially difficult reader to win over. I was sold by the time that Valente was comparing stories to blueberry patches – born and raised in Maine, I simply had to like it at that point. There was really no choice in the matter.

Also, Mallow is an awesome name, primarily because it is reminiscent of marshmallows. Valente seems to understand that the way to my affections as a reader is by allowing me to taste the story. I appreciate this. I also adore the Shakespearean names of the large cats. This story is so beautiful!

As for whether or not this is a fairy tale – well, it happens in Fairyland, so why shouldn’t it be? I think I tend to favor a broad, inclusive interpretation of the definition of a fairy tale, if only for simplicity’s sake. (If you think it might be a fairy tale, skip the debate and just call it one … then there’s more time to read it!)

More than that though, this story has that magical, otherworldly quality about it that I connect with fairy tales. Reading it was certainly an escape from reality, and I definitely got the sense that things which are impossible here are very possible there. To me, this is definitely a fairy tale, and a very good one too.

 

Indexing: Episodes 5-8

If you have Spotify, you can find my playlist: here.

Otherwise, here’s what I’ve got:

 

With a Smile and a Song – Snow White

The Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel

A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes – Cinderella

The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?) – Ylvis

Fix You – Coldplay

You’ve Got A Friend – James Taylor

You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly! – Peter Pan

Sleeping Beauty Suite Op.66a – Tchaikovsky

The Frog Hunters/Gator Down – Princess and the Frog

Kiss Me – Sixpence None The Richer

Lollipop – MIKA

We Can Work It Out – The Beatles

Things We Lost In The Fire – Bastille

Pumpkin Pursuit – Cinderella

Walking Tune – Percy Grainger

It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) – R.E.M.

Indexing: Episodes 1-4

In my copy of Indexing, the first four episodes cover pages 1 – 126 (assuming I correctly understood what an episode is). Even though this is a considerable chunk of reading, I’m still uncertain which character I like the most.

That said, I do like the story. The concept is refreshing and intriguing, and I definitely like the interactions between the characters. However, I’m less sold on the characters as individuals – Sloane’s angst and darkness were amusing at first but were becoming more predictable until the recent plot twist. Henry is also interesting but we spend so much time in her head, so to speak, that I am almost more curious about some of the characters we have seen less of.

I like what we’ve seen of Jeff and Andy so far, and I’m curious to read more about Demi, too. I think Demi’s story might be the most interesting to me at the moment – her entrance to the fairytale world wasn’t too far off from the start of the story, so as the reader I can connect to her newness to the team. For this reason, I find it easy to sympathize with her – she has been plucked out of her normal life into the ATI, just like we as readers have been dropped into the world of the story. Even though we don’t read as much about Demi as we do some of the other characters, I think she might be my favorite so far.

I also really like some of the minor characters in the story! I have to wonder if the tensions with the deputy director will ever amount to any problems with the story – he definitely seems like someone the team could unite against. I also thought that Birdie’s character was quite adorable so far and I hope that we get to see more of her in the rest of the story.

Compare & Contrast: Deviations in Travels with the Snow Queen and Deerskin

Kelly Link’s Travels with the Snow Queen is certainly a deviation from The Snow Queen. The main elements of the story remain intact: Gerda goes on a journey to the Snow Queen’s palace to find Kai, and the supporting characters that she meets along the way are reminiscent of those in the original. However, this story definitely deviates in that the “happily ever after” seems to be missing and in that the story is much more explicit in content – where the Snow Queen may have been able to pass as a story for all ages, this one has language and sexual references that are not appropriate for children.

This is reminiscent of the way that Deerskin is more explicit than the original Donkeyskin. Further, we can also draw a parallel between Travels with the Snow Queen and Deerskin in that a deeper dimension is given to the story. In Deerskin, the reader witnesses Lissar’s strength as a survivor as she overcomes an absolutely horrifying experience. In Travels with the Snow Queen, we see that Gerda is not stuck in a relationship with Kai – she can leave him if she chooses, and she does so by choosing to become a tour guide for the Snow Queen. This makes Gerda a very powerful heroine – she could have rescued Kai, but she chose not to, deciding that Kai was not deserving of her rescue.

I think one of the main differences that struck me between Travels with the Snow Queen and Deerskin is the point of view. Deerskin is told in the more conventional third person, whereas Travels with the Snow Queen is told in second person – at times it is difficult to place whether we are on Gerda’s tour or whether we are simply along for the ride with her in the story. In either case, the reader is very close to the story – in some cases, the story even seems to address the reader directly. This gives a very different effect from Deerskin, where there is more distance between the reader and the narrative.

Journal Entry: Hans Christian Andersen

I really enjoyed reading about Hans Christian Andersen’s life. It’s inspiring that Hans Christian Andersen was able to achieve so much given his humble beginnings – I think it’s especially admirable how hard he worked and that he never gave up on his dreams despite the obstacles and struggles.

I also found it interesting that the biography tied some of the stories into Hans’s life. It’s a little bit heartbreaking though to discover that The Little Mermaid’s lack of complete acceptance was based on the author’s life – however, I think this may be one of the aspects that adds realism to Andersen’s fairy tales. After all, the real world and the people in it are not always kind or accepting.

It’s also sad that Andersen was never able to fully fit into the Collin family and upper-class society. This isn’t really surprising, but I can certainly sympathize with Andersen – despite his brilliance, he was never ‘good enough’ to be fully accepted by elite society and I imagine that wasn’t easy for him.

I also particularly liked reading about the reception that Andersen’s tales received in his lifetime. Today, we mainly know them as classics, so it was really interesting to discover what readers thought of them initially, as well as to learn about Andersen’s interactions with other writers of the time. I thought it was especially relevant to our class that Hans Christian Andersen became friendly with the Grimm Brothers and their folklore group. I can’t help but wonder what such a group might have talked about, or if these writers may have directly influenced each other somehow.

Deerskin: Chapters 25 – 36

Classmates be warned: if you haven’t finished reading Deerskin, the rest of this post contains discussion of the story’s ending. It’s a good read so you might want to make sure you’ve read it before continuing to read this.

Anyway, I really liked the ending of Deerskin. I was hoping simply for the fairy tale happily ever after with a prince, but this was even better than that.  I love that we see Deerskin face her father and reunite with Ossin, and that the story manages to include both magic and believability. I especially like that Lissar is at last able to share her true self and true story and that even with this huge step she is not magically back to being the young, innocent girl that she started as – Lissar’s strength is impressive, but at the same time we still see that she has not shed her old wounds. I really like this aspect of the story because it’s so inspirational – if Lissar can survive her ordeals and find a way to live her life, surely we can fight to overcome the challenges which we face in our lives, too. I also really like that magic helped Lissar through her troubles rather than solving them for her.

Aside from its more than satisfactory ending, I also just genuinely liked reading Deerskin. This was the type of book that I didn’t put down for long, because I was constantly curious about what would happen next. McKinley did a great job of pacing the story and keeping the reader’s attention – and I also really like the values that the story seems to encourage. From Ash’s bond with Lissar, we see the importance of loyalty and friendship. We also see the importance of helping others and of accepting help as Lissar travels. Further, we can also see that Ossin and Lissar do not seem to fit perfectly into their worlds – but that they fit together nevertheless, which is something I love to see in stories, because who really feels as if they fit in all the time? Finally, and probably most importantly, Deerskin also shows us that perseverance enables us to survive just about anything – although I’m less convinced of the truth of this statement outside of fairy tales, I would really like to believe in it which I think is why I found Lissar’s story so captivating.

Deerskin: Chapters 13 – 24

In comparing Deerskin with Allfur, I have noticed some crucial differences. In Allfur, the princess escapes by playing a trick on her father and then escaping – she is then “rescued” almost immediately, only needing to fend for herself briefly before finding a new home in her bridegroom’s castle.

On the other hand, Lissar’s struggles are much deeper, much more prolonged, and require her to develop persistence and perseverance in order to survive. Lissar seems as if she is left a much more broken character than the princess in Allfur – even after some time has passed, we still see that Lissar is unable to acknowledge the horrors that have happened to her. This is especially moving in the way it is written, for example: “But Lissar persevered; perseverance was the central lesson of all she had learned since … since Ash and she had first set out on their journey.” Not only does this speak to the strength and perseverance that Lissar has developed, but the way in which it is written makes obvious Lissar’s memory blocks. Lissar also must endure a cold winter before emerging back into the world, which seems to have symbolic value, too.

Lissar also requires help from the Lady to heal and find the strength and ability to continue on with her life – Allfur does not ever seem so in need of help. However, as Lissar’s ordeals seem much more serious, it is only logical that help is needed to overcome them.

Lissar also seems to be much more of a well-rounded character than the princess in Allfur – but perhaps this is simply due to Deerskin being a much longer story where more detailed characters are required to hold the reader’s attention.

In addition, I also found this section of the story interesting – it seems very fitting that Lissar has found her way to Ossin, the prince who sent her Ash. I have to wonder if they will ever figure out who she was and where Ash comes from, and whether Ossin’s role in Deerskin is analogous to that of the bridegroom in Allfur. It already seems as though Lissar may have some kind of feelings for Ossin, so I am really curious to see how this will develop and whether her true identity will surface.

Deerskin: Chapters 1-12

I wasn’t expecting to like reading Deerskin – we knew prior to reading it that there would be incest and sexual assault, so I was admittedly wary. After all, while these are important topics to be aware of, they are also generally sad in nature, and when given the choice I tend to prefer happy reading material as a way to forget about all of the sadness in the world around us. I will admit that I did not have high hopes for Deerskin; I figured it would be a book I would get through, but probably not one I would enjoy.

And I was wrong. Yes, Deerskin is sad, and yes there’s incest and rape and it is probably the most disturbing story we have read so far – not simply for its content, but for the manner in which the content is presented. For example, rape also occurred in Sun, Moon, and Talia, but it was much easier to set that story aside and put it out of my mind – it was a short story, and while its events were alarming they were only temporarily so.

Not so with Deerskin, which lets the reader grow attached to Lissar before horrors befall her. I was already rooting for her by the time the rape occurred, which made it genuinely distressing to read. Even though there was ample foreshadowing, I still hoped that there was some way Lissar would be able to escape, so it all came as quite the shock. I can’t help but feel terrible for Lissar at this point in the story – nobody deserves to go through what she has gone through.

But even through all that, I’m still rooting for her. Her escape from the palace even while injured shows that Lissar is strong and that she’s got some fight in her personality, which I hope will make the rest of the story interesting. I will be curious to see how she continues to cope with her new situation. I’m even enjoying reading about her tale in the meantime – it’s so well-written that even the sad scenes have beauty in the way they’re told. The story is captivating and I’m intrigued to read more.

Compare & Contrast: Sun, Moon, and Talia, Briar Rose, and Sleeping Beauty in the Wood

Again, this is a case where the three tales share some story elements, but have many differences in how the stories are executed. All of the stories have a princess (or lord’s daughter) who is destined to sleep after pricking her finger. In all of the stories, she is rescued by a prince (or a king) and wakes up. All stories also involve fairies of some sort.

Sun, Moon, and Talia also shares more similarities with Sleeping Beauty in the Wood in that both tales involve Sleeping Beauty having children. Further, both tales also involve an evil female figure in the family of the prince/king, who tries to eat or serve Sleeping Beauty’s children, and who also tries to kill Sleeping Beauty – only for the prince/king to return at the last moment to save her and cause the demise of the evil woman instead. However, in Sun, Moon, and Talia this evil woman is the king’s current wife, whereas in Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, she is his ogress mother. In addition to an evil woman, these tales also have a heroic cook who saves Sleeping Beauty’s children.

Further, Grimm’s tale shares some similarities with the Perrault version, as both stories involve a feast and a scorned fairy causing a curse that intends to kill Sleeping Beauty with a spindle – only for another fairy to reduce this curse to a mere hundred years’ sleep. Both of these stories also share the sleeping of the castle figures around Sleeping Beauty, as well as a wall around the castle – in Perrault it is a wall of trees, bushes, and brambles, but in Grimm it is a wall of thorns.

Perhaps the largest difference in any of the stories is the rape in Sun, Moon, and Talia, where the already-married king finds Talia unresponsive and “takes her to bed”. Even more alarming is his “friendship” with Talia when she wakes and has had children in her sleep. This all seems very sketchy to me. In this tale, Talia only wakes when her children dislodge the splinter in her finger, whereas in Perrault she awakens to her prince’s arrival, and in Grimm to his kiss.

Beyond that, smaller differences can be found scattered throughout the stories. In Sun, Moon, and Talia, the fatal splinter is of flax. In Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, the Ogress accepts her demise in a pit of vipers, whereas in Sun, Moon, and Talia the evil Queen is cast into a fire along with her accomplice (who does not appear in the other stories).  In Grimm, there is no evil figure in the prince’s family, which makes the ending rather gentler. Amusingly, Grimms’ Briar Rose also notes that Sleeping Beauty is dressed like the prince’s great-grandmother. This is also the only tale of the three in which Sleeping Beauty does not have children – instead, the tale ends with a wedding and a happily ever after.

Overall, it seems that Sleeping Beauty in the Wood is a middle ground – it has some similarities with Sun, Moon, and Talia, and some similarities with Briar Rose. In terms of evolution, I would speculate that its origins occurred between those of the other two.

Compare & Contrast: Little Snow White and Red as Blood

I expected that these stories would have a lot in common … and wow, I was wrong about that.

The stories are similar primarily in their inclusion of common elements. The stories share many of their characters: a queen, a magical mirror, a beautiful Snow White, a Huntsman, and a Prince. The stories also share similar actions, such as the three gifts from the queen to Snow White, which are a girdle (or laces, which seem to be worn the same as the girdle), a comb, and a poison apple that puts her into a death-like sleep. Both stories also involve the prince waking Snow White from her sleep.

However, that is about where the similarities stop. In the Grimm version of the story, Little Snow White is innocent and naive, and her mother is the current queen at the time of the story. However, in Red as Blood, the queen is Snow White’s step-mother, and the character of Snow White is much different than we might expect – her name is Bianca, and she’s a vampire.   Many of the other differences in the stories revolve around these major character shifts: in Lee’s version, Bianca is a vampire and her stepmother is a religious woman. This contrasts with the Grimm version where Little Snow White’s mother is simply jealous of Snow White’s beauty. Interestingly, the mirror in Red as Blood cannot see Bianca – I would guess that this is because she is a vampire.

This reversal impacts the rest of the story’s details. For example, in Grimm’s version, the huntsman cannot bear to kill Snow White and returns to the queen with a boar’s insides instead, but in Red as Blood, he attempts to kill Snow White and is instead tricked out of it which leads to his own death. Snow White’s encounters in the forest are also different. In Little Snow White, the dwarfs are present as expected, but in Red as Blood they are not the dwarfs we are accustomed to envisioning, but instead dwarf trees.

The stories’ endings are also quite different – in Grimms’ Little Snow White, the prince saves Snow White and the queen dies by being forced to dance to death in iron slippers. However, in Lee’s Red as Blood, it could be said that the prince “saves” Bianca, but in a very different way. Bianca’s saving is a religious conversion, her savior has a scar on his wrist where “a nail had been driven in there” implying that she is saved by Jesus to begin a new life. This is confirmed by her transformation into a dove, a creature symbolizing innocence and peace, as well as her ability to wear a crucifix and be seen by the mirror. In Red as Blood, the step-mother “saves” the vampire Snow White, which is very different from the original where the prince must save Snow White from her mother’s poison apple.