Weekly Training Journal #5

Do a little research about fairy tale art. Pick a piece and explain what it is about, and why you picked it.

I really hope that “researching” fairy tale art means getting lost in galleries, pinterest boards, and image searches … because upon trying to investigate it, that’s exactly what happened to me. There are so many fairy tales and so many art styles, and therefore so many unique and interesting pieces of fairy tale art that are available on the internet. I even came across some beautiful pieces for sale, like this one.

However, the piece I’m going to elaborate on is a Rapunzel illustration by MyDoodle of DeviantArt. This piece is done in colored pencil and watercolor and depicts a pensive Rapunzel sitting in her tower’s window. Rapunzel seems to be interacting with a bird, and another bird looks on from a nest nearby. Here, we see Rapunzel in contrast to the birds – the birds are free and Rapunzel is trapped in her tower. However, although she is “caged”, she seems gentle and peaceful, if perhaps just slightly sad. The scene is beautiful.

The piece also features ivy on the tower’s walls, and which adds a layer of detail and complexity to the art. In fact, the attention to detail in the piece is one of my favorite qualities of it. Not just in the ivy, but in Rapunzel’s hair, her dress, even the folds of the curtains behind her. I also really like the beautiful colors of the piece – there is just the right amount of color for the piece to capture attention, but it is also subtle enough to seem realistic at the same time. This picture is one that I think belongs in a storybook, as I think it captures the fairy tale perfectly.

I picked this piece because I really appreciate it – not only is it of Rapunzel (which means I adore it by default), but I also especially like the artistic style of it, for the reasons already stated. I also find it very fitting that this piece of art is done by hand rather than digitally-produced. I came across a lot of digital fairy tale artwork in my search, and while those pieces were unfailingly stunning and beautifully eye-catching (and I really liked so many of them!), I did not always get as much of an authentic feel from that style of art. Fairy tales are entrenched in history, so I really like the more traditional feel that the watercolor and colored pencil provide, which is why this piece in particular grabbed my attention.

Weekly Training Journal #4

If you woke up in a fairy tale, which one would you want it to be? Why?

This is perhaps one of the most difficult questions that I’ve ever tried to answer – there are so many different aspects that make up a fairy tale world! I cannot possibly decide with certainty on just one fairy tale, not when so many fairy tales have so much to offer. So many tales are completely charming – or entirely intriguing – in their own ways. This question is complex too in that there are so many angles to consider it from: does waking up in a fairy tale involve being at the tale’s center, or simply in its world? I will begin by considering primarily the universe in which the fairy tale exists.

Regardless, I am going to have to go with Rapunzel – ideally the version of the story told in Disney’s Tangled. Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll confess right now that I’m a huge fan of Tangled. I adore the characters and the storyline, but more than that, the world itself is absolutely captivating. There’s a beautiful forest, and the town with the king and queen’s palace seems like just the right size – not too big, not too small. Not to mention that the flags and banners in the town are the most perfect shade of purple ever. Ever.

But there’s so much more than just the movie’s scenery. For much of the movie, Rapunzel looks very different from others around her – she is not mocked for this. Further, even the “thugs” in the Snuggly Duckling turn out to be endearing, and they even help Rapunzel as she seeks her dreams. And, at Rapunzel’s urging, the townsfolk all start to dance. While I’m sure that these are all Disneyfied aspects of the fairytale, they’re also aspects of the world’s culture that I really like and think I would enjoy.

The world of Tangled seems perfectly storybook: quaint, friendly, and beautiful to look at. But more than that, I’m also partial to Rapunzel’s storyline. I definitely prefer her in Disney as opposed to in older versions of the tale – she takes such an active role in Tangled, but isn’t able to do so in the more classic versions. Still, I relate well to her in any version – she does not have the easiest life when it comes to fairytale heroines, but I feel I understand many of her struggles and problems better than I do those of other characters, which is yet another reason I’d love to live in Rapunzel’s world.

Weekly Training Journal #3

How is gender handled/represented in fairy tales?

In many fairy tales, the heroine is not so much a heroine as a damsel in distress who must be rescued by a hero. The stereotypical fairy tale princess is known mostly for being beautiful and needing assistance. To her credit, she is often kind and gentle, but any redeeming qualities she has generally do not make up for the fact that her purpose in the story is usually to look pretty, be helpless, and find true love.

Meanwhile, the fairy tale hero is usually responsible for saving the princess, a task which often involves danger, bravery, and heroics. The stereotypical fairy tale hero is more likely to have goals and aspirations that are not marriage-related, but this is not always the case. Consider the prince in Cinderella – often, his primary aim is to find a wife, but of course this can vary in different versions of the story.

Steeped in history and tradition, fairy tales tend to inherit historical perspectives on gender. This explains why fairy tale princesses tend to have such an emphasis on finding a husband, and why the action roles are often left to the princes. Fairy tales’ historical roots can also be blamed for their adherence to cisgender norms and their focus on heterosexual relationships. In this sense, fairy tales are outdated – they do not represent today’s society, in which women do more than get married and diversity of gender and sexuality are increasingly accepted.

That said, and although there are some modern fairy tales that are beginning to treat these topics in a more modern light, the attitudes reflected in stereotypical fairy tales have not yet faded entirely from our society. The perspectives that the fairy tales espouse are still (unfortunately) present in society, which is why they have not yet faded completely from fairy tales. Discrimination and acts of hatred still occur against those who break the norms that traditional fairy tales establish.

While it’s true that many women nowadays have more than finding love on their minds, I would argue that society still expects them to fulfill the traditional role too often. Before coming to Plymouth as a transfer student, I attended a college that is generally considered rather prestigious. Among the girls I encountered there, it was alarmingly common to hear comments about family members who had told them to “find a man” in college. These are girls who had gotten into an extremely competitive college on their own merits – they were remarkably intelligent, talented, and hard-working. Their relatives did not expect them to start famous businesses or one day run for president, but to find a husband. There are still many parents and grandparents out there who expect their daughters and granddaughters to go off to college not necessarily to get an education, but to find someone to marry. For real.

Weekly Training Journal #2

Looking through the Grimm collection, what stories jump out at you, why?

So many stories jump out at me. A lot of these stories are unfamiliar tales whose titles sound intriguing. Of course, a story’s title does not tell us much, but for one reason or another some stood out to me more than others. I am curious about “Riffraff” (because riffraff is a fun word to say), “All Fur” (what is furry, I must find out), “The Summer and the Winter Garden” (because as a skier I like all things winter-related), “The Castle of Murder” (this sounds dark and mysterious), “The Blue Light” (why a light, and why blue), “The Lion and the Frog” (because in the past I have liked stories about different creatures interacting so maybe this will be interesting on those grounds) , and “The Golden Key” (what does it unlock, I must know).

In addition, I will admit that a few of the titles intrigue me because I am a Harry Potter fan. I know that J. K. Rowling drew some material for the Harry Potter stories from mythology, so I am curious to see if there are any connections between fairy tales and Harry Potter. Stories that intrigue me on these grounds are:  “Little Red Cap”, “The Bird Phoenix”, and “The Three Brothers”.

Familiar stories also jump out immediately. Perhaps the one that jumps out for me the most is Rapunzel. I adore Disney’s Tangled, and I cannot wait to read the original version of Rapunzel’s story. I know that original Rapunzel will be very different from Disney Rapunzel, but that is exactly why I am so intrigued – I want to see how the story has developed and changed over the years, from the original Grimm tale to the version I heard as a child to the Disney version.

Cinderella also stands out, because I have previously read an older version of it but I don’t recall which version. I am curious to see if this version matches the one I remember reading. Naturally, I am also curious about a few stories that relate to other movies I have enjoyed, including Briar Rose. This looks like it might be the original tale of Sleeping Beauty. I have always been partial to Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, I especially love the beautiful Tchaikovsky music in its soundtrack. Another movie character whose story I am curious about is Puss in Boots, who I am familiar with thanks to the Shrek movies, and also the 2011 DreamWorks Puss in Boots movie.

Weekly Training Journal #1

What are your thoughts/feelings/relationship with Fairy Tales?

I’ve had a relationship with fairy tales since before I was old enough to fully understand what they were. Disney’s fairy tales were a constant when I was a child, played for me to watch by parents who wanted their restless daughter to just sit still for an hour or two. Even the first Halloween costume that I can remember is fairytale-related – Dopey, one of the dwarves from Snow White.

As I grew up, I realized that I loved not only fairy tales, but fantasy in general, too. I adored reading from a young age, and read voraciously over the years, devouring every book I could get my hands on. After reading books like Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted and Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Just Ella, I discovered that I especially liked fairy tale retellings.

When I reached high school, I stopped reading quite so much. School, homework, and activities just didn’t allow me the time. While I was never exactly “cool”, I definitely didn’t quite fit in, so I also fell out of the habit of reading or watching fairy tales for fear of being further ostracized by my peers. This was the late 2000s – movies like Tangled and Frozen which in recent years boosted the popularity of Disney’s fairy tales had not yet been released. Fairy tales were not “in”.

Yet, not so many years after that, I found myself turning to fairy tales again. It wasn’t intentional – I was in a situation that I couldn’t possibly have foreseen, confined to the couch for years as I did nothing but wait for my brain to heal. The stacks of old Disney movies from my childhood were inevitably revisited, and my old love of fairy tales was rekindled. It wasn’t long before Tangled was recommended, and it immediately became my favorite movie. At the time, I felt so trapped by my injury that I could relate very strongly to Rapunzel and her initial situation of being stuck in a tower.

At the time, I also heavily favored stories with happy endings. It was so frustrating for me to be sidelined from my life that I needed all the positivity I could get, and I realized that I could find it in fairy tales aimed at children. I owe a lot to fairy tales – the past five or so years have been very tough for me, and they’ve helped get me through my struggles. For this reason, I find them fascinating, and I’m curious to learn more about them as we embark on our adventures as ENDI agents.