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Book Review: The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition

When Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published their “Children’s and Household Tales” in 1812, followed by a second volume in 1815, they had no idea that such stories as “Rapunzel,” “Hansel and Gretel,” and “Cinderella” would become the most celebrated in the world. Yet few people today are familiar with the majority of tales from the two early volumes, since in the next four decades the Grimms would publish six other editions, each extensively revised in content and style. For the very first time, ” The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm” makes available in English all 156 stories from the 1812 and 1815 editions. These narrative gems, newly translated and brought together in one beautiful book, are accompanied by sumptuous new illustrations from award-winning artist Andrea Dezso.

From “The Frog King” to “The Golden Key,” wondrous worlds unfold–heroes and heroines are rewarded, weaker animals triumph over the strong, and simple bumpkins prove themselves not so simple after all. Esteemed fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes offers accessible translations that retain the spare description and engaging storytelling style of the originals. Indeed, this is what makes the tales from the 1812 and 1815 editions unique–they reflect diverse voices, rooted in oral traditions, that are absent from the Grimms’ later, more embellished collections of tales. Zipes’s introduction gives important historical context, and the book includes the Grimms’ prefaces and notes.

The source material for Children’s and Household Tales was originally collected from books as well as friends and acquaintances in and around Kassel, Hesse in what is now Germany as well as Westphalia for the romantic poet Clemens Brentano between 1806 and 1812.  Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm eventually came to distinguish between the Naturpoesie of the German Volk and the Kuntspoesie, or cultivated literature, which arose from and subsumed it.  Ultimately, Brentano found the collected tales unsuitable toward his purposes and gave the brothers his blessing to do with them as they pleased.  The first edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen was published in 1812.

While even those tales were edited  in order to create something more than a skeletal fragment of a story, they are generally representative of local traditions.  The Grimms explained in their introduction (included)

“We have tried to grasp and interpret these tales as purely as possible. In many of them one will find that the narrative is interrupted by rhymes and verses that even possess clear alliteration at times but are never sung during the telling of a tale, and these are precisely the oldest and best tales. No incident has been added or embellished and changed, for we would have shied away from expanding tales already so rich in and of themselves with their own analogies and similarities.”

This first edition met with only moderate success.  Critics complained of crude, malformed stories.  Indeed, the second version of “A Story About a Brave Tailor” ended with “[The rest of this tale is missing.]”  They lamented the copious scholarly notes (also included).  And they noted the unsuitability of straightforward violence by children for children.  These are the selling points for the original tales and the very aspects that would disappear as Wilhelm Grimm strove to make their work palatable to a larger audience.

“It was not until the second edition of 1819 that there was a clear editorial change of policy that led to the refinement of the tales, especially by Wilhelm, who became the major editor from 1816 onward.”

Each successive edition was a little more puritanically Christian, a little less violent, a little more polished.  As they gathered more tales, they gathered more versions and selected the subjective best, or best parts, among them.  As their audience broadened, the variety of voices narrowed.

Translator Jack Zipes is professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota.  I first heard of him when he presented at 2007’s Fantasy Matters conference.  He wrote the introduction fro Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples in addition to dozens of his own books about fairy tales, folklore, and their collectors and creators.  Patrick Rothfuss, who also presented, calls him “brilliant.”  So, in case the academic credentials weren’t enough, he’s got the support of two of the biggest names in modern fantasy as well.  He describes the importance of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition in an interview.

The first edition is special and significant because one can still hear and ascertain the different voices of the people who provided the tales to the Grimms. These voices were effaced in later editions. If one studies the seven editions published by the Grimms, one can trace the continual editing of Wilhelm Grimm, who transformed the tales into aesthetically pleasing literary works. He also deleted many tales that appeared to be French stories, and he added Christian references, folk proverbs, ornate description, and moralistic comments. The tales in the first edition are curt, blunt, raw, and  dazzling in their naivete–that is, in their frank approach to the fantastic and absurd situations in people’s lives. In fact, many of the tales are more kafkaesque than Kafka’s tales.

Andrea Dezsö is a visual artist who works across a broad range of media. Her permanent public art is installed in two NYC subway stations, at CUNY Fiterman Hall, and at the US Embassy in Bucharest. Dezsö exhibits in museums and galleries worldwide and is associate professor of art at Hampshire College. (via Princeton University Press)

These early tales map the contours of an entirely different context in which tales are told versus the sanitized versions most readers are familiar with.  Of particular interest are the tales that were removed.  “How Some Children Played at Slaughtering” is exactly as disturbing as it sounds.  The frankly amoral presentation of the tale incites the reader to contemplate its implications and formulate a preemptive response here, now.  “The Tablecloth, the Knapsack, the Canon, and the Horn” upsets class boundaries in an apparently unacceptable way.

So it wasn’t just brutality that was removed, but also overt class struggle.  The tale readers know as “The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was” had a distinctly dangerous character to it. The 1812 “Good Bowling and Card Playing” features not a fool, not even a desperate character, but a youth with no better options.

Now, there was a young man from a poor family who thought to himself, ‘Why not risk my life? I’ve got nothing to lose and a lot to win.  What’s there to think about?’

In a similar vein, the early “Rapunzel” doesn’t let her secret  visitor slip so much as innocently inquire about her pregnancy.

This edition is an essential companion to the typical Grimm collection based on the 1857 seventh edition.  If you love the tales, the ability to compare and contrast the classics with the originals is invaluable.  Should you wonder which version to start with, Zipes himself edited and translated The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm All-New Third Edition.

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition is appealing because it offers the best glimpse into the folk tradition available in nineteenth century Europe and delivers it in a plain unadulterated manner.  It’s an eye opening look at the stories that have evolved into some of the most significant cultural metaphors in the Western world.

However, It’s worth noting that it has some esoteric appeal as well.  A certain type of pedant will enjoy the book because it will win arguments.  If you’ve ever heard someone, at some time, say something like “In the original “Snow White,” it wasn’t a kiss that woke her up.”  With this book in your perfectionist armory, you can tell folks exactly what the original stimulant was.

This volume should be in the library of any reader interested or invested in how and why stories change over time.  If you’ve ever found yourself particularly fond of an old text that’s continually reinterpreted or represented in any media, you’re likely to find something close to epiphany when you read these original tales.  The notion that there’s a pure story, the sort of one true form reinforced by postmodern intellectual property law, exhausts itself.  The Snow Whites of Cinder and Once Upon a Time are as valid as any other.

And, of course, if you’re here because we marked ourselves with Hipster Ariel, this is absolutely the one book of fairy tales that must be on your shelf.  It’s the intimidating, original, scholarly work that ends all other works.  The air of authenticity shimmering off it’s simple crisp cover and authoritative title only hints and the locally curated small batch tales collected within.

Recommended for Scholars, tale tellers, and Hipster Scouts.


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Book Review – Tolkien: How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century

Tolkien: How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century by Devin Brown – Out today, October 21st from Abingdon Press

J.R.R. Tolkien transformed his love for arcane linguistic studies into a fantastic world of Middle Earth, a world filled with characters that readers the world over have loved and learned from for generations.

Devin Brown focuses on the story behind how Tolkien became one of the best-known writers in the history of literature, a tale as fascinating and as inspiring as any of the fictional ones he would go on to write. Weaving in the major aspects of the author’s life, career, and faith, Brown shares how Tolkien’s beloved works came to be written.

This book is a good place to start if you’re looking for a concise account of Tolkien’s life and the creation of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  It hits the important notes: childhood, education, interests, faith, relationships, and scholarship.  However, it never delves too deeply into any of them.

This might be its selling point.  Tolkien isn’t explained so much as presented.  Neither he nor his work is dissected or investigated.  This short biography takes the reader on Tolkien’s journey, stopping along the way to note how this or that might have contributed to his world famous epic.  These stops aren’t speculation.  They’re often supported by Tolkien’s own words to family, friends, or fans.

What Tolkien: How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century offers is an excellent resource for new and casual readers.  If you’re not interested in a more exhaustively detailed examination of life and literature, this is probably a good choice.  And who knows?  Perhaps it will spark further interest.

The reader learns how capricious the publishing industry was when The Hobbit rested in the hands of a ten year old boy and how that boy, seventeen years later, took a risk on a long delayed sequel.  Tolkien’s long struggle to follow it puts contemporary clamoring for the next book from Martin or Rothfuss in perspective.

The final sections of the book include “did you know that…?” which pulls some of the interesting trivia from the text and presents it as a bullet pointed list and “Fourteen Tolkien Sites to Visit without Ever Leaving Your Armchair” which lists the important geographical locations of the biography in chronological order.  The former is a handy resource for the second time one picks up the book While the latter is almost a review of the text.

All in all, this is an eminently user-friendly biography that’s professional and informative.  It’s an introductory text founded on and indebted to the work that’s come before it.

Recommended for fans of the films, readers new to Tolkien, and the mildly curious.

 


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Early Observations about “The Apprentice”

Everyone knows everyone else better than everyone thinks.  Or knows everyone’s self.  Love isn’t just a battlefield anymore; it’s a weapon.  And the map of shipwrecks reveals its most precious treasure.

Michael’s “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.”

Frozen

Part of the episode focused on Anna, so other than the princess of Arendelle being herself, there wasn’t a lot of clever referencing.  Or I missed it in the midst of convincing our toddler it wasn’t an appropriate time to paint our feet.

However, there was one somewhat obvious nod to “Love is an Open Door.”

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

It’s essentially the title of the episode, but this sequence from Disney’s Fantasia is referenced repeatedly.  The walking broom appeared on the title card.  The bucket featured in the flashback with Zoso and the Sorcerer’s apprentice.  And the hat on Gold’s counter capped the opening chapter.

Both the broom and the hat reappear more than once during the episode.  So does the Sorcerer’s apprentice, who gets turned into a mouse, which was pretty much the funniest thing that ever happened in the Enchanted Forest.

In Storybrooke, Rumplestiltskin takes Henry on as his own apprentice while the bucket sits in the most ominous shaft of light ever to enter a window.  The iconic music plays while Henry begins to sweep the shop.

And Hook learns or at least begins to learn a dire lesson about the careless use of magical shortcuts.  He’s not the only one looking for one in “The Apprentice,” though.  We’re bound to see a few other minorly catastrophic failures this season.

Finally, while it was the Snow Queen leaving puddles and slicks in Emma’s path, the extra water might also have been a nod to Mickey’s predicament.

Lady and the Tramp

As Killian and Emma enter the restaurant in Storybrooke that isn’t Granny’s, we see them framed by a couple sharing a spaghetti noodle, which is much less attractive in real life.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Will Scarlet breaks into the library in order to, um, pass out with a copy of the Charles Dodgson classic or steal a page featuring the Red Queen from it.  This will, of course, be more meaningful to folks who’ve seen the spin-off Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.  But it’s sufficiently intriguing for even the brand new viewer.

Fun Fact: Timothy Webber, who played the Sorcerer’s apprentice, also played the Carpenter on SyFy’s Alice.

“The Snow Queen”

Furthering the theme of distorted reflecting, we see both Rumple and Killian embrace their darker sides.  Snow seems to have gotten a break and rocks some pink an grey.  Regina, however, holed up in her vault, is back in the blues of her youth.  She’s trying to do good and they’ve marked it appropriately.  Henry, on the other hand, is apparently willing to manipulate his grandfather by invoking his dead father to further his formerly and not entirely reformed evil mom’s agenda.  This is exactly what you’d expect from a town under the influence of the mirror in “The Snow Queen.”

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Captain Swan

A large section of the plot rotated around Hook and Emma’s first date, so this will just be the highlights.captain swan date

  1. Hook trades his continued silence for his lost hand so that he can hold Emma with both hands. And then he uses it to present a single rose to her. Awwwww…
  2. Emma wears a dress. Hook wears non-pirate clothes. Clearly both wanted to look their best for the date.
  3. Mary Margaret got to be the excited mom, snapping a Polaroid of the moment. David got to be all protective and then wanted none of the details later, as dads do.
  4. There were some sweet shots of hand holding and a pretty steamy end-of-date kiss. Sadly, we didn’t get enough of the date’s moments.

Kristanna

  1. They kiss! But more importantly they share a heartfelt emotional moment regarding the truth of why her parents traveled to the Enchanted Forest.

Pirate Gold

Here’s me attempting to stretch my shipper sight. Also, this ship has pretty much the best name ever.

  1. Rumple manipulates Hook into thinking that the hand he replaces could be cursed and bring out the pre-reformed pirate-iness. A normal viewer might see this as Rumple getting back at him for blackmailing his help over the truth of the fake dagger. But a Pirate Gold shipper would see the ulterior motive in this–break up Hook and Swan and return Hook to his sexy, swarthy self. When Rumple reveals the truth of the manipulation, he says, “I did you a favor!”
  2. Rumple further blackmails Hook into being his partner (in crime). As Wallace says in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World


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Once Upon a Time “The Apprentice” Previews and Predictions

 

Coming Tonight: Once Upon a Time 4×04

CAUTION: sneak peeks, spoilers, and suppositions

“The Apprentice”After Emma asks Hook out on a real first date, Hook visits Mr. Gold and asks for his hand to be reattached so that he can embrace her with both hands. But magic always comes with a price. Henry and Mary Margaret try to offer hope to Regina when she becomes frustrated over not being able to find a cure to save a frozen Marian, and Will Scarlet attempts to break into the Storybrooke library to find a special book. Meanwhile, back in the Fairy Tale Land that was, Rumplestiltskin is after a magical box that the Sorcerer’s apprentice is guarding, and he may use Elsa’s sister Anna to help him get it, written by Andrew Chambliss & Dana Horgan and directed by Ralph Hemecker.

Here’s the promo that aired after last week’s episode:

ABC has released two sneak peeks for “The Apprentice.”  In the first, Anna walks in on the Dark One and we see what happens when unshakable faith meets immoderate imp.

In the second, Killian refuses to take some free advice.

In our initial reactions to “Rocky Road,” Erin noted that the episode was well timed for and the setup so contextualized that it might cause “some Halloween-themed shenanigans ala Evil Dead 2.”  From the preview, it doesn’t even look like Rumple needs to take an active, er, hand in such an outcome.

And while this still could launch a thousand ships all by itself, the single rose in conjunction with anything to do with the Beast, especially a magical transformation, has some definite Disney dimensions.

Let’s just say we don’t expect Hook to be dual wielding by the end of the episode.  And we wonder what he’ll have to do to be rid of his sinister past once again.

The cast credits teased that we’ll see both the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Zoso, the Dark One prior to Rumplestiltskin.  Getting some non-Frozen flashbacks for any character is probably something veteran Once fans would do whatever it takes to get.  So that should be interesting.

The themes for the episode appear to be theft, the impertinence of being earnest, and the solid, repeating beat of family.  Look for other opportunistic pilfering to pile on Anna’s excursion and Will’s library larceny.  Expect honesty in every situation to be ignored, exploited, or suspected.

Mary Margaret’s back in her neutral colors, so she’s likely to be the emotional cornerstone of the show, wary but determined.  This should contrast with Anna’s unfettered hope and possible eventual doubts about her own mission and actions.  The end result will be a retrenching of emotional positions, which is a good place to be in for a fourth episode.  Anna’s “whatever it takes,” will be back later in the arc for some crocodile hide.

Oh, and mirrors.  There will absolutely be mirrors.  Adding more Beauty and the Beast imagery pulls Adam’s own mirror into the story, if only by proxy.  I should have seen in in “White Out,” when Rumple was shown spying on Anna through the crystal ball.  He’s confined to the castle only to reinforce these visual metaphors.

 


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Star Wars Saturday: ‘The Empire Strikes Back Uncut’

Imagine Star Wars remade by 480 DIY filmmakers, each taking 15 seconds each. We got that a few years back with Star Wars Uncut.yoda_uncut_still

Now the second installment has been completed, and The Empire Strikes Back Uncut is a charming, post-modern blast.  This fan-built shot-by-shot remake is officially sanctioned by Lucasfilm, now Disney, so there’s some use of soundtrack and movie dialogue, but m69500_54_news_hub_62792_588x448any of the clips are wholly original picture and sound. There are animations of every type mixed with live action done at various levels of of costume and sincerity. There are clips that are pure parody, and even more sincere ones often have easter eggs. The constantly shifting tone and style makes the film fascinating to watch. The quick switch-up keeps me glued. One clip is wonky? Don’t worry, the next will be different.

As a fan, I loved seeing amateur actors absolutely NAIL the pacing, intonation, and gestures of the original actors. It illustrates their love and care for these characters. These are my people.

And if you’d like to catch up with the original Star Wars Uncut


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Frozen Friday: Big Hero 6

We tried watching Once Upon a Time with our toddler last weekend to see how recognizable and entertaining live action Elsa might be.  The response was mixed.  On the one hand, Elsa’s as riveting in our world as she is in hers.  So are Anna, Hans, and Kristoff for that matter.  But they’re not on screen all the time.

We endured some pleas for Elsa’s return and managed to explain that she’d be back pretty soon.  I think, overall, our little Frozen fan could deal with an ensemble narrative with shifting settings and multiple timelines.  That’s not really the issue, though.  Unlike PBS shows designed in discrete segments or uninterrupted fifteen minute arcs, Once Upon a Time is primarily a vehicle for the delivery of advertisements.

Predictably, they totally lose our toddler.  Not only are Once ads are for adults, but a couple of the breaks are as long as the content bursts.  One ad, however, stopped the chatter.

Maybe not for the reason you’d think.  Sure, Baymax is entertaining and huggable.  And the Big Hero 6 trailer is fast paced and brightly colored.

What got the, “Oh!” was this:

Our little hipster’s developing a discerning palate or something.  “Want to see it.”  I can’t say we’ll be ready for a full length feature at the theater this holiday season.  But there’s a fair chance we’ll be adding a third movie to the iPad.  Adding the soccer ball gag in at the end was probably the coup de grâce.

Fun fact:  Hans appears in the movie.


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‘Play It Again, Dick’ Ep. 5 Review

Wow, they’d nearly lost me after the last episode ran boring, but FINALLY we have footage!

Spoilers ahoy, yo. BTW, the episode is absolutely worth watching.

Click here —> Play It Again, Dick Episode 5 on the CWSeed.

piad5It’s first day on set of “Private Dick.” Ryan announces he likes his directing loose, like your mom. Jason Dohring shows up wearing ill-fitting Navy whites (likely an homage to the Veronica Mars movie where fans complained about the poor fit for his tight bod). Jason has just finished the script and is none too pleased at his lame lines and character inconsistencies: “You have my mom dropping me off. My mom is dead! Did you ever even watch the show?!” And I’m back in. Jason storms off the set but then has second thoughts, deciding that Ryan is like a brother and he can’t back out over lines in a script. However, by the time he returns, Ryan has already recast Logan with the gay choreographer from last episode. Jason sees this, hangs his head low, and leaves again–nobody notices but us. Already, this episode is much faster moving than the last couple. The set-up is done, and now we get to see those machinations play out.

PlayItAgainDick2The footage from the show is fantastically bad. Apparently Duncan Kane is dead by great white shark and his classmates have gathered for the clothing-optional funeral. The picture of Duncan displayed isn’t even the right guy. Weevil comes in, greets Dick, and quotes an unintelligible series of sentences about life and death by Jorge Luis Borges. After complimenting Dick on his Steve McQueen sunglasses, Weevil gives the eulogy by quoting Shakespeare–he over-emotes. Single reaction shots of other Neptune characters we know and loathe/love draw attention to Ryan’s difficulty getting the various actors together on the same day.

“Private Dick” has a cheesy-bad voice-over and the 70’s style film quality of some late night grindhouse flick. It’s exploitation-parody, given to us through the innocent douchebaggery of Dick Casablancas. He’s too much of a buffoon to really despise for his sexism and ultra-masculinity. “First rule of Casablancasas, Navarro–Every action has an equal and opposite Dick-action.”

A couple of fun meta moments:

  1. When Weevil is found dead, Dick files his case under “Hear No Weevil, See No Weevil.” This is a send-up of the punny Veronica Mars episode titles like “Cheatty Cheatty Bang Bang” or “Weevils Wobble But they Don’t Go Down.”
  2. In the show footage, “Logan” ends the scene by saying, “Blow to the scene to come.” Cut to Ken Marino explaining that “blow” is a term for a scene ending joke or zinger, and that line was just a placeholder for the joke he hadn’t written yet, but that no one noticed.

So hooray for the show finally getting to the footage and returning to the funny.

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