Annotated for your pleasure, these Weird Folk Song Premises are very educational. Some plots are wonderfully bizarre, sung in lost languages - others have familiar echoes that you’ll pick up later in your favorite stories. Eight female trad/folk singers explain how to address life’s great challenges, such as getting your fairy boyfriend to commit, the best ways to make harps out of body parts, and under what contexts it’s cool to eat a dead dude.
A Girl, A Shoe, A Prince: The Endlessly Evolving Cinderella - Linda Holmes, NPR's Monkey See:
"The idea that animates the classic Cinderella is that the prince would not be free to consider Cinderella a desirable mate if he first saw her as she is, but he can meet her under false pretenses and fall in love with her. And, most importantly, once achieved, that love will be durable enough to survive her reversion to her real identity. Getting him to literally recognize her — getting him to look at a woman in rags and realize she's the woman he wants to marry — seems to function as sort of a stand-in for him proving that he can overlook her low status and choose her as a partner. Whether that's more a fantasy of romantic love or a fantasy of economic security, power and rescue from a lifetime of washing floors may depend on who's telling it and who's hearing it and when."[more inside]
‘Gresham College has provided free public talks within the City of London for over 400 years.’ ‘Since 2001, the college has been recording its lectures and releasing them online in what is now an archive of over 1,000’ of them. Some examples: Snails in Art and the Art of Snails; The History of the Bowler Hat; “Speaking Scars” - The Tattoo; Mother Green Tree Frog and her Children: How Folktales Contributed to the Confucianisation of Korea; The Psychology of Doing Nothing; Möbius and his Band; Harmony in the Lowest Home: The Guitar and the Labouring Poor. [more inside]
The general structure of this tale are well known; a young lady tells a king a series of stories, enough to fill one thousand and one nights, ensuring her survival. The themes became common enough that L. Frank Baum listed the "stereotyped genie, dwarf, and fairy" as traditional fairy tale characters to exclude from his attempts at modern tales, yet there's enough to unpack and discuss to consume multiple lifetimes. This is One Thousand and One Nights, the multinational compilation of folktales and stories, passed as word of mouth, then written and compiled into one large volume. But it was only when one of these collections was translated into French, at a time that fairy tales were already in vogue, did this large frame story and its contained tales really catch on. But it's history is not all that simple a tale. [more inside]
Neil Gaiman: Why Disney's Sleeping Beauty doesn't work (Gaby Wood for The Guardian):
"I feel like some kind of alchemist," Gaiman suggests. "I have to go to the cupboard and take one ounce of Snow White and two ounces of Sleeping Beauty, and heat the Sleeping Beauty and froth the Snow White and mix them together: it's kind of like fusion cuisine. It tastes like both of them but it's actually a new dish."
Are fairy tales back in fashion? Certainly, the recent success of Disney's films Frozen and Maleficent seems to point to something. But most of the fairy tales we know have come to us via 17th century France or 19th century Germany, and have since been subject to so many retellings and rebellions that trends are difficult to map.
"It is somewhat of a mystery why the English-speaking world has had to wait until 1981 for the first translation of the Deutsche Sagen (German Legends) by the Brothers Grimm. After all, the Legends, which first appeared in 1816 and 1818, were translated into French, Danish, and even Rumanian in the nineteenth century, and have always been considered a vital source book for folklorists and critics alike. Perhaps we have always assumed that the German Legends had been translated since many of them are known through romances, novels, adaptations, selective translations, films, comic books, and references in critical studies. The two most famous examples are Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser and Robert Browning's 'The Children of Hameln.'"-Jack Zipes, in an approving review of Donald Ward's translation of the Legends. Ward's work has since fallen out of print, but you can read select legends at the eclectic Golden Scales folktale collection.
Doors cracked, and people peered out at the apparitions on the street. Most of the grown-ups smiled and said “Good morning”, or “Happy Mardi Gras!” Kids peeked around their parents, looking thunderstruck. “Get up outta that bed! It's Mardi Gras morning!” the bone men yelled, “You gotta get your life straight!” One of the less well-known traditions of Mardi Gras in New Orleans are the Skull and Bone gangs who come out in the early morning. Their mission, besides the celebration of Mardi Gras, is to seek out small children and warn to live their lives rightly least the skull and bone spirits should have to come to them too soon. The tradition lives on, continuing what began around 1819, now mingling with the "younger" traditions of the Mardi Gras Indians and the Baby Dolls. For more history, check out Gumbo Ya-Ya, a collection of Louisana Folk Tales, on Archive.org
The Moon is Rolling in Her Grave is a video adaptation of the first chapter of the ongoing (since 2003) comic series "No Rest For The Wicked" by Andrea L. Peterson, a fantasy / adventure / horror tale that takes traditional fairytales and turns them on their heads: "Ms. Peterson uses, in conjunction with several more popular fables, folktales that you may have never even heard of. The entire plot actually centers around a little known Grimm fairytale called 'The Buried Moon', while also making reference to 'Red Riding Hood', 'Hansel & Gretel', 'The Girl Without Hands', 'The Boy Who Went Forth and Learned What Fear Was', and many MANY others." [more inside]
U.K. illustrator Kate Baylay creates gorgeous book illustrations, like these for The Olive Fairy Book. [more inside]
Georgian-born Armenian, Sergei Parajanov (1924-1990) was a controversial director in the Soviet era. At first he followed the state mandated style of Socialist Realism, but in 1964 he broke out into his own style with Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (YT), a dream-like film that combines expressionistic camera techniques, ethnography, and the logic of folktales. The film won almost every, award in sight on the 1964 film festival circuit, but it was also of the restrictive Soviet approach to the arts. The film was banned by authorities, but Parajanov did not return to realism, and instead paid tribute to the Armenian troubadour Sayat-Nova ("King of Songs" in Persian). The Color of Pomegranates (1968) is a film that sought to portray Sayat-Nova through images inspired by his life and poetry. [more inside]
Historical versions of Aesop's fables - text and pictures - collected by Laura Gibbs. She gives thousands of historic texts in English, Latin, and Greek, but even better, has Flickr sets of the historic illustrations (that page is sorted by artist) from editions by Rackham, Caldecott, and other artists going back to the 1400s. [more inside]
Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914) was a Norwegian artist, famous for his (frequently astonishing) pictures of trolls, as well as his illustrations of dragons, fairies, folk stories and the occasional absolute horror. [more inside]
Peasant culture and Russian folklore in Soviet animation (~400 minutes whereof): Soviet animation abounds in fantasies about the natural, wholesome lives of honorable, strong-willed Russian peasants and folk heroes and their struggles against villainy and adversity. Decorated with splendid folk art motifs that verge on horror vacui, these cel-animated cartoons are excellent aids for learning about (popular conceptions of) Russian folk material culture: decoration, architecture, dress, weaponry, textiles, domestic culture, manners, and so on. [more inside]
You probably know the Perrault version. And chances are, you haven’t been able to escape the Disney version. Maybe you know the slightly-darker Grimm version, or even the original story of Yeh-Shen. Maybe you’re a fan of musicals, and love Roger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella or Sondheim’s Into the Woods. But chances are, there’s a bit about this classic story you don’t know yet… [more inside]
Originally published by Finnish forkloristAntti Aarne and expanded by American Stith Thompson and German Hans-Jörg Uther, the Aarne-Thompson Classification System is a system for classifying folktales based on motifs. [more inside]
Nichibunken Databases isn't a link that sounds promising, but oh, what a treasure trove of old Japanese art it is. Among the many lovely collections is the Japanese folktales in foreign languages, another has maps, which is probably easiest to browse by decade, then there's the picture scrolls (some nsfw), and also illustrations from an 1870s world tour. That's just a small taste of what's there. If, like me, you don't read Japanese, often you'll be going in with scant information of what will be on offer, but even random stumblings will reveal beauty and wonder. Just to get you started, here are nearly 800 pictures of demons and over 2500 floating world woodprints. [Note: Blue dots mean the material is accessible to the public, red dots mean you have to have a login to see it]
The Uysal - Walker Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative is an immense repository of folktales from modern Anatolia. The full list of stories but luckily there's a search function. But that's not all, oh no, there's also a music section, with downloadable mp3s and a whole nother section with more stories and Turkish literature and mp3s. Here's a somewhat random selection of stories to get you started (all links pdf): Nasreddin Hoca's Brilliant Donkey, A Saint Urinates in Public, The Girl Disguised as a Monk and the Padishah's Youngest Son, Behlül Dane Discourses with the Dung Heap and finally, Elia Kazan in Kayseri (yes, that Elia Kazan).
Over 2000 classic tales and fables including Aesop's Fables, Bulfinch's Mythology, Indian "Why" Stories, tales by Oscar Wilde, Beatrix Potter, Rudyard Kipling, Louisa May Alcott, L. Frank Baum and Harriet Beecher Stowe and stories about Abraham Lincoln, Robin Hood and Baron Munchausen. And more! The folk and fairytale collection is particularly rich, with hundreds of stories from all over the world.
Did you ever hear the story / of Belinda O'McHugh / She was courted by the Devil / And she didn't know what to do / He came a courtin' ev'ry evenin' / So Belinda got to thinkin' / She would be the Devil's wife / It was better far than bein' / An old maid all her life