Tuesday 3 November 2009

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Once Upon a Week: Interview with Misty of The Book Rat

once upon a week bannerToday we have an interview with book blog The Book Rat's Misty. Make sure you check out her blog, it's awesome!

So, we had a little chat about Fairy Tales...

What is your favourite fairy tale, and why?

This changes quite frequently. As a kid, I had 3: The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Elves and the Shoemaker (obscure, I know, but I loved it) and Puss in Boots. These all still hold a special place, but I tend to go for darker tales now. Hans Christian Anderson's The Rose Elf is seriously messed up and largely unknown; I would love to rework it into a full story.

How about your favourite fairy tale author/story teller?

Original: Perrault. Retellings: McKinley, with a special mention for Tanith Lee.

What fairy tale do you most relate to?

I don't know that I really do, but I must, or I wouldn't love them so fiercely, right? Hmm...

If your life were to be a fairy tale, what would you want to happen next?

I want to find out I have some magical creature (fairy godmother, etc) on my side, pulling for me and fairy-dusting things to my benefit. And I want to make out with some prince Charmings...

In The Emperor’s New Clothes, the vain emperor pretends to see clothes that aren’t there so he doesn’t look stupid. Has vanity or fear of looking stupid ever been the cause for any embarrassing moments?

I'm sure it has, or at least led me to do stupid things, but I am not easily embarassed, so I just go ahead and do the stupid things anyway. I wouldn't day vanity gets me really, but the stupid thing, maybe. And it's ridiculous, because I am not a stupid person by any means, but because of that, people have high expectations. There are no Jessica Simpson moments allowed in my life. I wish I could give you a good example of my Emperor moments, but I tend to brush these things off (read: block them out) :D

In Rumpelstiltskin, the King is told the daughter of a miller can spin straw into gold. What magical talent would you like to have?

I'm so lame, but there are two (equally lame) things I wish I could do: speak/read/write every language and play any instrument. I occasionally think I'd like to be able to read minds, but it's one of those "be careful when you eavesdrop" things -- I would hear things about myself that I shouldn't, and that's not fair to either party (but I want to know).

Think Disney. Who had the best dress; Cinderella, Belle, or Snow White?

Belle, hands down (the yellow dress, of course). I had a Belle doll, and I wanted to BE her.

If you had the chance to go to Neverland, and remain forever young, would you take it?

Probably not. It might be nice to stay for awhile, but it would probably get pretty miserable at times.

Goldilocks broke into the Three Bears’ house. Why did she break in in the first place?

I have always wondered this. What was that little girl's deal? Is she the hero of the piece, or the villain? She broke in, stole and vandalized, and because she's a cute little ringletted girl, it's cool? And what was the deal with Jack? He nearly bankrupts his family, breaks into a giants home, steals from him, and when the giant pursues him, cuts down the beanstalk and murders the giant. How is that okay? These are the types of things that I dwell on and that eat at me. I want to fix it. Instant karma, baby.

Many fairy tales have much darker origins than Disnified viewers realize: the queen wants to eat Snow White's heart, the wolf intends to rape and eat Little Red, etc. Why do you make of the fact that these tales are so popular still, and that a lot of retellings and adaptations dive back into these darker roots?

I did a paper on this (hence the question). The tales were never really meant for kids, they were more fireside stories. When they were for kids, they were meant as warnings. When the Grimms started collecting them, they found popularity as family stories, but they had to be heavily edited (ironically, the sex was the main issue, so the Grimms edited that out but through in violence to keep things entertaining. Priorities, huh?). And of course, Walt came along and further whitewashed them. But if you think about it, the dark elements are still there. Snow White's step-mom still wants her heart, Ursula wants Ariel's soul -- there's still some creepy. I think modern authors go back to it because it's rich. There's so much more depth and psychology to play with in a dark story than a flat kiddie tale.
And I think the tales are popular because they are personal: they've been passed down orally and now written and orally, and they have this group factor. You say Cinderella, and it immediately conjures up the same images in the entire group, and that is powerful. Also, I think they resonate within us (for whatever myriad reasons) the same way folklore and myths and religion do. (how many people did I just piss off for putting religion with the rest of that list? It was meant well)

How do you feel about women's roles in fairy tales? It seems that the only way a woman can be strong in a fairy tale is if she is the villain (evil queen, cannibalistic witch, etc). Are there any notable exceptions for you?

Again, this was a subject in the paper. I started off so sure there was something really wrong here, but when I got down to it, no one really comes out smelling of roses. Women are wicked in tales, yes, but they are also often powerful. They are queens and feared witches or sorceresses, etc. Men tend to not come into the story except to save the day, yes, but what are they really doing? They kiss someone? That's the hero thing to do? Come by and assault a comatose woman? Or take advantage of a girl in a tower? And then one can only assume that they become the men in the other stories, the ones who leave their children in the woods or try to marry their daughters when their wives die.
As for good exceptions, I think Beauty (Belle) is a good one: she's smart, courageous and pretty, not just pretty. Rapunzel is good, too, because she uses things to her advantage, gets what she wants, and is strong the whole way through, even though she's been raised solely by a deranged witch and kept in a tower. Talk about resilience.

Awesome interview, huh? Be sure to visit Misty's blog for her interview with me. We swapped some questions, so you may see repeats.

Any thoughts on Misty's answers? What would some of your answers be?


  1. I see Misty in a blue dress, but yellow would be nice too. I never really gave fairy tales much thought, but I guess they do have a great side. Great interview.

  2. Great interview! Interesting questions....would have never thought of most of them but they definitely tie in the fairytale week theme. I knew that some of the tales from childhood were edited (admittedly not until a few years back) but not to THAT extreme! (Yikes!) Seems like we had budding "Wes Craven's" (known for scary stuff) back in the day too...

  3. Snow White definitely does NOT have the best dress (ick). But I would probably pick Cinderella's dress, myself.

    Love teh question about the darker origins of the fairy tales we all know and love. It's such an interesting concept that these stories have been whitewashed and turned into children's tales when they were probably never intended that way.

  4. Gina - Glad you enjoyed the interview! Oh yes, there were some pretty creepy imaginations way back when. But they are great stories!

    Vanessa - I think I'm with Misty, and would say Belle's yellow dress. It's gorgeous! Ahh, the darker origins questions were Misty's, we swapped some :) They are pretty awesome questions! It is interesting, but I think it makes sense. Who knows, perhaps stories we have now for adults will be made into kids tales one day - or perhaps not.

  5. The blue dress, Elie? I want a BALL GOWN, baby. ;p