Wednesday, February 14, 2018

'Cautionary Tales' (or What If The Lies Our Parents Told Us Came True?)

End Title Illustration detail from 'Cautionary Tales'
Do you remember hearing this phrase as a child? “If the wind changes your face will stay like that!” has a whole book of them, many of which are likely familiar, though in much shorted form, and all designed to scare children silly into behaving better. Though all of us grew out of these worries before adulthood, what would happen if the warned consequences of these frowned-on behaviors became real?

If you're not aware of the short film 'Cautionary Tales' by Us (writing and directing duo, Christopher Barrett and Luke Taylor) you should be. This short film, created in 2016, is built on the folklore of, well, cautionary tales' and has garnered a lot of attention at film festivals, including receiving a nice crop of awards. (Check out the laurels below! And this is just a listing of the better known awards.)
The short was recently been uploaded to vimeo (in January 2018) and is finally available for the public to view for free.

Here's the synopsis:
A bizarre incident as a young boy left Aaron with an unusual facial disfigurement that has plagued him all his life. Isolated and vulnerable, Aaron seeks comfort in the friendship and understanding of an unexpected group of outcasts.
The directors were recently interviewed by Short of the Week, and had this to say about the inspiration for their work:
“The whole idea stemmed from the lies parents tell their children”, the directors reveal in conversation with Short of the Week. “We found it fascinating that parents tell their children not to lie, but they constantly do just that. We focused on the somewhat dark cautionary tales parents use to scare their children into behaving…We loved the idea of imagining a world in which these tales had come true and these kids have lived their whole lives with these disfigurements”.
Wikipedia has a great and simple explanation for what a cautionary tale actually is:
cautionary tale is a tale told in folklore, to warn its hearer of a danger. There are three essential parts to a cautionary tale, though they can be introduced in a large variety of ways. First, a taboo or prohibition is stated: some act, location, or thing is said to be dangerous. Then, the narrative itself is told: someone disregarded the warning and performed the forbidden act. Finally, the violator comes to an unpleasant fate, which is frequently related in expansive and grisly detail.
 And now for the film.

The audience feels empathy for the main character, Aaron, right from the opening and this inventive story is quickly told. It's not just about him though. It's surprising and touching, and well worth eight minutes of your time to watch:
Be sure to stay through the end titles to see the cautionary tales used, as illustrated by Giulia Ghigini (there are detail examples of the illustrations in this post) and, even if you didn't recognize them all in the film, you likely will then.
What cautionary tales were you told as a child?

Friday, February 9, 2018

'Snow White: The Return of the Little Things' Presented by the Puppets of Angel Heart Theatre (UK)

"A visually striking version of Snow White..."
This new steampunk-inspired version of Snow White by Angel Heart Theatre that has been touring the UK during the Winter season, is so very lovely and unique looking. We wish there was more info, photos of footage online. They appear to be close to wrapping this show with only a few performances left and by all accounts, it's worth making an effort to see (and taking any young humans along with you for a great introduction to theater as well.

You can see a few photos on their Facebook page, which shows many other beautiful puppets from different productions as well, all of which seem to have stories carved into them...
Here's the blurb promoting the show:
"Far, far away there lies a curiously mechanical kingdom in which everything ticks but nothing laughs. It is ruled by The Queen Who Never Smiles and she is determined to control everyone and everything, even time itself. Snow White knows what it is like to live in such an unhappy land, and our tale begins when she must flee for her life to escape the Queen's terrible jealousy. Seeking refuge in the mysterious Wild Wood, Snow White discovers she is not the only one who refuses to live in a world without laughter. Under the trees, little steps are being taken to bring about big changes."
Our Doc the Dwarf began life as Doc the Block: rough cut from a block of lime wood on an old Imp band-saw, then carved free-style with a couple of hand-forged chisels, before head, limbs and torso were all stitched, glued and pinned together, after which he was lovingly costumed and finely finished with a twinkle in his eyes. He's a right cheery chap with Northern soul and he'd love to meet anyone from that neck o' the woods
The show, one of three set for Dorset, is scheduled for Winfrith Village Hall on February 14, at 3.30pm.
Call 01305 853 783 for tickets and information.
We found mention of an earlier, alternate title: 'Snow White - The Return of the Little People' which makes us even more curious about this show... And we also discovered a wonderful pre-show opportunity (which gives us a teeny bit more info about the production as well):
The Puppetorium Pre-Show Workshop (1.15pm)Inspired by the 'Steam-Punk' look to be found in the show 'Snow White: The Return of Little Things', this accompanying workshop offers a unique chance to join James and Dave in 'The Puppetorium'. Here, marvellously quirky, makeshift (and take-away!) puppets will be created from a variety of found, re-cycled and scrap materials. Everything is provided and safe guidance given. This creatively buzzing workshop is led by two highly skilled makers, with over 60 years experience between them! Places limited. Cost £3. Suitable for ages 7+ Contact each venue for details.

While there is no video trailer available for their Snow White, you can see some of Little Angel Theatre's work on their show 'A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings' based on the story of the same name by Gabriel García Márquez. It's amazing and beautiful and very unique. This show is one of those theatrical wonders that caught our attention some time ago but beyond collecting notes and images, we never got time to complete the post, so we're very glad we have an excuse to bring it to your attention now! Enjoy:

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

ABCs 'Once Upon A Time' Series Finale (aka 'The End' - for real) Coming In May (HEAs Guaranteed)

Note: yes we know we haven't included photos from this current season but we haven't ever quite been convinced that it was still OUAT that was being aired, so instead, we're indulging nostalgia for the fans.

It would seem no one on social media is shocked at this news. We knew it had to happen - and soon - but whatever our mixed feelings* about Once Upon A Time, it's the end of an era for fairy tale folk, and for having fairy tales getting some attention in a network series on a regular basis. Though story-wise, we agree it's high time the Happily Ever Afters were given out once and for all, (and those following since the beginning were given a proper wrap up at the end of season 6, with 7 only being a 're-boot'/experiment), it will still be a sad day to say goodbye to a series that has inspired a whole new generation to discover - and love - fairy tales in many variations.

From EW:
After seven years, 156 episodes, and countless twists on beloved characters, OUAT will officially say farewell in a series finale slated for May. Here’s an official statement from (the series creators). 
Kitsis and Horowitz: “Seven years ago, we set out to create a show about hope, where even in the darkest of times, a happy ending would always be possible. But we never imagined the happy ending that was actually in store for all of us – years and years of adventure, romance, magic and hope. We’re so grateful to our brilliant collaborators – the cast, crew, and writers – as well as our partners at the studio and network for making this journey possible. But most of all, we want to thank the fans. Their fierce loyalty and devotion was the real magic behind Once Upon a Time. We hope they join us for these last few hours as we journey to the Enchanted Forest for one more adventure.” 
EW: You already executed your plan for what you envisioned a series finale would be in the season 6 finale. So what’s that feeling like now trying to find a way to wrap everything up in a hopeful way? 
Horowitz: That’s something we’ve thought about long and hard entering this season. For us, the season 6 finale really was a series finale in the sense of ending a six-year story and paying off a lot of that. For us, this is more the feeling of Once Upon a Time, so rather than bringing everybody back to do it again, it’s more about trying to have nods to the past seven years, but really make it about what is that hopeful, optimistic worldview that Once Upon a Time has always embodied. We want to leave the audience with that.
And they promise that there will be many familiar faces returning for the "final-finale" this time, though no confirmation on whom just yet.
* Fan-fiction and cosplay with a budget versus empowering fairy tale based-fantasy that freshens well-worn tales for a whole new generation.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Chervona Vorona Creates Fairy Tale Worlds Infused With Her Heritage

Chervona Vorona isn't new to having her work go viral. It's likely you've seen a few of her images over the years without even realizing who created them. The picture at the head of this post, and the set it's from, are currently making the rounds on the internet, and the papier-mâché beast is certainly an impressive addition to the lovely styling and work of this Ukrainian artist's photography, and well worth the attention. Rather than just focus on this trending set of photos which incorporate her design, creations of costumes, props, her photography and digital work, we thought we'd also hand-pick some other pieces of her work to showcase a little of the variety she's created that you may not have seen before, with an emphasis (for us) on those that evoke untold tales.

Though most of her work doesn't appear to have titles, she calls this first one, "We Are Sewn To Our Land", which is a great expression of her whole artistic approach:

The following are a very brief selection from her various portfolios. Some have multiple pictures in the same shoot, (see the kitsune example below) while others are stand-alones. Either way, we think each of these shows her preference and propensity for creating stories in a frame.
(You can see some of Chervona Vorona's digital process in creating one of the kitsune portraits, in a brief video HERE.)

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Paradox Magazine:
Tell us a few things about your studies and your decision to become a photographer. 
Chervona Vorona: I studied to be an illustrator. But my job is only remotely related to my education. First I worked as a stylist and a decorator, but photography was what I needed to complete my aspirations. 
What is the role of imagination in your work? Your work is full of fairy tale images. 
Chervona Vorona: Fairy tales, this is the most important thing, my main inspiration, therefore, my images are of different ages, but they are all united by magic or a hint of it.
Maybe it’s because of the books read in childhood. Although I now read mostly fairy tales! Imagination is very important in my work! But of no less importance are things like observation and resourcefulness.
Darina (Dary), or Chervona Vorona, as the internet knows her, makes her own props and costumes and apparently often starts with headpieces, building the look from there. Her talents include altering old dresses, like the one for Beauty and the Beast, for which she used an old wedding dress, and the traditional folk-design wings she constructed for her "Wings of Hope" spread), as well as doing the styling of the shoots and digital work afterward.
A nice personal touch is that Dary also uses dresses designed and created by her grandmother, Zoya, who, at 66 was finally able to fulfill a life-long dream, after working most of her years to date in a factory to raise her granddaughter and two other children. The Rapunzel dress below is one of Zoya's creations.

And here are a couple more shots from the striking Beauty and the Beast shoot:

As a bonus here's a very quick video of Dary creating the Beast puppet:
We love how Darina makes creative use of her heritage, often in subtle ways in the intricacies of the designs or placement of things and people, and isn't afraid to try different styles (like this HERE - yes, that Julia Margaret Cameron-looking photo is hers!) as well as 'traditional' ideas of fairy tales, in creating photographic tales and designs. It gives her work a unique and memorable flavor.

You can find much more of Dary's photography on her Facebook page HERE and her Instagram HERE.

Sources: HERE, HERE and HERE

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Article: "How video games like 'The Witcher' are saving Slavic folklore" & Introducing a New Eastern European Fairy Tale Based Family Game 'Forest of Sleep'

Folktales from the Slavic countries (primarily Central and Eastern Europe) form one of the richest and most diverse mythologies in the world. Traditional Western European fairy tales may have become watered down and sanitised over countless retellings and interpretations, but Slavic mythology still retains its bite. (
This topic has been much in discussion in the fairy tale newsroom these past few weeks, so when this article popped onto our radar we had to share it.

The Witcher is officially based on Polish folklore as it's main source, but it clearly' borrows' from other Slavic (and Northern European) neighbors as well.

Here are some excerpts, complete with a historian/anthropologist with a special interest in folklore chiming in:
Slavic stories are different to tales from other cultures. Unlike typical Western European stories, commonly based on wars of competing ideologies, Slavic folklore – and other Eastern European stories – are more often about individual human traits, rather than good versus evil. 
..Slavic mythology features prominently in Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher novels, as well as the associated video games and the soon-to-be-filmed series for Netflix. These are new stories that were populated with creatures and monsters from Slavic folklore, and told with a distinctly Slavic flavour. For example, it could be argued that the immortal crones of Crookback Bog in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are representative of the Baba Yaga myth... 

...The Witcher games are also full of spirits that are bound to specific locations in the game, with tragic backstories that can be unravelled as part of protagonist Geralt’s investigations into the monsters he hunts. “The most fascinating aspect of Slavic lore are the ‘unclean spirits’ attached to specific locations, such as the home or the barn,” says Nicole Schmidt of the Mythos Podcast. “There is the Bannik, the spirit of the bathhouse, and the Poludnica, a malevolent female spirit of the harvest field.” 
...Dr David Waldron is a lecturer in history and anthropology at Federation University, with a special interest in folklore. He explains: “[Slavic tales] have a distinct ideological difference to Western science fiction and fantasy. Battles between good and evil, and opposing ideologies in general, are seen as inherently destructive. You find the ultimate values being placed on the immediate kindness, integrity and compassion to those around you. Ideologies tend to suppress that for the ‘greater good’. I find something quite laudable in the Slavic approach to ethics,” he adds, “and think it could be argued Eastern European stories led to the ambiguity we now see in modern fiction like Game of Thrones or even 
in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, where toxic masculinity is the villain.” 
The ambiguous morality of Slavic folklore, and the focus on the individual rather than the greater good, translates well into the player-focused decision-making of video games. Video games are also greatly focused on spaces, which gives a lot of scope for stories of “unclean spirits” to be woven into the detailed environments of worlds like The Witcher 3’s – often as enemies to be fought.
You can read the whole of the article HERE.

There is an older article, titled The Myth Behind The Monsters of The Witcher 3, citing the specific folkloric inspiration (and differences) for the game too. You can find that HERE, and we've included some excerpts below as well. The monsters listed are:
  • Alps  - vampiric-like elves, that seek out female dreamers and twist their dreams into nightmares
  • Leshen (Leshy) - "gnarled, root-like monstrosities can be found in dense, ancient forests and are fiercely territorial. Their attacks manipulate nature itself, using roots and branches to assail their opponents", though The Witcher has added an element of Wendigo to them, making them more malicious than mischievous as per Slavic folklore
  • Noonwraiths - again The Witcher has amped the horrific aspects, but in folklore, they are the personification of heatstroke, with Summer field workers being vulnerable to their attacks
  • Botchlins or Mylings - basically tragic infant zombies that cannot rest due to "being discarded or aborted without burial or a given name". They hunt for expectant mothers to drain the life source of them and their fetuses... eesh.
  • Succubi - The Witcher versions share aspects with the scarier versions of sirens/harpies.
  • Plague Maidens - we'll just quote their explanation: "Plague Maidens are derived from “Pesta” of Scandinavian folklore. An elderly woman, robed in black, is the embodiment of the pestilence and disease that ravaged Europe when the Black Death rolled into town. From 1346 to 1353, the bubonic plague devastated entire populations and communities. Denmark lost a third of its population, with Norway losing almost half. The legend of Pesta states that she would travel from farm to farm, bringing with her the ill omen of the plague. If she was seen carrying a rake, people believed that only a few of the populace would die, but if she was seen carrying a broom, the settlement would not survive the disease."
  • The Wild Hunt - "...are a spectral horde of elves from another dimension. Atop their ghastly steeds, this throng of hunters rides across the night sky, harbingers of war and death. They are heavily armored soldiers that pursue their foes by teleporting between dimensions, striking without warning, and wherever they go a crippling frost precedes them."
Oh and Jacob Grimm gets a nice credit here in this article too, particularly for his volume “Deutsche Mythologie”.
Please note: In case it's not clear by this point, The Witcher video game is very adult. There is a TON of violence, horror monsters, as well as alcohol and explicit sex. Nevertheless, the game has amazing artwork, innovative use of story and a huge and popular following. (See some amazing, folkloric, and quite horrific cosplay of The Crones - a specifically strongly folkloric aspect at one point of the adventure - HERE.) Even their trailers are intriguing for non-violent RPG video gamers (this one embedded here is PG, possibly PG-13, which might actually be considered misleading, regarding its usual content):

There's also another article on a family-friendly, Slavic folktale-based video game we never got to blog about (the beginnings of a post are still sitting in our drafts folder!), called Forest of Sleep, that should interest folks as well. It is "an experimental, generative storytelling adventure based on Eastern European fairy tales" and the art style and aspects we've seen are delightful. The article/interview is titled: “Weird stuff can happen in folk tales”: Ed Key talks meaning, morals and evil bears in Forest of Sleep", and, just like the interviewer, you can't help but be drawn in by the image of a bear holding a balalaika...
 Here's an excerpt from the interview:
TM: So how are you going about structuring these generative folk tales? Are you looking at folklore through a structuralist lens – taking the approach that they’re built up of common movements and characters?EK: Yes, but there's also the link to modern storytelling here, like episodic cartoons, which all follow this fairly limited set of dramatic structures. Because of the incidents within them, they feel different and surprising, and they have a measure of anticipation.I should really say that thinking in terms of these structures is quite new to me. Nicolai and Hannah [Nicolai Troshinsky and Hannah Nicklin, who are also working on Forest of Sleep] both come from much more of a story-making background. Between us we're getting into this structural idea of narratives. Vladimir Propp is the big figure when you talk about folk tales and structuralism....Where Forest came from originally was, halfway through making Proteus I took a break and started making a game about an expedition – going up a mountain and coming back down again, and how you plan your food and so on. That morphed into a more fixed folk tale story about being in the forest when your parent falls ill, and your group needs to go into the next valley and find medicine. Then I started talking to Nicholai about generative narratives, and he suggested making a game about folk tales. His reason for this was based on the sense that weird stuff can happen in folk tales, and you don't question it so much.Also, there's a thing fairly specific to Russian folk tales, in that you have characters that recur across several stories, like Prince Ivan or Baba Yaga, who are kind of archetypes. The way these characters recur felt like it lent itself to a generative system.
You can find that article HERE.
Forest of Sleep is still in development, with the projected release sometime during 2018. (Possibly, or a little later.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Theme For This #FolkloreThursday is Favorite Folk and Fairy Tales!

Do you know this Icelandic fairy tale? (Answer below)

If you're not a Twitter regular, may we suggest popping in on Thursday this week for a topic close to our hearts: Favorite Fairy Tales!

All you need to do is look up the hashtag:
(ie. put this hashtag into the search bar
and all the tagged posts will list automatically for you to peruse and enjoy.
Make sure you click "latest" instead of just "top",
so you see all the posts as they appear).

Everyone has the opportunity to chime in with their two cents and it's a good way to discover ones you haven't heard of, as well as see awesome artwork and fairy tale trivia and facts, all thanks to the enthusiastic folklorists and fairy tale aficionados who spend their days chasing and musing on tales - popular through the obscure. Just make sure you add #FolkloreThursday to your tweet so everyone will see it (especially on Thursday, people tend to follow hashtags first, then look up people afterward).

We are so much looking forward to this, we have it on the calendar and are organizing our day around it. Hope to see you there!

Note: #FolkloreThursday begins in the morning UK time, so US folks, you can start enjoying the posts on Wednesday night and early Thursday, but it does continue through to the end of Thursday (and sometimes trickles on a little the day after too).
Answer to header question: “The Witch in the Stone Boat" aka "The Giantess in the Granite Boat", found in Andrew Lang's Yellow Fairy Book, and in Icelandic Fairy Tales edited by Mrs. Angus W. Hall. Here is a storytelling video of the tale: