Slap Happy Larry

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Tag: fairytale

Picturebook Study: Snow White as Illustrated by Burkert and Hyman

I’m sure any visitor to this blog has at least one version of Snow White on their childhood bookshelf. Which version did you have? When you think of Snow White, perhaps you think fondly of the Disney film, or perhaps, like me, you grew up with ‘Read It Yourself’ versions, as well as coming across it again in fairytale anthologies.

from a vintage Ladybird edition

from a vintage Ladybird edition

Snow White's body language in the Ladybird version reminds me of the Disney film -- kind of on the verge of fainting. A 1940s ideal.

Snow White’s body language in the Ladybird version reminds me of the Disney film — kind of on the verge of fainting, hand framing her face because she knows she’s being looked at by an unseen viewer. A 1940s ideal.

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Picturebook Study: Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti

Hansel and Gretel Gaiman Mattotti Cover

THE STORY

One of the best ways to retell a familiar story is to add plenty of minor detail. The trick is to make this detail seem both unexpected and surprising.

There are things I really like about Gaiman’s retelling of Hansel and Gretel:

1. In earlier retellings, it is Hansel who has all the bright ideas. Hansel realises what the parents/step-mother has done to them — abandoned them in the woods. By comparison, Gretel seems naiive and even stupid. In this retelling, Gaiman offsets this interpretation by making Hansel — but not Gretel — privy to an overheard midnight conversation between the  mother and the father.

2. So often in fairytale retellings, it is a step-mother rather than a birth mother who is evil. It is generally thought that a story with an evil mother is too terrible for a young reader to contemplate. If there are unwritten rules in children’s literature (and indeed, there must be few these days, if we include YA), it is that mothers must love their children unconditionally, even if they themselves are too screwed up to care for them properly. If you went looking for terrible mothers in children’s literature you’d be hard pressed to count the evil ones on one hand. But Neil Gaiman does not shy away from the reality that some women do indeed lack mothering instincts, just as many men lack fathering instincts.

3. Not only that, Neil Gaiman portrays gut-wrenching emotion in the father. Counterintuitively, this is what makes this story feminist — a story in which women are not put on a pedestal as mothers, where women have only one representation: self-sacrificing and emotional. In stories, men are often allowed to be just men, even when they have children. They are not judged so much on how effective they are as fathers. In this story, however, the father is the parent with the nurturing instinct, and is at the mercy of his wife’s terrible decisions rather than the other way around. We won’t have gender equality until we have as many bad mothers as there are bad fathers, I guess.

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Out Now — Free Picturebook — Lotta: Red Riding Hood

Lotta: Red Riding Hood intro media for iBooks

Click to download for free from iBooks Store

If you are familiar with Slap Happy Larry’s story apps for iOS — illustrated picturebooks for older readers — you’ll know approximately what to expect from this pdf eBook.

Recommended for readers age 13 and above, this is a dark tale with a positive ending, and will leave much for younger readers to discuss with older co-readers, especially in regards to personal freedoms, gender expectations and rape culture.

For those without an iPad, also available as a PDF document on Scribd.

Picturebook Study: Wolf Comes To Town by Denis Manton

Wolf Comes To Town Cover

Wolf Comes To Town must be one of the most underrated children’s book on the Internet. I was genuinely astonished to check out what others have said about this picturebook on Amazon and Goodreads. Both sites show a 1.5 star average rating at time of writing. Can you guess what reviewers don’t like about this book?

A. The story is poorly written and edited.

B. The illustrations are amateurish.

C. Not suitable for children due to the main character behaving badly and not going punished.

 

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Short Story Study: Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood Well Loved Tales

The history of this story is summed up neatly by Angela Slatter:

It’s been an interesting journey for Little Red Riding Hood. She started life in a tribal tale about a girl who outsmarts a wolf – all on her own, no outside help. A few centuries later, she gets a red cap, loses about twenty IQ points and gets eaten by a transvestite wolf. Add another hundred or so years, the cap becomes a hood, she loses a few more brain credits, gets molested, and then eaten by the same cross-dressing wolf but is rescued by a big, strong man and learns never to disobey the rules again. Adding insult to injury, in the 40s Tex Avery turned her into a stripper. Bruno Bettelheim looked at Gustave Dore’s 1867 Little Red Riding Hood illustrations and saw dirty pictures – Little Red in bed with the wolf, giving him the eye. A red leather-jacketed Reese Witherspoon (oh, puhleeez!) played her in an Eighties film version, Freeway, in which a friendly neighbourhood serial killer fulfils the role of the wolf. Just when you thought it was all over, Angela Carter came along, reclaimed her and set her free.

Why does Little Red Riding Hood continue to be so popular? Perry Nodelman explains the enduring appeal of fairy tales, and uses Little Red Cap as an example to explain that it’s the repetitiousness of fairytales rather than the suspense that brings readers back for more:

If we explore ‘authentic’ versions of fairy tales, particularly those in the collection of the Grimm brothers, we discover that they tend to place particular emphasis on those central episodes that form the spine of the tale and to describe them in more detail. In the story called “Little Red Cap,” we hear a lot about the little girl’s conversation with the wolf but only a quick summary of her flower picking. Further attention is drawn to the spinal episodes because so many of them repeat each other…Red riding hood asks the wolf about a number of his physical characteristics. Furthermore, there often tend to be curious parallels and contrasts that relate even those spinal episodes that are not directly repetitive with each other and that focus our attention on them. In the Grimms’ “Little Red Cap,” for instance, the central moments are all conversations, and most of them involve somebody theoretically wiser telling Little Red Cap what to do–first her mother, then the wolf, then the wolf disguised. 

As we read or hear a fairy tale, these patterns result in a rhythmic intensifying and lessening of interest as we move from central episode to less central episode and then back again; the effect is different from the gradual intensifying toward a climax that we get in other sorts of stories. And for those of us who already know the popular fairy tales we hear–and that surely is most of us at some point early in our childhoods–our pleasure in them must derive from repetition of that rhythmic pattern rather than from the suspense we usually enjoy in story; if we already know the story, there can be no suspense in it for us.

Words About Pictures

The following are notes from:

  • The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood by Jack Zipes
  • Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked by Catherine Orenstein
  • Deconstructing The Hero by Marjery Hourihan

 

Various Versions and Intended Audience

LRRH wasn’t always a children’s story. It’s a truth seldom acknowledged that fairy tales used to be for everyone. It’s anachronistic to even speak of ‘the child’ before a certain point in history, because the concept did not exist. There were babies, then there were people, sent out to work at the earliest opportunity.

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Short Story Study: The Tiger’s Bride by Angela Carter

Marina Warner writes of stories in The Bloody Chamber, published during the post-war feminist movement which largely denounced fairytales and everything they stood for:

[Carter] refused to join in rejecting or denouncing fairy tales, but instead embraced the whole stigmatised genre, its stock characters and well-known plots, and with wonderful verve and invention, perverse grace and wicked fun, soaked them in a new fiery liquor that brought them leaping back to life.

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Watch out Snow White!

beware-snow-white

I do like to read shopping lists which have been left at the bottom of my shopping trolley. Who knew The Wicked Step-mother liked lasagne?

RELATED (TO SNOW WHITE)

The Twisted History Of Snow White from Reading Today Online

 

The Symbolism Of The ‘Forest’

In Literature

The central story quality of the forest is that it is a natural cathedral. The tall trees, with their leaves hanging over us and protecting us, seem like the oldest wise men assuring us that whatever the circumstances, it will resolve as time moves on. It is the place where contemplative people go and to which lovers sneak away.

But this intense inward gaze of the forest also has a sense of foreboding. The forest is where people get lost. It’s the hiding place of ghosts and past lives. It is where hunters stalk their prey, and their prey is often human. The forest is tamer than the jungle; the jungle will kill anything in it at any moment. The forest, when it does its frightening work, causes mental loss first. It is slower than the jungle but still deadly.

– John Truby, The Anatomy Of Story 

In Australian Literature

The symbolism of the forest and its guardian monsters has flourished in the literature of Australia, where white settlement is very recent and where the settlers confronted a continent which appeared to them to be as much a wilderness as the cedar forest which Gilgamesh and Enkidu entered. The primary theme of white Australian writing, at least until the last few decades, has been the alienating and terrifying encounter with the land, but many Australian stories conclude on a far less confident note…The bush has evoked ambivalent responses from white Australians, but on the whole fear and uncertainty has outweighed delight. The white child lost in the bush is an iconic image in Australian art, and tales, such as the story of Eliza Frazer, in which lost Europeans are adopted by Aboriginal tribes and absorbed into their culture, grip white imaginations.

Deconstructing The Hero, Marjery Hourihan

The Drover’s Wife (1892): a simple, emblematic hero tale

Civilization/wilderness opposition is central. There is no triumph for civilization in this story.

 

Australian Children’s Book Of The Year 1968. White children must confront wilderness after disaster.

1973. Material from Aboriginal mythology dramatizes an encounter between a white child and the ancient land.

 

ohhhh so that’s why I’m single!

 

 

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