“Sometimes fairy stories may say best what’s to be said”
–C.S Lewis ‘Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories’
“There is indeed no better medium for a moral teaching than the good fairy story”
-J.R.R. Tolkien ‘The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays’
Last week Kris Swank explored the ways in which Silver Chair pulls from traditional English fairy poems like “Tam Lin” and “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.” But the dark and enchanting Faerie world that we glimpse in C.S. Lewis’ novel also echoes the “Perilous Realm” of medieval tales like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Lanval, and Sir Orfeo, where mortals are not only confronted by a fay, but also actively seek out the land Faerie. Like Prince Rilian they are tricked, seduced, and enchanted by the land of Faerie and its inhabitants. Continue reading
In case you every wondered what writers do all day–well…we write, mostly. Even when there’s boggarts in the closet and nargles in the pub, we still scramble around and find ways to write and edit and do other writerly, blog-type things. To put it another way, the Blogengamot has all found ways of keeping busy while the Pubs been undergoing its exorcisms (if that’s the word I want).
Let me introduce you, if I may, to one of those other projects, a joint venture between Mr Pond (speaking!) and Jenna, as well as remarkable people like Katherine Langrish, friend of the Pub. Revgeorge has also been known to wander in from time to time. It’s a blog and literary journal called Unsettling Wonder, devoted to folklore and fairy tale of all types, but especially the slightly stranger, lesser-known, more unexpected types.
As this post goes up, it’s still November 29 by my clock, on account of which: Happy Birthday, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle! Born exactly twenty years apart–Lewis in 1898 and L’Engle in 1918–the two authors must have shared a trace of magic along with a birthday, for few children’s books have been more loved than The Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time. Here’s to Jack and Madeleine, both of whom have been loved by many of us for nearly all our reading lives.
Fairy tale writer and aficionado L.C. Ricardo, has written a beautiful piece on symbolism and meaning in fairy tales, which was just published on the webzine Enchanted Conversation. From L.C.:
That is not to say that fairy tales are mere allegory. Perhaps this one-sided interpretation carries some blame for people’s frustration in“telling the same story over and over again.” If a tower is always a phallic symbol and the maiden either imprisoned or protected from the masculine, we rob the tower of its first childhood impression. That of something tall, stone, unreachable. Something enchanted, according to that which makes up its very definition. And from there—who knows what it could be?
Do you agree with her on the openness of interpretation, or disagree? What do you think of the universality and personal appeal of fairy tales and fantasy literature? Feel free to hold forth in the combox.
Here’s the news from the week:
It’s not particularly Halloweenish–though The Hobbit certainly has its creepy moments–but perhaps owing to the upcoming first The Hobbit film, Tolkien seems to be in the news a lot. This week, we’ve got Buy Cheap Viagra Onlineilynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/10/harpercollins-to-publish-jrr-tolkien-epic-poem-next-year”>HarperCollins announcing publication of a never-before-published epic poem by the good professor, USA Today weighs in on why we still love The Hobbit, Blastr has 17 little known facts about Tolkien and his work (did you know he was briefly kidnapped as a baby? I didn’t), Warner Bros. is creating a couple of free online Hobbit games, and a man from Bainbridge Island, WA, not far from where yours truly lives, has built a Hobbit-like house.
On that last note: whimsy, often very enjoyable whimsy, appears to be making the rounds. Example A: Introvert fairy tales. Also, The Weather Channel thought it would be fun to start naming winter storms, and especially fun to use mythological names–which include Draco, Luna, and Gandolf (yes, spelled that way; named after a different fantasy character, apparently, but their chosen namesake is hardly the one everyone will think of.) Author Shannon Hale recently hosted a competition looking for the best pictures of boys reading ‘girl books’ and got an enthusiastic and rather adorable response. A very well-done Simon and Garfunkel filk on Battlestar Galactica has hit the interwebs: The Sound of Cylons. And I find myself wondering whether this customer is unusually uninhibited, or if she just lost a bet.
Meanwhile, Rowling claims her next book will be for children, and English professor Ben Yagoda credits her with introducing a lot of British words and phrases into American common speech. (I know I use “nicked” and “mental”, “ginger” and “snog”, and occasionally even “effing.” Don’t you?)
Welcome to this week’s Around the Common Room! Owing to the temporary absence of at least one of my usual informants, this is likely to be on the short side, but there’s good stuff here nonetheless.
First, a couple of great pieces on fairy tales:
Here’s a list that’s slightly less monstrous, having aggregated for only a week instead of a month. Never fear, though–it’s still packed with interest.
First, if you haven’t checked out Mythgard Institute, i
t’s worth a look and then some, as it offers college-level classes on medieval and fantasy literature (accreditation coming soon). Dr. Amy Sturgis has been teaching classes on Harry Potter, and on Saturday, September 1, she’ll be giving a “live, one-time only video lecture” titled “The Hunger Games and the SF Tradition.”
While we’re on The Hunger Games, the movie for Mockingjay is going to be split into two parts. Surprised, anyone?
Here’s a fascinating post: Lit Reactor’s Rob W. Hart on the question of whether–and what–series writers owe their fans. Does George R.R. Martin owe it to the world to spend every waking moment writing, in order to provide highest likelihood that he won’t die before finishing his series like Robert Jordan did? Or are fans too demanding in worrying, publicly and sometimes rather desperately, whether Martin has another six or seven years to write the last two books?
Now, something to warm every Hog’s Head regular’s heart: Continue reading
Once again, a linkfest for the ages!
Ray Bradbury’s death, some weeks back, drew quite a lot of beautiful eulogies. Among those who remembered him and his contributions to literature: Sarah A. Hoyt, Neil Gaiman, Hog’s Head regular Katherine Sas, Catholic writer Jimmy Akin, and President Obama. Also, RiaNovosti put together an infographic of Bradbury predictions that have been fulfilled.
In fantasy fiction:
- Over at Kirkus Reviews, fans of N.K. Jemisin list their top ten recommended fantasy novels by female authors. Harry Potter didn’t make it on, but I suspect the list stuck mostly to epic fantasy.
- At the Fantasy Faction site, Eric Christensen submits his ideas as to why fantasy is currently so popular.
- Cap’n Carrot, at Dad’s Big Plan, enters his choices for the top ten live-action fairy tale movies.
- Feast of Fiction, this week, will teach you how to make your own Turkish Delight. No more having to get it from the White Witch.
- Wired’s Top Ten Dads in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Three cheers for Arthur Weasley making the list! And Geppetto! Wired also has a list of Top Ten Minor Characters in Geek Fiction, and my own favorite pick from that list–Flitwick aside–was Valerie from The Princess Bride. “I’m not a witch, I’m your wife! And after what you just said, I’m not even sure I want to be that anymore!” Total scene-stealing moment.
- SFX has a list of the 50 worst sci-fi and fantasy films for which there was no excuse. I think there was no excuse for not condensing said list onto two or three pages, but that’s just me.
- ToplessRobot’s Jason F.C. Clarke puts forward Ten High-Risk Sci-Fi and Fantasy Careers, for those looking for work in difficult economic times. Applicants must be willing to do some pretty dangerous stuff, and in some cases, should be able to recognize paranormal creatures on sight.
In science fiction: Continue reading
Our last Common Room post having been nearly a month ago, we’ve aggregated quite a number of links, so prepare yourselves for a full and (hopefully) satisfying websurfing experience.
We all know the Internet world has exploded with Hunger Games movie reviews. Along with those have come various spinoff posts, including Slate.com’s fascinating “How Will They Make a Movie out of Mockingjay?” and FilmCritic.com’s “How YA Like ‘The Hunger Games’ Came to Rule Fantasy and Scifi Films“. For those who read The Hunger Games and want more books along the same lines, Tor.com offers “Hunger No More: YA Fiction to Fill the Hunger Games Void“, and Flavorwire gives us a similar post starring mostly different books, titled “Required Reading: Dystopic Books where Kids Meet Tragic Fates“.