Monday, June 10, 2013

Fairy Tale Roundup: NPR's Ted Radio Hour Explores Storytelling, Vincent Cassell's Beauty and the Beast Movie, Bluebeard and Rape Culture, and a One Thousand and One Nights Adaptation

“Barbe Bleue” by Sorsha

NPR's Ted Radio Hour: Framing the Story
While this is not strictly about fairy tales, NPR's Ted Radio Hour is amazing. This one has several Ted talkers exploring what a story is, how to tell a story, and what is important for a story. Andrew Stanton (the main writer for Pixar), discusses what makes a good story. Tracy Chevalier (writer of Girl with the Pearl Earring) tells how she finds a story in an image. Chip Kidd (book cover creator - Jurassic Park and others) talks about how book covers tell their own story. Chimamanda Adichie (Nigerian author) elegantly examines the dangers of s single story (hearing one story about a place or a person and thinking it is the whole picture (my favorite!)

First Look at Christophe Gans' Beauty & the Beast: "I'll Eat You Up I Love You So"
Once Upon a Blog gives us a first glimpse of the crazy sounding Christophe Gans' Beauty and the Beast. This is the one with Vincent Cassel, not the Disney one with Emma Watson. The image and costumes look traditional, and not very revolutionary, but Gans promises to "surprise the audience by creating a completely new visual universe never experienced before and produce images of an unparalleled quality." It is adapted from the original novella written by Madame de Villeneuve in 1740, rather than the children's version published in 1760. While many novel adaptations have used the novella as inspiration (Beauty by Robin McKinley), apparently this is the first time it has been adapted for the screen. Check out the link for some insightful thoughts from Gypsy.

Of Keys & Bluebeards
Gypsy of Once Upon a Blog reflects on a blog post from by fantasy writer and fairy tale lecturer Theodora Goss, "On Bluebeard" on how men and women will often perceive situations differently. What men may perceive as an easy conversation, women may perceive as a potential threat. Gypsy examines the post in the larger cultural context, and then looks at the situation through the lens of fairy tales:
"Girls and women are taught from an early age to be cautious: "Stay on the path", "Don't talk to strangers" and, unfortunately, this is still the smart thing to do. "Wolves" are bad enough. "Bluebeards" (and Mr. Fox characters) are downright terrifying." 
Not all women may feel this way, but in our current cultural climate, I would not blame them if they did. Walking home late at night, I have often looked at the man following me from the metro as a potential threat, even if he looks like a nice guy. You never want to be wrong. It is unfortunate that fear has made women adopt a "Better Safe than Sorry" stance. Even more unfortunate that Bluebeard and Little Red Riding Hood are still very relevant today.

EDIT: Heidi at SurLaLune has added to the conversation and provided several Bluebeard resources for further reading.

Scheherazade: From Storytelling 'Slave' To 'First Feminist'
To end this on a positive note, here is an NPR interview with Hanan al-Shaykh who has written a new adaptation of One Thousand and One Nights, in which Scheherazade outwits her own Bluebeard figure, the king. The stories she chose to adapt involve women using their wits to survive.


  1. Thanks for keeping the conversation going Megan! I feel that if people talk about it, rather than keep the subject - and their fear - hidden, we're making headway into what is an unfortunate cultural staple.

    (And now I want to do a mind map on Bluebeard, showing the links from tale to tale and the reappearance of motifs in both story and culture...)

  2. How could I have missed this fabulous blog! You are going on my blog roll, stat!

  3. "The Fiend" which is a Russian vampire tale is also a pretty creepy sort of Blue Beard story.

    1. Awesome! Thanks for the suggestion! I will have to check it out.