I am feeling ancient, ancient and cold (the minus 50 degree Celsius day is not helping). I am rock. I am granite. I am stone.
Water runs off me, through me and wears away at my surface.
The good stuff is underneath, is inside.
I am gargoyle, grotesque. I am a statue – immobile.
I am ancient. I am unknown.
I am abandoned.
There is beauty there.
Old. Ancient. Abandoned.
One snowy white night, a little girl with a red scarf enters the woods with a basket. But she’s not visiting grandmother and she won’t meet a big bad wolf. What will the little girl find in the woods…?
I Am Not Little Red Riding Hood
by Alessandro Lecis
Ills. by Linda Wolfsgruber
Translated from the German by Talia Rebecca Ergas
New York: Sky Pony Press, 2013
Orginal title: Ich bin nicht Rotkäppchen!
This week’s synchronicitic find (see above):
by Helen Docherty
Ills. by Thomas Docherty
UK: Alison Green Books, 2013
Cloaked in Red is a collection of short stories that retell the classic fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood.” All the stories were written by Vivian Vande Velde.
The author’s note in the collection goes into a bit of detail about how the collection came about, including examining exactly how ridiculous the original story is, even by fairy tale standards. This is what Vivian has to say about Little Red Riding Hood:
When I was a little girl, my mother was nervous about my crossing the street without adult supervision. But fairy-tale characters do not make good role models. Goldilocks’ parents not only let let her play in the bear-infested woods, they neglect to give her that most basic advice: “Don’t break into strangers’ homes.”
There are other examples of irresponsible adults in fairy tales. The miller in “Rumpelstiltskin” hands his daughter over to a king whose royal motto is “Spin straw into gold or die.” And Rapunzel’s mom and dad trade her to a witch for a garden salad.
We won’t even get into the issue of stepmothers.
Few authors can make their notes laugh-out-loud funny, but Vivian Vande Velde has a uniquely twisted style of telling things that either comes off as charming or annoying. I found her author’s note both amusing and charming. This is not the first book of hers that I have read; I’ve enjoyed many of her works, especially this one. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know I have a fascination for witches. Though Vivian writes for a younger crowd, I’ve never felt that I was too old to be reading her books.
And I quite enjoyed Cloaked in Red.
Cloaked in Red has eight new versions of the Little Red Riding Hood tale. Red gets named. We get to meet her family as more than just cardboard characters. We learn more about the wolf and the woodcutter. There are surprise twists. Within the many point of views, there is history and fantasy and fun.
The stories all begin in the usual way.
“Once upon a time, after fashion was discovered but before people had makeovers on TV” (p.16) begins the tale of Red Cloak. Meg (Red) is shy and doesn’t like to stand out, much like me, and is horrified when her mother dyes her cloak bright red. This strong desire to avoid notice is what brings about her fateful meeting with the wolf. What Meg discovers, by the end, is the moral of the story.
“Once upon a time, before department stores and designer labels” (p.32) begins the tale of the Red Riding Hood Doll. Here Georgette is a seamstress. She is tired of this life and wishes for a child but not a marriage. When one of her customers complains about a fancy red cloak, Georgette creates a doll out of it and then uses a spell to turn the doll (Red) real. This does not go well (remember that other wooden doll who wished to be a real boy). Georgette concludes that often children can be more trouble than pleasure.
“Once upon a time, long after people had found out that their families could sometimes be an embarrassment, but before there were advice columnists you could complain to” (p.48) begins the tale of Little Red Riding Hood’s Family. Roselle (Red) is exasperated and embarrassed by her parents. Roselle is the responsible one in the family and because of this is the one who has to visit Granny in the woods. Granny, like Roselle’s parents, has an irresponsible nature and a secret. As does Roselle. Secrets abound in this charming tale.
“Once upon a time, before online dating services” (p.58) begins the tale of Granny and the Wolf. This is, obviously, Granny’s story. Granny’s name is Nelda and she has an unwanted suitor. Granny, also, is a friend to animals (a PETA member before there was PETA). Problems occur when Scarlet (Red) pops in for a visit and a series of hilarious, slap shot, events unfold.
“Once upon a time, before eyeglasses were invented” (p.81) begins the tale of Deems the Wood Gatherer. It is a delightful story of a near-sighted (like me) woodcutter. He inadvertently is also a friend to all, both woodland and fairy tale characters. He also likes being a woodcutter despite his handicap and no glasses! The problem is that he lives near an odd woods with a bad reputation. Can you guess what happens next? Probably not, but in the end, the woodcutter goes home happy.
“Once upon a time, after books were invented but before TV and movies” (p.92) begins the tale of Why Willy and His Brother Won’t Amount to Anything. Here Isobel (Red) lives next to an annoying little boy named Willy. Misunderstandings abound in this tale. You know how it is with little boys who have overactive imaginations and live near the woods! There is a surprise and delightful twist at the end.
“Once upon a time, before superhighways and hotel chains” (p.100) begins the tale of The Little Red Headache. This is the Wolf’s tale. Here the wolf and Red cannot communicate as they don’t speak the same language. In spite of this, the wolf tries to do the right thing as he is a proper and well brought up young wolf. There is much confusion and all the wolf ends up with is a headache and I am sure that from then on out the wolf will be wary of little girls in red cloaks, grannies and woodcutters.
“Once upon a time, before malls, boutiques, or online clothing catalogs” (p.109) begins the tale of Little Red Riding Hood’s Little Red Riding Hood. This is the cloak’s tale and it involves a fairy godmother very much kin to Sleeping Beauty’s fairies. Ruby (Red) is gifted with an intelligent and self-aware cloak that she is too self-centered to appreciate. Eventually all ends well for the cloak.
I quite enjoyed the twists and turns in all these stories that started in the conventional way and ended as they needed to.
All pages numbers taken from:
Cloaked in Red
by Vivian Van Velde
Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2010
This week’s synchronicitic finds:
An absolutely gorgeous cloak is here on The Mary Sue and Etsy and Fashionably Geek. Oh, too have extra money to spend on this. But then where would I wear it? I’m not really a cape person though I tried to be one at sixteen (I sewed my own and seldom wore it – it was a small town and I did not yet have the attitude for cape wearing).
Epbot has a charming story about a young girl and her steam-punk twist on Little Red Riding Hood. Go. Read. Enjoy.
In almost all the traditional fairy tale tellings our Little Miss Red Riding Hood is the quintessential babe in the woods. Sweet, innocent and naive. She blissfully skips along the forest path, humming a tune and lost in daydream, as she travels towards Grandma’s house. She is not concerned about danger. She is not looking out for wolves. She is happy to be in the forest, the calming, sun-dappled forest.
She is alone on her journey. She is the protagonist of her own story. Is she symbolically moving from childhood to adulthood?
She is cloaked in red. Red is the colour of harlots, femme fatales, scandal and blood. For women, it is blood that heralds our transition from child to adult. It is blood that is noticed, by ourselves and others. It is blood that the wolves scent out. Once we bleed, we are no longer children, no longer sweet and innocent. The naivety, however, may continue for a lifetime.
The wolf is an evil animal. The wolf thinks only of himself. The wolf at the door prophecies poverty, hardship and hunger. The wolf is predator and tempter. He lures her off the path. This is his role. This is his job. One cannot tell Red Riding Hood’s story without mentioning the wolf!
His wolf whistle commands her attention and there she goes, off the straight and narrow path to gather posies. Flighty, fancy, pretty, unnecessary posies. Wouldn’t Grandma love some flowers? Do we not need both bread and roses to survive?
And wasn’t Red out there looking for fun? Why wasn’t she anticipating trouble? She was out there in her paint-the-town red cape, flaunting her charms – a sinful temptress looking for a wolf. Looking for trouble! The wolf made her feel both excited and scared.
Mother said stay on the path and don’t talk to strangers. But mother also raised her to be obedient and polite. Can’t you see the contradiction. The wolf said “Hello, little Girl.” It would have been impolite not to answer back. I’ve spent fifty years unlearning this habit. Sometimes, I want to be impolite. Sometimes, I want to follow my own path. Sometimes, I want to explore my own wild nature.
Sometimes, I want to be like the wolf thinking only of my own pleasure and enjoying my own fun. Sometimes, I want to talk to strangers and sometimes I don’t.
Have you ever noticed that of all the best known traditional fairy tale heroines only Red is unattached – Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, are all only seen as complete once their prince shows up in the picture. Only Red Riding Hood and Gretel (Hansel’s sister who saves him) never grow up and marry. They are proactive in the very earliest tellings of their stories. Gretel saves her brother from the witch and gets them home. Red escapes with no help from any male or older female figure, instead she uses her own cunning to outwit the wolf. She becomes a wolf herself.
It was the Grimm brothers who introduced the idea that Red needed a man/hunter to rescue her and her grandmother. Red could not become the wolf. If she did, her innocence would be lost and society needs Little Red Riding Hood to remain sweet, naive and innocent or all is lost.
Men commit crime, women sin and it is only the innocent who can save us all.
Fairy tales tell the truth side-ways. Childhood is nothing but sweet. Life ends at parenthood. Men are the masters of their own fate and women wait. Old women tempt others with the poison apples that they should be eating themselves for that swift surrender to death that we all deserve for daring to age!
Me, I’m trying to tell my own truth. As I age, every year I know myself better. There was a time I was but a babe in the woods. There was even a time I was the wolf at the door.
Now, I only want the freedom to explore my own voice and live my own life on my own terms. No more babe in the woods. No more wolf at the door. No more maiden, mother, crone. Only me.
This week’s synchronicitic finds:
Red 1 – 2 – 3: In the familiar cautionary tale about the little girl and the big bad wolf, the child wears a red hood. In Katzenbach’s skillful contemporary version, red hair attracts the predator.
Fingersmith (DVD): Please don’t touch me, stifle me, smother me, pretend to love me…
I’ve been planning on doing a Red Riding Hood Month here on my blog for about six months now. What better month than February to celebrate Red!
Have you ever noticed that once you decide on a path the universe suddenly puts all these signs in front of your face?
I decided to blog about the story of Red Riding Hood and on November 12th, 2013 two of the cartoonists I read every day did a cartoon referencing the tale. Kismet.
I grew up having much in common with Little Red Riding Hood. I’ve blogged about this before. I guess I’m not done with her yet.
I learned these three lessons too well.
- Stick to/Stay on the path,
- Don’t speak to/trust strangers,
- Be obedient & polite.
Come back and over the next three weeks I’ll tell you why Red Riding Hood still intrigues me.
They were the most extravagant box of Crayolas she’d ever owned. She’d begged her mother for the ninety-six-color pack every year for a decade, back when things like crayons mattered. But her mother always said forty-eight was more than enough for any scenario a girl growing up in the great state of Maine might encounter. (p. 386)
There are things I remember always wanting. That white lace dress. That Thumbelina doll. A 64 pack of Crayola crayons. Didn’t need. Wouldn’t ever get. We couldn’t afford something so unnecessary. They were too decadent. Who would ever need more than the basic eight colours – red, yellow, green, blue, brown, black, orange and purple! Blue for the sky. Green for the grass. Brown for the forest (I couldn’t see the forest for the trees). Yellow for the sun. Red for sunsets and fires and roses. Purple for grapes and lilacs. Orange for oranges and sunrises. Black for endless, starless night.
Black, also, to make crayon etchings aka scratch drawings. We learnt this art technique early (Kindergarten, Grade 1). What you do is fill a piece of white paper with crayon – colour, shapes and patterns, making sure to press hard. It is best to use light colours at this stage. Once you have filled the paper with colour and different crayon patterns, colour heavily over the whole paper using black crayon. Plan out a picture or design and using something sharp like a paper clip, scratch designs into the black crayon. The light colors will show through where you scrape away the black.
I keep buying Crayola wax crayons and giving them away. I actually bought this tin when it first came out. I no longer have it. Mostly likely it went to my nieces and nephews.
I always feel so guilty. Like I don’t deserve a large pack of crayons because I’ll never use them. I don’t have enough time or paper or talent to justify the expense. There are too many colours. I mean, really, how many reds does one need – raspberry red, blood red, rose red, rust red, burgundy, crimson, ruby, scarlet? I mean, how many shades of colour can their be out there? What is the difference between blood red and crimson?
I have no talent for visual representation. That is not the sort of artist I am. I create art with words or at least, I try to.
I need. I want the wax crayons just for fun. I want to sit at a table randomly selecting colours and draw circle, lines and spirals. I want to lose myself in the experience until I am one with the colour. I want to lose myself until all I can see is the colour.
A sea of blue. A silver sky. A wheat field of gold. Red blood cursing through my veins.
An endless black and starless night.
I’ve been ruminating about dragons this week. A seven year old girl named Sophie asked Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) for a dragon early this year and though CSIRO first responded with a sincere apology they later decided that creating a dragon for Sophie was a possibility and the internet collectively went Awww. Sophie brings to my mind a positively proper polite British child heroine of the prim and proper books (like What Katy Did or Ballet Shoes) that I read as a child. A child heroine who would find a way to meet dragons no matter the hardship.
Then, Thursday (Jan 16th) was Dragon Appreciation Day.
There was a point in my youth and childhood when I too was enchanted by the possibilities of magical creatures. I would wonder the forest in the middle of town and contemplate what I would do if I ran into an unicorn, or came across a Pegasus or was captured by a dragon. Impossible – dragons only went after princesses and I was not (in any way) a princess! That was what all the fairy tales told me. These were the dragons I knew in my childhood. But then I grew up, as all children do and became acquainted with dragons of a different sort.
This is where my ruminating took me this week. I vaguely remembered the dragons from my teens but what centered itself in my mind was a story of sisters and dragons and music but that’s all I could remember. The dominating image of the book were endpapers consisting of music sheets (music and lyrics). I wanted to rediscover this book!
So, I went (as one does these days) to Google.
I googled “dragon white young adult book” because I was pretty sure this was a young adult book. What I got, of course, was result after result mentioning Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. Yes, I had read these books but this was not the book I was looking for. (These were not the droids I was looking for).
The book I was looking for had sisters and music at the center of it and like the Pern books I was sure there was more than one book in the series.
So, back to Google. This time the key words were “sister light dark young adult book“. There we go. There it was. First result. Sister Light, Sister Dark by Jane Yolen. A favourite childhood fantasy author who often writes about mythological creatures, like dragons.
Sister Light, Sister Dark is a story of the young white-haired Jenna who is a child of prophecy called upon to reunite the broken kingdom of the Dales. The book is broken into sections: the story, the ballad, the history, the tale, etc. Songs and music seen to be included but until I actually get a copy in my eager little hands I won’t be able to confirm that the music is on the endpapers. And I’m pretty sure that there are no dragons here. (Here be Monsters).
So, this is how one’s thought process starts out searching for dragons and ends up finding sisters.
It’s like our conversations in the staff room at work last week. We start off talking about foam, circle around to phones, take a side road into answering machines and end up talking about time spent on everyday conversations and how we decide on whether or not to answer a ringing phone. Or we will be talking about the local centennial and suddenly find ourselves talking about the Olympics and the co-worker who left just after the conversation started walks back into the room and gets all confused well those of us who stayed understand perfectly how the conversation evolved from the centennial to the Olympics. Our mayor proclaimed that our centennial celebration opening would rival that of the Olympics.
You start on a path or get on a train absolutely sure of your route and destination. But then suddenly you look up and you’re somewhere you never expected to be. You start off looking for a dragon and end up back at home with your sisters. How completely unexpected that this path would end up at this destination.
How often does your train go completely off the rails?
The new year has started and I am overly consumed by statistics. Work is ruled by stats as we look at how we performed over the last year and here, at my blog, WordPress has sent out their annual stats report.
I am conflicted about how useful stats are. In university one of the most interesting books I read was a slim tome called How to Lie with Statistics. It was first published in 1954! I’ve looked at the value of statistical reporting differently ever since I read this book. Still, this is the world I live in – a world that wants me to track everything statistically. I most prove my worth with numbers!
In 2013 my blog was viewed about 11,000 times compared to 2012′s 24,000 views. But then in 2013 WordPress changed how they collected this data. They now look at views vs visitors where they use to just count each view. It’s hard to think about 11,000 individuals reading my words over the year. Did they enjoy the words? Did they understand what I am trying to say and to do? Do they like my words? Do they like me? Do I blog to be liked? Should I blog to be liked?
My most popular post is Polytechnique (the movie) for both years. I suspect that this is because of the heart graphic that illustrates the post. The heart graphic is a very popular image search result in Google. My best ever day was June 25, 2012 with 817 views. Most visitors who find me via searching come mostly for the heart border and lily or tiger lily pictures which are common images/pictures that I use on my blog. I love taking pictures of lilies.
In 2012, I had visitors from 145 different countries which dropped to 138 countries in 2013. Which countries stopped reading me I wonder? How many countries are there in the world? Google says around 196 – could I get a reader from every country? Does anyone? Yes, I could get more visitors by publicizing my post, following others or interacting via comments more but is this what I want.
The question becomes “Why do I Blog?”
When I started my goal was to write a blog post a week and I’ve mostly done that. Occasionally, the post is a short “no post this week” and 2013 had a lot more photo meme posts than any of the other years. 2013 was a bad year – I dealt with a lot of major & minor issues this year but I still wanted to be committed to writing a weekly blog post. Photo memes, like this and this, helped me do that. Plus, I found a lot of interesting blogs to read by seeing who else was participating in these memes.
When I started blogging I used more words and less pictures. Now, I use less words and more pictures. I’m proud that in just over 5 years, I’ve written 283 posts and have 137 drafts (mostly just short point form ideas) to draw from.
My goal is not to blog for the stats. My goal is to write a blog post per week as long as the muse entices me too.
The possibilities are endless.
To play. To have fun. To enjoy. To play.
When did I last laugh?
To begin anew.
Joy is a full day exploring an old cemetery with or without company.