Like a magpie, I am a scavenger of shiny things: fairy tales, dead languages, weird folk beliefs, fascinating religions, and more. (Author’s note)
…she was the one artists would want to draw…She was the one who would someday know a dozen ways to wear a silk scarf, how to read the sky for rain and coax feral animals near, how to purr throaty love songs in Portuguese and Basque, how to lay a vampire to rest, how to light a cigar, how to light a man’s imagination on fire. (p. 24)
It wasn’t a Gothic cemetery; there were no mossy angels weeping miraculous tears of blood, no crypts or curses or crumble. No poets or courtesans were buried here; no vampires slumbered belowground. … Even the dead loitering here spoke of dull things, like the one who worried she’d left the stove burning when she died. (p. 45)
(Goblin Fruit pp. 1 – 55)
Lips Touch: Three Times
by Laini Taylor
Toronto: Scholastic, 2009
I eat raspberries as I write this.
They are cold and slightly tart. They have been in the refrigerator for a few days now. I don’t like to eat my raspberries right away. I like to savor them.
They traveled a long way to get here. These are California raspberries shipped up to Canada which seems stupid. The raspberries are ripe here right now, I just can’t get to them. I have no raspberry patch of my own. I have no car. The farmers’ market has come and gone for the week (it is only on Thursday afternoons – how ridiculous). Sometimes, I really miss my city and its twice weekly farmers’ markets.
These are not my mother’s raspberries. My mother’s raspberries wait in the patch to be picked. She sprinkles them with sugar before she freezes them. I like mine frozen without sugar. I like to savor the frozen berries, one by one, in the deepness of winter. In December, I like to mush up the frozen raspberries in a big bowl of chocolate ice cream. Ah, bliss!
Raspberries are my favourite fruit.
I swear I could live for days on just raspberries and chocolate.
Growing up, my grandparent’s neighbour had a yard full of raspberry canes. These were my father’s parents. Jack lived about a quarter of a mile down their country road. He was a farmer or had been a farmer. I’m sure by then he was a retired farmer.
Jack had that look about him. To me, he seemed old and always dusty. He lived alone. He lived on a farm thus he must have been a retired farmer. It’s strange what we remember and what we assume.
I don’t remember his last name. It’s not important. If it were I could ask my mother – she would remember.
I remember being young. I was probably in grade one. We would go to pick raspberries in Jack’s yard. I was surrounded by bushes. I was a fairy tale creature in a raspberry forest surviving on what I could forage. I ate as much as I picked for the pail.
These raspberries were not for eating. These raspberries were for freezing. It seems my mother was very big into delayed gratification. It seemed all our summer fruit was for freezing and not for enjoying now. We were poor. It was prudent to freeze the excess fruits for later. But when you are a child you live only in the moment, in the now.
Is this why I am willing to pay almost five dollars for less than a pint of raspberries to eat right now?
Raspberries taste best sun ripened and warm from the heat.
My nephew lives on my grandparent’s farm now. Where Jack’s house was is a very large slough (we’ve had a lot of rain lately). This slough covers what use to be yard/garden – where a raspberry forest use to be.
Still, I wonder, have the raspberries grown wild by now? Is there somewhere, beyond the slough, a raspberry forest full of fairy-tale creatures gorging themselves on sun-ripened fruit their hands red and sticky?
What is your favourite summer fruit?
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…
When I was growing up we had two television channels: CBC and CTV. CBC is the more nationalistic channel well CTV is not above showing series that originated in the United States. CBC is news and sports and Canadian series.
CBC Friday, up until recently, was comedy. However, when I was growing up CBC on Fridays was news and music. The evening started with Front Page Challenge and ended with the Tommy Hunter Show. The Tommy Hunter show was on from 9 – 10pm.
My mom and I had a deal. As long as I was in bed by 9pm, I could read until the lights were turned off at 10pm. This is what I did, every night except for Fridays. On Fridays, I stayed up and watched the Tommy Hunter Show.
I wrote here, a very long time ago, about my favourite dancing dress. What has one to do with the other, I hear you asking?
The last time I remember dancing with complete joy and utter recklessness, I was seven, eight, nine, ten; before tap dancing lessons and figure skating taught me how uncoordinated I was.
On Friday nights, when I was young, I would put on my knee length, white A-line dress and dance with joy, without fear, not caring who else was in the room. I was perfection herself. I was beautiful.
For the longest time, I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I would read both fiction and non-fiction books on the ballet. I would do the exercises. I spent a lot of my early childhood walking on my tiptoes.
At that time, no one in small town Saskatchewan had access to Ballet lessons. The closest we came to formal dances was in gym class (uncomfortable), tap lessons (loud) or figure skating (impossible).
I wanted just to dance, to feel the music to my core and to have no one watching me.
No one got this! My mother raised four children alone, three girls and one boy, and her idea of fairness was to have us all take the same lessons; piano, tap dance and figure skating. My eldest sister is very gifted in all these areas. If we had been richer, I swear she could have won Olympic medals for her figure skating and major awards for her piano playing.
This was not the right approach for me. They should have just ignored me and left me to my own dancing devices.
I am most like the youngest dancing princess in The Twelve Dancing Princesses; cautious and curious – never an easy combination.
I want to dance. I want to fly free. I want to tango, foxtrot and waltz. I want a free, flowing ball gown – like this. I need to dance like no one is watching – ever.
I went to my first high School dance the September I was thirteen. It was a disaster. I have come to realize, now, that everyone’s first public dance is a disaster. Well, public as in dancing in front of your peers.
I went to my first dances before I was three; they were wedding dances. The year I was three, I lived with my mother’s parents. My grandmother’s sister-in-law had 13 children and a good handful of them got married before I turned five and started kindergarten.
Those dances were joyful. My first High School dance was anything but!
It was a division 3 welcome back to school dance which meant grades 7 – 9. My next older sister went with her boyfriend, she was 15 and they had been dating for awhile.
It was just like in Sixteen Candles; the boys stayed on one side of the gym and the girls on the other. Only established couples danced. No one asked me to dance. No one talked to me but then I didn’t talk to anyone either. I went home crying. Nothing anyone said helped. There’s no way I’d ever want to be 13 again!
I wish I hadn’t lost that ability to dance freely and joyful. I wish I had someone to take dance lessons with. I still feel the music.
I felt like dancing this morning. I was happy. My African Violet is sprouting buds after two years of no blooms.
I didn’t dance.
I fear the only place I may dance again is at a Masquerade where no one will see my face and thus will not know who I am.
Be joyful and light.
Remember to dance like no one is watching.