#FolkloreThursday: Four Favourite Fables

Greetings, gremlins. We are back to our Folklore Thursday schedule with a list post! I mentioned in my interlude that I wanted to write a list but didn’t know which list to write. I’m not sure how I decided on fables but decide I did and now here we are with a post. Funny how these things work out, isn’t it? (I jest.)

In my modern fiction (‘modern’ here meaning written in recent years rather than being based in recent times), I tend to shy away from moralising. There are few books that moralise in a way that doesn’t make me want to slam my head into the nearest wall (Wonder by R.J. Palacio is probably the most successful that I have read, but I do shrink back from the idea of it ‘teaching society a lesson’). That isn’t to say that I think books can’t lead towards societal change, they can, I just object to books (and authors) who make that their book’s primary goal. It always seems forced and disingenuous, I much prefer it to happen organically. If that’s the message readers take from the book, great! If it’s shoved down the reader’s throat so that they have no choice but to swallow it, that’s not even in the same hemisphere as fantastic.

Heck, I’m probably against moralising in classics too aside from the fact that I don’t really read them. Folklore, mythology, fables? Come at me. Dickens? Go away, far away. Leave now, and never come back. (There are exceptions, Wuthering Heights and anything by Lewis Carroll being the main ones.)

One of my lingering memories of my early school life is learning about fables (often paired with parables, which would explain why, for quite a while, I thought fables were religious metaphors despite the fact that they, for the most part, originated in Ancient Greece – thanks, Primary School, for that misconception). The Tortoise and the Hare was the obvious feature, there were others but I don’t remember what they were. Alongside the learning about them, we were also asked to write our own. My crude, childish ramblings would have been, I’m positive, about rabbits – if we still have my school books at my parents’ house, I might seek them out and see what moral lessons little!Elou thought needed to be learnt and spread via the medium of probably-brown bunnies.

The fables listed below are not in their original phrasing, if you would like to see them in some of the older forms (there are so many different translations that I wouldn’t know where to start to find the most accurate translation out there), I recommend a trip to Project Gutenberg, which is one of my favourite resources on the internet.

1. The Fox and the Mask

100The Fox and the Mask is one of those little fables that stick with you. Or, it sticks with me anyway and not entirely for the best reason.

The fox, when rummaging around in the belongings of an actor, finds a mask and thinks that it is very beautiful, but laments its lack of sense as this, to the wily fox, makes the beautiful mask worthless.

The overall take-home being ‘what use is beauty without brains?’

I am almost certain that this fable has been used by some male scholar somewhere to prove the hypothesis that pretty women cannot be intelligent (a view that is dangerously taken into some young adult literature, where the popular, pretty girl is painted as stupid and the super special protagonist with all of her book smarts feels superior because of it – this fable is not without its problems).

It’s not the message that appeals to me in this case but the imagery. I love the idea of a fox rooting around and being fascinated by a theatre mask.

2. The Old Man and Death

0133-old-man-deathProbably one of the more famous fables (after The Tortoise and the Hare), The Old Man and Death is a story that I didn’t actually know came from Aesop for the longest time. I love the way the title sounds, I adore literature that involves death as a character (I touched on this in the briefest sense here but I think I might write an entire post about it, or series of posts about death in popular culture… we shall see). I love the way the title sounds, it’s a very pleasant title to roll off the tongue (I prefer it to the alternative used for some translations, The Poor Man and Death).

The story goes thus: a weak old man is gathering (or carrying) a bundle of sticks, and under the weight of the burden the old man falls to the ground. He calls upon Death to come and end his woes because he is too old and too weak to deal with them anymore, but when Death arrives the old man grows frightened and decides he wants a little more time, claiming that he only called upon Death to help him shoulder his burden so that he might be free to go about his business.

The old man has been described as ‘taking liberties’ with Death and I love that, I love the idea of a character dramatically calling on Death to end their suffering on multiple occasions, each time deciding that actually dropping a pile of sticks is probably not a good enough reason to die. Very sorry, Death. Please continue your reaping elsewhere, no reaping needed here. No, sir.

3. The Travellers and the Bear

THE-TRAVELLERS-AND-THE-BEAR-1-q6812This is one of those fables which I should have paid more attention to long before I did. Most fables, I like because of the imagery but this one, I enjoy because of the hard-learned lesson it presents. (That said, I do also enjoy bears.)

Two travellers walk among a forest when suddenly a bear comes upon them. Despite having agreed to protect each other one of the travellers, thinking only of himself, scambles up a tree and out of the way, leaving the other on the ground. The second traveller lies still, pretending to be dead and lets the bear sniff him, believing the common assumption that bears will not eat dead meat.

When the bear leaves, the first traveller descends from the tree and, with a laugh, asks his companion what the bear said to him. The second traveller replies that the bear had given him good advice, and warned him not to trust those who would leave him to save their own skin.

Essentially it presents a test of true friendship where, if the first traveller were a true friend to the second, he would not have left him to die at the paws and jaws of the bear. When things get tough, friends don’t look first to protect themselves.

It’s not a perfect message, everyone is selfish, no matter how good a friend they are. In the context of someone’s life, it might not be a betrayal to abandon you to a bear, but something they have to do for any number of good reasons. (The bear metaphor is pretty thin here, I can’t think of a good reason to essentially feed someone to a bear but you get the idea.)

4. The Moon and her Mother

moon-and-motherI’ve saved the best for last. This is my favourite of all of the fables I have ever read and I can’t imagine that changing anytime soon. This is one of those rare tales where I like both the imagery and the moral.

It is a simple story, consisting only of this:

The moon once asked her mother if she might make her a gown.

“How can I?” her mother replied, “Sometimes you’re a New Moon, and other times you’re a Full Moon, and between the two you’re neither full nor new. There’s no gown I could make that would fit all of you.”

The traditional moral is that if you’re always changing, nothing will fit. No one will know who you are and neither will you. Or, if you’re always changing you will never get what you really want. Or alternatively, don’t commit to something you cannot keep to.

I take it to mean all of those things and something different (I alternate) but this is my preferred moral and the moral I will always think of first: there is no gown that is big enough for all that you are. You are so big and complex and detailed that there is no one thing that can epitomise everything about you, and yes, you will change but you will also always be the same; the moon is still the moon even when it’s in its different phases.

When I feel like my skin doesn’t quite fit, I think of The Moon and her Mother and I feel a little bit better.


So there you have it, four of my favourite fables on this very changeable Thursday. (I was going to say gloomy because it was raining but the weather seems to be having an identity crisis. We’ve had blazing sunshine, rain, wind, snow, hail, everything short of storm.)

Do you have any favourite fables? Do you take away different messages than I do? Have you ever made up your own, if so, what was it?

Happy Thursday!

Review: Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

26804769A startling and evocative novel, harkening to both One Day and Gravity, a man and a woman revisit memories of their love affair on a utopian Earth while they are trapped in the vast void of space with only ninety minutes of oxygen left.

After the catastrophic destruction of the Middle East and the United States, Europe has become a utopia and, every three years, the European population must rotate into different multicultural communities, living as individuals responsible for their own actions. While living in this paradise, Max meets Carys and immediately feels a spark of attraction. He quickly realizes, however, that Carys is someone he might want to stay with long-term, which is impossible in this new world.

As their relationship plays out, the connections between their time on Earth and their present dilemma in space become clear. When their air ticks dangerously low, one is offered the chance of salvation—but who will take it? An original and daring exploration of the impact of first love and how the choices we make can change the fate of everyone around us, this is an unforgettable read.

Before I say anything: look at that cover, take it in. It is gorgeous. The hardback is beautifully produced, with some of the stars spot varnished it really looks like a shining space scene. I bloomin’ love well-designed books.

I will admit, this was a cover buy – well, it was a birthday present but it was a cover wishlist add. It looks beautiful and it has stars on it.

But it’s so much more than a pretty book. I really didn’t know what to expect but the whole thing was poignant and heartbreaking. I cannot recommend it enough, it’s a beautiful, beautiful book.

At its heart,  Hold Back the Stars is a love story. It follows Carys and Max. It is the last moments of their lives, and how they each got to be there. It is their journey and their tragedy and it is breathtaking. The characters are so well-written, I really felt for them which is so important for a book which is so deeply character-led.  The supporting cast was also wonderful and I really don’t have any complaints.

The world-building was excellent, it was unlike anything I’ve seen before. In fact, the whole book was unlike anything I’ve ever read. Due to the nature of the story, it was very much about the little details and the details soared in this book, every question I had about the world was answered on the page, it’s like the book was reading my mind.

I just loved it. I am so happy when a book I know little about turns into a book I love and this definitely happened with this one. It is as beautiful inside as it is out and I want everyone to read it.

Ghibli Heroines Tag

Hello, hello. I had a tiny blogging break which you may not have even noticed. The reason why will become clear in the near future (check me out being all mysterious). I think it’s great, and it is, and you will know about it soon.

I am finally getting around to doing this super cool new tag by Kate! I love a good tag, especially one that I’ve not seen around much. I feel all exclusive. I feel special. Everyone loves feeling special so this is a brilliant thing.

The Rules:

  • Please pingback, rather than link to Kate@Melting Pots and Other Calamities. She will only know if you’ve done this tag if you pingback.
  • Tag as many people as you want. Ghibli movies aren’t as popular as Disney or Pixar, so be careful that those you tag are at least somewhat familiar with Ghibli.
  • You can use examples from books, movies, TV shows, anime/manga, and webcomics.
  • As this tag celebrates heroines, please name either a piece of fiction or a female character, if you’re able.
  • Have fun!

Questions: 

Nausicaa, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: (Even though this isn’t technically Ghibli, it’s still marketed that way). Nausicaa is a princess in a post-disaster world. She is compassionate and brave, a daring explorer who is capable and selfless.  Name a strong female leader. 

Oof. Well. Hm. I know Samantha Shannon hates the ‘strong female’ phrase (because it suggests that to be valuable, women cannot be vulnerable) but Paige from The Bone Season series applies in this case. She isn’t without vulnerability, and she makes mistakes, and she does fall and find it hard to get back up again, but she does what has to be done and she leads in a way that I’ve not really seen from a female character in fiction before.

Sheeta, Castle in the Sky: Although Sheeta may have a quieter demeanour than other Ghibli heroines, she is not a damsel in distress. She’s royalty, but doesn’t stay on the sidelines; she is involved, kind, and despite a sad past, hopeful. Name an inspiring member of royalty. 

I am British, so I absolutely cannot pass up the chance to mention the Queen. I love the Queen. I am one of those people. She’s wonderful. So to slightly cheat on this, I am going to choose Queen Elizabeth as portrayed in Netflix’s The Crown, but also Victoria (in Victoria).

Their characters as portrayed in both series (and the book in the case of Victoria) are based on real women and I think that’s why they’re so great. They exist/have existed, they have both been quite revolutionary, and as a little girl, I was obsessed.

Satsuki and Mei, My Neighbour Totoro: Before Anna and Elsa, before Lilo and Nani, there was Satsuki and Mei. Satsuki was incredibly young when their mother was hospitalised, and with their father at work, she has to take care of Mei. And Mei is only four, with a big imagination. Name a pair of siblings (or two friends who act like siblings). 

Tolya and Tamar, the twins from The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. I am partway through Ruin and Rising (having finished Shadow and Bone, and Siege and Storm the other day – reviews to come) and I love them. They are excellent.

It troubles me that I can’t think of two female characters to list here. I am sure they exist. I am sure there are some fictional female siblings or friends that act like siblings who I adore. I might have to look into this.

Kiki, Kiki’s Delivery Service: Kiki has to go off on her own to live alone, as is the custom among witches. She goes through many things that newly independent young adults face, like money problems, finding a place to stay, job searching, and loneliness, before finding her way thanks to her special abilities. Name a female character who has supernatural gifts.

Another pick from the series I am currently reading: Alina Starkov. She is thrust into the life of a Grisha and I am loving being on the ride with her.

Gina and Fio, Porco Rosso: Gina and Fio are both heroines in this film, and they couldn’t be less alike. Gina is a young woman who is very feminine, a singer and a restaurant owner. However, she is very resourceful and capable. Fio is a teenage mechanic who is independent, goes against the flow, and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She may be one of the best mechanics of her time. Name two inspiring heroines; one who is unabashedly feminine, and another who is more of a tomboy. 

I feel like the age of the tomboy has passed, there’s a lot less ‘boys must do this and girls must do this’ to be rebelled against in fiction now. The stigma around being girlish, and being like other girls is lessening and authors are responding with some unapologetically girly characters (I love it). When I read the word ‘tomboy’ there is no longer a character that comes to mind, or, in fact, any particular kind of person. A girl who would have been labelled a tomboy when I was a child for liking sports and playing in the mud and not wearing dresses is no longer a tomboy, she’s just a girl who likes sports and playing in the mud and not wearing dresses.

When I read the word ‘tomboy’ there is no longer a character that comes to mind, or, in fact, any particular kind of person. A girl who would have been labelled a tomboy when I was a child for liking sports and playing in the mud and not wearing dresses is no longer a tomboy, she’s just a girl who likes sports and playing in the mud and not wearing dresses.

So the tomboy portion of this question is hard to answer, and I don’t think I want to use that label. We’re going to slide on down to the feminine character, and we’re going to go with Genya from The Grisha Trilogy. She definitely has the feminine vibe going for her.

Angel, On Your Mark: On Your Mark is a music video that Ghibli helped a music group with. It may not have much of a story, but it’s beautiful and interesting, and not may people are aware of its existence. Name an underrated heroine. 

September from Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series. (You didn’t think I was going to get through a book-related tag without mentioning her, did you?) I don’t see a huge amount of people talking about this series, and it makes me sad. September is fantastic. She grows up through the books and she makes hard decisions, and she never fails to save the day in some manner.

Shizuku, Whisper of the Heart: Shizuku is an eighth-grade student who can’t quite focus on school as much as on her favourite books. However, through encounters with an ambitious boy who seems to have a likely chance at meeting his goals, a cat who rides trains, an antique shop owner, and a cat statue called The Baron, Shizuku is determined to meet her own goal and become a writer. Name your most relatable character. 

Oh goodness. I do not know how to answer this question. I don’t so much relate to many characters because what I read is often very much not anchored in realism and the troubles faced by the characters I read about are not really the sort of thing I can share in. That’s not to say that fantasy characters can’t be relatable – they can – I just try not to put myself into what I’m reading in that way.

That said, for the sake of answering this question, Carys from Hold Back the Stars (review to come) loves both space and learning new things, which are things I love too. So we’ll go with Carys.

San, Princess Mononoke: San has been raised by wolves her whole life. When humans begin to invade her home forest to make towns and use the resources for themselves while killing the spirits and animals within, San refuses to let it be. She takes a stand and becomes the village’s  greatest obstacle. She is such a force to be reckoned with that they even give her a name; The Princess Mononoke. Name a female character who is physically strong.

Well, obviously this spot is reserved for Buffy Summers. The slayer has a huge pool of strength to draw from. Sure, it’s powered by ancient demon essence but strength is strength.

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Chihiro, Spirited Away: At the beginning of Spirited Away, Chihiro starts off as a whiny, spoiled ten-year-old girl. However, during her time working at the spirit’s Bath House, she discovers parts of herself she didn’t know she had. The story is about her finding the strength she already had but was unaware of. Name a character who has an amazing character journey.

Lupe! She grew so much throughout her short time in The Girl of Ink and Stars that she absolutely has to be mentioned. Her character development is one of the standout things from the novel.

Haru, The Cat Returns: Haru is a typical high school girl; kind, clumsy, and a little forgetful. But she soon finds herself involved in events that are out of her control. In a way, it is because of her normalcy that she can find her way out of her situation and become stronger because of it. Name a female character who may not have any supernatural abilities herself, but is memorable anyway.

The first character that comes to mind is Tamika Flynn from Welcome to Night Vale. Sure, she has an incredibly impressive reading ability and a penchant for violence but to my knowledge, she doesn’t technically have any powers, and yet she is one of the most wonderful of Night Vale’s eclectic selection of inhabitants. 

Sophie, Howl’s Moving Castle: Sophie doesn’t think much of herself for a lot of the story. She doesn’t think she’s pretty or memorable, especially when compared to her younger sister, Lettie. It gets even worse when she’s cursed to look like an old woman. When she finds a new life that involves the mysterious wizard Howl, a fire demon, Howl’s apprentice, and many others, she is shown to be resilient and intuitive. Name an emotionally strong character.

Evie Snow from On the Other Side. She makes such difficult, selfless decisions and lives with the emotional scars to show for it. Well, the emotional scars come out of her in beautiful ways, via the medium of magical realism. She gives up everything for someone else’s happiness and that is a true sign of emotional strength, that she could function and live life through to old age is a testament to her character.

Ponyo, Ponyo: Ponyo is one of the youngest Ghibli heroines at only five years old. But she still gets a lot done, including becoming human, discovering things, finding a best friend, and saving the world. Name a hero who happens to be a child.

September again. Always September. She is my favourite child hero and she quite possibly always will be.

Arrietty, The Secret World of Arrietty: Arrietty is a Borrower; she is tiny and survives by stealing small things that humans won’t miss. Yet she’s curious about the human world, and does braver things than most humans would be incapable of doing, despite her tiny size. Name an unlikely hero.

This has to be Deeba from China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun. She is very much not the chosen one but gets on with things anyway. She’s feisty and fabulous, and she’s proof that you don’t have to be the chosen one to be the hero.

Nahoko, The Wind Rises: Nahoko has tuberculosis during World War 2. However, she doesn’t allow this to cripple her, and enjoys life to the fullest anyway, which includes painting and falling in love. Even being placed in a sanitarium doesn’t break her. Name an inspiring character with some sort of obstacle. 

Olivia Moore (of iZombie fame), if you consider being a still sentient zombie who has to eat brains to keep her wits and subsequently takes on personality traits from said brain an obstacle. I do. Being a zombie can’t be fun, even if the personality traits can be very helpful for the solving of murders and the ignoring of your own problems.

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Kaguya, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya: in a time where women were expected to follow social norms such as blackening teeth, shaving eyebrows, and being forced into arranged marriages, Kaguya refuses to play along. She would much rather be outside, dance, and play with friends. Name a female character who challenges social norms.

Hm. This one should come easily but it hasn’t… hm. I’m going to go with Evie Snow again because she does take the year to try to go it her own way instead of going the Snow way. True, she ends up going the Snow way anyway but that’s her choice for the sake of her brother, rather than something she is forced into. Her social norms may not be the social norms of the layperson but they still count!

I am also going to mention Carys again because she doesn’t idolise the Rotation in Hold Back the Stars, she likes to remember her life in the mountains of Wales, and she forms a love match when she knows she shouldn’t.

Whew! That was actually really difficult.

I want this tag to do well so I’ve found some cool anime bloggers to tag! (Hello, cool anime bloggers.) So without further ado, here they are:

Karandi from 100 Word Anime

Fujinsei

Reads, Rhythms & Ruminations

The Lily Garden

icebreaker694

Marvelously Mismatched

Nick from Anime Corps

The Versatile Blogger Award

Back in March, I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by the lovely Romana from ABookNerd13 back in March – I am slightly behind in my tags (I definitely have at least one more to get done), whoops.

So to kick this off, here are the rules

  1. Display the award on your blog.
  2. Thank the blogger that nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  3. Share 7 facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 7 bloggers for the award and provide links to their blog.

I really love awards/tags which involve listing facts, even though I haven’t actually done one before. I like talking about myself, what can I say? It is with that in mind that I present seven potentially interesting things about my good self:

  1. I am incredibly afraid of heights. If I am enclosed, I’m fine, so flying isn’t a problem, nor was the London Eye back when I was 18. stand me on a chair, however, and I am suddenly unable to function like a normal human being. I also have trouble with uneven staircases, and natural staircases, and any staircase with gaps between the steps.
  2. I find distance difficult to process. I am forever glancing at my satnav when it tells me that I need to turn off in 700, 500, 200 yards. I have no idea how far away 700 yards is, or how far away a yard is. My depth perception without my glasses is abysmal. It is a problem.
  3. When I was little I added two extra lines into the middle of my Es. My reasoning was that the middle line would get lonely.
  4. I can’t tie my shoelaces like a normal human being. I have to make ‘bunny ears’ and tie them that way. I just can’t understand the normal way.
  5. I have a giant sweet tooth. The way to my heart is chocolate, preferably with some kind of hazelnut component. My other half has made it his mission to supply me with hazelnut chocolate Easter eggs. He’s doing well so far.
  6. I like it when people cancel plans. Well, unless I’ve pre-paid for said plans or already started travelling for them. I love having an extra day to chill and do whatever my tiny introverted heart desires. I used to hate it because I didn’t have a huge amount of spare time, and any spare time I did have had to be planned in advance. Now I have more, and I enjoy doing absolutely nothing with it. That or writing, creating, freelancing, binge-watching things on Netflix.
  7. I can listen to the same song on repeat for hours. Sometimes, I have a sound I want to listen to and nothing else, so I do. I sit in my little bubble and listen (my bubble often being my car, my beautiful little blue car).

I’ve chosen a couple of my new followers to tag, should they choose to. You should check them out. :)

The Buffy Project

Alicia from Story Garden

Vihasi from Everlasting Smile Wisdom

Ula from simple Ula

Cafe Book Bean

Ami from luv to read

Brandi from Brandilyn Gilbert

Go, Go, Power Rangers!

MV5BNDg2NzI3Njk2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDczODY2MTI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_I have been waiting for this film. Waiting and waiting and waiting. (Where have we read this before? Apparently, when I am passionate about films, these are my go-to phrases.) When it was announced, I am pretty sure I made some kind of unearthly squealing noise, and I decided right there and then that not only was I going to see it but I was going to love it.

The release date, coincidentally, was over the weekend of my birthday, so I feel like the great and terrible movie gods decided to give me a present. Power Rangers was my childhood, and the original film (with Ivan Ooze, that gloopy so-and-so) is something I watch regularly both out of nostalgia and genuine enjoyment. Nothing beats delayed whooshes and yells of ee-yah!

My tiny child heart was and is filled with glee at the thought of a new Power Rangers movie to sink my teeth into. I was determined to love it no matter whether it was terrible or not. I have a penchant for loving movies my friends think are terrible so I was confident that I would like it.

Luckily for me, it wasn’t terrible at all. It’s gotten some bad press but I think the people that gave it bad press are the people who wanted it to fail. One of the main problems people seem to have with it is the lack of morphing time but, dear reader, I put it to you that surely there wouldn’t be much morphing time in an origin movie. It’s not about the Rangers as Rangers, it’s about the Rangers becoming Rangers. Sure, they find the crystals but the film would end very quickly if that was all it took for them to fulfill their Ranger potential.  So, with that out of the way…

Power Rangers is such a diverse film. Of the five Power Rangers, only one of them is white, and the Blue Ranger (Billy Cranston) is not only black, but he’s on the spectrum and it’s not turned into an issue. Billy is Billy and the other characters love him and never try to belittle him.

Trini, the Yellow Ranger, is canon not-straight. She doesn’t give herself a label and the film doesn’t turn it into a coming out story, it is just who she is, it is normal. Power Rangers normalises the normal in a way that other films don’t. I can’t believe that in 2017 that’s still a phrase I have to use but it is, and Power Rangers is a step in the right direction. It is so refreshing to see.

As you may know, I haunt Tumblr often, and it’s so lovely to see the posts from people who can relate to these diverse, three-dimensional characters in a way that they may not have been able to before. As a white woman, I’ve never really had to dig and scrape for someone to relate to in pop culture, I recognise my privilege and while I’ve not really experienced a lack of representation myself, I do wish for a greater mirror in the world of literature and film for those that do. I’m heartened when I see the reflection growing, even if just a little.

The film is less centred on the Rangers aspect and more on the Rangers’ relationships with each other, how they go from being strangers, to being friends, to being Rangers. I love everything about it. What we do see of them in their suits and their zords is fabulous. There are little echoes from the show and while it is the same in spirit, the film is a different but related beast.

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It goes darker than the series, perhaps a sign of the time it has been created in. Rita is not the kitschy villain you might remember. She is a dark creature. She is one of my favourite things about the film. She is a villain, a real one.

All in all. I loved it. I knew I was going to love it but I didn’t know I was going to love it, you know? I want to see it again, right now.

#FolkloreThursday: An interlude

Hello! It’s Thursday, which means I am looking at Folklore. Well, that’s a lie. I don’t just look up folklore on Thursdays. It’s currently a daily thing for me. All in the name of research!

You’d think, then, that these posts would be easy and they should be but I have been trying to come up with a ‘list’ for this post and I just can’t think of one. I want to feature a list of something next, as I’ve been doing these posts in a pattern but alas, no list is presenting itself to me.

That’s where you come in. I hope. (If you’re willing, still reading, and interested that is.)

What would you most like to see? Think folklore, think lists. Bad-ass princesses? Most annoying mythological antagonists? What should I research?

Alternatively, are you a folklore buff? Would you like to write a guest post? Let me know!

My problem isn’t a lack of ideas but rather too many. Please help!

Review: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

29245653Hag-Seed is a re-visiting of Shakespeare’s play of magic and illusion, The Tempest, and will be the fourth novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

In Margaret Atwood’s ‘novel take’ on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever.

This has been on my TBR list since it was announced and, shamefully, it’s the first Atwood I’ve read. Whoops.

I will definitely be fixing that.

Hag-Seed follows Felix, an ageing theatre director, usurped and left to rot in a tiny shack haunted by the memory of his daughter. It is from this shack that he plots his revenge and finds unlikely allies in the course he teaches at Fletcher correctional.

The Tempest is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, so I was definitely intrigued to see how this would play out. I love that Atwood didn’t just acknowledge the source material but actually used the play at the heart of her novel. I’ve not read any of the other books in the Hogarth series but I have read that the others don’t include the play in such a way. Go Atwood, go!

It unpacks the play, analyses it and spits it out as something magical. I love this book. It made me look at The Tempest in a new way and I now want to go back and study it, school style. Because I am a giant nerd. And proud.

The novel is a slow-burner, it’s very internal. Felix spends a lot of time in his head, plotting, imagining, and often hallucinating. It’s very much an exploration of his character.

I love character driven books, so this really worked for me.

It’s a fresh interpretation of Shakespeare while still sticking to the spirit of the play, and I really, really enjoyed it.

In which I adore Beauty and the Beast

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I have been waiting for this film. Waiting and waiting and waiting, giddy with excitement, and thrusting my grabby little hands at every trailer, clip, b-roll and featurette that surfaced. I adore Beauty and the Beast in all of its forms and am forever seeking wonderful adaptations to dig my teeth into (if you know of any, please list them in the comments).

Beauty and the Beast was probably my most-watched animated film as a child, not just because it’s based on one of my most loved fairy tales, or because it’s about a girl with brown hair who loves books, but because it has one of the most beautiful scores I have ever heard. The music under the narration of the prologue is a piece that has been playing on repeat in my dreams for most of my life. Alan Menken is a genius.

You can imagine my excitement when I heard the absolutely beautiful rendition of a portion of it in one of the trailers. I squealed so loudly that my boyfriend heard it even with his headphones on. Every time I hear that familiar refrain, I feel it in my stomach and my skin tingles. It’s, perhaps, my favourite piece of music ever written, so to hear it in that deliciously orchestrated manner was incredible but not nearly as incredible as seeing it in the film. I will admit that I did miss the stained glass prologue but the scenes that replace it more than make up for it. They set the tone and the standard for a visually stunning film. That whole sequence was glorious from the make-up to the costumes, to the dancing.

The casting of LeFou and Gaston was spot on. They were perfect, and the character growth in LeFou was possibly my favourite part of the whole film. The live-action definitely went darker with Gaston than its animated predecessor but still stuck the the slightly campy, wonderfully ridiculous stylings of the song ‘Gaston’. I bloomin’ love it.

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While it’s not my favourite Beauty and the Beast adaptation in existence – that accolade goes to Christophe Gans’ 2014 film La Belle et la Bête – it definitely makes me happy. It’s everything I wanted from the live-action, I especially liked that they wrote entirely new songs instead of including the extra tracks from the stage musical (though I love those too). I was slightly nervous about Emma Watson’s singing ability, and though her voice has been edited, it’s not too distracting and I was pleasantly surprised.

I would go and see it again in a heart beat.

One of the things that I love most about the whole thing is the posters. They are so incredibly beautiful and I want all of them. Just look at them.

Are these not some of the most beautiful film posters you have ever seen?

Overall, I think the film is lovely, and it was lovely to watch it in a cinema packed full of children – most of whom were dressed as princesses and made my heart leak everywhere.

March: Instagram Highlights

A new kind of post, hello. I’ve wanted to do these for a while, a little round-up of my favourite images from my main Instagram this month. There are lots because it was so busy! It was also my birthday, so that helps.

Highlights include: puppy cuddles, excellent books, an artsy throwback, unashamed selfies galore, an artistic accident at work, launch snippets, and birthday presents.

If you want to follow, you can do so here.

#FolkloreThursday: The Cryptozoologist Chronicles – Shadhavar

Hello, people of the internet. You friendly neighbourhood Elou here with the second of our Cryptozoologist Folklore Thursday posts. I discovered this creature while looking up Persian mythological beasties I could hide behind a door in a drabble I wrote recently. I didn’t end up hiding anything behind the door but I did stumble across the shadhavar. So without further ado…


Shadhavar

Everyone has heard of unicorns, beautiful white horses with iridescent horns atop their heads and maidens swooning here, there and everywhere just to touch them. Shadhavar are also unicorns but not the ones I obsessed over as a little girl. Some accounts list shadhavar as peaceful creatures, loping around forests, making animals listen to them. This version paints the shadhavar as a deer or gazelle-like creature, with one hollow horn protruding from its head.

This horn is what interested me most. Unlike the twirled, straight horn of a unicorn, the shadhavar has a horn with 42 branches, which creates beautiful music as the wind travels through it. When the wind comes from one side, the tune is happy and jubilant but when it is blown through the other, the song becomes so mournful that it could make a listener cry. These horns were often made a present for kings and could be played as an instrument. (What king wouldn’t want a musical instrument which could so easily alter the emotions of their subjects?)

The other version makes the shahavar more like a siren – though still taking the form of a deer-like creature. Its horn has 72 branches instead of 42, and the music used as a lure. The shahavar calls to its victims through music, like the siren, and then eats them, bloodthirsty as it is.

In The Temptation of Saint Anthony Flaubert draws on this second interpretation for le Sadhuzag, a black stag with the head of a bull and 42 antlers. When the wind hits them from the south, they create a sweet tune which charms all animals nearby but when hit by the north wind they begin to shriek.

Whether carnivorous or calm, the shadhavar are intriguing creatures and I am very glad I found them.

Do you have any creatures you think I’d like? Have you heard of the shadhavar? Do you want one of those horns? We ask the important questions.

Happy Thursday!