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vlronn
Registered User
(7/23/07 4:49 pm)


the use of many fairy tales (the collective story)
Hi,

I'm working on a paper that discusses the use of more than one fairy tale in a work. I compare the musical Into the Woods, the Mercedes Lackey 500 Kingdom novels, the Matthew Hughes short stories of the archonate universe exploring the collective unconscious, Bill Willingham's graphic novels Fables, and the Shrek movies.

I want to show how authors are using what Tolkien called "the Cauldron of Story" to create worlds that show the influence of fairy tales and mythology in our lives, while the characters struggle to overcome stereotypes and social expectations that are mirrored in our own world.

I have found many sources about giving individual fairy tales and myths a modern twist but very little about using more than one. Does anyone know of any scholarly works that I could use?

MaryCatelli
Registered User
(7/23/07 7:32 pm)


Re: the use of many fairy tales (the collective story)
It has been my experience that works that use more than one are generally comic. Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, for instance.

vlronn
Registered User
(7/24/07 8:14 am)


comic
That had not occurred to me and now I'm wondering why comedy? Is one of something serious but five or ten funny?

However, while most of the works I'm using do contain comic elements, many deal with the same serious issues that were in early versions of fairy tales. Child abandonment, rape, disfunctional families, and adultery are just a few of these issues.

I have looked at a few series for children with multiple fairy tales like Fablehaven and The Sisters Grimm, and while they are comic in places, many parts are downright scary.

I think the combination is interesting. I don't know what that says about our culture. Any ideas?

MaryCatelli
Registered User
(7/24/07 8:34 pm)


Re: comic
The most common thing I notice is that the characters in worlds where more than one fairy tale is true know that they are characters in fairy tales. Perhaps most deeply in Terry Pratchett's Witches Aboard, but when the character know what roles they are called upon to fulfill, you start to get comic effects.

Ujazd
Registered User
(8/3/07 1:18 pm)


Re: comic
It seems to me that the idea of collecting many little folk stories held together with a framing story is quite ancient. Homer does it a lot. Ovid produced something close to an anthology in the Metamorphoses, but Apuleius' Golden Ass erases a lot of the seams between the stories so that you almost don't notice what a collection it is.

There's also the Decameron and the Canterbury Tales in later European culture and the Thousand and One Nights in Middle Eastern culture. In the very odd Manuscript Found in Saragossa the stories run willy-nilly over each other so often that you lose track of what is 'action' and what is 'story.' The characters from 'stories' often appear elsewhere in the 'action' and vice versa.

MaryCatelli
Registered User
(8/3/07 5:41 pm)


Re: comic
Frames separate out each fairy tale so it exists on its own, without connections to the other -- except when the characters in a fairy tale tell each other another. We never run across frames that observe that the queen in Sleeping Beauty is Cinderella; we just get the two tales.

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(8/3/07 7:57 pm)


Silverlock
Speaking of erasing the frames and mixing things up, with an effect more serious than comic, take a look at Myers' SILVERLOCK.

MaryCatelli
Registered User
(8/4/07 7:04 pm)


Re: Silverlock
Silverlock didn't actually tell any fairy tales; it had (occasionally) fairy tale figures pop up for you to identify.

And it was certainly a light work, if not intended to be comic.

(Personally, I found it hard to take seriously as a book, if not as a kind of crossword puzzle to id all the characters.)

aka Greensleeves
Registered User
(8/5/07 12:33 pm)


Re: the use of many fairy tales (the collective story)
Although we'll clearly never convince Mary that this can be done for anything other than comic effect, may I recommend Sarah Beth Durst's new middle grade novel INTO THE WILD? I think you'll find it interesting, both in its similarity to FABLES, as well as the way it treats this issue you've identified:

Quote:
while the characters struggle to overcome stereotypes and social expectations that are mirrored in our own world.


And I think there's a clear difference between a work that is fun, and one that is meant to be funny.

vlronn
Registered User
(8/5/07 4:16 pm)


comic or not
While I have to agree with Mary that Shrek is using multiple characters for comic effect, the other works are much more serious.

While the words "graphic novels" still conjure up Archie and Jughead comic books, Willingham's Fable series is anything but comic, and Mercedes Lackey's 500 Kingdom romance series has a subversive tone that appeals to those who are anti-war as well as anti-chauvinist.

And even Shrek, with its over the top humor, is rife with satire of the American obsession with beauty and competition. Perhaps the use of multiple mythololgical and fairy tale characters make the reader more willing to look at changing traditional stereotypes.

MaryCatelli
Registered User
(8/5/07 4:24 pm)


Re: comic or not
What did I say about Shrek that led you to declare that you were agreeing with me about it?

MaryCatelli
Registered User
(8/5/07 4:26 pm)


Re: the use of many fairy tales (the collective story)
Of course you can't convince me. I already believe it, and you can't convince someone of something she already believes.

As witness my opening observation that such works are generally comic -- not invariably comic

MaryCatelli
Registered User
(8/5/07 4:43 pm)


Re: Silverlock
To expand a little on the point of Silverlock: Myers didn't expect you to follow the stories of the fairy tales at all. He didn't use them as plots, or to enrich character, or indeed, for any purpose but to enliven the book by having you recognize them.

Edited by: MaryCatelli at: 8/5/07 4:44 pm
vlronn
Registered User
(8/5/07 5:22 pm)


shrek
Sorry, I just meant I was agreeing when you said that often the use of many characters is used to comic effect.

vlronn
Registered User
(8/5/07 6:46 pm)


Into the Wild
Thanks. I think that's the one about Rapunzel's daughter? I've heard it was very good.

There are a couple of children's lit series out there that are pretty interesting---Brandon Mull's Fablehaven and Michael Buckley's Sisters Grimm that involve multiple characters.
I just couldn't fit them into one paper.

I am also trying to stress the importance of the fairy tale in adult lives, and this led me to works that were meant more for adults than children (except for Shrek, of course.) Nevertheless, anyone who has watched the movies would know that much of the satire and humor was written for an adult audience (as has been the case of much of animation from the beginning).

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(8/6/07 12:15 am)


Silverlock
Mary, many people take SILVERLOCK rather more seriously than you do. Many of the plots he wove together were not fairy tales. I brought him in as an example of combining many classic stories in a work that is overall not particularly comic (though some of the characters and tales were comic in themselves).

Ujazd
Registered User
(8/6/07 3:05 am)


types of collective fairytales
I'm sure that someone has already created a more formal typology of collective tales, but there are a few commonsense types which are suggested by this thread:

1. Unbroken frames (tales are just stories told by one character to another with no spillover into the framing story) - For example, Thousand and One Nights or the Decameron.

2. Flashback tales (like a framing story, told by a character but involving characters from the framing story) - For example, the Queen (who was Snow White) tells her son the story of how she became queen, somewhere inside the story of how her son found his bride, Cinderella. This happens in a large chunk of the Odessey and the Manuscript Found in Saragossa.

3. Beads on a string (tales are linked end to end in a chronological or quasi-historical order) - This is quite common in localised legends such Arthur and Merlin or Robin Hood where all sorts of half-remembered history, myths and folktales get sorted out into something that sounds like a logical order. It seems fairly rare in 'generic' tales of the sort where, except for the main hero/heroine, the King, Queen and their kingdom never get proper names.

4. Shared universe (tales take place in the same reality, but don't interact often) - This would be when Queen Snow White visits her neighbouring kingdom and sees a pair of glass slippers in the Royal Museum. Someone who knows the other story will understand the reference. I can't think of any traditional examples of this off the top of my head, but it sounds like some of the modern collective stories simply have a couple of characters from another story wander through and play a minor role.

4b. League of Fairy Tale Characters (lots of characters from diverse tales show up and have new adventures together) - Something like those comicbook stories where the publisher tries to shoehorn all of their tights-and-capes heroes into one story. Shrek would be here.

5. Chimera tales (parts of two or more tales are grafted together a single tale) When Cinderella attends the ball in her glass slippers, she is transformed into a frog by her evil stepmother, only to be cured by a kiss from the prince who then places the glass slipper on her foot. In fact, a lot of traditional stories would naturally fall here, depending of which version you thought was 'the original.'

6. Fully integrated tales (the majority of two or more tales are made to be integral parts of each other) - Something along the lines of making Prince Wistan to be the brother of the missing Snow White, and he falls in love with Cinderella, who is aided by a dirty scullery boy who is actually Prince Ciaran in disguise, who has come to look for Snow White and eventually breaks the spell on her with the assistance of Cinderella who was the one witness who saw where the young princess was taken.

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