Posted in book tags/memes

Fairy Tales Fridays 16

Fairy Tale of the Week:

“The Six Swans” by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm


Ooh yay! This isn’t an all-time favorite of mine, but I do like this story.

The story begins with a king, hunting in a vast forest. He eventually loses the rest of his party and can’t find his way out of the forest. Salvation appears in the form of an old woman (spoiler alert: she’s a witch). The old woman agrees to lead the king from the forest on the condition that he marry her beautiful daughter. The king agrees, and she keeps her word. The king marries the witch’s daughter.

He already had seven children from his first wife (six boys, one girl), and he loved them more than anything in the world. Fearing how his new wife might treat them, he took them away to a castle deep in a forest, which could only be located by using an enchanted ball of yarn. After settling his children there, in safety, the king continued to visit frequently.

Eventually, his new wife’s curiosity about where her husband was venturing to got the best of her and she bribed the servants into telling her everything. The new queen had learned magic from her mother, and she made shirts from white silk with a charm sewn into them, then waited for the king to ride away to hunt. She took the shirts and the ball of magical yarn, and eventually found her way to the castle where the children were hidden. Seeing someone approaching, the boys all ran out, expecting their father. Their stepmother threw the shirts over them, and they were changed into swans and flew away.

The queen was quite pleased with herself for getting rid of her stepchildren, but she didn’t know about the girl. The king visited the next day, and the girl told him what had happened. He was devastated, but didn’t think his wife had anything to do with it.

The girl waited until night, and ran away, intending to find her brothers. In the forest, after walking all night and day, she found a hut in the forest with six beds. She hid under one, and eventually six swans flew in, blew off their feathers, and were revealed to be her brothers. They could shed their swan form for a mere fifteen minutes each day.

Their sister wanted to help, but they told her the only way to break the enchantment was for her to sew shirts of starwort, and for no sound (no laughter or speech) to leave her lips for six years. Any sound uttered would undo all the work, and she would be right back at square one. (They couldn’t have pointed her in the direction of a town or something, so she could at least get out of the forest?)

She was determined, though, and set to work immediately. Later, a group of the local king’s huntsmen found her in a tree. She would not speak, and eventually some climbed up and took her with them to the king. The king was quite taken with the speechless maiden, and decided to make her his wife. His stepmother (why is it always stepmothers?) was not pleased with the match, and spoke ill of the girl. The king wouldn’t listen, though, and eventually they had a child.

The king’s stepmother stole away the child, smeared the girl’s mouth with blood as she slept, and accused her of cannibalism (unless I read that wrong…fun times). The girl refused to speak about her innocence and the deception of the king’s stepmother. (I have to wonder if she could have written something. Maybe she couldn’t write, though.) Still, the king wouldn’t listen. Two more children were eventually born, and the wicked stepmother repeated her attempts at defaming the silent queen. By the third time, the king had to act, and his wife was sentenced to die by fire.

But, this is a fairy tale, so of course, the day she was set to be executed was also the last day of her silence. All the shirts of starwort were finished, save one sleeve on one shirt. The fire was being lit when the swans descended, and she threw the shirts on them and their swan skins fell away, revealing her brothers, restored. (Except for one of them, who was missing an arm and instead had a swan wing…awkward.)

After that, she was able to speak to the king and declare her innocence, and inform him of how his stepmother had stolen away their children. The children were returned, and the stepmother burned at the stake for what she’d done. Then, the king and queen, and the six brothers, lived happily ever after.


I like this story so much, and I’m not even sure why exactly. This is just one of those fairy tales that really feels like a fairy tale, you know? It’s long enough for things to happen, and doesn’t just feel like a short little morality tale.

I’m sure I’ve encountered some adaptation or retelling of this one, but I’m drawing a blank right now. Let me know if you’ve read or seen one! (I think there’s a YA book, maybe, on my TBR that’s a retelling of this, but I’m feeling too lazy to look it up.)

I’m giving it 5 out of 5 stars.

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Posted in book tags/memes

Fairy Tales Fridays 15

Fairy Tale of the Week:

“Rapunzel” by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm


Hurrah, one we’re (probably?) all familiar with!


Once upon a time, there lived a man and woman who wanted a child terribly, but hadn’t been able to conceive. Behind their home was a garden that belonged to an enchantress everyone feared, and, from the window, the woman saw some rampion (that’s a plant that has edible leaves, which can be used in salads, and I’m pretty sure the root is also edible) in the garden and wanted it so badly she thought she would die if she couldn’t get some.

Her husband, obviously not wishing for his wife to die from longing for the rampion, climbed the hedge that separated their home from the garden, and stole some of the leaves. He took it to his wife, who ate it in a salad, but the next day her longing for the rampion was even stronger. Once more, her husband went to steal some. This time, the enchantress was waiting. She threatened him, but when he explained about his wife’s situation, she told him he could take as much as he wanted, but in exchange he must give her the child his wife would give birth to. She promised to take care of the child, and the man, most likely terrified, agreed.

So, the woman gives birth and the enchantress takes the child (named Rapunzel, apparently for the rampion plant), who grew into a beautiful young girl. When she was twelve, the enchantress took her away and hid her in a tower that had no doors or stairs, only a window at the top. When she wanted to go up, she would call up to Rapunzel to let her hair down, and then climb up the braid.

While Rapunzel was stuck in her tower, all alone, she amused herself by singing. One day, a prince was riding nearby and heard her voice, and was touched by it. He looked for a way up, but found none. After that, I guess he kept coming back, listening, and happened to see the enchantress call out one evening for Rapunzel to let down her hair. When next he came to the tower, he did the same thing and climbed up.

She was a bit freaked out to see a man emerge into her tower, but after he explained about her singing and how he had to see her after hearing it, I guess they hit it off. They worked out a plan to help her escape so they could go off together and get married. He was to bring her a skein of silk every time he came, until she could weave a ladder.

But, Rapunzel messed up. She let slip to Dame Gothel one day that she was heavier than the prince. Gothel was not happy about that, and she cut off Rapunzel’s hair, then took her to a desert and left her there in misery. Back in the tower, Gotel waited for the prince. When he came, she threw down Rapunzel’s braid, and he climbed up. After Gothel told him that Rapunzel was gone, he was so torn up he jumped out of the tower. His fall was cushioned by some nice, soft, thorny bushes, which blinded him.

He wandered, living on roots and berries, until eventually meandering into the same desert where Rapunzel (and the twins she’d given birth to) was living. He recognized her singing, followed it, and they were reunited. When Rapunzel saw him, she threw herself at him, crying. Her tears touched his eyes, which were healed by them, and then he took her to his father’s kingdom and they lived–presumably–happily ever after. The end.


I must have re-read different versions of this fairy tale a hundred or more times when I was a kid. I loved it. I remember having this great, illustrated fairy tale book, from the ’60s or ’70s, and they weren’t the Disney-fied versions, as far as I remember. (I think it was the Tasha Tudor Book of Fairy Tales. I did have that, handed down from someone in my family, but it might not be the one I’m remembering.) This one was one of my absolute favorites.

While I have seen a few adaptations of this, probably mostly from the ’80s, my favorite is Tangled. I freaking love that movie. I would love to see one that sticks closer to the original, not making Rapunzel royal-born, but Tangled was just so much fun I can overlook how different it was, and think of it less as an adaptation and more as something inspired by the story.

There was also the bit in one of the Shrek movies, I think, but I don’t remember it well enough to talk about it. I do remember liking the Rapunzel story from Once Upon a Time, though.

You know, now that I think about it more, I think one reason I like this one is that there’s no vanquishing of the antagonist or anything at the end. There’s a happily-ever-after, but not after defeating Gothel. I like that, knowing that she could be out there, popping up in other stories under different names, or as the nameless witchy person. It makes for entertaining imaginings, at least for me 😛

Posted in book tags/memes

Fairy Tales Friday 14

Fairy Tale of the Week:

“Old Rinkrank” by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm


I swear I think I’ve read this one before, but I’m not totally sure because so much of it is similar to other stories.


Once, there was this king who had a daughter, and he had a glass mountain built. Whoever could get across it without falling would be allowed to marry his daughter. There was this one person who I guess was already in love with the king’s daughter, and so the king said he could totally marry her…if he could cross the mountain.

The princess said she would cross it with him (apparently this was not a one-way love situation), and if he started to fall, she would help him. But, of course, something went wrong. They were like halfway over it, and the princess fell. The mountain opened up, swallowed her, and closed again instantly.

Her betrothed, and the king, were miserable about it all, and the king wanted them to find where she’d fallen and break open the mountain to get her back, but they couldn’t figure out where she’d fallen through.

The king’s daughter had fallen really deep into the earth, and landed in some kind of cave. (Gotta love fairy tales for letting people survive falls like that unscathed 😛 ) Down in the cave, there was an old guy who found her and wanted to make her his servant. If she didn’t agree to do everything he asked of her, he would kill her. So, she did whatever he wanted: cooking, cleaning, etc.

This guy apparently had a ladder he kept hidden, and would take it out in the morning, climb up and out of the mountain, and then pull the ladder up after him.

Years went by, with the princess doing all the chores every day, and then the guy would come home with a bunch of gold and silver every day. He started calling her Mother Mansrot, and had to call him Old Rinkrank.

One day, she’d had enough. While he was out, she closed all the windows and doors, except one small one. When Old Rinkrank got home, he knocked on the door and yelled for her to open up, but she refused.

Then there’s this kind of somewhat repetitive bit, reminiscent of the wolf calling to the three pigs. First he tells her to wash his dishes, and she replies that she already has. Then it’s making his bed, which she’s also already done. Finally, he tells her to open the door.

After that, he runs all around the house until he sees the open window. He thinks he’ll look in and see what Mother Mansrot is up to, and why she won’t open the door. He couldn’t get his head through the window, though, because his bear was too large. So, he puts it through first. But then, Mother Mansrot came by and grabbed a cord she’s tied to the window, and yanks it shut, closing his beard in it.

He started crying about it, but she still refused to release him until he gave her the ladder. He finally gave in and told her where it was, and she tied a really long ribbon to the window before she climbed up the ladder. From the top, she opened the window as she’d said she would.

After that, she goes to her father, tells him the story, and he’s super pleased to have her back. So is her betrothed, who’s still there. The mountain was dug up, and they found Old Rinkrank (and all his treasure). Rinkrank was put to death by the king, who took all the money, and the two lovebirds got hitched and lived happily every after.


This one reminds me a lot of Cinderella, and something else. Maybe Rapunzel? I know it was inside a mountain, and not up in a tower, etc., but something about the isolation and climbing makes me think of Rapunzel.

Anyway, I think we can all agree: if you see a glass mountain, maybe stay off of it, lest you fall into the earth and find some weird old man living inside it who offers you a choice between death or serving him :/

I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Posted in book tags/memes

Fairy Tales Fridays 13

Fairy Tale of the Week:

“The Drop of Water” by Hans Christian Andersen


I swear, I think I’m going to give up on Andersen soon. I just can not. I think I’ve only actually liked one that I’ve read, and I always have to force myself to read any of them because I dread the experience, unlike Grimm’s.

This story was so short, and so weird, and I don’t know what to think of it.


There’s this old guy (magician or something) named Krible-Krable who always tried to make the best of everything, and he used magic when he couldn’t find any other way. One day, he’s staring into a microscope at a drop of ditch water, watching all the tiny organisms ripping each other to shreds and what have you, and he was disturbed by what he saw. He wanted to find a way to make them all live in peace.

He decided to use magic, and used a drop of witch blood so he could at least give them a color to make them easier to see. After adding the drop of blood, apparently they looked like a town of naked people.

This other magician, who didn’t have a name (which apparently made him really special), comes along and wants to know what Krible-Krable is looking at. Krible-Krable tells him to look, and if he can guess what it is, Krible-Krable will give it to the no-name guy.

So, No-Name looks and is amused by what he sees. He declares that it’s a city, maybe Copenhagen, but he can’t tell for sure because apparently all large cities look the same.

Krible-Krable is like, “It’s a drop of ditch water!” and that’s the end.


I don’t even know what to do with this one. I don’t really have anything else to say about it, and I guess I’m giving it 2 out of 5 stars, rated so highly because it’s just so WTF.

Posted in book review

Reviewed: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

First, let us take a moment to stare appreciatively at the cover.

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy, #1)

Enchanting, isn’t it? ❤ Okay, moving on…

Goodreads Description:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.


Review:

This book has been on my TBR for ages. Okay, that’s not entirely true, because I think it’s only been out for two years, but I added it to my TBR in late 2016, I think. I don’t know a ton about Russian history or folklore and fairy tales (if you have book recs, for the latter two especially, please leave them in the comments!), but I knew enough to know I needed to read this book. And then I kept putting it off *facepalm*

I just wrote out a super long thing, which rambled on and on, and then deleted it. This is proving to be a difficult book for me to review, so I think I’m just going to try to keep it short, and not go too in depth.

This was meant to be one of my last books of 2018, but it took me almost three weeks to finish it. Most likely, that was because I wasn’t really in the right mood. I knew that, as I was reading, because I kept thinking about how I should have been loving it, but I kept putting it down for days at a time. I’m almost 100% sure that was entirely me, and my mood, and had nothing to do with the book and writing style. By the end, I was enjoying it a lot, it just took me a long time to get there. So, if you’re looking for a book with a lot of action throughout, this might not be for you.

I loved Vasya. I didn’t even notice how fond of her and attached to her I was becoming, until I finished the book. I will almost certainly be picking up the second book soon, because I want to know what happens next. There are so many directions this story could go, and I’m curious to see how it will all play out. (I think I picked a great time to start this, because the last book was just released, if I’m not mistaken.)

For me, this was a quiet sort of story. It was atmospheric, and paired perfectly with the snow and harsh winds we’ve been experiencing this week as I’ve been reading the majority of this book. I feel like the story is going to stay with me for a while.

Morozko was probably my favorite character, regardless of how much I loved Vasya. I read somewhere that he’s more of a major character in the second book, and I want to spend more time with him. I’m familiar with the Father Frost (I believe it’s called) story, but I have no clue how I know it. I feel like I just read it, but I know I didn’t. Weird… Anyway. He’s the kind of character I usually find myself loving. He’s not really good, he’s not really evil. He just is.

As I said, I’m not well-versed in Slavic folklore and fairy tales, but I did recognize things in this book, maybe from other media (Baba Yaga, for example, has popped up a lot in, well, pop culture), which maybe added an extra layer of enjoyment. It probably would have been even better if I’d read a lot of Slavic fairy tales, but I haven’t 😦 Someday.

This is getting out of hand, so I’m going to try to reign it in and finish up.

By the end, I really enjoyed this one, but I don’t think it’s making my all-time-favorites shelf.

I liked the characters, both human and not human, even the ones who were not so nice. (I definitely had a “love to hate them” thing going on with at least one character.) The household spirits might have had me tearing up a few times…

The world wasn’t painted in such painstaking detail that I got bogged down and bored with it, but it was rich enough for me to feel like I was there. Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t remember reading a ton of descriptive things, but I can still see everything pretty clearly in my mind. Sorcery!


Overall, I think I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars, and I’m probably going to start the second one soon. This one has definitely given me an extra push to seek out Slavic fairy tales, though, and I’m very excited about that.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆