‘She was a marvellous story teller because she fascinated her listeners; she believed in what she was telling and that is the secret.’‘ ( Page 9.)
These eight stories by Jean Lorrain were published in France 150 years ago. He loosely based them on tales he had heard forty years before that. Now they’re brought into the candle-light again by translator Patricia Worth, and Odyssey Books.
Just think, from out of the nineteenth century France it is now available to you anywhere in the world with the click of a button. Isn’t the modern world wonderful! And why would you click this button? Because doubtless you love stories; and this little book contains superbly told stories by a skilled storyteller.
Even the introduction has the feel of a ‘once-upon-a- time’ fairy tale about it.
‘One fine morning the lover grew tired of waiting, and Norine grew old alone in her little cottage with the memory of her old parents who had died .. and regret for the lover who had left. ‘ ( Page 3.)
‘What if Beauty stood up tothe Beast, the Princess never tried to sleep on the pea .. and the Swan Maiden took revenge on the hunter who kidnapped her?‘ (From the Back Cover.)
Professor Caddy got her paws on this beautifully illustrated retelling of fairy tales. On the cover, a young woman, head held high and wearing sturdy boots, looks ready to protect herself (spear) and to find her own way about (map). A glance at the back cover suggests she is less concerned about the dragon than the dragon might be about her. There is not a tiara or movement-restricting dress in sight. ‘I must bring this along to our Tedettes Jane Austen Bookclub’, said Caddy. ‘All these princesses look so different and bold’.
Tedette Samantha loved the first tale, ‘The Princess and The Pea’. This is the exactly kind of princess Sam wants to be! She dashed off to put on her ‘exploring bag’, inspired to go adventuring herself right away.
Meanwhile, wise old Hilda-Bear read and re-read ‘Cinderella.’ ‘Marvellous’, muttered Hilda, ‘ Just marvellous. Of course, why should we bears of ‘a certain age’ miss out when it comes to fairy tales. Marvellous, just marvellous’.
Tedette Lizbeth is very conscious of her lovely fur. She went straight to the tale of ‘Snow White’ which features the magic talking mirror. Well, it was not quite how she remembered it. “Mirror, mirror on the wall’, asks the Queen, ‘who is the fairest of them all?’ Lizbeth was delighted at how this story turns out. She will never look at mirrors the same way again.
The nine tales retold here include familiar favourites such as ‘Beauty and The Beast’, ‘The Frog Prince’ and ‘The ‘Swan Maiden’, but now you see them with new eyes. After reading these, I think we will all want to see more tales in this light! Oh, and there are ‘morals’ in these tales for princes too, for instance, that wearing glasses and loving books is perfectly fine, and that waiting about on a lily pad in some murky pond hoping a princess will come to you is perhaps not the best way to go forth in life.
‘The charm, whimsy and magic of traditional fairytales remain, but the diverse characters challenge stereotypes about who they should be or how the y should act, stand up for themselves, and shape their own futures. ‘(From Back Cover).
The Adventurous Princess is both illustrated by Erin-Claire Barrow. Her full-page colour drawings are respectful of the original tales but visually turn us to appreciate them differently. Erin hopes such stories ‘inspire young people, and young women in particular, to see themselves as the strong, clever and adventurous heroes of their own stories.’ (Foreword.) You can see more of Erin’s work at her website. Take a look, for instance, at her collection called ‘Dangerous creatures from Celtic folklore.’
‘If you’re thinking that I’m just a middle-aged woman who should stay at home with her cats and her book club for a couple of decades until its time to go into a hospice and die, then you can think again.’ (Sybil in Chapter One.)
Hello blog reader. So, its been another dreary week of blah work and same-old, same-old, has it? Yeah, I know. You deserve something for yourself. So you head to a book shop (of course) seeking an old time adventure, a ripping yarn, a tale of deering do and plucky heroes, a tale that involves absolutely no commuter trains and no grey-walled offices. Oh look, here’s one with a cover of a faded mustard colour and the title, After The Bloodwood Staff by Laura E. Goodwin, printed in enticing Art Nouveau font. Oh, this looks perfect.
‘Why would you want me along? Fat, unemployed, out of shape.. how would I stand up to pirates or savages or wild beasts or even leeches? …. The thought of trudging through a jungle picking leeches off his private’s and drinking blood from a cut on the neck of his pack horse .. ‘ ( Chapter One In Which Hoyle Meets An Adventurer.)
You start to read. The main character, Hoyle, enters a bookshop (good man; already you like him) after his pretty dreadful week. He selects an obscure vintage 19th Century adventure novel called After The Bloodwood Staff which has a cover of faded mustard colour and a title printed in enticing Art Nouveau font .. (Umm, what?) .. But a woman snatches it from his hands. This is Sybil who has convinced herself that it contains a Vital Clue to a mysterious artefact. Next thing Hoyle knows, he is travelling to a far flung land (Australia) to trudge through gum-tree-jungles alive with creepy birds (kookaburras) in search of the artefact described in the vintage novel, the Bloodwood Staff. It’s a bizarre journey for a soft middle-aged city dweller to set out on with someone he barely knows. But then again, why not?
‘What is this, Lord of the Rings? he thought irritably. Be careful what you wish for. You wanted an adventure? You wanted to do something meaningful? Well, here you go.‘ (Hoyle in Chapter 21).
In this twist on the classic vintage yarn, with chapter headings like ‘In Which Things Go Badly Wrong’ and ‘In Which The Anarchists Descend Into Anarchy’, the redoubtable Sybil leads Hoyle and Ada, a foul mouthed ‘urchin’ from Sydney, into one predicament after another. We get kidnappings, hideouts, bad-guys, murders, daring rescues, mad evil villains, mysterious ancient powers, and even romance! It’s all here, the adventure that is going to take you away from that working day dreariness, at least for an afternoon. You might even close the book wondering, as I did, whether to just leave your present existence behind and charge off on a crazy adventure yourself. I mean, apart from the leeches, why not?
Also from Laura E Goodwin: Mud and Glasswith conspiracies and mayhem on a university campus. I loved this madcap book. Just a couple of of the lessons I took from it are – do not underestimate librarians, and never order a cup of macadamia-chilli ice-cream, even if you do want to ‘feel more alive’. See more about it in my review.