August 16, 2014

The Girl Who Came Back, By Meg Eden

Meg Eden's Chapbook

In 1955, Enchanted Forest theme park opened in Maryland—even though it has been defunct for nearly twenty years, the fairy tales of the park remain and live in generations of park goers. I grew up on those legends, drawing maps of the park and listening to my mother’s stories, which helped her endure her fibromyalgia. The stories of the park became my canon for fairy tales, the park itself becoming a place I could only dream about going to. The poems in the collection The Girl Who Came Back recount the fairy tales of the park, making the characters in the park come to life. They delve into the characters of the park, including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Alice, Snow White and the Gingerbread Men, but also the history of the park’s conception. The collection preserves the mythology of the Enchanted Forest, embodying the spirit of nostalgia that fairy tale lovers will resonate with.

(Editor's note: Excerpts from two works are below.)


Visiting Girl Friends

Mom talks about Snow White and Sleeping
Beauty the way girls talk about the friends
they go to the bathroom with,
and who they tell their secrets.

She remembers their dresses, the way
their hair was done in familiar Disney patterns,
how their chests moved to trick us into thinking
they could breathe. There was something real
about them, she said. Like they could be trusted.


"The Girl Who Came Back"
Her father built the dragon in the yard. She remembers its ascension to the top of the gate. Perhaps it’s this habitual evidence that makes the offspring say, We thought it was just everyday life.
She left at a young age, I imagine. Perhaps she was bitter at her father for investing in forgotten myths and not in her own story. She was probably wearing a prodigal halter top and broken bangles when she walked out.
Only when she returned years later did she learn the house was gone. In its place, a pile of bricks. The gate was orange with rust. NO TRESSPASSING, read her childhood.
Pulling onto the grass, she split her skirt into strips like factory hands, knelt on the ground and gathered the bricks. And one by one, she placed them in the trunk of her car. This was what was left of her inheritance.

Meg Eden's collections include  "Your Son" (The Florence Kahn Memorial Award), “Rotary Phones and Facebook” (Dancing Girl Press) and The Girl Who Came Back (Red Bird Chapbooks). Check out her work at: 

Meg Eden

August 12, 2014

Robin Williams and Aladdin

Last night, we learned the sad news that Robin Williams died of what may have been suicide.

Williams' connection to fairy tales and fantasy is pretty strong. Obviously, there's Aladdin. But there's also Hook. And let's not forget Faerie Tale Theatre.

What was your favorite Robin Williams performance, fairy tale or otherwise?

August 9, 2014

Another Treasure From Great-Grandmother's Trove, By Cristina Ruth Johnson, Vintage Fairy Tale Sleuth

I’ve mentioned before that my great-grandmother collected some beautiful books. Undine, which I wrote about in an earlier post, is one of them. Another is an exquisite edition of East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North, illustrated by the great Kay Nielsen.

 Kay Nielsen was born in Denmark in 1886. His career blossomed early, but the tides of war and of a declining interest in the illustrative arts left a magnificent talent to end his days in poverty. He died in 1957. Posthumously, he was eventually recognized as one--if not the--greatest illustrator of the Golden Age of Illustration.

“The Golden Age of Illustration was a period of unprecedented excellence in book and magazine illustration. It developed from advances in technology permitting accurate and inexpensive reproduction of art, combined with a voracious public demand for new graphic art. In Europe, Golden Age artists were influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and by such design-oriented movements as the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau, and Les Nabis” (ArtCyclopedia).

Nielsen’s work is often noted as being inspired by fellow illustrator Aubrey Beardsley and, more generally, the Art Nouveau movement. He was also inspired from a young age by the art of Japan (example, Katsushika Hokusai), especially wood-block prints, as can be seen in his asymmetrical compositions and elements flattened by the use of rich and intricate patterns.

The first volume that Nielsen illustrated to great acclaim was In Powder and Crinoline, published in America as The Twelve Dancing Princesses, a collection of tales retold by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1913).
From Powder and Crinoline, Kay Nielsen

East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North was published the following year. Nielsen’s illustrations in this collection of fantastic and unusual stories are without a doubt his best work. (Admittedly, I’m biased, since I’ve seen them in person.) His creations have an oddness to them that catches the eye immediately, but the depth of beauty within this oddness keeps the eye’s attention. They are rich, they are compelling, they are . . . fairy-tale. Perfectly, wonderfully fairy tale.

"The Lassie and Her Grandmother," Kay Nielsen

Old Tales from the North was published by Hodder & Stoughton (1914). The first edition deluxe copies (of which 500 were made) are signed by Nielsen. They are bound in vellum with gilt lettering and decoration. The first edition trade copies are bound in blue cloth and likewise decorated in gilt. The tales within the anthology were mainly culled from George Webbe Dasent’s “Popular Tales from the Norse” (translated from Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe’sNorske Folkeeventyr in 1859) though one tale, “Prince Lindworm,” was actually translated specifically for this anthology. You can read the full text of the book online here.

Nielsen’s publishing career was stymied for the next 10 years by World War I and also by his interests in theater production, though he worked during this period on illustrations for a volume of stories from Arabian Nights, which was never completed. 1924 and 1925 saw the back-to-back publications of his work in anthologies of tales by Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm brothers. The final book to feature his illustrations was the little-known Red Magic, published in 1930.  

Red Magic,  Kay Nielsen

Nielsen and his wife moved to California in 1936, where he spent the remainder of his life. His final illustrative work was done as an employee of Walt Disney Studios. We can see his creations in Fantasia (1940), including the “Night on Bald Mountain” and “Ave Maria” scenes. He also did early creative work for a proposed film based on Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”--a project which, as we know, would not see completion for another 50 years. The Little Mermaid film still credited Nielsen for “visual development.” 

The Little Mermaid, Kay Nielsen

Which of Nielsen’s illustrations is your favorite? Join Enchanted Conversation and let us know!

Christina Ruth Johnson recently received her Masters in Art History with a focus on the ancient Mediterranean and a side interest in the 18th and 19th centuries. Her other great love is fantasy literature from ancient times to present day.

Link to illustrations
Link to full text