Faerie Tale Theatre Reviews: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“For I’ll be your prince, and you’ll be my…dwarf.”
– The Prince’s tune after receiving a surprise audience

I have a confession to make: I feel like I skimped out on Thumbelina’s origins last month. Had circumstances not prevented me from doing so, I would have done a deep dive into other thumb-sized characters in folklore around the world, how they fed into her creation, and the similarities and differences between them. Well this month’s review isn’t gonna leave the history buffs high and dry, baby. I’m going the full hog with Snow White, one of the most iconic fairy tales with a rich, detailed historical background to match, so strap in!

The Fairest One of All might just hold the record for most variants of her story worldwide. In the Aarne-Thompson-Uther classification of folklore, she has a category all to herself! Richilde, Gold-tree and Silver-tree, Myrsina, The Young Slave, Bella Venezia, Bright Star of Ireland, Hajir, La petite Toute-Belle, Der zauberspiegel, Rose-Neige, Lé Roi Pan, La hermosa hijastra, and Anghjulina are but a few folktales from around the globe that retell Snow White’s adventures. Each one shares the tropes common to the story we know (a jealous queen, a magical fairness-rating artifact, multiple assassination attempts, poisoned objects, glass coffins, a prince partly responsible for waking her, etc.) though the details vary. For example, the dwarfs who take Snow White in aren’t always dwarfs, or even miners. Sometimes they’re robbers, sometimes they’re the twelve months personified, sometimes they’re purely magical characters like djinns and dragons!

The biggest revelation one can take away from these retellings, however, is that Snow White usually isn’t menaced by a wicked stepmother but her own mother. Indeed, the German oral tale recorded by the Brothers Grimm in 1812 had the evil Queen be Snow White’s birth mother, until they revised it seven years later to keep the fable more in line with their patriarchal beliefs. See, Jacob and Wilhelm envisioned motherhood as something pure and infallible. They didn’t want to rock the familial boat by suggesting mothers could be capable of spite and cruelty. So they pinned the queen’s jealousy and murderous tendencies on a figure that was already on the outs with the family unit, one seen as new, unfamiliar and untrustworthy: the stepmother. It also doesn’t help that the Queen is the most proactive character in the story, spinning the narrative that clever women with agency and authority are evil, self-serving and dangerous. Between this, Cinderella, and Hansel and Gretel, it’s not much of a stretch to say that the Grimms are the source of the evil stepmother/queen stereotype that’s plagued so many narratives and even negatively colors real women to this day.

Why no, I’m not at all bitter that everything Hilary warned us about could have been avoided if everyone listened to her instead of The Former Guy yelling about periods and emails, thanks for asking.

As for her origins, Snow White and her assorted fair counterparts have roots going all the way back to Ovid’s Metamorphoses. One story featured within, the legend of Chione (whose name translates to “Snow”, by the way) is about a woman described as the most beautiful in the land, which earns her the enmity of the goddess Diana and the lust of gods Apollo and Mercury. Apollo visits Chione disguised as an old woman and…has his way with her, as deities do (blegh). One could also draw parallels to Adam and Eve and the infamous apple, if you’re willing to dig that deep.

That’s not the half of it, though. Scholars may have found precedence that the tale of Snow White might be based on actual historical figures. According to German historian Eckhard Sander, young countess Margaretha von Waldeck fits the bill for a real life Snow White. She was renowned for her beauty, raised by her stepmother, her father owned several copper mines that employed child labor (which explains the dwarfs), she had to travel to the next kingdom “seven hills” over for a goodwill mission, and she died tragically young; the rumor circulating the court was that she was poisoned. Another theory that was initially tongue-in-cheek but turned out to have some credibility was that Snow White was inspired by Baroness Maria Sophia Margarethe Catharine of Lohr. Mirrors from Lohr were said to always speak the truth thanks to their high quality, hence the Magic Mirror. One such Lohr mirror that still exists was owned by Maria’s stepmother, Claudia Elizabeth von Reichenstein. Claudia is described as a domineering woman who favored the children from her first marriage. There’s a history of nightshade poison growing in abundance in Lohr, a mining town stood close to there, and the glass coffin may be another nod to the city’s famous glassworks. While there are sound arguments disproving these hypotheses, I find it fascinating that Snow White has taken such root into culture as a whole that historians and folklorists alike are willing to connect the dots between the story and factual occurrences.

When it comes to modern iterations, though, the Disney film is the one that obviously stands foremost in the public consciousness. It’s inspired nearly every adaptation going forward since 1937, and Faerie Tale Theatre’s is no exception…

Continue reading

Escape From Vault Disney Part 3: Phantom of the Megaplex!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hey everyone! The newest episode of Escape From Vault Disney is out and I’m on it along with my good friend, avatar artist and Detective Cat creator Charles Moss, and voice actress Rae Harrell! We had a blast looking at the Disney Channel “classic” Phantom of the Megaplex and we hope you enjoy listening to our rambling. Have a listen here, here, here, here, or here. Most of all, stay tuned to the end for a very special announcement!

Faerie Tale Theatre Reviews: Thumbelina

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

pg29-thumbelina

I’m always the bride, and never the bridesmaid.”
– Our heroine’s fourth wall-leaning lament

The idea of tiny people going on huge adventures is nothing new in fairy tales. Hans Christian Andersen took most of his inspiration for today’s story from the seventeenth-century English tale of Tom Thumb, but his own flourishes make Thumbelina a slightly original creation. It was published in 1835 as part of the second fairy tale collection Andersen released that year, which included The Princess and the Pea. It received the same criticisms, namely the lack of clear morals, informal chatty nature and passive characters. Discouraged, Andersen returned to novel writing for a full year before trying his hands at fairy tales again.

Now, it’s no secret that Andersen used most of his stories to vent his own insecurities and frustrations. Thumbelina is no exception, though he’s a bit subtler about it this time around. It’s been theorized that Thumbelina’s platonic relationship with the swallow was a “distant tribute” to a confidante named Henriette Wuff, though there’s little evidence to support it. There’s also the beetle who admires Thumbelina’s beauty but changes its tune when he shows her off to his fellow bugs and they deem her “ugly”; an on-the-nose critique of his fickle audience if ever there was one. What’s certain, however, is that while studying in Slagelse, Zealand, Andersen was tutored by a short, stout, balding, contemptuous classics teacher named Simon Meisling who frequently abused his pupil. “You’re a stupid boy who will never make it,” he once berated him in front of the entire class. Meisling is all but confirmed to be the inspiration for the odious Mole, which proves the adage of never pissing off the writer.

Then there’s the story’s lesson, which is…complicated. On the one hand, Thumbelina bouncing around from one miserable suitor of differing species to another until she finds someone exactly like her can come across as “stick to your own kind”, which borders on yikes. On the other, when Thumbelina finally meets her fairy prince, she’s not pressed into marrying him. She chooses to marry him. Thumbelina is really a story about a woman running away from futures she has no say in to charter her own course in life, an empowering message for women in Andersen’s time – and even today, when put in the right hands.

Continue reading

Seventh Anniversary: Twelve Movie Reviews in One Post!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s Up On The Shelf’s seventh anniversary, yaaaaay!

I never imagined the blog would come this far or have the loyal band of readers like you. Thanks for sticking around for so long! I understand some of you are disappointed by the lack of updates or movie reviews (believe me I miss them too, but don’t have the time to get back to them just yet), so to mark the occasion I’m doing something a little bit different.

About ten years ago I got into the habit of documenting what movies I watch each month. It’s a fun way of tracking my taste in film, how many times I revisit favorites and mark new discoveries. To that effect, I put every movie I watched each month over the past year (2021) in a Randomizer, and came out with twelve mini spoiler-free reviews for you to take in. Some of these flicks are On The Shelf so consider them previews for when I eventually review them proper. Let’s get to it!

Continue reading

We’re Experiencing Technical Difficulties…

Guess who’s computer decided to fizzle out on them this weekend? (Well it wouldn’t be an anniversary without me being late for it…) I can’t apologize enough. I’m going to try to get the reviews out as soon as possible, Monday the latest. But so I won’t leave you completely empty handed today, I’ve made the previously patrons-only list of randomized movies I’ll be looking at public. You can see them all here. Thanks for being so patient, and I’ll see you soon!

Seventh Anniversary Plans

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hey everyone! Hope you’re beating the summer heat and having fun in the sun. As some of you already know, the blog is turning seven this month, and I’m doing something a bit different to mark the occasion. Rather than write one big movie review, I’m doing twelve randomized mini-reviews! These will be based on features I’ve watched in the past year. Don’t worry, these will not count towards the requested reviews that are currently on hold, or full reviews of features that are On The Shelf; rather, some of them will be previews of what’s to come should they get the proper review treatment.

Patrons of the blog will get to see the full list of which flicks I’ll be covering among other great perks, so consider joining the Patreon party today! I’ll see you July 30th when we celebrate in cinematic style. Shelf out!

Faerie Tale Theatre Reviews: Pinocchio

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

sdftt-pinocchio

“Gepetto has wished for a brand new boy,
so you have been chosen to bring him joy…I hope.”
– The spell bringing Pinocchio to life, albeit with some shaky confidence

Hi boys and girls and everyone else! Today’s secret word is strings! So anytime someone says that word, scream real loud!

To say Pinocchio is just another fairytale character would be a gross understatement. Whether you’re familiar with the mischievous marionette through Disney’s animated movie, his appearances in the Shrek films, or some other third thing, everyone knows the living lie-detector puppet who wants to be a real boy. So where did he come from? Gepetto may be Pinocchio’s father in-story, but it was Italian author Carlo Collodi who gave him life on the page in 1881. Collodi wasn’t a stranger to fairy tales, having previously translated several French ones to his native tongue. When he was invited to try writing his own stories, he wound up making history.

Released in a serial format in one of the earliest known children’s magazines, Le avventure di Pinocchio highlighted the titular puppet’s trials and tribulations as he navigated the world around him. Pinocchio was meant to serve as an example of behavior for kids, and was punished or rewarded for his actions accordingly – but mostly punished. Those of you who’ve grown up knowing only Disney’s version might be surprised at how much the film deviates from Collodi’s writings, and the numerous bleak tangents that were omitted (though considering the frightening scenes that remain, I wouldn’t say the feature we got was all that saccharine). The original story ended on a rather grim note with Pinocchio left hanging from a noose after the Fox and Cat swindle him out of his money (I should mention at this point that Collodi was somewhat inspired by The Brothers Grimm, which certainly accounts for some of the darker elements). Popular demand rescued Pinocchio from his cruel fate, however, and his story continued for many months afterward. His complete adventures were compiled into a single book in 1883, and the puppet’s popularity hasn’t waned since. He’s a cultural icon in Italy, nearly at the same level that Mickey Mouse is in America. Some analyses even place him on the same epic heroes pedestal as Odysseus, Dante, and Gilgamesh, claiming his journey is just as rich an exploration of the human condition as their ancient myths.

As for me personally, I’ve made my adoration for the Disney film clear in the past (or rather the original, seeing as we’re getting a live-action remake of it next month). Walt and his team knew how to weave the separate tales into one cohesive narrative and made our hero a much more likable but still flawed and interesting character. That, combined with music and iconography that is rarely matched these days, cements it as one of the best animated features in the history of the medium – and nearly every version of Pinocchio that came after has tried and failed to be just like it. That’s not my love for Disney talking either. Most every iteration I’ve seen borrows or outright steals the same exact characters, designs and beats (in the same order) as the Disney one when not awkwardly incorporating details from the Collodi stories. So how does Faerie Tale Theatre’s take on the puppet’s odyssey fare?

Continue reading

Faerie Tale Theatre Reviews: The Princess and The Pea

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

pg18-princess-pea

“That’s…IMPOSSIBLE! Nobody could feel a PEA beneath TWENTY MATTRESSES!!” “The Queen is almost as clever as the Fool.”
– Prince Richard and the Fool discovering the Queen’s implausible test and earning their snarky reviewer cred simultaneously

If you’ve ever been in community theater or took it up while in school, chances are you’ve been in either of the following productions at least once: Bye Bye Birdie, or Once Upon A Mattress. They’re frothy, light and fun shows that remain popular because they’re so easy to put on. Oddly enough, that was the main criticism Hans Christian Andersen received after penning the fairy tale Mattress is based on, The Princess and The Pea (my, it’s been a while since we’ve covered one of his narratives, hasn’t it?) Critics disliked the story’s laid-back tone and lack of morals and ripped into it like an old-school film auteur when asked about superhero movies. Despite the chilly reception, time was kind to The Princess and The Pea; when Andersen passed away, it was considered one of his most beloved stories.

As ol’ Hans tended to create his own fables as opposed to gathering them for posterity like the Brothers Grimm, I expected this to be a wholly original tale. Remarkably, there’s some precedence set by folktales spanning throughout Europe and Asia focusing on sensitivity as a mark of femininity. Sweden’s The Princess Who Lay On Seven Peas has the princess prove her pedigree by sleeping on, well, seven peas; she’s already aware of the test, though, thanks to being warned by her cat. An Italian story has a prince search for the most sensitive woman to make his bride, ending with him marrying a lady whose foot is injured by a falling flower petal. India’s variation, The Three Delicate Wives of Virtue-Banner, features a king solving a riddle about which of the maharajah’s wives is the most fragile. The earliest known story, however, is the medieval Islamic tale al-Nadirah. Though it’s likely all the previous stories originate from this one, the ending is less than happy. Princess al-Nadirah falls in love at first sight with the Persian king Shaupur I, betrays her father to him, and marries him – all while he’s in the middle of besieging her city, making this the first instance of Stockholm Syndrome before the term was even coined. She has trouble sleeping once they start sharing a bed, though. The culprit is a myrtle leaf found under the mattress. When Shapur asks how Nadirah can be so alarmingly delicate, she says it stems from how well her dad treated her. Shapur, appalled by how she could throw such a caring father under the bus, calls her out on her ingratitude and executes her. Well, there’s your morals for ya, backstab your family to bed a usurper and you get what you deserve.

Returning to the topic at hand, why has The Princess and The Pea grown into such a well-known fairy tale? What is it about it that makes it ripe for retelling? Some researchers believe it’s one of Andersen’s biting critiques of the upper-class; that the infamous mattress test pokes fun at the ridiculous measures taken by the nobility to prove their bloodlines pure. Others view it as another self-insert where Andersen expresses his longing to be part of the elite, and the extreme sensitivity he felt trying to fit in. As for me personally, the ridiculous and mirthful nature of the story is a nice break from some of Andersen’s more infamously dour tales. It’s endlessly optimistic, with the time-honored messages of not letting appearances deceive you and what’s on the inside that counts standing fully at the forefront – and it so easily lends itself to the romantic comedy genre. Today’s entry is the prime example of that. It boasts a lead in need of a partner who turns his worldview around, a love interest who’s more than what she seems, a comic relief best friend, a domineering mother figure and false-flag fiancées who provide obstacles, misunderstandings galore…the only thing that’s missing is a director’s credit for Garry Marshall.

Continue reading

Return to Channel KRT!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Guess who’s back on Channel KRT? I was invited to reflect on an odd videotape from my childhood, Rainbow Brite: San Diego Zoo Adventure. Come listen to me, Tyler, Randee and Kitt riff on badly costumed characters, questionable animal interactions, a sidekick with the most unintentionally hilarious name, terrible rainbow graphics, and a plan to steal animals’ color that makes zero sense. Some of the team may have regretted it but I certainly don’t, and I’m sure you won’t either. You can listen to it at any of these links, and be sure to join their Patreon for extra fun stuff! Enjoy!

A slight delay…

Hey y’all, sorry to say that the next Faerie Tale Theatre Review will be delayed slightly due to unforeseen circumstances, namely me catching Covid last month. Don’t worry, I was already fully vaccinated and boosted, and the worst of the disease has passed as of writing this. I’ll try to have the review up by the end of the week. Thanks for understanding!