Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Guest Post: Great Grimms in Literature

My dear guests, I have a very special post for you today! The first ever guest post here at The Grimm Tea Party written by my step-sister Ariel Grimm. Ariel is web-mistress of The Forest and updates her blog far more than I, so check it out! Without further delays, here is her essay, Great Grimms in Literature:

The Brothers Grimm are well-known figures in the literary world, famous for their book of fairytales. Popular stories such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood can be credited to them. But who are the men behind these tales, and how have they inspired countless generations over the course of history? What is it about these stories that make them relevant even in these modern times? Read on to discover the truth behind the tales...

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born and raised in Hanau, Germany, spending a fairytale childhood wandering the Wald of their homeland by day and listening to their mother spin a tapestry of tales by the hearth at night. The brothers lived in a state of bliss until their father, Phillip Wilhelm, died when they were barely teenagers. The whole family was devastated, as the brothers were not the only children in the house.

The brothers went on to study law and linguistics at many different universities across the land. They shared a passion for words, language, and writing. Jacob landed his first major job out of school in 1808, as Court Librarian to the king of a land called Westphalia. Wilhelm continued to study, developing a passion for folktales and fantasy. The tales gave him a sense of patriotism for his divided country, all the states like a patchwork quilt of diversity. However, with Napoleon’s reign over the populace, it was as if the cloth were being cut up with rough scissors. Wilhelm dreamed of a united Germanic nation. He hoped the countrymen would bond over their collective traditional tales. He persuaded his rational brother to help him set out on a pilgrimage across the land, collecting the stories spoken in their childhoods and learning new legends as well. In 1812, their collaboration was complete.

Tales of Children and the Home (Kinder und Hausmärchen) was an instant hit in Germany. Though the brothers did not write these tales themselves, the stories are often attributed to them. In truth, these tales were exchanged decades before the Brothers Grimm had even been born!

Wilhelm married, and the brothers spent the rest of their lives working on more scholarly pursuits. Grimm’s Law, a set of statements that illustrate how sound shifts in the European languages change words over time was named after discoveries made by Jacob in 1822.

Wilhelm and Jacob’s biggest project was a dictionary documenting every single word in the German language, which they worked on together for many years. The dictionary contained 33 volumes! Unfortunately, they died before the dictionary was complete, leaving off at the letter ‘F’. Their children, their children’s children, and future generations carried on the work until 1960. Though their lives were brief, their work left behind a legacy...

Over the years, the tales travelled from their homeland of Germany with immigrants who carried on the tradition of storytelling in America. Nowadays, the tales are still prevailing in popular culture. Most children grow up listening to the famous fairytales read to them at bedtime or watching animated film adaptations. The stories are engraved in our collective consciousness. Countless writers have been inspired by the Grimm Brothers to create original works of fiction. From children’s books to adult literature, these new stories are sure to entertain!

A new series by Michael Buckley titled The Sisters Grimm is aimed towards young readers who like mystery. The plot centers on the lives of two sisters: Sabrina and Daphne, who discover their heritage as descendants of the Brothers Grimm themselves. The girls move to their new hometown, a fairytale dimension separate from our world. In this strange place called Ferryport Landing the characters from the tales are alive and well. These people, known as Everafters, live forever but must remain in the confines of the town because laws set by the Grimm family ages ago. The sisters become fairytale detectives, solving mysteries around town and eventually unravelling the greatest mystery of all... The Sisters Grimm adds an element of detective story to the timeless tales.

A work of fiction that would appeal more to adults is Grimm’s Last Fairytale by Haydn Middleton. This novel is set in Germany, 1863 and focuses on the last days in the life of Jacob Grimm. Having lost his brother and now the sole survivor of the Grimm saga, Jacob travels around the country with his niece revisiting places of key importance in his life. Weaving in and out of the present are tales of Jacob’s past and a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty heavy with symbolism. This fictional book reads like fact on the life of Jacob Grimm, and is a must-read for any fan of the Grimms!

A wacky and wild new series called Grimm’s Circle really branches out on the Grimm genre. In the first book of the series, Candy Houses, the plot of a famous fairy tale gets a darkly grim twist with a dash of paranormal romance. Greta was the little girl who wandered into the woods long ago, but did not get the happy ending we often hear at the end of the tale. Instead, she became a Grimm, a supernatural guardian angel who fights demons and monsters for the good of all humankind. This book is best for young women who want a more exiting bedtime story. The stories inspired by the tales collected by the Brother’s Grimm are as diverse as the states that originally birthed them.

There are too many tales inspired by the Grimm’s to count, but what about people inspired by them? The name Grimm has become synonymous with fairytale author in popular culture. Two new Grimms stand out in particular. Alice and Ariel Grimm are two writers with a penchant for folklore, fantasy and of course, fairytales. An uncanny coincidence of two soul step sisters who have never met in real life, both chose the name of Grimm as their nom de plume and started blogs to perfect their composition skills. The two discovered each other online in 2009 and have been blogging buddies ever since. Some say they are the female incarnations of Jacob and Wilhelm themselves. Ariel Grimm runs a story blog called The Forest, featuring true fairytales and articles on living an enchanted life. Alice Grimm hosts the Grimm Tea Party, a blog about all things macabre. She is always the first to know about fairytale news and movies being adapted from the tales of the Brothers Grimm. Ariel works as a Page in a library and attends school part time. She lives in a world of fantasy sometimes even forgetting to do her homework until the last minute. Alice is a strict scholar who stays up late writing reports for folklore classes and medieval studies. Call it coincidence or kismet; these sisters are stamping their Grimm style on the blogosphere for good!

What is it about the Brothers Grimm and these timeless tales that continue to inspire us even to this very day? With new media coming out inspired by the fairytales all the time, our obsession is only growing… Perhaps it is a longing for the charm of European folk life, or a feeling of wanting to escape to a fairytale world and find out very own happily ever after. Whatever it is, the appeal of the Grimms and their original tales will not be going out of style any time soon. This is the story. I have told it to you, and now I leave it in your hands. Do with it what you will...

And there you have it dear guests!
Thanks once again to Ariel Grimm for sharing her writing with me and allowing it to be posted here at The Grimm Tea Party

Stay Spooky,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fairytale Tuesday: Beastly

Happy FairyTale Tuesday!

Originally I was going to talk to you today about the latest Chronicles of Narnia film to hit theatres, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but instead we’ll be looking at another film which I have wanted to talk about for some time, an up coming film, Beastly.

Here’s the trailer:

For some further explanation, here’s the plot synopsis from Dread Central:

Kyle Kingson (Alex Pettyfer) has it all – looks, intelligence, wealth, and opportunity – and a wicked cruel streak. Prone to mocking and humiliating “aggressively unattractive” classmates, he zeroes in on Goth classmate Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), inviting her to the school’s extravagant environmental bash. Kendra accepts, and, true to form, Kyle blows her off in a particularly savage fashion. She retaliates by casting a spell that physically transforms him into everything he despises. Enraged by his horrible and unrecognizable appearance, he confronts Kendra and learns that the only solution to the curse is to find someone that will love him as he is – a task he considers impossible.

Repulsed by his appearance, Kyle’s callous father banishes him to Brooklyn with a sympathetic housekeeper (LisaGay Hamilton) and blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris). As Kyle ponders how to overcome the curse and get his old life back, he chances upon a drug addict in the act of killing a threatening dealer. Seizing the opportunity, Kyle promises the addict freedom and safety for his daughter, Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens), if she will consent to live in Kyle’s Brooklyn home. Thus begins Kyle’s journey to discover true love in this hyper-modern retelling of the classic “Beauty and the Beast” story.

The film is based on a book of the same name by Alex Flinn. I have yet to read the book but plan to when I get the chance. My knowledge of the book mainly comes from the book review by Melina Pendulum on her Live Journal.

So what does this book (and thus the movie) have to offer us? It is after all based on a fairytale that we all know so well. Melina says in her review, “We know how this story goes and honestly, other than the modern update Beastly doesn’t do anything special. It is a note for note retelling of a story we all know by verbatim.”

And what about the beauty character in the book? “...our beauty is a shy, sweet, book smart, average looking girl named Lindy. Lindy's appearance is the only thing that separates her from “Beauties” of past. With her red hair, freckles, green eyes and crooked teeth, she would have never been the Beast's ideal in his past life.”

Wait a moment, that doesn’t quiet sound like the character Vanessa Hudgens is portraying in the film... Oh dear. Melina ends her review on this note, “There is a movie adaptation of Beastly coming out and since Vanessa Hudgens is playing Lindy, I guess the moral of the story was lost in production.” Melina gives the book a final grade of C+ and if you’d like to read her full review, you can check it out here.

What do you think about the film my dear guests? Have any of you read the novel? Do you think you’ll go see the film in theatres? I’m a great lover of the Beauty and the Beast story, so of course, I’m looking forward to it. And I have to be honest it feels like ages since I saw an Olsen twin in a film, so I can’t lie, I’m excited to see Mary-Kate on the big screen again. What can I say? The twins were part of my childhood.

So, what else can you expect from The Grimm Tea Party this week? On Friday we’ll be having our first Freaky Friday where we’ll talk about Beastly once more, specifically how the Beast in the film looks like, and how I’m a little disappointed. Yes, as an admirer of the grotesque, I’m a little under-whelmed. I’ll show you some “beasts” that are in no way under-whelming.
And tomorrow on Wednesday, we have a guest post!

Stay Spooky,

Monday, December 13, 2010

Music Monday: Jessye Norman

Happy Music Monday to you all!

This post is dedicated to my mom, who will (hopefully) never read this blog, but it is dedicated to her nonetheless. In this post we’ll be looking at some of the Christmas music of Jessye Norman. It is Jessye Norman’s Christmas album Christmastide that is my mom’s all time favourite Xmas album, hence why this post is for her

First, a little background on Ms. Norman:

“Jessye Norman (born September 15, 1945) is an American opera singer. Norman is one of the most admired contemporary opera singers and recitalists, and one of the highest paid performers in classical music. A true dramatic soprano with a majestic stage presence, Norman is associated in particular with the roles of Aïda, Cassandre, Alceste, and Leonora in Fidelio. Norman has been given the nickname ‘Just Enormous’ for her powerful voice and range...”
And believe me “just enormous” is very appropriate Her voice is simply amazing. While her style of singing may not be your cup of tea, I do not think it can be denied that her voice is a beautiful & powerful instrument.

Speaking of her voice, I didn’t realise that there were certain “voice types” I just thought a soprano was a soprano. For any of you who have knowledge of these things, perhaps you can offer your own thoughts on her voice in the comments.

“Norman is most often referred to as a dramatic soprano but unlike most dramatic sopranos, Norman has become known for roles more traditionally sung by other types of voices. … Some vocal critics assert that Norman is not a dramatic soprano but has in fact a rare soprano voice type known as a Falcon. The Falcon voice is an intermediate voice types between the soprano and the mezzo soprano that is similar to the dramatic soprano but with a darker-color. Norman, however, refuses to place any labels on her voice...”

Getting back to her music, it was her Christmas album, Christmastide, which my mom always played (and still does) at Christmas time when I was growing up. Yes, at my home, there’s never a trace of Frosty the Snowman playing, it’s Jessye Norman, the Westminster Cathedral choir, or the album Christmas Goes Baroque, which has in recent years become a close second to Ms. Norman’s album. I think it’s because of all these classical Christmas albums that I found myself, in my teen years (and to this day), drawn to the music of (old) Nightwish, and other bands which feature female leads and have that classical/soprano influence.

So how about hearing some of this fantastic music? Here are some of the songs I found on YouTube. These all seem to be taken from a TV Christmas special at Ely Cathedral. If anyone has any more information about these performances, you can let me know in the comments

O Holy Night
I get cold shivers when listening to this song, especially at about 1:00, now this is what you call epic

Adeste Fideles
The all boys choir at the beginning are simply lovely

This is one of mom’s favourites

Silent Night

Stay Spooky,