Saturday, 28 April 2012

Sanctuary (Mesmer, #1) is FREE for a day!

Just a quick update that my newly released ebook is FREE for a day (on Sunday 29th April)!

If you're in the mood for some fantasy, adventure and romance, do grab a copy of Mesmer (Book #1: Sanctuary) (A Three Towers Fantasy) and chill out with a great read!:)

Have a great weekend, everyone:)

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Friday, 27 April 2012

Mesmer (Book #1: Sanctuary) is now available on Kindle!

After much blood, sweat and tears - well, no blood, I'll admit:) - it's time to announce the unexpectedly early release of the first book in my Three Towers Fantasy Series!:)

This story has been buzzing around in my head for far too long; full of sword and sorcery, romance and adventure. I never thought I'd complete it, much less complete it well. But this year has been a good one for the writer in me. I've spruced up my craft and begun to learn what the business of publishing is all about. And what with the advent of indie publishing (in the self-publishing sense), what better time could there be to release my 'Beauty and the Beast'-esque fantasy adventure in a tidy little trilogy?:)

All fingers are crossed that readers find my lovely book and enjoy it!

Without further ado, please welcome the first book in the Mesmer Trilogy - Sanctuary!

A hidden kingdom in a forbidden forest. A realm she can’t escape without the trust of a mage.

But trust and magic make complicated allies – when time is running out.

When Lea escapes ruthless pursuers within the shadows of a dark forest, she unwittingly stumbles upon an enchanted kingdom. But Verlaine is not the sanctuary it appears to be. And when its magi sovereign refuses to let her leave, her encounters with strange sorcery and malicious fey become the least of Lea’s problems.

Soon, Lea must find a way to outwit Gabriel Amarinth’s web of enchantment without betraying who – and what – she really is; and before a traitor can destroy all she’s fought to protect in her beloved home kingdom of Lorien.

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Thursday, 26 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: H is for 'Hansel and Grettel'

I chose to feature the Grimm brothers' tale Hansel and Grettel in today's post partly because of the story's survival-of-the-fittest angle, but also because the story's emphasis on sibling love instead of rivalry fascinated me.

I'm certain most of us have read Hansel and Grettel or come across it in some form or another from a very early age. Hansel and Grettel are, of course, a brother and sister living on the outskirts of what proves to be a rather fateful forest. Their family is quite impoverished, and when hard times become harder than usual, their father - a woodcutter - and their stepmother decide to take them deep into the forest and leave them there (leaving the family with two less mouths to feed).

The children overhear their parents' conversation however, and initially thwart them by leaving stones to mark the path taken from the woodcutter's hut to the middle of the forest, by which they find their way back that night. The second time their parents leave them in the woods, however, Hansel has no stones to mark the way back, and so he instead leaves bread crumbs to be followed back home. Unfortunately, the crumbs are eaten by birds before the children can get home, and they are stranded all alone just as their parents had planned.

But before Hansel and Grettel can give up on finding their home again - or die of hunger - they come across a house made of sweets and bread. The eatable house is not what it seems, of course. The place was cleverly designed by a witch with the specific purpose of luring wandering children to her, after which she intends to fatten them up and eat them. Hansel and Grettel are captured, but before the witch can carry out her foul plans and roast the brother and sister, she gets her just desserts *grin*, the children escape with an array of her jewels, and promptly find their way back to their their family (sans stepmother, who it seems is to take practically all the blame for sending the kids away).

Their is a certain dark - perhaps gothic - feel to this story. It's always spooked me a little, maybe because I've always been tempted by sweets myself:), but more likely because it's one of those tales that cuts a little too close to reality sometimes. I've certainly heard stories from my grandparents' generation of children being left with family friends or extended family without a word of warning, usually to combat the threat of starvation or scarcity if they'd stayed with their own parents during difficult times. It might be the shadow of those tales that casts a touch of darkness over Hansel and Grettel's plight. Or maybe it's simply the sinister overtones present in the thought of them being abandoned by their own parents to fend for themselves in a dark forest, one which holds only deception and death for the unwary.

But, as I mentioned above, what always brings me back to this story isn't its gothic atmosphere or concern for the children's safety, or even the appreciation for the children's intelligence in the face of adversity; instead, it's the strong sense of love between the siblings that has always charmed this reader. Somehow, despite everything - and everyone - that conspires against them, one knows that Hansel and Grettel will see each other through all obstacles and survive to tell the tale, simply because the brother and sister truly love each other and will stick together no matter what life throws at them. In the end, the bond between the siblings is too great to bend under the pressures of ordinary - and, well, extraordinary - life.

Now that's something heartening to take away from a tale such as this - and surely what makes Hansel and Grettel the classic it is. I've no doubt this fairy tale will live through the ages to be read again and again by wide-eyed children all over the world, reminding them always of the power and strength that can come from loving your family, especially your siblings, through the good days and the bad, wherever life's paths might take you:)

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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: G is for 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears'

Hmmm, one never knows what can crop up when reviewing a fairy tale. Imagine my surprise when I opened my version of Andrew Lang's Green Fairy Book only to discover a tale called The Story of the Three Bears which made no mention of a little girl named Goldilocks. Not to be deterred, I next visited Maria Tartar's famous collection; she noted that The Story of the Three Bears by Robert Southey (1837) in fact had no little girl in it at all; an unnamed old woman is the intruder in his version. The little girl first makes an appearance only later in the 1850 version by Jospeh Cundall, and Goldilocks was subsequently named as such by Flora Annie Steel in her 1918 collection of English fairy tales.

Luckily for me, the version with Goldilocks in it was included in Maria Tartar's book *huge sigh of relief*, so I'm gonna go ahead and review that one as planned!:)

Ah, this has to be the cutest fairy tale of them all:) The story takes place in a forest, in which is placed a cosy little home belonging to three bears: the Little, Small, Wee Bear; the Middle-sized Bear; and the Great, Huge Bear. These were neat and tidy creatures, polite and well-mannered and generally good-hearted. And they never locked their doors. *ahem: lesson to be learned here, people*:)

Well, what happens to bears who do not lock their doors? They get visited by intruders when they're away from home, of course. And what a rude intruder visits the Three Bears... In strolls Goldilocks, easy as you please, after making sure no one's at home (hmmm, obviously she's practised at this kind of thing). She proceeds to sample the bears' breakfasts and try out their chairs and beds. Being a bit bigger than the Wee Bear - and apparently liking his porridge the best - she eats it all up, proceeds to break his chair after sitting on it, and then takes refuge in his bed (because it fits her the best).

When the Bears return home, they're amazed to see their food and furniture so misused. Goldilocks is soon discovered sleeping in Wee Bear's bed, and once awoken by the little fellow's "shrill" voice, she beats a hasty retreat from the house, never to be seen by the Bears again.

I have to tell you, this was the strangest story to revisit out of everything so far. I mean, it's a short tale, and a pretty straightforward one, but I was really surprised to discover just how much of a - of a delinquent - Goldilocks was!:) The poor Wee Bear, with all his stuff wrecked in such a cavalier manner...:)

A pleasant thought however was that the story really turns stereotypes of people vs animals/monsters on its head. Here, it is the human who is pretty uncivilised, whilst the Bears are polite and courteous and everything one would think bears are not. It was nice to see a story told so cleverly without being preachy; its effortless execution left me thinking about how well we often misjudge the nature of little girls and large bears alike, metaphorically speaking:)

Goldilocks and the Three Bears also left me wondering if I should review next a similar tale - Snow White and the Seven Dwarves - as it features also an intruder waltzing into the beds of strangers with very little consideration; I suppose we'll never know if Goldilocks had as much cause for her behaviour as Snow White did. Or perhaps *gasp* they were one and the same? Hmmmm:)

Well, that's it for now. It's been a long three weeks this April; don't know how I would have made it this far without the generous support of those who've stopped by the blog and commented on my entries; couldn't keep going without the wonderful interaction with you guys, so thank you for all your encouragement! And I hope to have a few more posts up soon before the challenge is over. Ciaos to all:)

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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Announcement and Cover Reveal - Mesmer, Book 1: Sanctuary

Well, folks, it's time to announce that my Three Towers Fantasy series will be out very, very soon... beginning with the Mesmer trilogy!

And here it is - behold my gorgeous new cover for Mesmer (Book #1: Sanctuary):

Mesmer (Book #1: Sanctuary) is slated for release in the beginning of May 2012. Here's a brief synopsis:

A hidden kingdom in a forbidden forest. A realm she can’t escape without the trust of a mage. But trust and magic make complicated allies – when time is running out.

When Lea escapes ruthless pursuers within the shadows of a dark forest, she unwittingly stumbles upon an enchanted kingdom. But Verlaine is not the sanctuary it appears to be. And when its magi sovereign refuses to let her leave, her encounters with strange sorcery and malicious fey become the least of Lea's problems. Soon, Lea must find a way to outwit Gabriel Amarinth’s web of enchantment without betraying who – and what – she really is; and before a traitor can destroy all she’s fought to protect in her beloved home kingdom of Lorien.

Oh, I adore the cover for Book #1. It depicts so beautifully the atmosphere of the book. I've been dreaming of seeing it out there for so long that I can't believe it's actually completed! May I say, I'm over the moon:)

The cover reveals for Books #2 and #3 should be out very soon (in preparation for releases in June and July 2012). Do follow me via the blog, twitter or facebook, or my brand new website, for latest news on the trilogy. Happy reading to all:)

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Saturday, 14 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: 'Fanta-Ghiro the Beautiful'

The Italian fairy tale Fanta-Ghiro the Beautiful was one of the few fairy tales I came across on the small screen prior to the written page. I was instantly fascinated by the fantasy film Fantaghiro (also known as The Cave of the Golden Rose) when it first aired on local TV, and I caught reruns of the show ever since with that kind of avid fanaticism reserved only for true fans of fairy tales and fantasy:)

The Cave of the Golden Rose is one movie I hope to blog about very soon. The reason I mention it today however is because it did more than spark my imagination on quiet evenings; it also made me seek out the original tale which inspired Lamberto Bava's enchanting adaptation:) Sometime last year, I was delighted to finally hold in my hands a copy of Italo Calvino's Italian Folktales. His version of Fanta-Ghiro the Beautiful (Montale Pistoiese) was one I'd been searching for forever. The story turned out to be pretty short, but was surprisingly effective nonetheless.

Fanta-Ghiro opens with the heroine's father-King receiving a declaration of war from an enemy kingdom. The King has no sons, only three daughters, and he's very old himself, so each of his daughters decide to try lead his army into battle in his place; the twist is, they must relinquish control of the army if they mention "women's work" at any point along the way to battle.

The first two daughters immediately fail this test. Fanta-Ghiro on the other hand, the youngest of the three, disproves all gender conventions very easily by not only passing her father's test but also that of the enemy King's mother. Hmmm, all right, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself there. You see, the  handsome enemy King guesses that Fanta-Ghiro is a woman - perhaps falling in love with her was a powerful clue?:) But he does not know how to prove she's a woman, which means he can't call off the battle and ask her to marry him.

What does our confused and frustrated hero do? He asks his mother for help:) Don't you just love these stories?:)

So, the King's mother promptly helps him by trying to trick Fanta-Ghiro into revealing her gender. But Fanta-Ghiro isn't your typical princess, and by the time the story is through, she has successfully hung on to her position as General of her father's armies, gained a truce between the kingdoms and finally revealed who she is on her own terms before agreeing to marry the besotted enemy King.

Despite the remarkably short length of this tale, let me tell you that I was pleasantly surprised by its tenor. The misogyny apparent in that bit about "women's work" was soon swept aside by the portrayal of Fanta-Ghiro as intelligent, feisty and resourceful; and her actions throughout the tale certainly allowed the reader to see her as an individual rather than merely a gender. The enemy King's obvious quandary provided some delightful moments of amusement, especially the bit where he was left cold and alone and quite naked in a fishpond while his nemesis, beautiful Fanta-Ghiro, made her mischievous escape.

And of course, how could I forget my favourite part of this story: the proposal:) I have to say, this was the first time I'd read a proposal quite like this... From the enemy King to a very pleased Fanta-Ghiro: "General, will you marry me?"

Ha, what's not to like!:) I only wish the story had been longer:)

I do hope you enjoyed this review. I should be back soon with more wonderful features for your reading pleasure. Ciaos and happy reading to all:)

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Thursday, 5 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: 'East of the Sun and West of the Moon'

I'm so far behind in the atozchallenge, that I'm this close to giving up! But whether I make it through to the 26 posts or not, I've decided to complete my review of the 26 fairy tales I'd initially chosen, so here I go with alphabet 'E' for the Norwegian classic East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

A variant of the Beauty and the Beast tale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon is rather more intricate in many ways. Here, the youngest beautiful daughter of a peasant family brings them out of poverty by agreeing to wed a white bear (ie a 'Beast'), who takes the form of a human prince at night. The girl stays up one night to see his face by candlelight, but inadvertently spills three drops of tallow on the Prince's shirt. This incident unexpectedly brings into effect a curse by the Prince's stepmother, a troll - the Prince is now compelled to leave the heroine and return to the troll Queen's castle, a castle that lies east of the sun and west of the moon, where he is to marry a troll princess as arranged by said stepmum. The tragedy is that the stepmother's curse would actually have been lifted after a year of marriage to our heroine if only she hadn't been so impatient to take that midnight peek at her beautiful prince.

What follows is rather different from what we get in Beauty and the Beast. In the Norwegian version, the heroine must travel far and wide to seek the troll Queen's castle, getting there only with the help of three old women and the winds from the four corners of the Earth (East, West, South and North winds). Once she gets there, she rescues her Prince from the trolls and they live happily ever after (hmmmm, that comes up a lot, doesn't it?).

The bits about this fairy tale that I really adored included the powerful imagery relating to the girl's sorrow at having to leave her family to marry the white bear, the depiction of the heroine's courage and determination to seek a castle that no road led to, and the way in which Nature's elements conspired to help her find her love again. Also, it was pretty cool to see the heroine rescue the hero for once, instead of the other way around:)

If you're thinking of getting hold of this particular tale, I would recommend getting the copy that's featured in Maria Tartar's Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, simply because it contains lots of juicy commentary about the historical and cultural contexts of a very richly layered story. I hope you enjoyed this post, and happy reading!:)

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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: D is for 'Donkeyskin' (atozchallenge)

A Charles Perrault fairy tale has never failed to disappoint, and Donkeyskin is no exception. This particular tale, however, is also surprisingly provocative... Well, I shouldn't say 'surprisingly' - most fairy tales were provocative to begin with, and were merely sanitised over time. But anyway, a story that features incestuous desire, where a father's unnatural passion for his own daughter pushes her to disguise herself under a donkeyskin to escape him, is surely one of the more dark tales out there.

In Donkeyskin, the heroine's mother dies with explicit instructions to the father-King that he is not to remarry unless it is to a woman more beautiful, wise and accomplished than the dying Queen herself. Now, I don't see why it had to follow that the King would then set his sights on his own daughter, but hey, fairy tales have never shied away from controversial subjects, have they?

The princess - smart girl - does not take her father's sudden strange fancies lying down... :) I'm sorry, I couldn't resist that:) She's advised by her fairy godmother - apparently there are quite a few of them traipsing about in fairytale-land - to request an expensive trousseau as a gift from her father before she can agree to his request to marry him. Both princess and fairy godmother soon realise however that the wealth brought by an enchanted donkey the King owns will enable him to supply her with any remarkable dress she asks for (and she asks for some beauties, including a dress the colour of the moon and one more splendid than stars).

In desperation, the princess finally requests for the hide of that poor animal, thinking that her father would not be able to part with such a wondrous possession.

The donkeyskin is however delivered to the horrified princess.

The bright side is - it turns out to make wonderful camouflage.

Wearing it - hence the princess's new title 'Donkeyskin' - our heroine quickly escapes the castle, her jewels and lavish trousseau towed along in her trunk. She works at a farm on which there lies an aviary frequented by a prince (come on, you knew a prince would appear sooner of later:D). The Prince, by a bizarre turn of events that truly paints him as the worst sort of Peeping Tom, discovers the beautiful woman lying beneath that horrendous donkeyskin and tricks her into marrying him. Well, the fairy tale actually suggests that Donkeyskin tricks the Prince into tricking her into marrying him, but  I suppose there's no need to keep score here:) They marry, her father "purges himself of all lawless desires", and everyone lives happily ever after...

Except of course for one thing: I can't quite get over the senseless murder of that poor donkey!

Donkeyskin seems to be becoming forgotten despite its beautiful language, no doubt because of its controversial subject matter. It's a shame really, especially when the heroine in this piece is a breath of fresh air, taking her destiny courageously into her own hands for much of the tale. The piece has also been written in a beautifully lyrical style, so much so that I found it to be one of the more well-crafted (stylistically) fairytales that I've devoured so far:)

All right, I would normally write more on any fairy tale I'm featuring, but I've come to realise I'll never get through this challenge if I keep doing that, so I'll revisit this - and the rest of the tales - once the challenge is over:) May this review have persuaded you to pick up the much ignored Donkeyskin for a fascinating read. Till alphabet 'E' then:) Ciao:)

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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: C is for 'Cinderella' (atozchallenge)

A young girl whose mother dies and whose father marries another; a stepmother who mistreats the girl and makes her work as a servant in the family's wealthy household while her two stepsisters are lavished with gifts and other luxuries; and a fairy godmother who steps in to save the day when all seems lost: welcome to Cinderella, otherwise known as The Little Glass Slipper:)

What to say about Charles Perrault's famous tale? It reads as wonderfully as it always did, for one. The language is lovely, descriptive and clever (I'm reading Andrew Lang's version in his Blue Fairy Book btw), and the characterisation of Cinderella's plight is drawn as wretchedly as one could hope:) Who couldn't feel moved by her story? Or cheer when her fairy godmother uses her powers to ensure Cinderella attends the ball, charms her Prince and - despite having to endure that awful nightmare that teenagers everywhere must curse: a curfew of, in her case, midnight - wins the Prince's hand in marriage. Hey, it's not my fault these fairy tales are so obsessed with marriage...:)

It is definitely a romantic tale though, this one:) Sighhh...:) And that scene right at the end - you know, the one where Cinderella slides her foot into the glass slipper left behind at the ball - has surely become iconic.

It's not as easy as I'd thought it would be to review a story I enjoy reading so much. I just love, love, love this tale. The imagery in Cinderella is one of the best things about it. Perrault has written his story in such a way that every magical moment becomes one which aids a reader's imagination to grow: a scooped-out pumpkin becomes a carriage, grey mice become six dappled horses and a rat with a large beard becomes a whiskered, jolly coachman. Lizards are surely liveried coachmen the moment one's back is turned (or once wand is waved), and what befits a jewelled gown more than a certain pair of little glass slippers!

I would have liked to be a bystander in this fictional story, watching Cinderella's godmother work her magic with such (it seemed to me anyway) tasteful elegance. Sure'd beat making imaginary shapes out of fat clouds during free minutes in the day anyway:)

Things that surprised me about Cinderella.... Not the magic obviously. I was surprised to be reminded that Cinderella's real father was alive and well while her stepmother was mistreating her, just strangely ignorant of what was happening right under his very nose (how he could not notice a cinder-covered daughter hanging around by the fireplace every odd moment is what I want to know!). Oh, and I'd forgotten that her illustrious nickname was given to her by her younger, kinder stepsister: she was originally called 'Cinderwench' by the elder.

That the King's son was more enamoured by Cinderella's beauty than anything else was a foregone conclusion, but it did make me feel a little disappointed; I blame my disappointment on Drew Barrymore's wonderful big screen adaptation Ever After, a movie which turns the traditional tale on its head in just the right way, and which I recommend without reservation to anyone who's yet to watch it.

Last but not least, that glass slipper... The benefits of being able to fit into dainty glass slippers were never made more obvious to me than they were today. It was quite lowering. Yes, in case you're wondering, my feet are not exactly 'dainty' lol...:)

Okay, I'm waffling on now, aren't I? This is the result of me staying up well past my usual bedtime:) I guess I'd better turn in now. Writing about Cinderella's been a pleasure and I've no doubt I'll be sleeping very well tonight - pumpkins and glass slippers continue to play about in my mind's eye as I type this:) Can't wait to write the post for alphabet 'D'. Can you guess what fairy tale I intend to feature tomorrow? I'm already excited thinking about it, and I'm sure you'll enjoy the coming post!:)

Cheers, folks, and goodnight:)

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Monday, 2 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: B is for 'Beauty and the Beast' (atozchallenge)

Yikes, I'm already falling behind in the challenge, so this is gonna have to be a quick one! The alphabet B immediately brought to mind (of course) the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast.

It's one of the fairy tales that most of us would recognise at once, a staple of popular culture worldwide - no doubt due in part to the many adaptations on screen. Who can forget Belle or Gaston in the Disney version? But I'm trying to go old-school for these posts, so over I pop to my cherished copy of Maria Tartar's The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales.

Beauty and the Beast was written by Madame de Beaumont in 1756. It tells the story of a girl who must ransom her father from a powerful beast by agreeing to stay with the beast in his castle (well, actually, to die in place of her father, if one is being particular about it). But the Beast is not all that he seems, as Beauty soon discovers. She gradually falls in love with the creature, who - if ugly and a little dull -is nevertheless quite kind-hearted and clearly quite smitten with her.

Beauty's good qualities are of course her compassion, virtue and wisdom, not her beauty, something which Beaumont takes pains to point out throughout the story. But I can't quite ignore the fact that the Beast was ugly and dumb, not blind. Hmmm.

Anyway,when Beauty finally declares her feelings for him, an old curse is broken, one which had imprisoned a handsome Prince within the body of the Beast. They live - did you have any doubt? - happily ever after:)

This particular fairy tale was always a problematic one for me. There is a clear romantic subtext to the entire tale; Beauty and the Beast fall in love despite appearances, and triumph over all challenges because of that love. But is that really what the story is saying? I'm never been sure.

It has occured to me (and Tartar points this out as well) that Beauty does not fall in love with the Beast at all, so much as accept his hand in marriage because she respects him and is grateful for his help. Her gratitude binds her to him, as does her very open preference for kindness in her partner as opposed to physical beauty or intelligence or even falling in love.

Don't believe me? Well, Beauty actually spells it out very clearly: "I may not be in love with him, but I feel respect, friendship and gratitude towards him".

Ha that startled you, didn't it?:) I'll admit it startled me too; what can I say, Disney's version has been more on the brain lately than Beaumont's:) Don't fret though, the ending to the tale does imply Beauty feels something warmer than friendship for the Beast, albeit with ambiguous wording.

There was something else that made me go 'hmmmmm' when re-reading the tale. Beauty's sisters ask their father to get them expensive gifts on his way home from port. Beauty asks him only for a rose. It was of course Beauty's humble but unusual request that causes her father to end up in the Beast's castle. I couldn't help thinking at this point: was Beaumont purposefully contrasting the modern, material world of Beauty's sisters with Beast's magical world by use of that innocent rose? A rose to lead to forgotten, natural truths where furs and jewellery would only take one further away from them? Very possible, I think, especially when the Beast declares that his roses are what he loves most in the world ... while he stands very comfortably on the grounds of his lavish castle:)

The other thing that struck me was how issues of privilege and position are littered throughout the tale. As Tartar points out in her commentary, Beauty and the Beast is unusual in that it is a fairy tale that directly features the rise of the bourgeoisie in pre-revolutionary France. We are allowed a glimpse of the choices faced by families where new money creates merely a new brand of snobbery (her sisters) instead of intellectual power and virtue (Beauty), where fortunes of the newly rich could fall or rise with heady unpredictability (as happens when Beauty's merchant father loses his wealth), and where the children of the rich but not noble are becoming increasingly literate despite their lack of high rank.

Beauty is merely the daughter of a merchant, but she reads books. Good books, according to Beaumont:) Not to forget, her father spares no expense in employing tutors for his six children because he is a man of "intelligence and good sense".

Hmmm, doth there be a preachy quality in this piece, Madame Beaumont?

I must confess, Beauty's virtuous nature became a tad annoying after a while, though her practical qualities did make up for it by providing moments of perhaps unintended humour, such as when she wisely quips to the Beast, "You can't be a beast if you know that you lack intelligence. A fool never believes himself to be stupid."  Ha truer words were never spoken:)

All right, my intended-to-be-quick post is becoming very long. I apologise for that and will stop right here. I have my teeth sunk firmly into this tale, but there is simply no way that I can do justice to it in a single blog post:) But Beauty and the Beast has fascinated millions for decades, and I am not immune to its charms, so I've no doubt I'll be revisiting aspects of this tale with more detail some time in the future.

In the meanwhile, I hope you've enjoyed reading this post. May it have inspired those who haven't read the original tale to give Beauty and the Beast a try:) It's definitely a beautifully written, romantic fairy tale -with a difference:)

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Sunday, 1 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: A is for 'Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp'

Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp was one of the first fairy tales that filled my mind with the power of jewels and genies, magic and beauty, as well as that singular brand of imagining contained in the tales of the Arabian Nights. Under the auspices of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I had decided to feature a fairy tale for each day of the month, and Aladdin's story seemed the perfect fit for letter A. So, today, I picked up my edition of Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book with great excitement.

Re-reading Aladdin turned out to be a greater pleasure than I'd expected. Hard to believe, I know, but I'd forgotten how the magician Mustapha came to meet young and lazy Aladdin for the first time, how he got the boy to enter bejewelled caves to steal a glowing lamp, and how he left the boy to die there when he refused to hand the lamp to Mustapha at the cave-mouth. Aladdin, of course, did not die. Instead, he uses a ring Mustapha lent him to summon a genie to get him out of the mess he got himself into and later discovers another - more powerful - genie when his mother rubs that wonderful lamp so desired by Mustapha to get it to shine. Through the powers of the genie of the lamp and the genie of the ring, Aladdin acquires wealth and the love of a beautiful princess, defeating evil Mustapha along the way.

What really surprised me on reading the unabridged version of Aladdin in The Blue Fairy Book was how - for lack of a better word - global it was. The tale is of a Persian Aladdin, an African Mustapha, and though the Princess appears Persian as well, she and Aladdin apparently settle down in a palace in China. How had such details escaped me in the past? Possibly, issues of ethnicity/nationality were not at the forefront of my mind. Nor gender apparently; I was struck this time by how little choice the princess had in her choice of groom, though of course she and Aladdin are deemed to be in love by the end of the tale.

But the most interesting underlying theme that I discovered was one which allowed the tale to end with Aladdin succeeding to the Sultan's reign, leaving behind a line of kings of his own when he dies. I was forcibly reminded at this point that fairy tales often provided relief (metaphorically of course) from those stuck in cycles of poverty by allowing magic to equalise power between the poor and the rich. Aladdin's lamp (or it's genie, to be precise) made up quite cleverly for his lack of a royal lineage by substituting it with great wealth, allowing him to buy his way into the position of Sultan.

I don't think the issues I've noted above would have come across to me quite so clearly when I was a child. I think I was (understandably enough) fascinated more with puffs of smoke and magic, huge hideous genies and shining golden lamps than I was with issues of gender or power; well, to be honest, I think those earlier facets of the story still fascinate me rather more than they perhaps should:)

But I suppose that's not entirely unexpected. I reckon there is no facet of Aladdin that is more important than the other, more worthy of being in the tale than any other, more capable of drawing an emotional response from a reader than any other; all bits and pieces of the tale work in perfect harmony to paint us a richly coloured picture, one that I feel would touch a chord even today with modern audiences.

I guess, the power of fairy tales like Aladdin never really die because they are textured so clearly with the truth of what it can mean to be human in our very complicated human societies that they enchant and educate all at the same time, whatever age a person might be, whatever background they hail from. I doubt I will ever not learn something new when re-reading a fairy tale such as Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.

And that, my friends, really is magic:)

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Joining the A to Z Blogging Challenge, April 2012

As you may have guessed, I've been on an unexpected hiatus from this blog:) But what better way to get back in the groove than by joining a fascinating blog hop?:) The Blogging From A to Z Challenge is back!

It sounds pretty cool: write 26 posts in April that start with each letter of the alphabet, themed if possible. I've enjoyed reading entries from the challenge in the past, including those in a book of flash fiction by fellow blogger, D. Biswas (do check out Damyanti's delightful A to Z Stories of Life and Death if you can btw), and participating in a challenge like this is something that's been on my mind lately. So, in my usual last-minute fashion, I finally decided to sign up:)

My theme's gonna be straightforward enough. Fairy tales have given me so much joy and pleasure throughout my life, it was a no-brainer to think of featuring one fairy tale a day for this month, all alphabetically arranged, of course! I hope that those hopping over to my blog enjoy the posts, and read the fairy tales if you haven't already:) Otherwise, happy blogging to all:)

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