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Fairy Tales

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Everybody loves a poll — especially those having to do with the TOP TEN or some equally arbitrary numerical list of cultural artifacts: we love to love, hate, debate, or negate these periodic pustules of public pomposity. At best, these polls provide some exposure to underrated and/or relatively obscure works of art; at worst, they are a marketing tool or an egotistical, pedantic badge of elitist morons who have to meet a publication deadline and don’t have the strength to write an original story. (That would be me.) Or they only confirm what an illiterate, tasteless mass of useless carbon-based bipedal material is the semi-domesticated consumer robot known as Man.

In yet another ridiculous, but mindlessly interesting poll, the BBC reports that according to 1,200 British children, the favorite fairy tale on Blair Island is Cinderella.

“Cinderella has been voted the most popular fairytale in a children’s poll, more than 300 years after the story was written.

The classic tale was chosen by 36% of the 1,200 children questioned by cinema chain UCI.

Sleeping Beauty was second, with Hansel and Gretel in third place. Cinderella tells the story of the daughter who defies her cruel stepmother to meet her prince at a royal ball.

The 17th Century writer Charles Perrault is widely credited as its author, however there are written examples of stories similar to Cinderella in Chinese manuscripts from as early as 850 A.D.

With second favorite Sleeping Beauty winning 17% of the vote, Cinderella topped the fairytale poll by a considerable margin.

UCI spokeswoman Lianne Butterfield said: “The classic fairytales are timeless stories that have relevance to our lives today.”

== end of excerpt ==

The Top Ten

1. Cinderella
2. Sleeping Beauty
3. Hansel and Gretel
4. Rapunzel
5. Little Red Riding Hood
6. Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq
7. Al Queda–Saddam Hussein Connection
8. George W. Bush reported for National Guard duty
9. Princess Diana was a virgin and rose from her tomb on the third day
10. Richard Simmons’ Life Story

There are literally dozens of animated and live-action versions of the classic CINDERELLA story, most of which are not worth your time or effort, although every film student should be aware of the Warner Bros. 1938 cartoon starring the much-beloved, Tex Avery created cult figure known as Egghead. In this short, “Cinderella Meets Fella”, Egghead utters the famous line (repeated by many a stoned pot-head teenager in my small circle of friends during adolescence) “Cinderella! Cinderella! You’re driving me CRAAAAAZY!” Shit. Nevermind. You wouldn’t understand.

The most famous version of Cinderella is the 1950 animated film by Disney. With their trademark squeaky-clean makeover and cast of cutesy talking, singing animals, Disney turned an ancient R-rated tale into a boring, lifeless example of factory art, representing the decline of the Disney studios creativity and originality that began with that stinker, Sleeping Beauty.

Disney also made a sequel, Cinderella II, which was equally hideous.

For one of the funniest moments in film history, check out the 1960 Jerry Lewis version, “Cinderfella”. His entrance at the Ball — down the long staircase accompanied by a blasting, rip-roaring song by the Count Basie Orchestra — is a masterpiece of comedy and choreography.

Believe it or not, Drew Barrymore was in a great version of Cinderella, one of those “What really happened” stories that purports to tell the tale behind the tale of the Brothers Grimm version. This is a good film, and some of Anjelica Houston’s finest moments on celluloid. (Check it out. Y’know… for kids.)

The classic nature of the Cinderella story has shown up in a number of art forms, from bad Hollywood adaptations to Prokofiev’s fantastic ballet and Rossini’s famous and equally wonderful opera.

My favorite version of the classic tale is Rossini’s opera, La Cenerentola, starring the greatest voice on earth, Cecilia Bartoli. This opera became Bartoli’s ‘trademark’ — and her career ‘story’ was compared to Cinderella’s ad nauseum by moronic music critics, (aka marketing minions of Satan).

But nevermind that hype: this version was filmed at a performance by The Houston Grand Opera at the peak of Bartoli’s career — she’s accompanied by the perfect cast, the direction and design are perfect — and it’s well worth a look. Thank god someone had the foresight to capture one of the greatest singers ever in one of her greatest roles!

(re: Variety – I should also note that Cinderella even inspired a really bad metal/hair-god band from the musically forgettable 1980s. Their careers began at 11:45 p.m. and at midnight, they turned into has-been rats driving cabs in New York City on the deep night shift.)

For a book of classic fairy tales, one can’t go wrong by sticking with the original source, Charles Perrault. There are dozens of versions of his tales, some adapted (“Cut out that disturbing, mindless violence!”) — and some unedited for the adult reader/researcher. A version illustrated by artist Gustave Dore happens to be one of my favorites, but for the fanatic really interested in the many variations and differences in translations, my advice is to check out as many versions as possible. The variety of what began as a world-wide oral tale is astonishing.

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About Mark Shark

  • HW Saxton Jr.

    Another really interesting post,Shark.
    I’d love to see the Dore illustrated
    version of Cinderella. His artwork from
    “Paradise Lost” has haunted me since the
    first time I saw it some 20 years ago in

    PS:There was also a terrible all female
    Heavy Metal band called “Sinderella”.

  • good stuff, Shark. i’m working on a post at the minute which is masquerading as a review of Shrek 2, but is actually a chance for me to yack fairy-tale. It’s pleasantly suprising to see that your good self has ended up thinking along the same lines of late (except without the shreking) (is that a fetish waiting to happen? “young man seeks woman for growling, belching, general “shrekking”)
    As for the adap of cinderella you mentioned, with Drew Barrymore (was that Ever After? i think thats the one), there’s a similar flick you may or may not have seen by the name of Snow White – A Tale Of Terror, which goes back to the source material and has Sigourney Weaver as a truly hideous evil stepmom. Also, not a damn dwarve to be seen, happy or dopey or otherwise.

  • My favorite fairy tale is an old-school one from the Middle Ages. Back then, fairies were scary motherfuckers (not that sissy Shakespeare stuff). I don’t remember the name of the tale, but I will retell it for you.

    An ugly young woman has been warned many times by her mother to stay out of the woods (back in the day, evil lurked in the woods–the devil’s realm). Of course, as in most fairy tales, the daughter disregards the warnings and does what she is not supposed to do. She heads out into the woods to gather some berries (the best berries grow in the scariest of places).

    After picking and wandering for hours, amassing a large basketful of the best-ever berries, she realizes that she is lost. All her efforts to retrace her steps are in vain as she seemingly wanders farther and farther into the darkness of the woods.

    While she sits on a fallen tree, crying and having given up, the most handsome man she has ever seen calls out to her and approaches her. Instantly she falls in love with him, as if she were under a spell. He convinces her to accompany him to his house where he will marry her.

    Her new home is deep in the woods, worlds away from her parents’ house and village. It doesn’t matter because her infatuation with this man has made her forget all the people and things from her life before she met him. Her husband disappears, leaving her alone for big chunks of the day. It doesn’t faze her–time doesn’t seem to pass for her, and all she feels is happiness and joy.

    Soon, she gives birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. After the birth, when things have settled around the house, the man, scary and serious as he had never been with her before, a complete opposite of the man she knew and loved, gave her instructions and a deadly warning. He handed her an ointment that she was to put in her baby’s eyes every morning. Under no circumstances was she ever to put the ointment in her eyes–else the worst would happen to her. And she was never to ask about the ointment–just to do what she was told.

    After her husband’s unsettling warning, her life around the house resumed its happy pace–except that always she did as she was told with the ointment and her baby’s eyes. She did it day after day, growing more and more curious, until one day, when her husband disappeared as he did every day (sometimes with her son, and sometimes without), she decided that no harm would come from trying the ointment in her eyes.

    She put some in her eyes and instantly a new world opened up to her. She saw a magical world with naked people frolicking, dancing and partying. On a grassy hill, she saw her husband–fooling around with three naked ladies.

    She yelled out at him, cursing him for his evil deeds and asking what kind of man he was. He got up from his shady doings, walked up to her, and asked her if she her if she had used the ointment. She admitted to a having done so. Immediately, he poked her eyes out.

    He thanked her for giving him a son, who, he explained, was half human and half fairy. The ointment was to allow the boy to see the fairy world so that he could be a part of it. No human, however, was ever to see the world of the fairies. All that is known after that is that she wandered away into the woods, blind, rejected and horrified.