“The Frog Prince – a tale told in rhyme” free on kindle for 5 days!

Free for 5 days on kindle – offer ends July 18th.

…Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away,
Within the castle grounds, a Princess came to play.
Neither child nor fully grown, a girl of charm and grace,
Upon the brink of womanhood and beautiful of face.

But don’t be fooled by this fair scene, no fairytale is this.
No story of a happy child, who dreams of endless bliss.
The kingdom had succumbed to grief, such darkness dwelt inside,
It spread and grew like twisted vines from which you could not hide…

The Frog Prince is a classic tale now enchantingly retold in narrative rhyme from the author of “Faerytale” (published through Safkhet Publishing). With the darkness of the original Brothers Grimm version, The Frog Prince tells the tale of a lonely Princess who makes a promise to a frog she cannot break. Forced to have him by her side within her father’s dreary castle she soon finds his company not quite as repulsive as she initially thought. But there is more to her slimy companion than meets the eye…

…Looking down the Princess cried and stared in disbelief,
For there he sat, her helpful frog, his eyes were wide with grief.
“Princess mind the pledge you made, all you said you’d do.
Let me eat from your bowl and share your food with you.”

The Princess knew not what to say, he must have come so far!
Beneath a nighttime sky so dark, despite its scattered stars.
“What is this?” the King he asked, for so confused was he,
The Princess told him of her pledge and begged to be set free.

“Of course I won’t you foolish child, your honor must dictate.
You gave your word, a pact was made. It’s really far too late!”
The Princess felt the urge to cry, there really was no choice,
“As you wish”, she replied in such a tiny voice…

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Prince-rhyme-Fairytales-Rhyme-ebook/dp/B0078K4GH8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342281962&sr=8-1

“The Frog Prince” is the first in the series. Also available through kindle: The Pied Piper – the 2nd in the series, with more to follow…

Happily Ever After…

“In every game they played, it’s true; it always went the same,

Her little sister got upset and on her laid the blame.

Ellie loved her fairy tales, believed them to be true

And vowed she always would believe, no matter how she grew.

 

Lucy teased the dreamy girl and called her silly names,

The childish tales her sister loved, she thought them rather lame!

So when they played their little games, based on stories told,

Lucy moaned and whined throughout, for she was far too old!”

The character Ellie in my book Faerytale was based on myself when I was little, Lucy being my older sister Charlotte. She didn’t tease me quite as much as Lucy teases Ellie but I remember thinking how sad it was that, as a teenager, she no longer saw the world in the same way as I did. Fairy tales which came to life before my eyes, mystical beasts and supernatural creatures which roamed Exmoor, viewable from my bedroom window. And that sense of adventure when I played in the garden, no longer a small patch of grass but an endless desert with hidden treasure maps to be found. But I always knew there would come a day when that would change as I grew older like my sister, and to a certain extent it did. But although I no longer believed these stories with their creatures and adventures were real, I still saw them in my head, bringing life to every day experiences. As a teenager I would go to places like Dunster castle with my incredibly like-minded best friend Emily, and imagine that we lived there in a world where magic and adventure were commonplace. And when she got married there many years later I realized that fairy tales can make guest appearances in real life no matter how “real” life becomes.

And then 4 weeks ago I myself got married in Devon to my partner Carl and, for me, after so many years of losing myself in tales of fantasy and fairy tales, that day was the closest I have ever come to a real life fairy tale…and it didn’t end with the closing of a book. After the ceremony we went outside for the reception in front of the most beautiful manor house, with Exmoor providing a breathtaking backdrop. Our closest family and friends all there to share the day with us and a rock disco to come in the evening!

Standing there in the dress of my dreams created by Emily (and I promised myself I would never say anything this cheesy!) I actually did feel like a princess. With both Charlotte and Emily at my side I had married my “prince” (again, profuse apologies for the cheese), only I had something over the likes of Cinderella, Snow White, Belle etc. I got to see what life brings to me and my husband after the wedding. Because “happily ever after” has always been just a little too broad an ending for me…. 🙂

 

 

“We read to know we are not alone.” – why reading should always be a child’s passion…

Once upon a time, as all good stories start,

There was a little girl who longed with all her heart.

To fill her world with magic, and live through stories told.

To wear those ruby slippers, to never dare grow old.

 

Her Neverland she found it books, oh how she longed to go!

But wardrobes failed to lead her to that magic land of snow.

Every thrilling tale she read, the lands they took her to

The looking glass within her mind would let her journey through.

That was the opening to my first published book Faerytale. The little girl in my book is me as I was then and as I am now. The title of this post is a quote from C.S Lewis which I have always loved for its simplicity. Reading has and always will be a passion of mine and the importance of reading for any child should never be underestimated.

When I was little my parents read to me every night, my dad read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to me many times over. When I was very small I had no idea what was going on apart from the fact that the story was about a little guy with hairy feet who became invisible when he put on a golden ring, but I loved his crazy voice when reading as Gollum. To this day Lord of the Rings is one of my favourite books.

Every book I have read has been of a continual source of inspiration to me, be it fairy tales, mysteries, horrors – they all filled my head with ideas and stories and gave me the passion to put them down on paper. The importance of reading and tales of imagination in my life is beyond sufficient explanation for me. It grabs you when you’re a child, before you can even read yourself, instead relying on your parents voices to guide your imagination. Then as you grow older you get to choose what type of tale to immerse yourself in. There are so many genres out there to appeal to each and every child, be it fantasy and fairy tales, action, mysteries, humour, poetry, science fiction the choices are endless and so are the benefits.

In a world of quick fixes such as video games and films reading has never been more important. Books do what computer games and films can never hope to achieve, they allow children to use and develop their own imaginations. These worlds are not given to them directly from a computer or TV screen. They dream and create these worlds within their heads as they read and even after they have finished the story. It can also give them a good start on the road to viewing reading not only as a necessity in everyday life but as a lifelong source of pleasure, be it for recreation or even professionally through writing.

Stories can free up imaginations and open up exciting new worlds of fantasy or reality. You carry these stories and characters with you into your adult years, even when you are told to put away childish things. But they are stories you go back to again and again and then through your children and your children’s children. They never lose their magic or their charm.  I have never grown tired of reading of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Dorothy on her journey to find the Wizard of Oz, and of course the never ending list of fairy tales which never seem to lose their charm or their meaning. I remember well the lessons of Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White in the world of the Brother’s Grimm where fairy tales don’t necessarily end happily forever after.

So reading and the world that books can create in your mind, and in your children’s minds, should never be underestimated. They help shape you into the person you will become and keep you in touch with the child that you were. Everybody has room for a little adventure and magic in their life, which can be lived through the books you read, no matter what age you are or what you like to read.

Just remember, even the children in Peter Pan had to grow up someday, but Wendy, John and Michael never forgot Neverland.

“What do you get when you guzzle down sweets…?” Hansel & Gretel as a Horror Film.

Hi everyone, I hope you had a fantastic Easter and stuffed yourself silly with chocolate. Bad things seem to happen to children in fantasy stories who eat too much of the sweet stuff. Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bruno in The Witches and of course, much earlier than that, Hansel and Gretel.

Not necessarily one of the most popular fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm but it is one of the darkest in my opinion. There are no romantic subplots like in Cinderella or Snow White, there are no kindly and caring parents or grandparents like in Little Red Riding Hood in fact in Hansel and Gretal the father is weak minded and spineless and their step mother is abusive and homicidal. The children are literally on their own. To top it off the protagonist of the story is an apparently “sweet” and bizarre old lady living in a house of sweets and gingerbread who turns out to be a cannibal! So what better fairy tale to use for a horror film?!

Hansel and Gretal (2009) is a Korean film which takes this tale and turns it into to what can only be described as a twisted, fantastical nightmare. After a car accident a lost and injured young man is aided by a young girl who takes him back to her seemingly perfect family in their perfect house in the woods. But the house holds bizarre and disturbing secrets and he soon realizes that the children are not what they seem and there is literally no way to escape. The film turns this classic tale on its head where the children are the main protagonists with an axe to grind against adults who think they are “bad children”.

Although I’d love to discuss it deeper I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it as there are many unexpected twists in the story. But this film is incredibly visual and atmospheric. The children maintain an uneasy balance between cute and creepy throughout the film and the adults are suitably irresponsible and sadistic. The gingerbread house has been turned into a house of horrors with a never-ending labyrinth of an attic at the top and grounds with grotesque and unnaturally real statues of former “parents” who let them down. There is a strange mixture of fantasy and reality that is never fully explained which I found really refreshing. 

This film really sticks to the original fairy tale and, through horror, encapsulates the darkness of the story perfectly. All the themes are there from the original tale: the childrens disenchantment with adults, neglectful and even abusive parents (in this case carers), revenge, cannibalism, an oven large enough to fit a person and an abundance of cream cakes and sweets. So, all in all, a really fantastic retelling of Hansel and Gretel!

 

Fairy Tales on Film: Original Fairy Tales Part 2

OK, so my “Fairy Tales on Film Week” is kind of being spread over a fortnight but hey ho! This is Part 2, looking at two more recent original fairy tales on film. There were a few to choose from but there is one film that simply cannot be left out – Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). This film is and will remain in my top ten films of all time and, coming from someone who watches a ridiculous amount of films that is quite high! (I have a film studies degree if that makes me sound a little cooler…I doubt it though)

Pan’s Labyrinth starts off with a fairy tale about Princess Moanna (daughter of the King of the underworld) who becomes curious about the world above. Blinded by the sunlight, she loses her memory, becomes ill and dies. The King, lost in grief, believes that her spirit will return to the underworld someday. The film then cuts to post-Civil war Spain with young Ofelia and her pregnant mother travelling out to meet her new stepfather: a cruel and sadistic fascist. She meets an array of unusual mystical creatures including a fairy (which looks like a large stick insect) and a faun. The faun gives her 3 tasks to complete to prove she is the princess Moanna in essence. Her first task is to retrieve a key from a giant frog (which was visually fantastic!), then to retrieve a dagger from a child-eating monster with eyes in his hands who nearly catches her. Her final task is to rescue her baby brother from her stepfather and take him into the labyrinth. This is the most dangerous task of all as her stepfather is now viciously out of control having brutally murdered a number of rebels and even caused the death of her own mother. Once in the labyrinth with her brother Ofelia refuses to harm him (the faun wants blood from his finger to open up the portal to the underworld). Her stepfather catches up to her and shoots her, and is then killed himself coming out of the labyrinth. Ofelia’s blood opens the portal and she is reunited with her family as Princess Moanna. Sacrificing her own blood was in fact the final part of the faun’s test, proving her essence was complete.

This film has all the building blocks of a fantastic dark fairy tale. A child with her head full of fairy tales clashing with a wicked and tyrannical step parent, a task/mission with 3 steps (3 being the magical number in fairy tales – things always come in threes!) and a significant increase in the danger as the stories progress. The film has a happily ever after but it is somewhat bittersweet, as Ofelia has to die to return to the underworld. I also loved the coupling of a fantasy world with post-war Spain– the contrast was really effective. Guillermo del Toro really is a gifted director. His films are so full of atmosphere and tension and that line between fantasy and reality is never quite clear e.g. The Orphanage and Devil’s Backbone.

I honestly have not met a single person who has watched Pan’s Labyrinth and did not like it! Even those who steer clear from subtitled films as a rule. With its mix of magical legend, violence, danger and sinister atmosphere coupled with fantastical and dangerous creatures and a war-ravaged setting it truly is an original and classic fairy tale on film. 

My second film is a lot more light hearted: Stardust (2007). Adapted from a book by Neil Gaiman, it is truly just a lovely, colourful and enchanting film. The author even described it as such: “It’s a fairytale. It’s like an ice cream. It’s to make you feel happy when you finish it.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/oct/13/film.fiction)

Stardust is a rip roaring love story with witches, feuding princes, protective unicorns, a quest for a fallen star in human form and pirates in a flying ship catching lightening for a living. Add to the mix Robert De Niro dancing to the can can in a tutu and what more could you really ask for?

Stardust proves that “fairy tale” films don’t have to necessarily be dark and sinister like Pan’s Labyrinth, or have a deeper psychoanalytical/sexual subtext like Company of Wolves or Black Swan to appeal to adults. Stardust is a perfect fairy tale film for adults and children alike, much like the Shrek series. Silly in places (the can can and Ricky Gervais playing the part of Ricky Gervais for example) it is also very sweet with just the right amount of cheese. It reminded me a lot of The Princess Bride (1987), which was another contender for original fairy tale film of the 80s, with its comedy characters and snappy script.

A relatively unknown fairy tale (when compared to the likes of Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood I mean) this film could not rely on familiarity with the tale to bring in audiences. Instead, along with a star studded cast and vibrant special affects (which can’t hurt!), it achieved its success as a fairy tale on film through its exciting, enchanting and romantic plot. As such it ranks very high as a contemporary fairy tale on film!

So there you have it: fairy tales on film, both from the 80s and from more recent years, all of which tell highly original and enchanting tales. Some are darker and more gruesome than others, some are brighter and more fun, some are even quite twisted in their own way but all of them are fantastic fairy tales on film that will keep on enchanting audiences, both old and young for many years to come.

Fairy Tales on Film: Original Fairy Tales Part 1

So I have looked at adaptations of Little Red Riding Hood and later on I will be looking at fairy tales such as Snow White and Hansel and Gretel and how they have been translated on film. For this post, however, I would like to look at original fairy tales on film, so films which have created their very own unique fairy tale. There were too many to choose from so I have split this post into two parts. The first part will be two films from the 80s and the second part will cover two more recent original fairy tale films.

Now you may think that any fantasy film can fall under the umbrella of a ‘fairy tale’ but the choices I have made I have always considered as fairy tales due to their general storylines and the atmosphere they convey. The main connection between them is the suggestion of history behind the story and the foundations of myth, legend and folklore that push the narrative forward. Also their similarities to well known fairy tales in terms of the general themes and plot. Not to mention the many crazy, fantastical creatures, the enchanting but slightly unnerving atmosphere and that element of danger and impending darkness that runs through each of them. 

My first film from the 80s is The Dark Crystal (1982). I find it hard to find the words to express how fantastic this film truly is and how much I loved it growing up (and still do!). It’s such an incredibly dark story with a wealth of fantastical creatures. Some of them are cute and delightful like the Podlings or even beautiful and graceful like the Gelflings. The Mystics are enchanting with their aged fragility and gentleness. Then of course there’s the Skeksis, grotesque and vulture-like with their henchmen the Garthim: scary and soulless giant beetles.

The story is based on the legend of the Mystics and Skeksis who were once one race of beings but were split in two when the ‘Crystal of Truth’ was shattered: the best qualities going into the Mystics and the worst into the Skeksis. It is Gelfling Jen’s destiny to reunite them by completing the Crystal using the remaining shard. There is so much more to the story though, including the Skeksis’ sinister quest for youth by draining it from the enslaved Podling’s, the battle between them for who will be their new emperor, and Jen finding his soul mate Kira when he thought he was the last of his kind.

What truly makes this film magical is the (revolutionary at the time) seamless use of puppets for all of the characters. I strongly believe that this film is a perfect example of how CGI (no matter how much it has evolved) isn’t the be all and end all to achieve fantastical characters or situations. The puppeteer’s give their characters life and emotion through their movement. They are far more real than a CGI creation could ever be. The story itself is intricate and laced with the qualities that make dark fairy tales so captivating. A story which features an age old legend, a quest based on the main characters destiny, an evil which is scouring the land and a vivid, mystical landscape with unusual creatures and a life of its own. Partner that with the artistic genius of Brian Froud, who was the concept artist, the unique vision and style of director Jim Henson and finally a beautiful and at times dramatic soundtrack and you have a truly magical, enchanting and somewhat sinister fairy tale on film: The Dark Crystal

My second film, from the genius of Jim Henson and Brian Froud again, is Labyrinth (1986). Any film that can retain its “dark fairy tale” atmosphere whilst also accommodating David Bowie in tighter than tight leggings and ridiculously catchy pop songs is going to be classic! Significantly lighter than The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth still uses puppets for the majority of its characters, bar the stars Jennifer Connolly and David Bowie. This mixture really adds to the juxtaposition of real life and fantasy as Sarah (Connolly) enters Jareth’s (Bowie) world, which thrives within an intricate Labyrinth leading to his castle. Jareth has taken her little brother Toby in answer to a wish made by Sarah in a temper, and will turn him into a goblin unless she can solve the labyrinth in thirteen hours. The story is not as intricate or rooted in its own legend as with The Dark Crystal but it certainly retains the usual characteristics of a classic fairy tale.

Sarah, her head full of fairy tales, maintains in the beginning that she is a Cinderella-like character with a wicked stepmother who does not care for her. But in her case the wish granted to her does not end up so well as she is thrown into a world which really isn’t as wonderful as she had always dreamed it would be. Like Snow White and her seven dwarves, Sarah makes unusual friends during her quest. She is often confronted with bizarre obstacles and riddles within the Labyrinth much like Alice and her adventures in Wonderland (not strictly a fairy tale, I know!). There is even a nod to Hansel and Gretel, when Sarah tries to mark the stones with lipstick to ensure she doesn’t get lost in the labyrinth. Quite aside from fairy tales it even delves into Greek mythology, with Sarah as a modern day Persephone, being drawn into the underworld by Hades (in this case Jareth) who wants to keep her there forever. All of these themes within the plot, the cinematography and magical use of a labyrinth all contribute to another fantastic original fairy tale on film.

Both Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal were very significant influences with me when writing Faerytale and the world I wanted to create within it. Both films contain worlds which are not only mystical and fantastical, but have un unearthly presence which goes beyond the strange creatures which inhabit it. The Dark Crystal embodies a world divided in two: both light and dark, but which ultimately should co-exist together in harmony. Whereas Labyrinth depicts the classic “dreamer” who gets her wish but soon begins to realize that not all fairy tales are romantic and enchanting adventures of discovery: they can be twisted and perilous. Both fantastic examples of original fairy tales on film from the 80s with both of them capturing that quintessentially dark and disturbing fairy tale ethos.