Friday, 24 September 2010

"'Once upon a time' is timeless" Entry II

This is the second set of the 'Once Upon A Time' series that I've been reading. See here for others of this series.

Beauty and the Beast revisited. I have read many versions of this story, what with it being one of my favourites, and unfortunately, whilst this is perhaps more interesting, it isn't the best I've read. It's perhaps too short, or too rushed or too ambitious, but I didn't feel the same fulfilment as with, for example, Beauty or Rose Daughter (both by Robin McKinley).
Belle is a wood carver, and a thoroughly skilled one at that. Her mother is still alive, and she thinks her two sisters are lovelier than she is - same old story. There is more psychology, though, as she, being the youngest, accidentally stands between her two sisters and becomes invisible to visitors. The reason she has to go to the beast is not for a stole rose, but for a gift from a mythical tree which happens to grow in the beast's garden; she must carve her heart's wish in the wood, but until the very last minute, she is unable to see what is painfully obvious to the reader, the beast, and even the lake. Yes, the lake knows that inside she loves the beast. Still it's a nice read in a summer's afternoon.

I've never read an adaptation of Rumpelstilzchen, so this was fresher for me, than Belle ever could be. Set in America during the 1800s potato famine, the O'Malley family seek their fortune, with varying luck. Bridget, or as she becomes known, Bertie, attracts the attentions of an incredibly talented tailor, who helps her out of love when her father's big stupid mouth lands her family's jobs in jeopardy: make breathtaking dresses in 4 days or else be fired. With hardly any money, and a very sick toddler to care for, Bridget has no choice but to go along with the ruse that she is as skilled a seamstress as people believe her to be. However there is a twist, as the bargain is fulfilled, and she discovers the real name of the mysterious ''Ray'' who had helped her in her time of need. It is not as grim as the Grimm Brothers originally wrote it, but it attacks the social structures of the day (the deplorable working conditions of people in cloth factories and the textiles industry) with the old theme of The American Dream. It's enjoyable and not too overtly faery tale in its telling. The way that the name Rumpelstilzchen is not as you would expect, and I said aloud 'ah hah' when it was revealed on the final page.

A farmer girl by chance becomes the saviour of her country's prince, returning home after year's journey around the world inviting the most delicate princesses he could find to take part in a competition to be his wife. As is typical of a short Boy Meets Girl book, they're completely in love straight away. Violet finds out she is a viable candidate and must endure seemingly demeaning tests set by Prince Richard's parents. The tests are daft but with a deeper meaning, and it's quite enjoyable reading the gossip between princesses that Violet befriends in the process. The traditional ending occurs, but there is a twist, and so of course, everybody that you wish to lives happily ever after.
I quite enjoyed this one. I could really truly feel sorry for Richard, in the face of his parents seeming frivolities, but of course it'd would have been naive to think they were being cruel and unfeeling towards the ideal bride and their son.

This is an adaptation of 'The Frog Prince'. Set in German-occupied Belgium in WW1, Emma rescues an American fighting for the English army hiding in her well after a chlorine gas attack. For him, at least, it's love at first site, but what with the chlorine gas damage, he's less good looking or appealing to dream of kissing in the first place. After striking a deal to be his friend if he rescues her locket from the well, their fate becomes tied together, if only to honour the deal. There are elements of Louisiana witch doctoring, (that's where he's from, and he is of royal decent in the magical world), which makes me wonder if perhaps that is where Disney got their idea a bit, with The Princess and the Frog and voodoo doctors. Or not, who knows? The plot is a bit generic for war-time theme wise, but it's still rather enjoyable. I'm not altogether convinced he looked *that* much like a frog, when ill, but he's got an affinity for swimming, so let's leave it at that.

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