Month: May 2016

An Interview with Marie Bilodeau

Check out this interview of Canadian author and storyteller Marie Bilodeau that was conducted by Through the Twisted Woods

Through The Twisted Woods

Through the Twisted Woods interviews author, storyteller, and performance artist Marie Bilodeau about French Canadian Fairy Tales, minority languages and cultural preservation, the endurance of Fairy Tales, cultural appropriation versus translation, Celtic Fairy Tales, rewriting Fairy Tales onto modernity, the Fairy Apocalypse (or Fairypocalypse), mapping fairy stories onto new geographies, performance and storytelling of fairy tales, considering the audience for fairy tales, and magical objects in fairy tales.

Click on the link below for our interview

Through The Twisted Woods Audio

You can discover more about Marie Bilodeau on her website

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The Darker Side of the Mirror: Why Fairy Tales Need Witches

The Darker Side of the Mirror: Why Fairy Tales Need Witches

By Derek Newman-Stille


Everyone has glowing things to say about figures like the fairy godmother who helps someone out by bringing them blessings, but what about those figures from the candy houses, the lonely castles, or the dark woods? What about the witches?


Witches are as much about transformation as fairy godmothers, and they may do even more than those light buoyant floating guardians by forging heroes and heroines out of unfortunate situations. Witches pose challenges to the heroes of fairy tales, not allowing them to go about their normal lives until they have asked themselves fundamental questions about who they are and who they want to be. They literally cause transformations that challenge preconceived ideas by transforming people into animals, inanimate objects, or physically unattractive bodies. They invite the challenge: if you don’t change, you will not be able to regain your normal form (and they always remind us that “normal” is a concept that is open to interpretation and disruption). They entwine the physically transformative with the psychologically transformative, shifting perspective by shifting the body.


Witches also serve the important role of providing punishment. They serve as the threat that underlies fairy tales, the notion that harming others will bring about repercussions.


Ultimately, most fairy tale witches want to change people for the better. Why else would they always linger on the side of the path, pretending to be poor and needing alms and then cursing those who refuse to give them consideration? These witches serve the role of equalizers, asking people to care for one another – especially those in need.


Witches serve as the counter-narrative for the wonderful women who rescue people from lives of darkness. Witches remind us that darkness is a place of reflection, a place of the unconscious where nightmares can teach.


Fairy godmothers bail people out of their problems, but witches invite people to deal with their own problems, depend on them to change themselves, and make their own circumstances change.




Why We Need Queer Fairy Tales: Complicating the Happily Ever After

Why We Need Queer Fairy Tales:
Complicating the Happily Ever After

By Derek Newman-Stille


So many fairy tales end with a Happily Ever After that involves a straight relationship, as though everyone’s life becomes complete when boy meets girl. This is a message that is repeated to queer people through our heterosexist society – that life is only positive if it is heterosexual.


Narratives shape us and queer people are often confronted with narratives that tell us that we don’t belong in our own societies. We grow up with repeated messages that we don’t belong, that we are outsiders in our own societies. Like many of the heroines and heroes of fairy tales, we are left in a place without a home, without a sense of belonging to the world we grow up in. We are dislocated.


Fairy tales also provide a chance to change our circumstances. I have always been drawn to fairy tales because they provided a chance to escape. As a young person, I was frequently called “fairy”. This was meant to be an insult for being queer, but it provided a space for me to think about the role of fairies, those outsider figures who bring a sense of enchantment to our world. Fairies often appear in fairy tale narratives as a critical question, a change in circumstances that makes the protagonist think about everything s/he has taken for granted and considered normal. They challenge the pre-existing and preconceived notions of how to interact with the world, by providing a voice of estrangement, a weirding of the world we have been told is the only possibility.


Queer people provide this critical challenge to heterosexism, asking society why it excludes and why it only presents certain ways of interacting with the world as “the right one”. Our presence in society invites the question “who is being excluded? Why are they excluded?” We invite questions about what we are told is “just the way things are”.


Fairy tales have the potential to open possibilities for queer re-tellings because they are tales about transformation. They are tales of transition, allowing a character to undergo bodily, psychological, and economic changes. They recognize that these transformations are beautiful, embodying the magic of new possibilities and new beginnings.


Queer tales make for great fairy tales because they are tales of battles against impossible odds. Daily we have to wander into the unsafe and unfamiliar woods, dealing with wolves of homophobia who tell us that they will tear us apart. We have to battle dragons of discrimination to even carry out basic tasks like using the washroom. We encounter monsters of prohibition telling us “no” to the basic act of love itself. And queer stories ARE love stories, fundamentally about love triumphing over all even when that love is socially rejected by the majority. We live in a world where large parts of it still have the death penalty for just being queer, where others force jailing on queer people, and where homophobic violence is accepted and not protected against. We live in a world where politicians can win votes by talking about their hatred of the queer population and where homophobia is considered part of the general rhetoric of hegemonic masculinity.


Like fairy tales, queer tales too have their fairy godmothers – those figures who transform our perceptions of ourselves and reveal to us that we have an important place in this world. They are the figures who fight for social justice so that we can have a Happily Ever After that isn’t the one that society tells us is the only possibility. They reveal that there are multiple Happily Ever Afters, each made to encompass the feelings, perceptions, desires, and needs of each person.



Sakimichan’s Gender-Swopped Fairy Tale Creations

If you are interested in some inspiration about gender play in fairy tales, check out this discussion of the art work of Canadian artist Sakimichan.

Through The Twisted Woods

By Derek Newman-Stille

Sakimichan is a Canadian artist who, among other things, creates beautiful gender-swopped fairy tale figures. We had a chance to meet briefly at Fan Expo Canada a few years ago. I had encountered her work before on Deviant Art and was impressed with her ability to challenge the firm gendered ideas of Fairy Tales produced by Disney.

Sakimichan challenges gendered boundaries and produces new ideas by swopping the genders of different characters.



This gender swopped Maleficent features the classic Maleficent horns and triangular collar from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty creation but this male Maleficent combines armour into his outfit.

He has a vampiric quality to his appearance with pointed canine teeth, pointed ears and yellow eyes. He has a tattered cloak and a kinky quality to his look with studded wrist bands and a studded collar and belt.

Sakimichan provides a classic “booby window” that is often…

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An Interview With Chadwick Ginther

Check out this interview of Canadian author Chadwick Ginther that was conducted by Through the Twisted Woods

Through The Twisted Woods

Through the Twisted Woods interviews Chadwick Ginther, author of the Thunder Road Trilogy about his reimagining of Norse mythology and a post-ragnarok world. We talk to Chadwick about Norse mythology, Winnipeg, the way that Folklore is both highly regional and yet has the ability to move beyond its original geographic context, superheroes as a modern mythology, mapping folklore onto a Canadian landscape, the endurance of myths, monstrosity, Loki and gender fluidity, Trickster figures, and the ability to map folklore onto modern tales.

Click on the link below for our interview.

Through The Twisted Woods Audio

You can discover more about the work of Chadwick Ginther on his website

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Fairy Tales as Resistance to Conformity

Fairy Tales as Resistance to ConformityBy Derek Newman-Stille

Fairy tales are often presented as messages of conformity, telling us what we shouldn’t do. They were re-written with moral messages attached to them: don’t go out in the woods alone; don’t take what isn’t yours; don’t trust strangers. Conform, conform, conform. But, fairy tales are really just oral narratives. The moral messages were tacked on as the tales were re-branded for children.

Despite this re-branding to try to achieve the conformity of children, fairy tales have always been complex things, imbued with ideas of uncertainty and complicated questions. Fairy tales are tales of enchantment, of the impossibilities of the world, and this influx of impossibility invites readers to question their reality, to ask themselves what might be possible. When we ask what might be possible, we resist conformity. We look for new potentials and new ways of living in our complicated world instead of conforming to it. 

Fairy tales are tales of change. They often feature a change of circumstance, a shift in possibilities, fate, and potential to give a character a new path through the woods, taking them off of the well-worn roads. Fairy tales represent the uncertain path, where everything is in flux, everything flowing and changing, and nothing certain or mundane. This potential for change is part of the resistance narrative of fairy tales – the potential to open up new possibilities that wouldn’t be considered in the strictly ‘normal’, ‘mundane’ world.

In addition to the changes within the fairy tale, fairy tales themselves, having come from oral narratives (tales told out loud) have – embedded in their very nature – the potential to shift and change with new audiences. Experienced storytellers shift their stories to fit with the audience in front of them, sharing the core of their stories but also changing parts of the message so that the message speaks to each listener, engaging them and making them feel like they are part of the story, a watcher in the woods. But this adaptability of oral narratives may account for the reason why fairy tales continue to be retold to new generations. These tales were made by a narrative that is about changing to fit the audience, and perhaps that has left a germ of potential within the fairy tale for it to continue to adapt to new social circumstances, new societies, new geographies, and new groups of people.

Fairy tales are fluid tales. They can adapt and flow into areas where there are stories that need to be told. This is one of the reasons why they have so much potential to take up marginalised voices, to represent voices that are often silenced. They have the ability to present people with a familiar tale but also with the expectation that that tale is going to be full of the magic of change, that it is going to do something different and take them out of their ordinary, everyday comforts. Fairy tales can be ways for those of us on the fringes, whether they are disabled and queer like me, or asexual, transgender, a person of colour, a person from an ethnicity outside of the majority, an aboriginal person, an aged person, or any other under-represented group, to speak back to the narratives that have shaped our lives. We can use fairy tales to shift the narratives about us – those messages of conformity that I mentioned at the start of this post by proposing something different and using the power of fairy tales and their adaptability to express new messages and resist those conformist messages that have been projected upon us.

Fairy tales are often called a Tradition, and many of us have been told in the past that we are untraditional, that we represent a degradation of traditional values, or that we should respect traditions. Fortunately, the adaptability of fairy tales explains to us that traditions are meant to change and that our tales are meant to open up possibilities for new traditions.