Fairy Tale Traditions Versus Fairy Tale Transformations

Fairy Tale Traditions Versus Fairy Tale Transformations

By Derek Newman-Stille

Transformation Within by Derek Newman-Stille

Fairy Tales have been reconstructed in the 20th century as tales of caution and warning against difference. In reframing them as “Children’s Tales”, fairy tales have frequently been turned into tales of hegemonic control, tales that limit options and possibilities in exchange for ideas of “tradition” and “‘morals”.
Yet fairy tales have always been primarily about the RE-telling, about shifting and changing for new audiences and new listeners. They aren’t made to be static tales and the only traditions that they were made to represent were traditions about the importance of storytelling. 
Fairy tales are so frequently about transformations – from pauper to princess, from man to beast, from mermaid to girl – because they are tales that ARE transformative. They are tales that constantly shift and change with each telling, taking on new ideas as they are presented to new audiences.
Fairy tales come from oral narratives, and oral narratives are meant to be performed. Any performance shifts with its audience, changing as the audience finds certain things entertaining, offensive, humourous, or tragic, and performers know to shift the way they perform their tales to appeal to new and different groups. Fairy tales embrace these transformations, presenting them as metamorphoses of frogs into princess, but they are really about change and the need for change. It is often those in fairy tales who resist change, who become stuck in their ways, that suffer in their mundanity as a world of magic changes around them.
Tradition and transformation collide in fairy tales as they do in our world, generating new potentials that still take into account the stories that have shaped us. 

Fairy Tale Clothing

Fairy Tale Clothing
By Derek Newman-Stille

Clothing shapes the way people view us and we wear certain clothing to evoke certain social reactions. Our clothing shapes the narratives by which we are read and we shape the way we are seen by shifting our clothing. With simple changes in fabric and the shape of fabric we can be read as male, female, wealthy, conformist, outsider. Clothing can be a uniform, illustrating our careers. Clothing changes depending on the events we attend and the way we want to be seen at those events – shaping our celebrations and also the way we mourn.

Perhaps it is the adaptability of clothing that accounts for fairy tale obsessions with clothing and it’s transformative powers, but perhaps it could also relate to fairy tale interests in bodies and changes in circumstances. With a simple shoe, Cinderella changes her social status and circumstances, moving from pauper to princess. She is repeatedly read as a maid because her step-mother forces her to wear maid clothing and, even when she dresses in fancy clothes, these are torn from her by her step family, transforming riches into rags. Clothing seems to confine as well as define her until she is transformed by magic into a look that a princess is expected to have. She is read by her clothing and only seen as significant and noticeable when she conforms to the expected look of a princess. Yet she is shaped this way by the male GAZE, by the way she is looked at by the prince.

The Goose Girl is similarly a tale of transformation and clothing with a maid who changes clothing with a princess in order to assume her identity. Since the maid looks as a princess should (dressed in finery) and the princess looks like a maid, the girl is relegated to the position of Goose Girl and told to mind geese for the castle. Skill sets belonging to princess and maid are ignored because clothing is so definitive of social class and perception.

The Emperor’s New Clothes is similarly a tale of wealth and clothing, but, rather than conforming to expectations of clothing, this emperor seeks to set trends that define himself as different from the rest by wearing superior clothing. He simultaneously seeks the best materials, so light they seem like they aren’t there, and so spectacular they can only be seen by the most refined vision, while also fearing losing face and being seen as somehow deficient. The tale is one of pomposity and the fear that people have of losing face.

Red RidingHood is literally defined by her clothing, named after the red hood she wears. This hood represents the power to conceal, hiding her beneath red fabric. Yet that fabric is also the colour of blood, representing both the menstrual blood she will have as she passes from girlhood into womanhood and also the blood that will be shed by the wolf. It situates her as prey to the wolf, already marked in blood.

Clothing in fairy tales is transformative, but it also SPEAKS. Clothing is invested with symbolism and shapes the message that readers receive. So many fairy tales focus on clothing and it’s symbolic power because it IS a symbolic medium that already carries messages and shapes our understanding of the bodies that lay beneath the clothes.

Extended Deadline

We have been getting a lot of requests to extend the deadline for Over The Rainbow: Folk and Fairy Tales from the Margins, so we have decided to extend the deadline for submissions until the end of October. Our new deadline with be on November first.


As a result, we are also extending our reading period until December first, and will get back to people by December 15th about whether their stories have been accepted.


If you haven’t already sent us a story, there is still time.

An Interview with Shveta Thakrar

An Interview with Shveta Thakrar

Shveta outside, November 2015

Q: To begin our interview, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Shveta Thakrar: Yes! I’m a dreamer who unabashedly believes in magic, a Hindu who wants to bring some of her heritage and mythology to life in her writing, and someone who is even now tapping her foot, wondering when she’s going to get her wings and shape-shifting serpentine tail. I also really like cupcakes and mangoes and spicy things. And food in general. And compassion and empathy. And colors. And social justice. And the night sky. And elephants and peacocks and lotuses and goddesses and forests and mythology and folklore . . . and of course, books and magic and fantasy.

In fact, I’m busy assembling my personal library full of enchanted tales (and painting bookcases violet and berry pink to hold them) as I type this. May that library contain a rich selection of tales of adventure and wonder from all our global traditions.
Q: What fairy and folk tales did you grow up on?

Shveta Thakrar: Mostly the well-known works collected and edited by the Gebrüder Grimm (“Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and so on) in various books—along with the Disney versions—though I also read South Asian stories in Amar Chitra Katha comics. Also some Panchatantra fables from my dad.

(A side note: It didn’t occur to me until I was in my twenties that my South Asian stories were every bit as much fairy and folktale as any of the Grimm or the occasional Russian yarn about someone throwing a comb behind her I’d devoured. No one had made them sound relevant, and that’s something I want to see change.)
Q: How did these tales shape your development and who you decided to become?

Shveta Thakrar: As I said above, I’ve always loved magic, and I’ve always longed for something more than what we can see. I wrote before about feeling like a changeling, albeit one who doesn’t know what her original form was, and I often still feel that way—trapped in a world that has no place for me and expects me to appreciate its mundane concerns. But since I’m stuck here for now *grin*, I’ve tried to channel that sense of isolation and displacement into my art and making a better world in whatever way I can. Sometimes that means speaking out and writing; sometimes it means diving deep into books, spending time among greenery and blooms, taking time for spiritual practice, and living a magical, creative life.

(I very much believe in adding sparkle and whimsy wherever possible, whether through how I decorate myself and my teal-walled dreaming room or by carrying large branches through city streets or by sending letters written in jewel-toned ink on pretty paper and stamped with a wax seal.)

But on a writing level, I noticed in my mid-twenties that there didn’t seem to be much media that reflected the desi and the Hindu I was/am. And if there was, it did so in a harmful way, like in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It hurt, that absence, that blithe erasure, that harmful representation—all of it. I had a lightbulb moment where I knew I needed to help change how society views marginalized people—to help take them out of the margins and into the mainstream. And I knew I wanted to do that using the fantasy I love so much, the fantasy that sends silver jets of starlight whooshing through my veins.

Because everyone deserves magic.
Q: You did your Master’s degree in German literature. Were there any German fairy tales that spoke to you? Which ones?

Shveta Thakrar: Yes; I loved the works of E.T.A. Hoffmann, particularly Der goldne Topf (The Golden Pot), and was a big fan of the German Romantics in general. But even the basic Grimm stuff like the story with the dresses of sun, moon, and stars illuminated something in me that wanted to visit a place where I could find such things. That wish has never gone away; I’m always on the lookout for my magical Night Market, for the portal to Faerie (which to me encompasses all mythic traditions).
Q: In works like your short story “Lavanya and Deepika,” you combine the rich lore of India with the Norwegian tale “Tatterhood.” What inspired this weaving of different tales together?

Shveta Thakrar: Ha, the answer to this one is pretty matter-of-fact! I saw a call for submissions put out by an editrix of color, and she was determined to allow people of color to lay claim to the Western tales we’d been immersed in, so she started her own micromagazine focused on retellings. For my part, I loved the concept, and I got to play with the notion of “beautiful” and “ugly,” hence an “ugly” rose sister in “Lavanya and Deepika.”
Q: What potential new ideas and explorations can come from weaving different tales from different cultures?

Shveta Thakrar: We live in a fusion world. That sounds flippant and maybe even dismissive, but I don’t mean it that way at all. Rather, our ancestors have always traded tales and ideas and traditions. Always. A fluid exchange of values and ideas is what keeps civilizations healthy.

In fact, I’m going to quote aforementioned editrix Nin Harris here: “I’ve always had an appetite for fusion cuisine. I love the traditional, but I think we have to open ourselves to the in-between. Most cultures were never meant to be locked in stasis, and if we expect them to be locked in stasis, fixed in time, within a glass container, we aren’t doing them justice. A hybrid myself, I’ve always nurtured a love for the in-between. How could I not? To hate the in-between, to hate hybridity would be to despise myself.”
That said, we also have to be mindful of who tells/retells stories and how. Our world has been shaped for the worse by various empires and the damage of colonization, and that’s created a power imbalance that prizes Western stories and (white, straight, cis, able-bodied, Christian) Western storytellers. They’re given attention and weight, they’re considered canon, their voices are privileged over others, and their lens of viewing the world—stereotypes, biases, and all—is seen as more authentic and relatable than any other. This is a problem. This means #ownvoices often don’t get to tell their own stories, and when they do, it’s not to the same reception and acclaim as those privileged voices.


Then there’s the question of appropriation. Sometimes a tale or topic just isn’t for you to take or retell. Honor that, and leave it to the community from which it came.
Q: Fairy tales have the power to cross cultures, changing and adapting in each telling, and yet the term “fairy tale” has often been applied imperialistically only to European tales. What can we do to disrupt this Eurocentric perspective on what constitutes a fairy tale?

Shveta Thakrar: Stop prioritizing European tales and stop othering everything else. Instead, we should teach a large selection of tales from each culture from the start. They should be grouped together in beautiful anthologies with those European tales and treated with the same respect and recognition. And not referred to as “exotic” or “a break from the norm”! (It’s like how we talk about art history but really mean Western and a little Latin American art. Um, what happened to the rest of the world?)
Q: Your fairy tale–inspired fiction often includes elements of feminism and the empowerment of women. How do you shift and change tales to bring in empowering messages and to counteract the patriarchal messages that flood fairy tales?

Shveta Thakrar: I’m not going to lie; I’m a down-with-the-kyriarchy kind of girl. It feels natural to me to tell and read women’s and girls’ stories, and I’m far more interested in them. I also look around at the world and am half sick of shadows—sorry, I mean, of misogyny and turning women against one another and forcing them to submit to men. I have zero use for that, and zero use for pretending we can’t change society’s “rules” if we choose to. Nothing is written in stone; we just act like it is.

So I look at the stories and where I feel they break down in terms of protecting girls and women, and I rewrite that bit with what I consider a healthier, more loving take. Girls’ voices matter, for example. Girls can be friends instead of enemies in competition. Girls can save the world. Girls can be brown and queer and disabled and have mental illness and speak other languages and practice other faiths and live in other countries and be awesome.
Q: You often weave fairy tale elements into your fantasy fiction. What is it about the fairy tale that speaks so effectively to really powerful explorations of the fantastic?

Shveta Thakrar: We all know different takes on the tale types. They’ve been passed down through generations, and so they resonate in our skin, in our cells. Our job as authors is to flesh out those skeletons, but their echo of ancient recognition makes them perfect for shaping and sculpting into new stories. It’s almost a cheat code, if you will, a formula that has the weight of repetition behind it, making them accessible to a modern audience—while allowing us to bring in marginalized people and cultures to the forefront.
Q: Words have power in your work, shaping the world and carrying with them a form of magic. What is it about the idea of words that makes them often indecipherable from spells in so many fairy tales?

Shveta Thakrar: Put simply, words matter. The old rhyme lies: they do far more damage than sticks and stones and breaking bones—they break the heart. Tell a child that they are a mistake often enough, and they will begin to believe it. What is more heartbreaking than that?

Tell someone that their being female, queer, being brown, being disabled, etc. is wrong, and you harm them. But by the same token, celebrate those parts of their identity, and you help create a safe space for them to flourish inwardly. Words are spells.
Q: Your work often deals with LGBTQ2 themes and ideas. What potential do fairy tales have for evoking queer themes and ideas of queer liberation?

Shveta Thakrar: One of the things that troubles me about societal narratives, the things we teach our children from birth, is the idea that everything must be sexualized in a heterosexual way. What I mean is, a cis girl and a cis boy cannot simply smile at each other in daycare without people declaring them a One True Pairing and predicting their future together. This is dangerous. It creates the idea that the only worthy outcome in life (particularly for those people identifying as female) is an opposite-sex/cisgender romantic partnership. Not wanting that, or not putting that ahead of everything is just not a societally acceptable option.

It is also dangerous in that it erases. It erases gay people, lesbian people, bisexual and pansexual people. It erases asexual people. It erases transgender people and Two-Spirit people. It erases people who may be any of those things but want to be in more than one relationship at one time or who are happy on their own. I think fairy tales are a perfect vessel to showcase those of us whose identities have been erased in the mainstream notion of “happily ever after”: the bisexual brown queen, the nonbinary tailor who goes on mischievous adventures with the help of his cane, etc. We get to write them back in; after all, those tales exist for all of us.
Q: Are there any tales you can think of that are already filled with queer potential?

Shveta Thakrar: Honestly, anything! (Well, as long as it doesn’t contain other harmful messages like racism or anti-Semitism or sexism. Ew and no.) For example, I adore the tale of Nala and Damayanti. Why couldn’t Nala be a woman or a trans man or a romantic asexual or or or? Or why couldn’t Damayanti be a man, etc.?

I want to give these two novels and this one tweet a shout-out, as they show how the limits of queering tales are really only the author’s imagination:

Ash by Malinda Lo: a lesbian retelling of Cinderella

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst: a high fantasy in which a princess falls for the sister of her betrothed

https://twitter.com/broodingYAhero/status/720722943668563969 (This is meant in jest, but it sums up how malleable story clay is for writers.)
Q: You have mentioned before that you enjoy adding an Indian flavour to your work. What cultural ideas, tales, and themes have you drawn on in your fiction?

Shveta Thakrar: Excellent question! Hmm; I have used mythical beings from Hindu and Buddhist dharma so far, and I want to explore doing some retellings. On themes: feminism, freedom, friendship, emotional strength, appreciation of different ways of being female, spirituality. Beyond that, for cultural ideas, I am definitely interested in exploring a middle ground between the Asian tendency to put family above individual will and the Western opposite of prioritizing individual will over the family’s decrees.
Q: You have talked before about how important it is for there to be representation of diverse voices in fairy tales. What are some methods to give voice to those tales that are underrepresented, oppressed, silenced, and otherwise erased?

Shveta Thakrar: First, people in positions of privilege (white, straight, etc. authors) would do well to use their platform to shine a light on #ownvoices. They can start by normalizing these other tales and other voices who would tell them.

Secondly, editors and agents can actively pursue these diverse voices by seeking them out and inviting them to submit, whether stories or novels. Those authors need to be shown there is genuine interest in their work. Editors and agents, don’t wait for them to come to you. Go find them—and show you want this kind of work by publishing and promoting it!

And stop assuming the quality of work by marginalized authors must be inherently less. That is harmful and completely untrue to boot.

In terms of fantasy, imperialism has left us with (false) ideas of what’s magical and what’s not. Celtic and British fey = yes. South Asian nagas = what? Weird! No. (Correct answer = YES, PLEASE, NOW. All the creatures from all over the world.)

We all need to work on expanding our limited horizons.


Q: The theme of flowers appears frequently in your work, particularly people who share characteristics with flowers. What aspect of flowers appeals to you? What potential do flowers hold to represent ideas?

Shveta Thakrar: In Hindu and Buddhist dharma, the lotus is the symbol of enlightenment. It rises through the muck to break through the surface of the water in search of the sun. I adore this.

And flowers also work as a symbol for our lives and our personal growth: we start from a bud, hopefully bloom in our prime and offer beauty and a lovely fragrance and maybe fruit to the world (and some of us will cast off seeds to create more plants), and finally wilt into sleep at the end of our lives.

I also just love how beautiful and colorful flowers are. They add such splendor to everything!


Q: Music frequently features strongly in your work. What is it about music that speaks to you? How do you weave music through the fantastic and the mythical?


Shveta Thakrar: Though I’m an amateur harpist, I don’t know much about music theory from any part of the world, but I do know that music moves us in ways we understand and ways we don’t.

I love the various moods music inspires in me. It often feels like tapping into something Else, something from Elsewhere, and it opens doors for art and imagination. Some songs wrap me in a cloak of sound, and my heart swells in response, becoming that elusive portal to Story, to Dreams, to Beyond. It feels inseparable from my storytelling, so I just braid it in, the same way I could never write without drawing on lush descriptions of color.


Shveta Thakrar  is a writer of South Asian–flavored fantasy, social justice activist, and part-time nagini. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Online, Interfictions Online, Clockwork Phoenix 5, Mythic Delirium, Uncanny, Faerie, Strange Horizons, Mothership Zeta, Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, and Beyond the Woods: Fairy Tales Retold. When not spinning stories about spider silk and shadows, magic and marauders, and courageous girls illuminated by dancing rainbow flames, Shveta crafts, devours books, daydreams, draws, travels, bakes, and occasionally even plays her harp.

Derek Newman-Stille (interviewer) is a PhD student in Canadian Studies at Trent University. Derek conducts research on representations of disability in Speculative Fiction. He is the creator of the Aurora Award-Winning website Speculating Canada.


Cinderella – The Art of the Glass Slipper

Cinderella – The Art of the Glass Slipper
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cinderella is a tale of social transformation, a tale that begs the question “what is it like to walk a mile in my shoes”, and it is a tale that centres around a shoe, around a glass slipper. It is a shoe that speaks as much to its impracticality as it does to its power to display. Cinderella’s shoe is a commentary on class and the notion that clothing can create identity, that wearing a particular type of clothing can create a particular performance of selfhood.

These images examine the glass slipper as a central part of the Cinderella narrative and its fragility perhaps mirrors the fragility of wealth and identity.


“Cinderella’s Glass Slipper” by Chris Thompson CThompsonArt on DeviantArt



Chris Thompson’s “Cinderella’s Glass Slipper” explores the centrality of glass for the Cinderella story, creating a work that explores the fragility of story by transposing Cinderella’s image onto the heel of her glass slipper. The focus on creating Cinderella’s body from the bridge of the heel of the shoe illustrates her fragility and her association with the pain that is often associated with walking in heels.

Thompson’s use of a stained glass style links fragility to the notion of the fractured body. The Cinderella tale is one that is mutliplistic, with multiple pieces pulled together to form a narrative.

Thompson portrays Cinderella by herself on the shoe, which is significant since many images of the glass slipper tend to either show the prince picking up her lost shoe or putting the shoe onto her. This image focuses on Cinderella as complete in herself rather than an extension of her prince’s narrative.


“Cinderella” by Alexandra Dawe



Alexandra Dawe’s “Cinderella” accentuates the connection between the Cinderella narrative and time, portraying the clock just passing midnight and Cinderella on the ground in a look of despair. This is a Cinderella who believes that she has missed her opportunity, that this, like so many of her potentials in life, has gotten away from her.

Dawe illustrates Cinderella in rags and surrounded by other images of her poverty that were also figures transformed by her fairy godmother into representations of royalty – her rats and her pumpkin.

Yet, leaning up against her pumpkin is her glass slipper, connecting the wealth that could have been to what she believes her circumstances are now. Only one shoe is illustrated here, likely showing that this is the matching shoe to the one left on the stairs down from the palace. The slipper has become a reminder of what she believes she has lost.

The gears and works of the clock contrast nicely with the image of fairy tale magic, bringing magic and machine together in a way that paints this tale as one about the mechanics of human interactions.


“Cinderella at Midnight” by Jasmine Beckett-Griffith (jasminetoad on DeviantArt) http://www.deviantart.com/browse/all/?section=&global=1&q=cinderella+glass+slipper&offset=20


Jasmine Beckett-Griffith portrays Cinderella in wide eyed doll-like innocence. This Cinderella is associated with time like Alexandra Dawe’s figure, but her pocket watch has just struck midnight and she is portrayed still on the stairs with her glass slipper behind her.

Both Cinderella and her rats are portrayed in the act of transforming. Cinderella has her peasant clothes on with patches sewn into them, but she still has an expensive pocket watch and her hair is still done up in aristocratic style. Her mice are similarly transforming with some of them still in a state of shimmering brilliance behind her and those on her lap fully in their rat form. The centrality of the clock in this image is illustrated by the drifts of glittering dust falling from it onto the pumpkin, rats, and shoes, connecting this dust to the residual magic of her transformation. Beckett-Griffith seems to make the watch the agent of change, highlighting the role of time in this narrative. The use of dust in the image also conveys a sense of the connection between magic and time since it is the literal settling of the dust here that denotes that her time has passed.



“Disney Elementals Cinderella” by Joel DeQue (CeruleanRaven on DeviantArt) http://www.deviantart.com/art/Disney-Elementals-Cinderella-319236642


Joel DeQue connects the Cinderella tale to the moon, exploring the power of the night as a place for transformations. This is especially significant for Cinderella’s connection to the ball, where she experiences her transformation over the course of an evening.

DeQue only shows one shoe peaking out of the bottom of Cinderella’s dress, which has taken on the form of a constellation in the night sky. Her glass slipper mirrors the glass bobble hanging down from the horn of the moon above Cinderella’s head. By connecting moon and slipper, DeQue highlights the transformative power of both – the moon changes over the course of the month as it goes through moon phases and the slipper changes Cinderella over the course of the evening from maid to princess to maid again and it will eventually reunite her with her princess identity when she is reunited with her lost shoe.

The Art of Snow White – The Poisoned Apple

The Art of Snow White – The Poisoned Apple
By Derek Newman-Stille

Snow White was originally published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812 and has been revisited in retellings and explorations since that time. It’s central features are the magic mirror, the poisoned apple, the glass coffin, and the heart. It is a tale of vanity, ageing, and revenge.

Ever since the Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), much of the imagery around Snow White has been influenced by the film.


Rebenke – Snow White Burton



Rebenke’s Snow White is dressed in the Disney Snow white colours with a tall white collar and blue, red, and yellow colours, yet each of these colours is shaded, the colours darkened.

The Evil Queen is portrayed in her disguise as an elderly woman, and she is portrayed with her mouth open in a cackle showing jagged, yellowed teeth. Her jaw is unhinged, portraying a predatory quality to her. The focus on her mouth centres the idea of consumption in this narrative, exploring the image of the apple as an object of hunger and desire. The predatory quality of the Evil Queen is highlighted by her long, beak-like nose and posture that mimics that of a vulture.

The image centres the apple, portraying it as the only red in the image that isn’t muted. The apple is even surrounded with a rosy red glow and sparkles. Rebenke brings attention to the apple as the moment of encounter between Snow White and the Evil Queen, the point of connection between the two women.

Rebenke casts the background entirely in grey tones with few features. There are some branches in the background, but limited to the edges. This is a stark change from many of the Disneyfied Snow White images, which tend to portray the encounter between Snow White and the Evil Queen in the depths of the woods.

Rebenke combines the saccharine imagery of Disney with the darker image of Tim Burton’s sketches in a subversion of that saccharine quality. Rebenke’s snow shite is portrayed with typical Burtonesque features – dark circles around the eyes, a pale face, an extended, thin neck, long thin arms and pointed fingers. The paleness of Snow White provides a point of contact between the Disney image and Burtonesque images. Her pale skin is turned macabre.

Rebenke is an artist on DeviantArt who gives his name as “Jonas” and whose gallery can be found at http://rebenke.deviantart.com/


Mallory Thompson (Illeander) – Paper Tales: The Poison Apple



Mallory Thompson (Illeander)’s Snow White centres the image of the apple, using the apple itself as a framing technique. The image focuses on the upper bodies of the Evil Queen and Snow White, bringing attention to their faces in the encounter. This is a story of persuasion The Evil Queen’s voice is portrayed as flowing out in a physical way, wrapping around the apple itself and surrounded by stars. This is a voice of enchantment and persuasion.

The power of text in this image is further shaped by the use of papercraft for the tale, exploring the role of paper and voice. This is further explored by the text written across Snow White’s body.

The Evil Queen holds the apple above Snow White’s hand, using the gesture of offering to indicate the exchange between them. She holds the apple between hand and mouth, playing with the intermingling of offering and desire in this narrative. She taunts Snow with the apple near her mouth.

The Evil Queen’s body is marked by holes and pockmarks, conveying ideas of age through holes. This image is mirrored in the shine of the apple, also indicated through holes.

Mallory Thompson creates her art under the name Illeander on DeviantArt (http://illeander.deviantart.com/).



Prudence Staite


Prudence Staite creates her entire image of Snow White from apples, building her body from the fruit that poisoned her. Staite takes advantage of the whiteness of the apple’s flesh to create Snow White’s pale skin.

Staite uses the chunks of apples to mimic the quality of stained glass, fracturing Snow White’s image and constructing it of parts. Staite uses whole apples as a framing technique, showcasing a variety of apples and the complexity of colours of the species.

The power of Staite’s Snow White image is its impermanence. This image is only temporary and it is one that will rot, playing with the reversal of Snow White herself who was captured in a state of perpetual preservation, free from ageing and rot even in death.

Although clearly influenced by Disney’s princess, Staite plays with the colouring of Snow White’s dress to focus instead on the diversity of apple colours.

Rather than using one central apple in Snow’s hand, Staite uses a fractured set of apple pieces to construct the apple, bringing in the stained glass effect that the fractured apples provide for the rest of the image.

Prudence Staite’s runs the website Food is Art at http://www.foodisart.co.uk/FOOD_IS_ART/HOME.html . She refers to works like the Snow White image above as Food Paintings, which she constructs out of materials like pasta, spices, chocolate, tea, nuts, cereal, fruit, vegetables, and cakes. She calls each of her paintings as “an edible work of art” and brings attention to the power of her work to stimulate the senses.





The Art of The Emperor’s New Clothes

By Derek Newman-Stille

The Emperor’s New Clothes is an intensely visual tale, exploring ideas of dignity, performance, and the ostentatiousness of royalty. But, fundamentally, it is about what is not there – the absence of art, the absence of clothing.

Clothing is a way that we perform our identity, the way that we illustrate who we are. It is an art that is linked to identity. The Emperor in the tale is caught between the power of the spoken word to create clothing (by describing it and convincing the court of the presence of the clothing), yet the clothing is not physically present. It is not something that exists except in the descriptive sense.

Art work about The Emperor’s New Clothes is simultaneously about what is there and what is absent.



Harry Clarke

(from Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, New York: Brentano’s 1916)


Clarke portrays the Emperor as a mix of nudity and ostentatiousness. The Emperor is dressed in a simple undershirt, but is still wearing his ostentatious crown.

Clarke highlights some of Hans Christian Andersen’s orientalism in the tale by portraying the Emperor as effete and self involved. He is portrayed with head tilted upward, the centre of attention. He has one arm on his hip and his other hand touching his chest. He poses for all of the other ostentatiously dressed officials, all of whom have focused their entire attention on him.

All of the members of the court portrayed in the image are dressed in long, flowing robes with elaborate patterns. Clarke accentuates Andersen’s interest in courtly artificiality by bringing attention to the Emperor’s closed eyes and his assumption that everyone will be looking at him. By centering the Emperor in the image and portraying the rest of the court on the fringe, with most of the courtly figures only partially exposed in the image.

Harry Clarke lived from 1889 to 1931 and was born in Dublin. His first printed work was a set of illustrations of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales in 1916. In addition to illustrations, Clarke designed stained glass.



Renáta Fučíková


Renáta Fučíková portrays the Emperor surrounded by his own images. He has two mirrors, illustrating his self-obsession and vanity. This Emperor stares at his own image, bending his neck seductively, lidding his eyes, and pursing his lips. This is a narcissistic Emperor who is in love with his own image, excited about his nudity.

Whereas earlier images of the Emperor depicted him with underwear or a dressing gown, Fučíková portrays him in the full nude. Like Clarke’s illustration, Fučíková’s Emperor wears his crown and his staff.

This Emperor is portrayed in the midst of having his invisible clothing displayed and altered by the tailors. One of the tailors holds up the invisible garment for the Emperor to observe even though the Emperor is entirely uninterested in the garment, looking at himself.

Portraying the Emperor’s bedclothes on the floor around his feet mirrors the image of nude models rather than representing an image of someone who is trying on new clothes.

Despite the fact that these tailors are portrayed as lazy liars, these men are performing an excess of work. They are illustrating a counter artificiality to the performance of wealth. Their performance is one of work, a purview that is generally ascribed to the working class. Fučíková portrays a dual narrative of performance in this image, portraying the performance of ostentatiousness by the wealthy and the performance of work by workers.

Renáta Fučíková graduated from the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague during 1988. She has illustrated works from The Brothers Grimm (in 1993) and The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (in 1994).



Angela Rizza


Angela Rizza’s illustration of The Emperor’s New Clothes provides the viewer with the Emperor’s own image of himself, using a mirror to allow us to see the way the Emperor imagines himself to appear. The emperor is portrayed in his underwear, a crown, and a staff. He is portrayed with underwear that have hearts on them, illustrating some of his self love. The image he sees is of an emperor in full regalia. Rizza does what other authors don’t by showing us the way the Emperor sees himself, giving physicality to the invisible.

Rizza’s Emperor is portrayed in a large, open room with few objects other than a floor-to-ceiling mirror. The focus is on his own reflection. This mirror is portrayed with leonine imagery, playing with the notion that the lion is the king of animals. The lion portrayed at the top of the mirror stares back at the Emperor, making certain that all of the eyes in the room are on him.

Angela Rizza is an American artist who shows her work on the website Deviant Art at http://angelarizza.deviantart.com/


Barbara C. Freeman


Barbara C. Freeman’s illustration of The Emperor’s New Clothes illustrates the Emperor processing. He is illustrated in the nude with emphasis upon his golden crown, staff, and orb illustrated by the nimbus surrounding each of the gold items. The Emperor’s nude lower body is cleverly cloaked by the literal cloak of a courtier standing in front of him.

This Emperor is surrounded by ostentatiously dressed courtiers with wigs and the peasants are portrayed in the background, standing on the staircase. There is a literal wall between the two classes, though the peasants are literally elevated in this image, standing above the royals by standing on the staircase.

Directly above the Emperor is the child who points out the Emperor’s nudity. This child is portrayed with her accusatory finger pointing at the Emperor while her father rests his hands on her shoulders.

Barbara C. Freeman lived From 1906 until 1999 and was an English illustrator.


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.