Fairy Tales

Ottawa Double Book Launch for Over the Rainbow and We Shall Be Monsters

By Derek Newman-Stille

It was extremely satisfying and exciting to have the chance to launch both of my new anthologies in Ottawa. There is something incredibly magical about seeing one’s work come together and bringing together numerous voices that were part of these books. I always find that there is much more context that an author’s voice adds to their story, so I was excited to get the chance to hear so many works in their own voices. I was able to get a sense of the nuances of their stories and the feeling behind their words.

We had multiple readers at our Ottawa launch, each adding new voice to their stories and answering questions about their tales from the audience (and occasionally from me as well). We were able to alternate back and forth between stories from each anthology – fairies and monsters, fairies and monsters, allowing the audience to dip into multiple magical worlds and spaces of imagination. We had the chance to listen to slam poetry as part of our tale, to listen to the words of a professional storyteller, and to hear academic perspectives on these texts in addition to the readings.

The launch took place at the Lieutenant’s Pump on Elgin Street in Ottawa.

There were readings by Nicole Lavigne, Ashley Caranto Morford, Liz Westbrook Trenholm, Victoria K. Martin, Kate Heartford, Arianna Verbree, and Richard Keelan. We also had Sean Moreland in attendance to sign books. Not everyone was able to make it, so I want to also acknowledge that Nathan Frechette and Cait Gordon were there in spirit, but not in physical form.

Derek Newman-Stille

Nicole Lavigne

Ashley Caranto Morford

Liz Westbrook Trenholm

Victoria K. Martin

Kate Heartfield

Arianna Verbree

Richard Keelan

Over the Rainbow authors

We Shall Be Monsters authors

All of our Ottawa Authors

People as Magical as the Fairies They Enounter

People As Magical as the Fairies They Encounter

A review of Tom Dawe’s Spirited Away: Fairy Stories of Old Newfoundland (Running The Goat, 2018)

By Derek Newman-Stille

A man who makes his shoe-laces out of dried eel skins, another who can make an instrument of any object he finds, an old woman who goes from house to house asking for bones, children who fear dragonflies – and these are just the human characters in Tom Dawe’s Spirited Away: Fairy Stories of Old Newfoundland. Dawe weaves together fairy tales told in Newfoundland with a bit of the eccentricities of the island, creating a dynamic set of stories. Dawe explores tales of landscapes come alive with mischief, of homes made unfamiliar by the presence of the fairies, of animals who can sense otherworldly presences, of mysterious strangers showing up to play music and just as soon disappearing, of fairy rings, and of babies hurt by fairies appearing as green butterflies.

Dawe draws on the Newfoundland Fairy Tale telling tradition, but transforms it from a primarily oral narrative tradition into a solid set of tales to entertain and intrigue. Dawe wraps these tales of the otherworldly in the realm of humans, giving context to the characters involved in a way that is rarely done in such detail in the Newfoundland Fairy Tale telling tradition.

Like most who draw on the fairy tale traditions, Dawe’s stories aren’t light and fluffy tales of encounters with magic, but frightening tales of danger, tales of angering the fairies, tales of fairy blasts, and tales of people dancing to fairy music until they collapsed.

To discover more about Spirited Away: Fairy Stories of Old Newfoundland, visit http://runningthegoat.com/spirited-away-fairy-stories-of-old-newfoundland/

To find out more about Tom Dawe, visit https://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/arts/tom-dawe.php

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.


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.



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.