Day 27: Fairy Tale Poll!

OK, so now that we’ve discussed these tales, included how they’ve been changed, what version is your favorite?

Let’s have a poll!

Feel free to explain your answer  in the comments!

Day 26: Fairy Tale References in Popular Culture

As well as adaptations and re-tellings:

  • ABC’s Once Upon A Time uses characters from the Disney canon–not necessarily all fairy-tale characters (Mulan and Lancelot, for example)–and places them in the modern world. So far, some of the characters are: Belle, Rumplestiltskin (even though, to the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t shown up in a Disney movie) , Snow White and her stepmother, and her prince; Pinnochio and his father, Geppetto, and Jiminy Cricket; Maleficient; Cinderella; Captain Hook; The Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts; Hansel and Gretel; Aladdin’s genie; the Magic Mirror.
  • Disney’s Lilo and Stitch references Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling to illustrate how lost Stitch, as an alien being, feels on Earth among humans.
  • Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods has been referenced many times in this series. The stories they use are: Jack and the Beanstalk; the Grimm Brother’s Cinderella; Rapunzel; Little Red Riding Hood; and Sleeping Beauty and Snow White (tangentially). The stories are tied together using the characters of a Baker and His Wife. The Baker is actually Rapunzel’s brother, and the Witch in the story is the one who took Rapunzel from her parents after the baker’s father stole the greens from her garden. The first act covers the stories as we know them; the second part covers “what happens after the stories ended?”
  • The British film The Red Shoes uses Andersen’s story and sets it in the world of ballet.
  • Sleeping Beauty became one of the greatest ballets of all time after its premiere in Imperial Russia in the 19th century. Music by Peter I. Tchaikovsky and choreography by Petipa. The role of Princess Aurora and the Lilac Fairy are highly coveted in the dance world.
  • The film Ever After retells Cinderella as if the characters were real people in 17th century France.
  • Shrek uses many fairy tale characters, including Puss-In-Boots, a Fairy Godmother, Snow White and the Dwarves, Pinnochio, and fairies.
  • The Steadfast Tin Soldier is a part of Disney’s Fantasia 2000.
  • Thumbelina was made into an animated motion picture in the 1990s.
  • The Emperor’s New Clothes  was spoofed, in a sense, by Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove.
  • The Princess and the Pea inspired the musical Once Upon A Mattress.
  • Cinderella has seen several versions in opera: Cendrillion, by Massenet, as well as a version by Rossini.
  • Joyce DiDonato as Cinderella at the Royal Opera House

  • Hansel and Gretel is also an opera, popularly performed during the holiday season as a “family” selection, since it’s in English and involves creative and funny costumes (like actors dressed up as fish in ties and tails!)

Man as fish! And scary cooks

  • The opera Rulsalka plays off Andersen’s Little Mermaid, but uses the Slavic idea of merwomen who lure men to their deaths with their music and tempting appearance  Rusalka, like the Little Mermaid, falls in love with a prince and wants to become human. She also fails in getting him to marry her, and returns to her watery world, but the prince commits suicide in order to be with her.
  • Renee Fleming as Rusalka, making her deal with the Witch


Day 23: The Red Shoes

First off: If you haven’t seen the 1946 movie that’s based on Andersen’s story, do it now! It’s an incredible film. Yes, it might be hard to find. It’s also a Criterion Collection DVD and those are pricey. But if you love dance or the performing arts, it’s a must-have.

Moira Shearer as Victoria Page in “The Red Shoes”

Today, however, we’ll talk about the Andersen story. Andersen said that the idea was taken from life. His father was a cobbler, and a wealthy customer wanted a pair of red silk shoes for her daughter. The customer sent him the material to be used, and the cobbler carefully made a pair of shoes to her specifications. However, when the woman came to pick them up, she said they were nothing by trash and that he had ruined her silk. Andersen’s father replied that he might as well ruin his leather, too, and cut up the shoes.

The Red Shoes, published in 1845, tells the story of a girl named Karen, an peasant girl who is adopted by a wealthy old woman after her mother’s death. Before her adoption, Karen had a rough, worn pair of red shoes that she had made out of a piece of old cloth. But now, Karen wants a pair of red shoes, fit for a princess, and convinces her  new mother to buying her a gorgeous pair of red shoes to replace the tattered pair. Karen wears the shoes to her confirmation ceremony, where she pays no attention to the service and instead indulges her vanity. She continues to do this regardless of her mother’s disapproval and stares from the congregation.

Karen’s mother becomes ill, but instead of staying home with her, Karen attends a party, wearing her shoes. A soldier appears and tells her she has beautiful dancing shoes. At this, Karen begins to dance, but finds she cannot stop. The shoes take over, and she dances night and day, without rest. She dances in all weather conditions, through rough brambles that tear her skin, and even misses her adopted mother’s funeral, all because of the tyrannical shoes. An angel appears to her, wielding a heavenly sword, and Karen begs him to release her from the shoe’s power, but the angel refuses, condemning her to dance until she dies as a warning to other vain children.

One of Vilhelm Pedersen’s illustrations for “The Red Shoes”

Karen finds an executioner and begs him to chop off her feet so she can be free of the shoes. He does so, and the shows continue to dance, even separated from Karen’s body. The executioner gives her a pair of wooden feet, and crutches. Thinking she has suffered enough, she heads to a church to pray for forgiveness, but she cannot enter–her dancing feet in the red shoes bar the way. She tries again next Sunday, but still the feet do not allow her passage.

Karen gets a job as the parsonage’s maid, but she doesn’t attempt to go to church again. Instead, she sits alone and prays to God for help. The angel she had seen previously re-appears, now bearing a bouquet of roses, and gives Karen the mercy she asked for. Her heart becomes so filled with joy that it bursts, and she is taken up to heaven, where no one mentions the red shoes.

In the film The Red Shoes, Andersen’s story is the pivotal ballet in the plot, rocketing dancer Vicki Page to international fame. But the shoes are also symbolic, in that Vicki has to chose between her dancing, or the love of her life, Julian, the composer and conductor for the ballet company. Eventually, the shoes drive her to her death, just as they would have done for Andersen’s Karen.

Day 20: In the state of Denmark

The last of the “big three” fairy tale writers, as least as we know them here, is Hans Christian Andersen. 

The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen Harbor

Hans Christian Andersen’s stories are the most spiritual, most obviously “Christian”, so to speak; almost all of his tales invoke God in some way, and quite explicitly.

Andersen was born April 2, 1805, and was an only child. There is some speculation that he was an illegitimate son of the Danish Royal Family. Originally accepted to the Royal Danish Theater because of his excellent boy soprano, he seriously began to pursue poetry once his voice changed.

During 1835, Andersen published his first volume of his Fairy Tales. More stories were published in 1836 and 1837. Although the quality of the stories (like those of many authors) was not recognized immediately, they eventually became a worldwide favorite, being translated into more than 150 languages.  However, by the time of his death in 1875, the people of Denmark had embraced his art and the government declared him a “national treasure.”

Some of his famous tales are:

  • The Steadfast Tin Soldier
  • The Snow Queen
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Thumbelina
  • The Little Match Girl
  • The Ugly Duckling
  • The Emperor’s New Clothes
  • The Red Shoes
  • The Princess and the Pea

We’ll explore several of these tales over the next few posts: The Snow Queen (since it is being adapted into a feature film by Disney), The Little Mermaid, and The Red Shoes.