By now you will have heard plenty of news about J.K. Rowling’s latest project – a movie version of her book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The book itself, written by the fictional Newt Scamander, features more than 80 fantastical beasts and beings. Some of them, such as the pixie, the kelpie, the unicorn, the mer-people and the dragon, are well-known to even the most half-hearted fantasy fans. But there are quite a few exceptions. Here are a few fun ones.
- Puffskein: A sphere of soft ur that is fond of eating leftovers and even the occasional spider. It emits a humming sound when it is contented. Fred and George Weasley modified the Puffskein to make the Pygmy Puff.
- Jobberknoll: A speckled blue bird that never utters a peep until the moment before its death. And in that moment, it utters a long scream which consists of every sound it has ever heard – backward. Its feathers are used in Memory Charms and Truth Serums.
- Ashwinder: A thin, gray wisp with glowing red eyes that rises from embers to lay its eggs in a dark corner before it dies. It only lives about an hour.
- Bowtruckle: A twig-like creature, about the size of a person’s hand, which serves as the guardian for its home tree (which it looks very similar to!). A peaceful being, but can become violent when its tree is threatened.
- Chizpurfle: A crab-like, parasitic creature that is attracted to magic. It often attacks magical objects such as wands and cauldrons. When it can find no magic, it will resort to attacking Muggles’ electrical devices and wires.
- Glumbumble: This furry flying insect produces a treacle that induces melancholy, which can be used as an antidote to treat hysteria. It nests in dark places and feeds on nettles.
- Streeler: A giant snail which changes colors hourly. Streeler venom is one of the few things that can kill a Horklump.
- Diricawl: Muggles think of this plump, flightless bird as the extinct dodo bird. But the wizarding world knows it is not extinct – rather, it can disappear and reappear when needed as an escape method. Thus Muggles have not seen it for many years.
Many of the creatures in Rowling’s book (and upcoming movie) are ones she invented herself, although the classic fairytale beasts emerge here and there as well. If you could create a magical beast, what would it be?
Spells, enchantments, potions, charms, hexes and curses … call them what you will, they make up a huge part of both fantasy fiction and the fantastical characters many of us know and love. And though I believe the true magic lies in a well-written story and in the characters that speak to us and endure, that certainly doesn’t stop me from getting pleasure in seeing the varied ways authors and writers of books and movies have used words to express traditional magic! I hope you enjoy them as well.
The Summoning Charm
Is there anyone within a few years beyond or behind my generation who isn’t at least familiar with this one? Ok, so maybe I’m being a little fanatic. Most Harry Potter fans are. But what else can you expect from someone who instinctively calls out “Accio keys!” while searching frantically through my purse …?! Short and sweet, this one simply means “I summon.”
This is the magic law that is etched into the stone table Aslan was killed upon. It is full of power and meaning that, for me and many others, goes far beyond the fictional Narnian chronicles.
If a willing Victim that has committed no treachery is killed in a traitor’s stead, the Stone Table will crack; and even death itself would turn backwards.
Crossroads Uncrossing Spell
Earthy and timeless, these words come from Eileen Holland’s Spells for the Solitary Witch. I don’t know about you, but my somewhat dramatic imagination sees a fey creature, arms outstretched to the skies, crying out this chant.
Guardians of the North, grant me power!
Guardians of the West, send me strength!
Guardians of the South, give me energy!
Guardians of the East, know my spirit!
In the BBC miniseries, Merlin, our main character – Merlin himself! – works magic in nearly every episode. This is one of many examples that I could give – a spell of fire, which translates literally: “You are air in fire’s heat; defeat the hostile one.”
Lyft sy þe in bǽlwylm ac forhienan se wiðere!
Enter the Three Witches …
The evil of the three witches who set out to destroy Macbeth is palpable in the following lines, which are only a few taken from the much longer spell in the play by Shakespeare.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
In April or May, fashion a heart out of willowy rosemary branches. Secure your heart with a yellow ribbon – and for added strength, weave in a piece of your lover’s clothing or a strand of his or her hair. Place the charm in a white envelope, then place the envelope beneath your pillow. When the charm has worked its magic and brought the one you love closer to you, burn the rosemary heart in fire, thinking all the while of the fiery nature of your passion and love. (Taken from The Good Spell Book by Gillian Kemp).
Shield Us From Fire
Eragon spoke these words in the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini. They diverted fire from both him and his dragon Saphira.
Skölir nosu fra brisingr!
Rush, Waters of Bruinen
Arwen turns to her pursuers, the Ring Wraiths, and utters this spell. Anyone who has seen the movie The Fellowship of the Ring remembers the elven tongue … but what do these mysterious words translate to in English? “Waters of the Misty Mountains, hear the word of power. Rush, waters of Bruinen, against the Ring Wraiths.”
Nîn o Chithaeglir lasto beth daer; rimmo nín Bruinen dan in Ulaer!
There are spells of length, one-worded curses, rhyming and metered enchantments, a deceptively simple string of words … an endless variety of ways the words of magic have been portrayed through fiction and beyond. For me, no one of these methods is better than the other – each seems to fit with the story that is woven around it, and is meaningful and effective within its context.
Which are your favorites, from the above list or otherwise?
We have all seen the Disney versions. We have all read the middle grade and young adult spin-offs. But what about the original, the darker, versions of the fairytales told by the Brothers Grimm – the ones many of us at least feel are so familiar? Ever wonder how the true, unabridged, original manuscripts read? Ever wonder how these stories were told, before a pen ever wrote them down, around a cozy hearth at night, or in a child’s darkened room before bed? You may find this list of the various little-known twists and turns of these tales quite interesting. And you may just find it a bit disturbing and, well … grim.
- The Frog Prince. The princess drops her golden ball into the well. A friendly, albeit “disgusting” (her words, not mine!) frog fetches it for her. How does she discover that this green slimy creature is in fact a prince? What does she do that unlocks his identity at last? A kiss, you say? Think again. In one translation of this classic, our delicate princess throws the poor frog across the room, hoping to kill him, and when his poor little froggy body slams into the wall and falls to the ground … poof! He’s a prince. Romantic stuff, huh?
- Rapunzel. Ah, yes, where should I start with this one? First off, her father is horrible and cowardly enough to promise her to a witch before she has even been born. Yikes. Then Rapunzel herself is forced to live in a tower, alone and seeing no one but the enchantress, the only mother she knows. At this point I would be so depressed and cabin-fevered it’s not even worth thinking about. But best yet is the fact that, when she is at last banished to the desert for meeting with the prince, we find out that their … ahem … “meetings” have been quite productive, as she soon gives birth to twins. “Aaaand, that’s the end of your story for the night, children. Sweet dreams!”
- Hansel and Grethel (yes, it’s “Grethel” in the original). Headline: Father and step-mother can’t provide enough food for entire family, so they lead kids deep into forest and leave them to die. Enough said, yes? (Unless, of course, you want to discuss the fact that a very young girl gets up the nerve to shove an old lady into a fiery oven to her death … talk about disturbing!).
- Cinderella. After her father remarries, he apparently mentally checks out. That’s what got me most about this one. After verbal abuse, an insane amount of chores, lavished gifts on the two step-sisters, and banishment from the ball, you’d have thought her father (who, contrary to Disney’s version, did NOT die) would have been man enough to come to his only legitimate daughter’s rescue. If he was any example to Cinderella, you’d have thought she’d swear off men altogether and just forget the ball. There’s also that fun part about how the step-sisters cut off part of their feet so they can fit them into Cinderella’s slipper and marry the prince. When their treachery is discovered, two birds come and peck out their eyes. Ugh and double-ugh.
- Little Red-Cap. We know her as Little Red Riding Hood, of course. A story of which details my 6-year-old son would be enraptured by, as they concern a huntsmen taking a pair of scissors to a wolf’s gut to release the old lady and girl he had swallowed. Still, though … I’m not sure we’ll be reading that one for another couple years at least. Another not-so-fun fact: in the French version of this tale, neither Red Riding Hood nor her grandmother even make it out alive!
- The Pied Piper. This man – very understandably – wishes to get revenge on the village of Hamelin for not paying up after hiring him to rid them of their rat infestation. To get back at them he leads all their children away. Now, some stories say he leads them through the mountain, never to be seen again. From most points of view, that’s scary enough, really. But one dark, early version of the tale says the piper leads the poor children straight into a river, where they all drown. I would say the punishment here most definitely does NOT fit the crime. This is a guy who has issues with letting things go …
- Snow White. You’d of course expect Snow White to be a bit bitter after all the witch put her through – I mean, the old broad wanted to have her killed, after all. And none of us reading the story actually wish the witch to live happily ever after – right? Least of all Snow White. Her skin may be as white as snow – but her thoughts most certainly are not. After her eventual marriage to the prince, Snow White forced the witch to put on red-hot iron shoes and dance at her wedding celebration until she dropped down dead. I don’t know about you, but that’s not a girl I’d want as an enemy.
- Rumpelstiltskin. I read this one many times growing up, but in each version Rumpelstiltskin basically throws a temper tantrum when his name is discovered, and stomps himself right through the floor. The end. Want to know the grim Grimm version? I knew you did! This little guy throws a fit to rival Henry II, planting one foot deep down into the earth. He then grabs his other foot with both hands and – brace yourself – pulls his leg until he’s ripped himself clean in half. Gross. I did warn you.
The list goes on and on, really. All you have to do is grab the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales and go to town if you want to hear the original tellings. For myself – I love fairy tales, make no mistake, but a little goes a long way when it comes to horrible parenting, cruel and unusual revenge, and just plain mean princesses.
How ‘bout you? What are some of your favorite (or least favorite) details from the Grimm archives?
- How Hollywood destroyed the classical fairytale (sensoria300.wordpress.com)
- Popular Grimm Fairy Tales: Cinderella and Beyond (parenting.answers.com)
- 5 Forgotten Grimm’s Fairy Tales (mentalfloss.com)
The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker
Emma is an awkward princess who does not agree with her mother’s wishes to get her married off. When she visits her favorite haunt, the swamp, she meets a talking frog who claims to be a prince under a spell. Emma kindly consents to kiss him so he will return to his human form, but instead becomes a frog herself! She and her new “prince” frog friend must journey together to find a reversal to their spell.
A charming take on the original “frog prince” story, in my opinion. Baker takes us on Emma’s exciting journey and we get to watch as the princess goes from annoyed with her royal froggy companion to – well, quite fond! Emma’s voice is distinct, and her personality comes through in the story.
Baker does an excellent job of spinning an adorable fairytale that I would recommend to any child (girls most especially!) over the age of 8 or 9. If I had read this story as a middle grader, I know I’d have loved it. Oh, heck, what am I saying? I love it now! And if you read it and love it, too, don’t forget to check out all the exciting sequels!
Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde
This book was published after – and I read it after – Baker’s “The Frog Princess.” So when I discovered the basic premise to the book (girl-kisses-frog-and-turns-into-frog-herself) I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical.
All I can say is – what was wrong with me?! I should have had more faith in Vande Velde! She came through (as usual) with an original story, very far removed from Baker’s book. Another unhappy princess, yes (this one named Imogene). Another kiss that turns the princess green, yes. But that’s where the similarities ended. From searching for the witch who cast the spell to begin with, to joining a group of traveling players, this book is completely entertaining from start to finish. I barely put it down! Vande Velde’s main character has a wry and sarcastic sense of humor, wit, charm and personality, and I was drawn to her from the start.
So … yet another great book for middle-graders, middle-agers, and … well, you get the point.
Happy reading, friends!
Once upon a time, I discovered that fairytales are not just stories.
They became not just my book obsession, not just an infatuation with princesses and mythical kingdoms. Fairytales became, for me, a way of life, and a way of thinking. Something that, as a child, came straight from my heart and has, over the years, wound through my entire being, even finding its way into my logical thinking.
I can remember the first time I read a fairytale that transported me completely from this world into another. I can still remember the way it felt as if I had just discovered that magic truly existed. I can remember the smell of the book and the feel of my hands on it, the way the sunlight was coming into my bedroom as I sat cross-legged on my bed, leaning over my book until I developed a horrible crick in my neck … but kept reading anyway.
Yet I grew older I experienced troubles and heartbreak, just as everyone does. I became cynical and cautious, and almost lost hold of the fairytale in me. But God gave me a second chance in the form of my own child. I have learned to see things through his eyes. And does he see things!
When he was only two, he pointed out a large chink in our neighbor’s driveway, stooped to carefully examine it, then stated most seriously that he had found a dragon footprint.
I related the above event to my husband, rapturously declaring that our son had the imagination of a genius (well, I’m a mom, so I can say those things …). And of course, while he is no doubt a genius, I think the thing that truly struck me that day (and has struck me countless times since) was how something so astoundingly mundane could become so, well, astounding. And all in the course of two seconds – all because of a handful of words, a different point of view, a tiny drop of imagination and the guileless courage of a two-year-old to see something for what it could be instead of what it in fact was.
It’s not a new concept by any means, looking for inspiration in unexpected places. But even so, it’s one that is all too easy to forget in the hubbub of our daily lives, in the busyness of our work and family schedules and the running to and fro.
Mostly it just takes a conscious will to stop, or at least slow down, and look around you. It doesn’t matter if you live in a bustling city, or a small town, or out in the middle of nowhere. Nothing is off limits. Everything can be fairytale. Is it ugly? Is it boring? Is it broken? Those things make some of the most beautiful fairytales of all.
Because really, when you think about it, aren’t we living out epic tales of our own? A tale called “life” that’s tragic and involved and messy and glorious and heartbreaking and, most of all, full of hope.
Today my son found a “gnome home” in the hollow of a tree as we walked in the woods. That was his fairytale. And my fairytale? Yes, I found one today, too, but not in the tree. It was in the thrill of love I felt watching my son’s brown eyes widen with excitement as he made his own small, but crucial, discovery. And I was transported into his world.
Isn’t that just how fairytales are supposed to make you feel?
When I first discovered Pinterest, I will admit – I was addicted for about two months straight. My husband didn’t know what had happened to me – I rarely came up for air. So many pictures! So many ideas! So many sites, and thoughts, and inspiration! All in one place, too. And I’m an organizer … ooh, I loved organizing my pins into boards, and my boards into groups… Everything was in its place. Just how I like it.
I soon noticed, though, that things in the real world were most definitely NOT in place. The laundry, for instance. And the dishes. I mean, who has TIME for those things, when you are so busy pinning brilliant ideas about them?? I certainly did not.
After I mellowed out a bit, and stopped getting depressed because I didn’t have “the house of my dreams,” and hadn’t followed the “10 steps to a perfectly organized life,” I found another, more inspiring, reason for Pinterest …
It can be a great tool for writing, and an excellent resource for reading.
I began a Pinterest account specifically dedicated to book lovers, readers, and aspiring writers, and the rest is history! I soon discovered there are thousands of others who are just as obsessed with books as I am. (If you want to visit my Pinterest page and see/follow my boards, click here!).
So, how does Pinterest help the reader and/or writer, you ask? Well, here are some of the ways I have found it useful:
1. Inspiration. I like to surf pins, especially of fantasy and fairytale imagery, to get inspiration for stories I want to write, or to better visualize the one I am currently writing.
2. Quotes. Yeah, they’re all over Pinterest, but if you get choosy about who you follow, you can filter out the corny, melodramatic, and pointless ones! I especially like to follow boards with quotes from my favorite authors or books, and I love quotes about reading and writing as well. Try following a board of quotes that is honed in to something specific you like (i.e. fantasy, humor, dogs, forgiveness – you name it!).
3. Recommendations and reviews. There are boards dedicated entirely to book recommendations and book reviews, and many of these boards are split into genre (Romance, Historical, Biography, etc.) or age-group (middle grade, young adult, etc.), which makes it even easier to navigate to the specific ones you would like to follow.
4. Writing prompts. Ideas to file away for future use.
5. Literary media. Follow your favorite authors’ or publishers’ boards (or someone else’s boards about those authors!) to get updates on interviews, blog posts, giveaways, upcoming book releases, and contests.
6. Eye candy. Yep, you heard me. Some people call it “book porn,” although that’s a bit much for me. It comes to the same thing, though … people who simply love pictures of books, libraries, cozy reading nooks, and everything else bookish. Sometimes, when I’m not drooling, I actually get some great ideas from these pictures when it comes to organization and/or display (and believe me, with upwards of 3,000 books in my house, I need those tips!).
7. Geekery. Find nifty accessories, clothing, gadgets, and other paraphanalia made specifically with book lovers in mind. This one is just plain fun. Quotation cufflinks, anyone?
8. Articles and posts. This one sounds kind of boring, I realize, but if you are a writer and, like me, don’t have time every day to read posts from the 30+ writing blogs you follow … what could be easier than just pinning them to a board to save for a lazy Sunday afternoon?
So, with these excellent reasons in mind, I set myself a fun assignment and researched some of my personal favorite boards so I could list them for you to check out. If you are a reader, a writer, a book reviewer, a lover of fantasy and fairytale imagery, or all of these things – you won’t want to miss these! Just be sure you don’t drown in all the bookish goodness!
If you are on Pinterest already, in a reading or writing capacity, what are some of the ways in which you have found it useful? I’d love to hear. It may just inspire me to add one, or two … or maybe ten more boards to my own profile!
Are you ready for the third and final fairytale food post? I’ve split the group of recommendations into two – the first group is for the kiddos, the second is for us older ones. These were so fun, just let me say. You don’t even have to be a cook (and I’m not!) to get some prime enjoyment out of these books. The illustrations, the accompanying stories and rhymes, and even the names of the recipes themselves are enough to keep you turning the pages, though you may have no intention at all of stepping a toe into your kitchen!
A list for the little kiddos:
1. Teddy Bears’ Picnic Cookbook (Abigail Darling)
2. The Boxcar Children Cookbook (Diane Blain)
3. Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook (Georgeanne Brennan)
4. Winnie-the-Pooh Teatime Cookbook
5. Winnie-the-Pooh Picnic Cookbook
6. The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook (Kate Macdonald)
7. Cooking with Anne of Green Gables (Sullivan Entertainment)
8. Peter Rabbit’s Natural Foods Cookbook (Arnold Dobrin)
9. The Wind in the Willows Country Cookbook (Arabella Boxer)
10. The Secret Garden Cookbook (Amy Cotler)
11. Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes (Josie Fison and Felicity Dahl)
12. The Beatrix Potter Country Cookery Book (Margaret Lane)
13. Book Cooks: 26 Recipes from A-Z Inspired by Favorite Children’s Books (Cheryl Apgar)
And now a list for the big kids!
1. Wookiee Cookies: A Star Wars Cookbook (Robin Davis)
2. A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook (Chelsea Monroe-Cassel)
3. The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook (Alan Kistler)
4. The Official Narnia Cookbook (Douglas Gresham)
5. The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook (Dinah Bucholz)
6. Regional Cooking from Middle Earth: Recipes of the Third Age (Emerald Took)
7. The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook (Dinah Bucholz)
8. The Book Club Cook Book (Judy Gelman)
9. The Book Lover’s Cookbook: Recipes Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature (Shaunda Kennedy Wenger)
Now it’s your turn to cook up some whimsical, fantastical recipes on your own! Here is a list of links to some fun and interesting things to make. Comment below with your own ideas or links to more recipes!
Marilla’s Plum Pudding (Anne of Green Gables)
Star Wars recipes (including Wookiee Pies, Ice Cream Clones, and Death Star Popcorn Balls)
Buzz-Worthy Bee Cupcakes and Hive (Winnie the Pooh)
The Boxcar Children Beef Stew RecipeThree-Finger Hobb’s Breakfast (A Game of Thrones)
Licorice Wands (Harry Potter)
Tea with Mr. Tumnus (The Chronicles of Narnia)
Beatrix Potter’s Recipe for Gingerbread (Peter Rabbit)
Bag End Apple Bread (The Lord of the Rings)