Warehouse 13 and Fairy Tales

If any of you watch the SyFy Network’s original series, “Warehouse 13,” you might have noticed the following lines in this past week’s episode (“Insatiable,” season three, episode ten).

Myka: “We deal with artifacts, not fairy tales.”

Pete: “Well, a lot of those artifacts come from fairy tales…”

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the show, the basic concept is this; the Warehouse agents (most of whom are in the Secret Service) travel around the world collecting dangerous objects imbued with  supernatural powers.  Many of these artifacts are historical in nature and get their power from contact with now well-known historical figures or situations.  For instance, a piece of driftwood from the Titanic can give people hypothermia, and Edgar Allen Poe’s pen allows its wielder to bring Poe’s stories to life.

This is far from the first time the show has hinted at fairy tales.  In fact, as you can see in the clip below, a shot of “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” appeared in the season one opening theme.

Although this episode was more about zombies than princesses, “Warehouse 13” has previously confirmed that in the world of the show fairy tales are based in reality.  This is evidenced by Cinderella’s Knife, an artifact the team chases in season two, episode ten (“Where and When”).  According to Artie (Saul Rubinek), the story of Cinderella and her glass slippers originated from the real Cinderella’s use of the knife, which turns its victims into glass.  The show has also played with artifacts and ideas from other fictional stories, such as Carlo Collodi’s “Pinocchio” and Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”  Although these are NOT true fairy tales, they often get lumped in together.

Considering the fact that this season’s main villain is after a Pinocchio themed artifact (author Carlo Collodi’s bracelet), it seems that Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka’s (Joanne Kelly) conversation may not just have been simple banter.  Although Myka is skeptical, Pete recognizes the potential for truth behind fairy tales.  They’ve encountered one fairy tale item (Cinderella’s knife), so why not others?  After all, the Warehouse did introduce them to “a world of endless wonder.”  I can’t help but think that more fairy tale artifacts are in store for the Warehouse agents.  There’s just too much foreshadowing and suggestion here for this not to pan out.

What do you think?  Are there more twisted fairy tale artifacts to come in this season of Warehouse 13?

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Advice from a Cartoon Princess – Snow White

As some of you may recall, I started a recurring feature earlier this week wherein I respond to the Second City Network video series, “Advice from a Cartoon Princess.”  Previously, I responded to their “Beauty and the Beast” video, showing which of their criticisms were valid critiques of the original fairy tale and which were only relevant to the Disney film versions.  Today, I’ll be doing the same with their video about Snow White.

In this particular video, there are several criticisms which apply to the original story and several which fit in only with the Disney retelling.  Oddly, I also noticed a few that don’t seem to fit with either.

Criticisms that Don’t Fit with Either Disney OR the Original:

  • One of the video’s criticisms is that Snow White marries the prince rather than one of the dwarves, claiming that she ruled them out as romantic partners because of their small stature.  Honestly, this seems a little ridiculous.  I don’t believe that she was unattracted to the dwarves because they were short, but because they were a different species.  In fairy tales and fantasy, dwarves are not simply small humans but a different creature altogether.  A suggestion that Snow White should have married one of the dwarves is akin to saying that Eowyn from “Lord of the Rings” should have married Merry (one of the hobbits) instead of Faramir; frankly, it’s a little ridiculous.
  • The video also says that Snow “loves mirrors,” suggesting that she is vain.  This seems a little ridiculous because the princess never seems self-absorbed in either story.  The only vain character is the antagonist, Snow White’s evil stepmother.
  • The clip interprets the statement “fairest of them all” to mean “whitest of them all.”  Although the word “fair” can mean “pale,” this is really taking things out of context.  In the story, a different definition of the word is being used; “fair” is not meant to mean “white,” but “beautiful.”  This is an intentional misinterpretation rather than a legitimate criticism of the fairy tale’s message.

Criticisms that Only Apply to the Disney Version:

  • This video suggests that Snow White’s choice to let the wild animals help her with cleaning is not something to be encouraged.  After all, encounters with wild animals can pose various dangers to children.  Of course, the original story included none of Snow White’s animal friends, so this one is all on Disney.
  • Next, the clip criticizes the fact that all of the dwarves are given nicknames that describe their most obvious features, not unlike frat boys.  However, the dwarves in the original fairy tale were not given names at all.  In fact, no names were mentioned until the story was turned into a Broadway play in 1912.  They were renamed for the Walt Disney movie, so the dwarf names most people are familiar with (Dopey, Sneezy, Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy, and Bashful) are purely a Disney creation.
  • The video also criticizes the fact that Snow White interprets attractive older women as evil, but assumes ugly older women are trustworthy.  This is definitely only a problem with the Disney version.  In the original fairy tale, the evil queen makes three separate attempts on Snow’s life, disguising herself differently each time.  It is only when Disney eliminated the various disguises that this appeared to be a comparison involving levels of attractiveness and perceived trustworthiness among older women.

Criticisms that Apply to the Original Fairy Tale

  • In all versions of the story, Snow White lives platonically with seven men she met in a scary forest.  As the video points out, this is maybe a little creepy.  After all, Snow is a teenage runaway.
  • Similarly, the video clip criticizes the way Snow White wanders into a random house and goes to sleep in a stranger’s bed.  Clearly, she has never had a talk about stranger danger and seems weirdly okay with breaking and entering.
  • The Second City Network also points out the fact that the princess’ priorities seem to consist of cooking, cleaning, and men.  Admittedly, the dwarves in the original story agreed to let her stay with them in exchange for her doing their housework, but it is perhaps a little odd that she never seems to do anything else. Despite this, it seems like a weak criticism.
  • Next, the video suggests that the story is saying “you know you’ve made it as the prettiest person when everyone around you wants to kill you.”  Indeed, if people interpret the message this way, it is negative.  However, this is clearly not the intended moral of the story; Snow White’s goal was never to be the fairest of them all.  In fact, only one person in the story has that goal; the evil queen.  The more likely message here is “vanity and conceitedness are never attractive.”
  • Finally, the Snow White in the clip instructs kids not to eat fruit.  This was actually my favorite moment in the video.  I guess it would be possible for a young child to become suspicious of apples after hearing/watching this fairy tale!

Although Second City Network’s criticisms of “Beauty and the Beast” were almost exclusively geared toward the Disney version, their critique of negative messages in “Snow White” is divided fairly evenly.  In fact, more criticisms relate directly to the original than the retelling.  I guess my response to their “Little Mermaid” clip will have to be the tiebreaker!

Advice from a Cartoon Princess – Belle

Hello, everyone!  First, let me apologize for my lack of updates, this summer.  I was a little busy getting married.  We also made several moves, so our internet often wasn’t that dependable.  Hopefully, you’ll forgive me as I get back into the swing of this blog.

I’d like to start back up by taking a look at some Second City Network videos with a fairy tale twist.  Many of you may be familiar with my favorite Second City Network character, Sassy Gay Friend, wherein a sassy, gay guy stops literary characters from making huge mistakes.  Their new series, “Advice from a Cartoon Princess,” features a woman who dresses up like princesses from various Disney films, then points out the negative messages these movies depict.

My goal with this recurring feature is to pick apart these videos, documenting which of the negative messages appear in the original tales and which can only be found in their modern versions.  The first video I’d like to discuss is about Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.”  For easy reading, I’ve divided my response below into criticisms that only apply to the Disney version and criticisms that apply to both.

Criticisms that Only Apply to the Disney Version:

  • The video’s first criticism of this French fairy tale is that the Beast is violent, but rich.  It suggests that Belle stays with the Beast because she feels that she can change him.  Interestingly, this is not a problem that can be seen in the tale’s original version.  Although all versions of the story depict the Beast as ugly, the original never suggests that he is in any way violent or threatening toward her.  This element was added later, most likely to make the story more exciting.
  • The second criticism relates to the Beast’s orders that Belle must eat with him or not at all.  This is almost a direct quote from the Disney film and does not appear in the original story.
  • Second City Network cites the Disney character, Gaston, as a “hot, successful man who was very goal-oriented and wanted to marry” Belle, but suggests that she resisted his affection because it was not a challenge.  This character does not even exist in the original story.  As far as I can tell, the character was added so that the film would have a clear antagonist.
  • Belle’s imprisonment by the beast is also pointed out.  Interestingly, the original fairy tale handled this quite differently.  Belle’s father steals a beautiful rose from the beast.  When the beast sees this and threatens to kill him, Belle’s father pleads for his life, saying that the flower was meant as a gift to his daughter.  The beast agrees not to kill him, and actually offers the man great riches in exchange for sending one of his daughters to live with him.  The beast specifies that he will only accept the trade if the girl comes of her own free will; he does not want to imprison her.  If none of his daughters will return, the man must come back to the castle himself.  Belle, who is the least selfish of her sisters, offers to go because of the great benefit to her family.
  • The video points out that Belle’s only friends are inanimate objects.  The original tale, however, contained invisible servants, not talking furniture.
  • The princess in the video says that Belle tolerates everything the beast does to her.  This obviously only applies to the Disney movie, seeing as the beast in the original story is never mean to her.

Criticisms that Apply to the Original Fairy Tale

  • The video summarizes the story by saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder as long as the woman is good looking.  This is a flaw that can be seen in the original version of this fairy tale and many others; while women consistently fall in love with men who have been transformed into hideous creatures, the opposite is rarely true.

Overall, it’s clear that the Second City Network is specifically targeting the Disney version of this story rather than the fairy tale itself.  Although many of today’s fairy tales have been censored because of their potentially violent or disturbing themes, it’s obvious that these changes were accompanied by questionable messages of their own.  At least in the case of “Beauty and the Beast,” the uncensored original seems to be the more appropriate version.

Cracked Fables

Cracked.com has finally decided to take a stab at Aesop’s fables (and a few wrongly attributed to Aesop, i.e. “The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” and “Henny Penny“), and the result is pretty amusing.  Their “non-bullshit fables” summarize what they believe would happen if any of these fantastical events happened in real life.  Some of the jokes are based on common sense responses to fairy tale problems, while others make blatant pop culture references.  They even throw in some more “realistic” morals for good measure.

This is just another great example of a joke based on our cultural knowledge of fairy tales.  Everyone who reads the above comic strip will understand the stories these are based on and get a laugh.

My personal favorite of these Cracked fables is the retelling of “The Ant and the Grasshopper.”  That ant always did seem like a jerk, to me!  Of course, their version of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is pretty great, too.  Why did the townspeople let that irresponsible boy guard their sheep at night, anyway?

Tangled: Something Old and Something New

Well, I finally got around to watching Disney’s new Rapunzel flick, “Tangled.” I have to admit that it was pretty cute.  It bears little similarity to the original tale, but there are a few consistent plot points.  I’ve divided the film up into two lists for easy reading; similarities and differences between this story and the original a.k.a. “something old” and “something new.” Warning: SPOILER ALERT.

Something Old

  • Rapunzel was kidnapped when she was a baby and has been kept in a tower her entire life.
  • She believes Dame Gothel to be her mother and uses her long, golden hair to pull her up into the stairless tower daily.
  • She falls in love with her rescuer.
  • Her tears magically heal the wounds of her lover after he is injured by Dame Gothel.

Something New

  • Rapunzel’s parents are royalty, rather than the peasants of the original tale.
  • Gothel is just a vain old woman, rather than a witch.
  • Rapunzel’s parents did not steal any vegetables (i.e. rapunzel) from the witch that were traded for the baby, so her name is unexplained and bizarre.
  • Rapunzel’s hair has magical healing powers.
  • She is rescued by a rascally thief, rather than a prince.
  • Rapunzel does not become pregnant.
  • Gothel does not learn of Rapunzel’s lover and cast her out into the wilderness.
  • Her lover does not attempt to commit suicide when he fears he will never see her again.
  • He is not blinded by thorns during a fall from the tower.

As you can see, there is more new to this story than old.  Not much about this retelling relates to the original story.  Admittedly, the Grimm version contained some racy themes, so I can’t say I’m surprised by Disney’s choices.  Whether or not their changes were good for the integrity of the story, they were likely good for profit.

Lost Girl and Fairy Tales

I love “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” so whenever I hear about a show that bears some similarities, I give it a try.  Recently, on the search for something to fill the Buffy void, I had the good fortune to find one of my new favorite shows: “Lost Girl.”  This Canadian program, which has only aired one season so far, got fantastic reviews.  In fact, there’s talk of it being picked up by a U.S. network, as well.

The story centers around Bo (Anna Silk), a benevolent succubus who must feed off the sexual energy of humans to live.  She is part of the world of Fae, which is hidden to most humans.  Fae are basically all of the mythological creatures of fairy tales and legends; wolf-shifterssirens, banshees and more all exist in “Lost Girl.”  Although most Fae use their powers for themselves and their clans, Bo is different; she uses her powers to work as a supernatural P.I. (“Angel,” anyone?) fighting evil, solving mysteries, and protecting humans and Fae alike.  The script is filled with funny moments and quirky dialogue despite the dangerous, life-threatening situations the characters find themselves in every episode.  Basically, it’s “Buffy” or “Angel” with a lot more sex.

Although this show has only been around for a little while, fairy tale connections are sure to crop up.  Not only are mythological creatures from the legends and fairy tales of various cultures already included, but one character has even appeared by name: the Morrigan.

Emmanuelle Vaugier plays the Morrigan on "Lost Girl."

According to Irish legend, the Morrigan (played by Emmanuelle Vaugier on the show) is a goddess or female monster of battle, strife, and fertility.  She is often considered extremely warlike and can change into various creatures, including a cow, a crow, an eel, and a wolf.  On “Lost Girl,” she appears as the leader of the Dark Fae.  So far, little has been revealed about her nature and powers, save that she is combative and manipulative.  My guess is that she will soon be more directly linked to the legends that surround her.

Either way, I would recommend this show to anyone who enjoys fairy tales, “Angel,” or “Buffy.”

Fables 15: Rose Red

As fans of the series may know, the fifteenth Fables trade paperback came out earlier this week, on April 11, and it contains the series’ 100th issue.  The collection, titled “Rose Red,” follows the Fables community as it rallies to fight a new enemy, Mister Dark.  Of course, with Rose Red still in a deep depression over Boy Blue’s recent death, and all of the New York Fables living at the farm due to Mister Dark’s destruction of Fabletown, many different Fables and factions are vying for power.

I’ll try my hardest to not to give too much away,with this review, but I must warn you that there may be some SPOILERS.  If you don’t want to know anything about what happens in this story arc, stop reading now.

Rose Red

One thing I really enjoyed about this collection is that we finally had the opportunity to hear Rose Red’s whole back story.  We have known for years that Rose ended her sister Snow White’s marriage to Prince Charming, but this book shows us why and how.  It also shows us that this event was not actually what tore the sisters apart to begin with.  It was nice to be able to put Rose’s choices over the past few centuries into context.

Another thing that I loved was getting to see Frau Totenkinder unleash her full magical power to battle Fabletown’s newest adversary, Mister Dark.  Their battle is fantastic, and I always love plotlines that involve her.  Seeing as she’s one of the series’ richest and most interesting characters, I was saddened by this edition’s suggestion that we won’t be hearing any more about her.  The witch of the Black Forest will be greatly missed.

A few plotlines appeared in this collection that I’m really looking forward to hearing more about.  For one thing, the ever unpleasant Nurse Spratt appears to be more than just a bitch; she’s on her way to great betrayal.  Secondly, it seems like Snow and Bigby’s secret seventh child, Ghost, will finally be featured in the story that’s been hinted at for years, now; his grandfather, the North Wind, has discovered his existence.

One thing that got a little frustrating in this story arc was its overuse of twist endings.  In quick succession, a character dies, returns, and kills another character who also returns several pages later.  The last fifteen pages of the story are unnecessarily roller-coaster-esque.  While interesting, it was frankly a little ridiculous.

Overall, however, this collection was fantastic, and I loved the opportunity to read more about Fabletown’s most terrifying enemy to date.  This is a must-read for any fan of the series.

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