Part 2 continues my conversation with Angela Sunde. Fairytales, both traditional and modern yet again proves to be a topic there is much to talk about. Hope you agree! Please leave comments!!
In this post, Angela talks about writing Pond Magic and gives some hints to anyone wanting to write their own modern fairytale for children. We also spar in a competition: THE FAIRYTALE PLAY-OFF at the end of the post. See if you can name the quotes!
SG: Angela, you studied the Grimms’ Fairytales as part of your uni degree in New Zealand, majoring in German and Spanish. And you taught ‘Fairytales’ to your German classes both in senior high school and upper primary. I wonder if you have a distinct sense that children nowadays (and their parents) aren’t reading or being told the traditional fairytales we enjoyed when we were kids. Or am I just pessimistic?
AS: No, I think you’re right. Luckily, the children in my classes always loved studying fairytales and acting them out. All the boys wanted to be the wolf. Nowadays, I think cinema has taken over the role of telling folktales. Movies like ‘The Princess and the Frog’ and ‘Shrek’ fulfil the desire of children to escape to a world where anything is possible.
Unfortunately, the marketing of these movies also comes with a price tag for the parents as they are tricked into buying the accompanying merchandise.
However, because of the popularity of these movies, I believe children are still keen to read a modern fairytale where a child just like themselves must overcome a great problem and ‘conquer evil’ (or the class bully). My book, Pond Magic is just such a story.
SG: Remember Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea? How the Queen found out the poor girl was really a princess by hiding a pea under 20 mattresses and 20 eiderdowns quilts where the girl was to sleep. The next morning, the girl complains, “God knows what was in that bed: but it was something hard, and I am black and blue all over.” The King and Queen decided only a princess could be that sensitive!
That’s me whenever we go camping! One tiny little pebble under my camping mattress and I’m tossing and turning all night.
Of course, Andersen was pushing a little moral in his story – “true quality is what is within a person not in outward appearance”. This could also apply to the characters in Pond Magic, would you say? AS: Yes, like every good fairytale, Pond Magic has a moral. The main character, Lily Padd learns to accept the cultural differences of the French exchange student who has come to stay and becomes a more tolerant, supportive friend. So while she is undergoing a ‘frog’ metamorphosis on the outside, an important inner metamorphosis is also occurring.
In true fairytale fashion, Lily, the hero, solves her problem with the help of magic and her new tolerant self, and of course the evil bully is punished. It’s a very satisfying ending.
SG: When writing fairytales, particularly modern versions, is there a formula children’s writers could follow?
AS: A modern fairytale writer can use any of the traditional elements of fairytales. A traditional fairytale must have certain elements (to be accepted by a purist like me):
- Three parts – a difficult situation in the beginning where the hero is treated badly – the path of the hero, who must overcome danger and/or other problems – and the solution, where using magic the hero (Lily)wins and evil is punished (Rick the bully).
- Characters and places in traditional fairytales are not real; the characters have no real names and time stands still.
- There is only one world and anything can happen.
- The characters are opposites: very old or very young (Lily and Mrs Swan), very big or very small (Lily and Maureen), very good or very evil (Rainier and Rick) – there is no wishy washy in between.
- The magic numbers and repetition – 3, 6, 7, 12. e.g. 7 Dwarves, 3 wishes etc. In Pond Magic, Lily must repeat the spell three times.
- Precious metals and minerals – castles made of gold, people turned to stone etc.
- The hero is alone; an only child, abandoned, cast out, the youngest/oldest/poorest, only girl, orphaned etc. (Lily is the oldest)
Angela, we’ve almost run out of time! But to finish off, I have a little treat for you: THE FAIRYTALE PLAYOFF!! Da-daaaaa, roll of drums.
That’s where we take turns coming up with sentences we know from well-known fairytales, QUICKLY!
READY… SET… GO!
Sheryl: Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, so that I may climb the golden stair.
Angela: My, what big ears you have, Sheryl! (Haha, no cheating, Angela. Everyone knows it’s grandma!)
Sheryl: I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.
Angela: Nibble, nibble little mouse. Who is nibbling at my house…
Sheryl: Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
Angela: Help! Help! The Marquis of Carabas is drowning!
Sheryl: I’ve run away from a little old woman, a little old man, and I can run away from you, I can!
Angela: And out of the houses the rats came tumbling…
Sheryl: When you are sixteen, you will injure yourself with a spindle and die!
Angela: But he hasn’t got anything on!
Okay, I have to call it a draw!! I think we could keep going right off the page. See if you can work out which 10 fairytales the quotes are from … no google-ing though!
Thank you, Angela for a fun-filled chat with you (on my back verandah, drinking tea and eating yummy food!) All the best with Pond Magic and here’s to the next one! Cheers!