Once upon a time in a far away place… PART 1

In conversation with Angela Sunde, Australian children’s author …

“I love fairytales. There’s something timeless and classic about their stories. Pond Magic is proof of this – a thoroughly modern setting and cast with a familiar ring of magic and message.” Angela Sunde

The Frog Prince..illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren

My guest today is children’s author, Angela Sunde. Angela is a fellow Queenslander and good friend who lives in a beautiful part of the country, the Gold Coast hinterland.

With her first novel, Pond Magic firmly under her belt, Angela is living her own personal fairytale – to become a children’s author. Her book for 8-12 year-olds is one of this year’s Aussie Chomps, Penguin Australia’s successful and highly-sought after imprint.

Rather than interview Angela or get her to write an article for my blog, I’ve decided we should have an online conversation. So she has no idea what direction I might take, and neither do I! Who knows where this will end up?

SG:  Hi Angela! Welcome to my blog. I’m just pouring out our cups of tea. Help yourself to a biscuit and get comfortable.

AS:  Hi Sheryl. I’m so excited to be here today to talk about one of my favourite topics – fairytales! And it’s always great to chat with you.

SG:  Likewise! Congratulations on the release of Pond Magic, Angela. I loved it – clever, witty, funny and a story kids of that tween age will love. I also love its link to fairytales – that’s why I’ve titled this blog conversation Once upon a time in a far away place… I suspect you (like me) thrill at the sound of those words and the wonders they may hold.

AS: Absolutely true, Sheryl. It takes me back to my childhood and the beautiful illustrations which accompanied the fairytales. They were my only picture books. I remember loving the Little Golden Books version of Little Red Riding Hood too. I can still see her face under the red cape.

Angela Sunde

SG:  When I was a girl, I treasured two lovely thick books of tales from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, but they were lost in one of our many house moves. I remember how so many of the stories were filled with tales of horror, cruelty and sadness. But we still lapped them up? I wonder why?

AS:  I guess we knew they weren’t true, just as kids today know the difference between reality and fantasy.

SG:  Like the Brothers Grimm stories – some of them are absolutely terrifying!

AS:  The Grimms’ fairytales were intended for both adults and children – that’s why they’re sometimes horrifying. Did you know they were originally called Kinder und Hausmaerchen? That means ‘Children’s and Household tales’ – the whole family would gather around the hearth to hear the re-telling of these stories. Then, like Chinese Whispers, the fairytales would change with each re-telling and so often villages ended up with a different version of the same tale.

SG:  So with Pond Magic, you’ve carried on that Kinder und Hausmaerchen tradition?

AS:  I can’t help putting fairytale elements into my writing! Fairytales have always been a part of my life. I had a running joke with a friend when we were in our 20s about The Frog Prince … that you have to kiss a lot of toads to find the handsome prince. Eventually I did find Rob, but her’s turned out to be a toad!
In Pond Magic, when I gave my character Lily Padd the problem of being unable to stop burping, the logical reason behind this had to be what I call ‘fairytale logic’ – she must be turning into a frog! In fairytales, anything can happen: people do magic, animals talk, fairies marry princes, small children enter the world of giants and frogs can turn into princes.

SG:  I just discovered (research can be very useful!) that the Grimm Brothers’ version of The Frog Prince was quite different to the English version I knew as a child. The original German fairytale had the princess (a bit of a nasty girl, to be sure), after putting up with the frog knocking on her door and then sitting on her pillow for three nights, throws that poor creature to the floor in a temper. That’s when he changes into the gorgeous prince.
The English translator of The Frog King, Edgar Taylor altered the title and revised the ending, replacing the Grimms’ violent resolution with one of passivity. Apparently, ‘the English readers of the 1820s could not accept a heroine who throws her frisky bed companion against the wall’.
Angela, your Croatian ancestry goes back 400 years, and you speak five languages. Have you noticed similar cross-cultural differences between other well-known fairytales?

AS:  Croatia used to be a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire up to WWI, so the European folktales of the Brothers Grimm are well-loved there too.
The Grimm fairytales were stories they collected on their travels around Germany. Jacob Grimm said this about the origin of the fairytale: All these are neither devised nor invented; they are a distillation of the oldest popular beliefs.
The brothers were interested in the historical roots of the stories as much as the stories themselves. And some are much older than many myths of gods and heroes. It’s not unusual then to have violent resolutions in the original tales.

Perrault's version of Cinderella

In the original Cinderella, for example, the first step-sister cuts off her toes in order to fit into the slipper (which is gold not glass) and the second sister cuts off her heel. The French translator Perrault also added mice and pumpkins to Cinderella, which did not exist in the original.
The sensibilities of the time (1800s) caused these changes as the stories grew to be just for children and not adults as well.
The children of the Middle Ages used to watch hangings at executions the way our kids go to the movies – violence was a part of life.

SG:  Oh no! We’ve run out of space…looks like we’ll be chatting again tomorrow?

AS:  Sounds good to me, Sheryl See you bright and early on Sunday morning. 🙂

We’ll bring you more about fascinating fairytales and writing stories in the next episode.
Angela will also share her fairytale-writing formula for writing your own modern day fairytale.
And as an extra bonus: Angela and I will face-off in THE FAIRYTALE PLAYOFF competition! Who will win?

Illustration of The Frog Prince, courtesy of childhoodreading.com

Angela also appears on other blogs during her blog tour for Pond Magic. Check them out:
21st October – Stories Are Light – Sandy Fussell
22nd October – Write and Read with Dale – Dale Harcombe
Review and Developing a Character
23rd October – Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog
Getting Published for the First Time
24th October – Cat Up Over – Catriona Hoy
What Girls Read
24th October – Kids Book Review
Review of Pond Magic
26th October – Tuesday Writing Tips – Dee White
Writing to this Length
27th October – Kids’ Book Capers – Boomerang Books
Review and Where Story Ideas Come From
28th October – Kids Book Review
The Aussie Chomp Format
29th October – Tales I Tell – Mabel Kaplan
Promoting your First Book & Planning a Book Launch
30th/31st October – SherylGwyther4Kids
Once upon a time in a far away place… PART 1 and PART 2



About sherylgwyther4kids

I'm an Australian author writing for young people.
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16 Responses to Once upon a time in a far away place… PART 1

  1. Peter Taylor says:

    Many congratulations on the book, Angela and I love this discussion. I can’t remember enjoying the Grimm stories as a child, but I did repeatedly ask for Struwwelpeter to be read, with the pile of ashes left when Harriet sets herself on fire when playing with matches and the tailor who takes out his scissors and cuts off the thumbs of the suck-a-thumb child. I’ve also collected a WW2 parody edition called Struwwelhitler. I look forward to your chat continuing tomorrow.

    Best wishes to you both,

    Peter Taylor

  2. katswhiskers says:

    Such an erudite conversation, ladies. I’m impressed by your learned ponderings. 🙂

  3. I enjoyed the discussion, Sheryl and Angela.

    Felt as if I were having tea and biscuits with you too:)

  4. Angela Sunde says:

    Now, Sheryl, I was thinking about your comment that the Princess in ‘The Frog Prince’ was a bit of a nasty girl and the frog was ‘a poor creature’. The frog was in fact symbolic of the ardent admirer – and if I had some guy I didn’t know repeatedly trying to sleep in my bed I’d throw him against a wall too!

    Just like in Rapunzel, where the Prince repeatedly ‘visits’ the Princess in the tower. But he never rescues her. He just keeps ‘coming back’ for more. He symbolises the admirer who is a ‘user’, the witch symbolises a protective mother and the tower symbolises the efforts the mother goes to to protect her daughter. In the original story the witch (mother) discovers that Rapunzel’s clothing has become ‘tight’ (yes, she is pregnant) and she flies into a rage. I’d fly into a rage too if some Prince had been creeping into my daughter’s bedroom every night and taking advantage of her!

  5. Angela Sunde says:

    Peter, I love Struwelpeter too. Have you read Max und Moritz by Wilhelm Busch? It’s a German folk tale about two very naughty little boys.

    • Peter Taylor says:

      No, Angela – please educate me next time we meet at SCBWI or the Gold Coast Writers’ Group.

      I’ve a lot of reading to do. A while ago I bought two plates by Kay Nielsen from ‘In Powder and Crinoline’ (1915) – Old Fairy Tales retold by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. I should definietely get a copy of that and check them out. ((Sigh! I see that copies of the original sell for $800-$5,000 – but there is a modern version with the stories retold by Anne Carter.))

      The full set of illustrations is shown at


      The whole blog is an amazing resource of illustrations.

      Best wishes


  6. Angela Sunde says:

    Thanks, Peter. I’ll check it out.

  7. Angela Sunde says:

    Wow, Kay Nielsen is an inspiration! The most beautiful illustrations ever. I adore them. Now how do I get my hands on a re-print?

  8. Fascinating discussion, Sheryl and Angela. I’d be interested to know where the traditional ending of ‘and they live happily ever after’ came from. Do you know? Is it a modern sanitised version of old fairy tales or has it been around forever?


  9. Angela Sunde says:

    Thanks, Marianne.
    German children grow up with, ‘Und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, dann leben sie noch heute’, which means, ‘And if they have not died, then they are still alive today.’ So that’s not quite as cheerful as ‘And they lived happily ever after.’ I’m not sure where that derived from.

  10. Pingback: PART 2 “Once upon a time in a far away place…” | Sheryl Gwyther – author

  11. Pingback: Once upon a time, in a far away place…PART 1 | Sheryl Gwyther – author

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