Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Glow of Magic

Outdoor solar lighting has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years.  Recently I was looking for garden statuary for my garden, and I came across a neat garden statue of a boy with a flashlight looking at a frog.  The flashlight was solar and lit up at night.  I thought 'what a great idea to use solar power in statuary.'

That's only the beginning.

A pair of solar faeries on Amazon.

A solar slumbering faerie statue on Amazon.
Solar faerie dreamer on Amazon.

A lovely idea.  So while we're at it, why don't we replace our driveway gravel with glow in the dark stones?  


A few years ago, I believe it was Briony who drew my attention to these incredible glow orbs known as Fairy Berries.  At the time, they were cost prohibitive, but now when I looked them up for this blog post, I discovered ThinkGeek now sells them for $20 for a pack of ten. now tempted.

Video is the only way to really capture the magic of this product:

Scatter them around your lawn, in a tree's branches, in a flower bed....Imagine the possibilities! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rapunzel's Hair

Rapunzel fascinates me--both the story itself and the mystique around it.  It is one of the most famous fairy tales, and yet it is never recounted or artistically rendered as much as other tales are.  A search on DeviantArt for Beauty and the Beast brings up over 19,000 images.  A search for Rapunzel brings up around 3,000, most of which are cartoon-style sketches.  
I started wondering why it is that the fairy tale of Rapunzel has been reduced down in pop culture into a simple image of a woman with extremely long image most popular in Barbies and porcelain dolls.  What happened to the romance of the rest of the tale?  A woman who should have never found love having love come to her through the beauty of her voice, not her face, and two lovers finding each other again, one outcast, one blind?  It's a beautiful story, but I'd argue one of the reasons why it is relatively unpopular is because it's impossible to maintain the complete original story, and make it "moral" to a conservative nation.  
Other fairy tales may have begun with adults as the intended audience, but over time, the tale was scrubbed up and given a new face for children.  In today's society, still very influenced by Christian values of abstinence and purity, the idea that a prince and a beautiful woman could fall in love, and the woman could end up pregnant before she ever left the tower to be legally married...well, such a thing just will not do.  Most modern storybooks of Rapunzel include the birth of the couple's twins in the desert, but they completely gloss over the how and why it occurred, treating the incident like some sort of divine conception.  
The entire fairy tale seems to be an argument in favor of the idea that two people can be married in the eyes of God without formal vows being exchanged.  Indeed...after glancing at two story books, and the version of the tale written by the Brothers Grimm, the story ends with the prince leading his "family" out of the wilderness, and their living "happily ever after" with no mention of a wedding.  The Brothers Grimm story, however, seems to eliminate the babies altogether.  In some versions, Rapunzel's betrayal in some versions is discovered when she asks her "mother" to help her take out a dress that fits too tightly (because of her pregnancy), but in the more common version, she naively complains that her "mother" is far more heavy on her hair than the prince.  
I wonder too, with the Victorian symbolism of a woman's hair, if the moment the prince saw her with her hair down and unpinned if to them, that indicated marriage.  In Victorian times, "dressing" and "undressing" a woman's hair was just as titilating as dressing or undressing the rest of her.  A woman's hair was only seen undone by her husband (unless she was a floozy, which Rapunzel clearly was not).  I did some research on the Victorian's fascination with hair for my Pre-Raphaelite blog.  Link:
But a Victorian woman's hair could also be viewed as a web or a net to entrap, which also works perfectly with this fairy tale, as the witch later uses the hair to trap the prince. 
Rapunzel's hair is certainly a fascinating symbol, but it's the one aspect of the story that has endured, while other lessons and symbols in the story go virtually untouched.  Terri Windling, however, in an excellent essay on Endicott Studio, wrote these words, which I'll end with:
Rapunzel's story has become part of our folk tradition because its themes are universal and timeless. We've all hungered for things with too high a price; we've all felt imprisoned by another's demands; we've all been carried away by love, only to end up blinded and broken; we all hope for grace at the end of our suffering and a happy ending. The story has additional resonance, of course, for those of us who were given up by one or both of our birth parents, as it does for those raised by parents who are over–protective or over–controlling. In the end, the story tells us, we have to leave the tower one way or another, weave a ladder or leap into the thorns. We can't stay in childhood forever. The adult world, with all its terrors and wonders, waits for us just beyond the forest.

Walter Crane on Sur la Lune:



By Isobel Gloag, from Sur La Lune:

Cut paper on DeviantArt:

My favorite on DeviantArt:

Arthur Rackham on Sur La Lune:

The Franklin Mint doll that started my obsession with long hair as a little girl:

The Columbus hair salon where I used to get my hair trimmed.  What a great salon concept!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Beauty and the Beast

Hello, ladies and gents.  This summer has been quite the roller coaster ride thus far for me and my little family.  This past week we've been dealing with storm damage and power outages in 100 degree weather.  But I do very much hope to be back on track

In the mean time, I remembered three posts I did ages ago on my Live Journal page about different fairy tales, and I thought it might be a pleasant read until we can get back into the theme of decorating again.

So here's the first one I wrote, on Beauty and the Beast, back on December 18th of 2008.

"I've heard it said--and my guess is you have too--that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  But I've never been certain it's true.

Think about it for a moment.

It sounds nice, I'll give you that.  A way for every face to be beautiful, if only you wait for the right pair of eyes.  If only you wait long enough.  I'll even grant you that beauty isn't universal.  A girl who is considered drop-dead gorgeous in a town by the sea may find herself completely overlooked in a village the next county over. 

Even so, beauty is in the eye of the beholder doesn't quite work, does it?

Because there's something missing, and I can even tell you what: the belief we all harbor in our secret heart of hearts that beauty stands alone.  That, by its very nature, it is obvious.  In other words, Beauty with a capital B.

This is the beginning of Cameron Dokey's book, Belle, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  It's a short little paperback book, but the best thing Dokey does is to really stress the question Belle puts to herself of what beauty is.  I really loved that aspect of the story, considering that my personal spirituality has been evolving over time into a sort of appreciation for beauty, and what it creates.

Lately, I've been on a serious Beauty and the Beast kick.  A few weeks ago, I randomly started craving to watch Disney's Beauty and the Beast.  That led me to seeking out Sur La Lune's pages on the fairy tale, Mercer Mayer's story book, and I just finished reading Robin McKinley's excellent book, Beauty....very highly recommended, by the way.  And the  Max Eilenberg illustrated book is on its way to me, as is the classic Cocteau film.  And of course Tom and I recently watched the episode of Shelly Duvall's Faerie Tale Theater featuring the tale as well.

This fascination with Beauty and the Beast is by no means new.  I'd definitely list it in my top favorite fairy tales, along with The 12 Dancing Princesses and The Snow Queen.  But for some reason, the story is especially appealing to me right now. 

I started thinking about how very sensual this fairy tale in, of the senses.  Everything is described in so much detail...the cold of the chill outside the castle, the warmth of the glow of the enchanted fire, the soft petals of the rose, its smell.  But it's very very visual as well, which is why so many artists have chosen to try their hand at illustrating this fairy tale. 

Ironically, in many versions, the Beast is definitely not described in great detail...only vague assertions that he is hideous.  And the way in which we (culturally) have chosen to illustrate the Beast over time has really fascinated me.  I wonder if anyone has done any scholarly work on this topic...if so, I'd love to read it. 

Sorting through the art on Sur La Lune's page, and from searching books and online, I see two distinct visuals.  Artists have portrayed Beast as creatures as varied as bovines and elephants, but most often he is either feline, or boar-like. 

Beast, the cat, from an 1875 illustration:

Beast, the boar, by Walter Crane:

Of course Disney's Beast successfully combined some of both of these aspects in a strangely appealing visual manner:

Then an interesting thing occurred when I saw an illustration of Beast by Edmond Dulac in which he resembles a freakishly strange monkey creature:

I disgustedly thought to myself "well that certainly can't be Beast.  He's supposed to be massive and strong and hairy." and that in turn made me wonder why it is that we choose to portray Beast, in visual form at least, as massive, hulking, a paragon of manly testosterone.  Is it our way of making it seem more acceptable that Beauty has to fall in love with a creature who isn't truly human, before he can become human again?  Or is it because fairy tales are of course symbolic, and as Beauty is supposed to be a paragon of womanhood, so Beast, ironically since he isn't even human in his current form, is supposed to be a symbol of virile manhood as well? 

I also find it interesting that the two most common renditions of Beast are so very different.  We have the cat..a creature that perhaps works so well for Beast symbolically because there are both wild and dangerous cats, and domesticated household pets, perfectly symbolizing Beast's danger as well as his ability for grace and love.  Then there's the boar, an animal that I know little of, because quite honestly, it strikes most people as frightening, dirty, hideous, and unappealing in many ways.  The boar imagery works well for art, but it is difficult to picture the boar behaving gently and lovingly towards Beauty as they begin to fall in love.  It's certainly understandable to see why Disney went more along the route of the feline mixed with bovine for their Beast...two animals that exist in both wild and tamed forms. 

Here are a few more favorite interpretations I've found online:

Artist Nati on DeviantArt:

Artist Cototybones on DeviantArt:

The incomparable Mercer Mayer:

BlueHyena on DeviantArt:

This illustration from Sur La Lune's archives (Paul Woodroffe) fascinates me as it shows Beast as quite human-like, with horns as his only real sign of inhumanity.  I also love how Beauty is playing for him.  It is quite Pre-Raphaelite looking to me.

This artist on DeviantArt actually chose to portray Beast as truly frighteningly Beastly, something that few artists do.  I love the multiple eyes, and the way he looks almost like something from Chinese mythology.

And of course, there's the show that made (and still makes) my heart melt...Ron Perlman's take as Vincent, i.e. the Beast.  Arguably the most attractive feline version of Beast ever.

So what do you think?  What do the different renditions of Beast, and his animal-like features, mean?  In what way would you react differently to a simian Beast than a feline Beast or a porcine Beast?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Personal Celebration of the Mythic Arts

I rarely do this, but I'm cross-posting a link to another of my own blogs here, as I feel the subject matter of the post is applicable to the audiences of both genres. 

Stand Idol or Be Moved to Create