Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Not your grandmother's fairy tales: poet Carol Ann Duffy's retellings and Shelly Duval's Faerie Tale Theatre

The Cheshire Cat, by Marketa Prachaticka
Books and films that genuinely entertain both adults and children are hard to come by. In that regard, I highly recommend poet Carol Ann Duffy's Rumpelstiltskin and Other Grimm Tales. Cunningly illustrated by Czech artist Marketa Prachaticka (who won the Premio Grafico prize at the Bologna Children's Book Fair for her Alice in Wonderland illustrations), it is a pungent and bracing retelling of the Grimm classics in which the words practically zing and pop off the page. I scanned a couple of examples from one of my favorite childhood tales, "The Musicians of Bremen," to give you a sense of how delightfully the words and images blend.
At left is the composite creature that puts the fear of God into the robbers and wins them their retirement home.
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I've always loved Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre series and was irked when Netflix took it off of their instant viewing selections. So I was excited to watch the four stories in one of two collections we're carrying: Tales from Hans Christian Andersen (the other is Funny Tales). The Theatre always boasted a cadre of famous faces, and this quartet is no exception. Lee Remick is an alluring Ice Queen, while Mick Jagger comes off surprisingly well as the Emperor whose life is renewed by a nightingale. And the team of Alan Arkin and Art Carney in The Emperor's New Clothes is golden. Character actress Conchata Ferrell is a lovely mother to Carrie Fisher as Thumbelina. This might be my favorite episode, as her picaresque adventures involve a host of vividly drawn characters reminiscent of The Wind in the Willows. For example, the late Burgess Meredith plays putative husband Mr Mole, who is obsessed with books and objects from the classical era and has her to tea in his subterranean den whilst reclining on a couch. Clever characterizations, costumes, and business throughout make this set a winner.
I'm also looking forward to viewing the other one, which has equally stellar casting. Who could be more perfect than Paul Reubens (of Pee Wee's Playhouse fame) as the obstreperous puppet/boy Pinocchio? (Carl Reiner is Geppetto.)

1 comment:

  1. Growing up, I loved watching "Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre". Looking back, it was really enjoyable to see all the well known actors and actresses portray the roles of fairy tales most beloved characters. My all time favorite episode has to be "Thumbelina" staring Carrie Fisher.