The Illustration is by H.M. Brock
"In the late Middle Ages, extended families, drawn together by feudal solidarities, gathered around a common hearth to cook, sew, repair tools, and even to sleep. There was, after all, no warmer spot available. The light and heat of the hearth created a luminous space in which storytelling could thrive while a multitude of household activities took place. Images preserved in engravings and paintings show young and old gathered around a roaring fire, with adults chatting and carrying out domestic chores while children sport with animals, engage in rough and tumble play, watch the fire, or simply settle down for the night."
The illustration, Winter Evening On a Farm is by Claudine Bonzonnet-Stella
The origins of Little Thumb are lost in time. No doubt the story was changed and embellished by story tellers. The Grimms' published their versions, based on Perrault. I have used Andrew Lang's version, translated from Perrault and published in England in 1889 in the Blue Fairy Book. I feel that calling Little Thumb -- also known as Little Tom Thumb -- a Fairy Tale is a misnomer. Like many adult oral tales that found their way into children's books, this is a story that could be very difficult, if not impossible, for young minds.
Running through this episodic story are a horrible dilemma; brutal events; great dangers; magic and mystery, and victorious outcomes...reasons for hope.
"There came a very bad year, and the famine was so great that these poor people decided to rid themselves of their children. One evening, when the children were all in bed and the woodcutter was sitting with his wife at the fire, he said to her, with his heart ready to burst with grief, "You see plainly that we are not able to keep our children, and I cannot see them starve to death before my face.
I am resolved to lose them in the woods tomorrow, which may very easily be done; for, while they are busy in tying up the bundles of wood, we can leave them, without their noticing."
"Ah!" cried out his wife; "and can you yourself have the heart to take your children out along with you on purpose to abandon them?"
In vain her husband reminded her of their extreme poverty. She would not consent to it. Yes, she was poor, but she was their mother. However, after having considered what a grief it would be for her to see them perish with hunger, she at last consented, and went to bed in tears.
Little Thumb heard every word that had been spoken; for observing, as he lay in his bed, that they were talking very busily, he got up softly, and hid under his father's stool, in order to hear what they were saying without being seen."
Great Dangers and Brutal Events
Imaginative twists and turns follow...Little Thumb uses his wits and courage to save himself, and his brothers from a series of great dangers. A turning point occurs when he saves his sleeping brothers by deluding an ogre, resulting in an act of great brutality when the ogre slits the throats of his sleeping daughters...
"He then went, groping all the way, into his daughters' room. He came to the bed where the little boys lay. They were all fast asleep except Little Thumb, who was terribly afraid when he felt the ogre feeling about his head, as he had done about his brothers'. Feeling the golden crowns, the ogre said, 'That would have been a terrible mistake. Truly, I did drink too much last night.'
Then he went to the bed where the girls lay. Finding the boys' caps on them, he said, 'Ah, hah, my merry lads, here you are. Let us get to work.' So saying, and without further ado, he cut all seven of his daughters' throats. Well pleased with what he had done, he went to bed again to his wife."
Magic, Mysteries and Victorious Outcomes
I wonder about the origins of the extraordinary seven-league boots...great magic indeed, the equivalent of flying...neither long distances nor muddy roads nor mountains can slow down Little Thumb as his story continues...
"The ogre was very tired from his long and fruitless journey (for seven-league boots are very tiring to wear), and decided to take a rest. By chance he sat on the rock where the little boys had hid themselves. He was so tired that he fell asleep, and began to snore so frightfully that the poor children were no less afraid of him than when he had held up his large knife and was about to cut their throats. However, Little Thumb was not as frightened as his brothers were.... Little Thumb came up to the ogre, pulled off his boots gently and put them on his own feet. The boots were very long and large, but because they were enchanted, they became big or little to fit the person who was wearing them. So they fit his feet and legs as well as if they had been custom made for him."
With the boots and his courage and wits, Little Thumb obtains fame and fortune for himself and his family... a victorious outcome offering hope to all.
Here is a link to read all of Perrault's Little Thumb
The illustrations above are by Gustav Dore.
Unforeseen Events...Perrault's Moral
It is interesting that Perrault chose the story of Little Thumb from among the many oral tales being told. He had many to choose from. At the age of 67, having had a successful career in the court of Louis lV, he decided to write stories for children. Where and how did he encounter this tale? What motivated him to write these Stories From Times Past with Morals? Perhaps there are clues to answering these questions in the Morals that he wrote for every tale -- these included Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. Here is a verse excerpt of Perrault's Little Thumb Moral.
Him they revile, laugh at, defraud and cheat.
Such is the wretched world’s curs’d way; and yet
Sometimes this urchin whom despis’d we see,
Through unforeseen events doth honour get,
And fortune bring to all his family.
The illustration of baby LittleThumb is by Jacom Hood for Lang's Blue Fairy Book.
England's Tom Thumb
Gentler tales, comic tales, and no doubt bawdy tales of Tom Thumb were part of English folklore dating back to the 17th century or before. Tom was the beloved thumb-sized son of poor farmers and his adventures range from being swallowed by a cow, a fish, and a giant, to becoming the favorite dwarf in King Arthur's Court.
"The maid happened to be just then milking the cow; and hearing someone speak, but seeing nobody, and yet being quite sure it was the same voice that she had heard in the night, she was so frightened that she fell off her stool, and overset the milk-pail. As soon as she could pick herself up out of the dirt, she ran off as fast as she could to her master the parson, and said, ’Sir, sir, the cow is talking!’"
The illustration is from the History of Tom Thumb, Mary Bell's Series, Peter G Thompson, publisher
The Magic and the Power of Words...from Myth and Moor
"... I believe that words have a magic and a power of their own, which those of us working in mythic arts and the fantasy field would be wise to remember. A good fantasy novel is literally spell-binding, using language to conjure up whole new worlds, or to invest our own with magic. The particular power of fantasy comes from its link with the world's most ancient stories, and from the author's careful manipulation of mythic archetypes, story patterns, and symbols.
A skillful writer knows that he or she must tell two stories at once: the surface tale, and a deeper story encoded within the tale's symbolic language. The magical tropes of fantasy, rooted as they are in world mythology, come freighted with meaning on a metaphoric level. A responsible writer works with these symbols consciously and pays attention to both aspects of the story.
I believe that those of us who use the magic of words professionally should remember how powerful stories can be -- for children especially, but also for adults -- and take responsibility for the tenor of whatever dreams or nightmares we're letting loose into the world. This is particularly true in fantasy, where the tools of our trade include the language, symbolism and archetypal energies of myth. These are ancient, subtle, potent things, and they work in mysterious ways."
I find myself in another world when I visit Terri Windling's Myth and Moor. She takes you with her into her world.
The photo and thoughts are from Terri Windling's Myth and Moor
"The invisible is only another unexplored country, a brave new world.” ― Angela Carter,
You Can Be A Terrorist or Mentally Deranged and Buy a Military Assault Gun
Gun control legislation is blocked by the NRA (National Rifle Association).
The NRA is now publishing fairy tales where rifles are used in Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. You can read these gun toting fairy tales on the National Rifle Association’s NRA Family Website. Sad to say, the NRA has announced they are next publishing a version of the Three Little Pigs where the Big Bad Wolf will die by gun. Sweet dreams, children.
The illustration of Grandma about to shoot the wolf is from the NRA's Little Red Riding Hood
Children Killed by Guns in 2015 in the USA
Here is a link to the NYTimes article regarding shooting deaths of children and the source of these statistics: Untold Damage.
The photo from the Sandy Hook Shooting massacre in 2012 is by Sandy Hicks,AP.
Firearms vs Frappucinos
A study was made to determine the number of gun dealers in the USA compared to Starbucks, grocery stores, and McDonalds. The results are staggering and offer insight into the dues paying gun store members of the NRA who don't want laws to encumber their sales. General McCrystal (below) reports over 33,000 Americans died from guns 2014.
"...In their analysis, Beltz and colleagues found that there were six gun dealers in the U.S for every Starbucks (of which there are 10,843, according to 2013 data). Gun sellers also outnumber grocery stores (37,716 in 2014), McDonald’s (14,350 in 2014), and total coffee shops (55,246 in 2016)"
Source:From the Atlantic City Lab
The photo is by Tracey Eckert.
Military Veterans Have Now Organized to Help Control the Assault Weapon Insanity
Retired General Stanley McCrystal wrote a terrific Opinion Piece for the NY Times. Here is an excerpt from Home Should Not Be a War Zone.
"...In 2014, 33,599 Americans died from a gunshot wound. From 2001 to 2010, 119,246 Americans were murdered with guns, 18 times all American combat deaths in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That is a national crisis. And as a combat veteran and proud American, I believe we need a national response to the gun violence that threatens so many of our communities...
Today, some of our politicians and the people who back them seem to promote a culture of gun ownership that does not conform with what I learned in the military..."
McCrystal has joined with other concerned citizens to correct the out-of-control gun violence in the USA. They have organized Americans for Responsible Solutions. I have joined.
The Ogre's Kind Wife
There is an endless array of cruel queens, witches, and stepmothers in wonder tales. I find, however, that the wives of ogre's, giant's, and inn keepers show compassion and provide help to endangered young protagonists. Jack In The Beanstalk beguiled the wife of the giant; the inn keeper's wife tried to prevent the death of the Boy who Sought the Shivers; and certainly Little Thumb and his brothers were saved by the wife of the cruel, children-eating ogre.
"...Little Thumb told her they were poor children who had been lost in the forest, and begged her, for God's sake, to give them lodging.
The woman, seeing that they were good looking children, began to weep, and said to them, "Alas, poor babies, where are you from? Do you know that this house belongs to a cruel ogre who eats up little children?"
"Ah! dear madam," answered Little Thumb (who, as well as his brothers, was trembling all over), "what shall we do? If you refuse to let us sleep here then the wolves of the forest surely will devour us tonight. We would prefer the gentleman to eat us, but perhaps he would take pity upon us, especially if you would beg him to."
The ogre's wife, who believed she could hide them from her husband until morning, let them come in, and had them to warm themselves at a very good fire..."
Here is a link to read more: Perrault
The illustration of the Ogre's wife shining a light on Little Thumb and his lost brothers is by Gustav Dore.
Books Are Good Company
A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people - people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book."
E. B. White author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little.
Castle In The Mist
Children have been kidnapped and taken to the castle in the mist. War threatens. Can the dogs save the children and prevent war? Here is an excerpt...the Prince is standing on a castle wall and looking down...
He pointed to a dense cluster of tall pines on the edge of the forest. Walking slowly out of the mist was Tok, a son of Rex, and the biggest dog to come down to planet Earth. His long winter fur of brown and white made him appear even bigger. His head was raised. He looked directly at Prince Ukko as he slowly walked to the center of the open space in front of the castle. There he stopped, raised his head and howled. And when he did, the voices of all the dogs from Snow Valley, hidden in the misty forest, howled at the same time.
Ukko, watching in horror, turned to Narro, and growled, “Stop them. They must be stopped.”
Narro, running to the stone stairway shouted to the sentry to sound the alarm bell. As the bell rang, and soldiers took their weapons and ran to assemble in the courtyard, Tok turned and walked back into the misty forest..."
The new Yelodoggie book is a very active work-in-progress. Here is the cover of our new book that will answer the age old question, Why Am I...? Well,at least it answers the age-old question for Yelodoggie...More news from Yelodoggie soon.
An Open Letter to the Female Hat-Wearing Dog in Go Dog Go
by Raquel D'Apice
I bought your book to help my son learn prepositions and adjectives and was, from the first read, inexorably drawn in by your heart-wrenching struggle for approval. Momentarily distracted by the humdrum parade of big dogs, little dogs, black and white dogs, I watched as you walked in, brimming with joy and confidence, and looked on as some total nobody, indistinguishable from most of the other dogs in this book, crushed you with his subtle rejection.
And you don’t even know me, but I wanted to take a minute to tell you that what matters is that you like your own hat, hat-wearing female dog. Who is this guy anyway, some sort of dog hat expert?? Who cares what he thinks??? Wear a hat you love and if he doesn’t like it? F*#% him..."
Here is a link to read all of this letter to the Female Hat Wearing Dog: theuglyvolvo
Up On the Woof is the blog of Barking Planet author C. A. Wulff. A great deal of her life is devoted to animal rescue and the world of dogs. Her many dog books range frpm personal memoirs to dog rescue. Here are a few excerpts from recent blogs. Her concern and passion for dog rescue is unlimited, and ongoing...
"I am a part of a pretty extensive rescue network. That network includes breed rescues, pound rescues, lost & found services, transporters, legal advisors, veterinarians, groomers, trainers, fosterers and bloggers. One of the most valuable things about having a network like that is the ability to reach out to people who have the answers that you do not.
Say it out loud. Memorize it. Live by it.
All of us working in pet rescue have the same goals: to save as many animals as possible from death or suffering. It’s really that simple.
But first we have to agree on some basic tenets:
Here is a link to the 8 Basic Tenants
Here’s another saying. “Don’t engage in counter-productive practices, because it wastes your time and mine.” Have that one tattooed. If you want some examples of counter productive practices, check out these recent blog posts:
Here is a link to Up On The Woof
The top photo is of C.A. Wulff and rescued dog, Waldo; the bottom photo is of her rescued dog, Troll.
Survival in Dark Times
ISTANBUL — When he was 9, Ahmad Suleiman watched his father die from a battlefield wound in Syria. Four years later, he now puts in 12-hour shifts at a damp and squalid textile factory in Istanbul as the primary breadwinner for his family, which fled to Turkey after his father’s death.
Over one million Syrian children live in Turkey, and thousands of them, like Ahmad, are in sweatshops, factories or vegetable fields instead of in a classroom, members of a lost generation who have been robbed of their youth by war.
Like many others in his situation, while he toils for his family, Ahmad is paying a steep price. “I want to send Ahmad to school because he doesn’t know how to read and write and can’t understand the bus signs,” said his mother, Zainab Suleiman, 33. “But I have no choice. He has to work to survive.”
Many of the children who arrive in Turkey have already lost years of schooling because of the war. Before the conflict, nearly 99 percent of Syrian children were enrolled in primary schools and 82 percent in secondary schools, Unicef has reported. Today, nearly three million Syrian children are out of school, and for those in Turkey, the education gap has either grown longer or become permanent.
This is an excerpt from an article by Ceylan Yeginsu in the NY Times.
Photo by Chris McGrath, Getty Images.
Movies...From 17th century Basile to Disney giants
Tale of Tales
I blogged about this landmark movie in November 2015 when it still had limited distribution. Now it has somewhat wider distribution (USA and UK and..?) and more very good reviews. Here are excerpts from two...
"This lustily fantastical English-language feature from the Italian writer-director Matteo Garrone is described on screen as being “loosely based onThe Tale of Tales by Giambattista Basile”, the Neapolitan writer whose 17th-century fairytales inspired Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and more...Although also currently available via on demand TV, Tale of Tales really needs to be seen on the big screen. Having watched it both ways, I can attest that much devilish detail is missed on home viewing. This is a theatrical piece: a three-ring circus of a movie for which front row seats are highly recommended." Mark Kermode in the Guardian.
Earthy, Bracing and Unsentimental..."Wonders are everywhere (if you slice into a tree, it will bleed water, like a spring), as is a casual carnality. Luxury entwines with filth. Following Basile, Garrone grasps a basic rule of folklore; nobody must flinch at prodigious events, for they are part of the mortal deal." Anthony Lane in the New Yorker.
In a way that is both emphatic and subtle, “Finding Dory” is a celebration of cognitive and physical differences. It argues, with lovely ingenuity and understatement, that what appear to be impairments might better be understood as strengths. The inclusiveness of the film’s vision is remarkable partly because it feels so natural, something that no adult will really need to explain. Children will get it, perhaps more intuitively and easily than the rest of us. A.O Scott's Review in the NY Times.
Steven Spielberg lavishes extraordinary care and skill on this live-action adaptation of a story by Roald Dahl, about an orphan named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) who is plucked from a London orphanage by a giant named Runt (Mark Rylance) and brought to his home in Giant Country, somewhere to the north of north. There, Runt is bullied by nine even bigger giants, child-eating cannibals who mock him for being a vegetarian and try to hunt Sophie, whom he valiantly defends. Meanwhile, Runt plies his gentle trade as the world’s dream-catcher and dream-brewer... The film’s technical achievements may be complex, but its emotions are facile. Richard Brody The New Yorker
J. K. Rowling Just Can’t Let Harry Potter Go
"...What’s an author to do when she once seemed to be done? Taking an approach that some fans love and others do not, Ms. Rowling has never made a secret of her continued immersion in Potter-world. Over the years, she has regularly interjected new elements into the old stories, sometimes through sudden Twitter pronouncements, sometimes by other means...She also regularly produces fresh ancillary material — new stories, new elaborations — on her Pottermore website, most recently a series of fictional essays about the history of magic in North America...."
The photo is of Eddie Redmayne in the trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
We have free reader copies of the Planet Of The Dogs series for therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the books.
The Planet Of The Dogs series (including Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale) is also available in digital format at... Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Powell's, Kobo, Inktera, Scribd, and Tolino.
Librarians, teachers and bookstores ..You can order the Planet Of The Dogs series, through Ingram with a full professional discount.
To read sample chapters of the series, visit PlanetOfTheDogs
"...In the western world, we are taught at an early age to greet new people by approaching them with upright posture, looking directly into their eyes and offering a hand to shake or squeeze. It becomes second nature to us, so as a result, many of us animal lovers greet every living thing–except bugs–using those same 'good manners'.”...
We must UNLEARN that set of social rules to avoid frightening dogs, cats, and other animals... read it all on SunBear Squad.