Tales of the imagination have evolved and endured through the centuries. They have been told for entertainment and enlightenment. They have been a source of hope to help ward off the darkness. They were the source of fairy tales. The song of the dream is timeless.
The photo of the Merrivale Stone Row is by David Gibbeson
"Though now we think of fairy tales as stories intended for very young children, this is a relatively modern idea. In the oral tradition, magical stories were enjoyed by listeners young and old alike, while literary fairy tales (including most of the tales that are best known today) were published primarily for adult readers until the 19th century.”
Courage in the Vastness of Nature
The Nordic lands have their own heritage of oral tales, myths, and legends. They use language differently than the Grimms' Germanic fairy tales. Their stories are embellished by description. As with the classic tales of Western Europe, they also embody fantasy, open the imagination, and give hope to the listener or reader.
In both Finland and Norway, the heritage of Nordic oral tales actually influenced history. Dedicated people went to the countryside, wrote down the ancient stories and songs and published them. They were widely read and played a major role in raising awareness and pride and influencing the rise of nationalism in the 19th century in both Norway and Finland.
Both countries had witnessed centuries of intermittent war and oppression by others, namely, by Sweden, Denmark, and Russia. In both countries, there was a deep connection to nature -- to the land, the lakes, the mountains and the sea. In Norway, the oral tales were collected by Peter Christen Asbjörnsen (1812-1885) and Jorgen Moe (1813-1882). In Finland, a country doctor, Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884), traveled throughout remote areas where thousands of verse-songs from the Finnish past could still be heard.
The photo of the Finnish forest is by Mikko Lagerstedt
For over 3000 years, the Rune singers of Finland had been singing/reciting the mythic stories known as The Kalevala. Finnish Rune singers had rather prodigious memories. Among those singers who contributed to Lönnrot's research was a woman, Larin Paraske (1833-1904) who could recite 32,000 verses. At the time of the Finnish Renaissance of the nineteenth century, artists, writers, and composers (including Jean Sibelius), students and ordinary people were moved by -- and influenced by -- the Kalevala.
It is difficult to describe the rhythm or meter of the Kalevala as it was sung -- sometimes accompanied by the soft string sound of the kantele. However, if one reads the verses with the same rhythm used to recite Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha, the correct meter emerges.
J.R.R. Tolkien, already a scholar of Beuwulf and the Norse Sagas, learned Finnish in order to explore the Kalevala for himself. Here are quotes of Tolkien's relating to the Kalevala: he said that The Story of Kullervo was "the germ of my attempt to write legends of my own," and was "a major matter in the legends of the First Age."..In 1955, writing to his friend W.H. Auden, he says that "the beginning of the legendarium [...] was in an attempt to reorganize some of the Kalevala, especially the tale of Kullervo the hapless, into a form of my own".
The illustrations of the Kalevala are by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. The bottom illustration is of Kullervo.
Expressions of the Norwegian Soul
"Asbjörnsen and Moe developed a friendship while still attending school and together they determined to do for Norwegian folklore what the Brothers Grimm had accomplished for German folklore...(they) sought to preserve a national treasure, one that both reflected and shaped a national identity...preserving the most profound expressions of the Norwegian soul...Asbjörnsen and Moe preserved a robust folkloric tradition and did for Norway what the Sagas did and the Kalevala did for Finland." -- Maria Tatar, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales.
Several editions of the Norwegian tales were published beginning in 1841. They were very well received and very popular; they had a profound impact on the Norwegian nationalism that swept the country in the 19th century. The first English translation was published in 1859. Perhaps the greatest international impact came from two stories: Peer Gynt and East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Peer Gynt inspired the great playright, Henrik Ibsen, to write a verse play, that is still performed and celebrated today. Edvard Greig composed the incidental music for the play, including the well known "In the Hall of the Mountain King"
The photo of the medieval Borgunt stave church in Norway is by Svein Harkstad/wikimedia
East of the Sun West of the Moon
Here is an excerpt from this captivating tale of a maiden who must overcome enormous obstacles and make a journey to find true love by freeing her beloved Prince from bewitchment. One of her problems is to find the castle. No one seems to know where it is...only that it is located East of the Sun and West of the Moon (a fabulous title for a story). Scholars say the story may have origins in the ancient myth of Cupid and Psyche
"What have you done?" he cried; "now you have made us both unlucky, for had you held out only this one year, I had been freed. For I have a step-mother who has bewitched me, so that I am a White Bear by day, and a Man by night. But now all ties are snapt between us; now I must set off from you to her. She lives in a Castle which stands East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and there, too, is a Princess, with a nose three ells long, and she's the wife I must have now."
Here is a link to read the entire story: ProjectGutenberg
The illustration from East of the Sun West of the Moon is by Kay Nielsen
"I am thus not only aware but glad of the etymological and semantic connexions of fantasy with fantastic: with images of things that are not only “not actually present,” but which are indeed not to be found in our primary world at all, or are generally believed not to be found there. But while admitting that, I do not assent to the depreciative tone. That the images are of things not in the primary world (if that indeed is possible) is a virtue, not a vice. Fantasy (in this sense) is, I think, not a lower but a higher form of Art, indeed the most nearly pure form, and so (when achieved) the most potent...
Creative fantasy, because it is mainly trying to do something else (make something new), may open your hoard and let all the locked things fly away like cage-birds." -- J.R.R. Tolkien Tales from the Perilous Realm
The illustration from the book cover is by David Wenzel.
An Old Book Holds the Song of the Dream
Hans Christian Andersen's stories were as varied as the winds of springtime. His descriptions of places and events were integral to his creating a doorway into a world of fantasy. Here is an excerpt from The Goblin and the Grocer where a student finds, in a very old book, that a world of dreams comes alive:
"A candle still burned there, and by peeping through the keyhole the goblin could see that the student was reading the tattered old book he had brought upstairs with him.
But how bright the room was! From the book a clear shaft of light rose, expanding into a stem and a tremendous tree which spread its branching rays above the student. Each leaf on the tree was evergreen, and every flower was the face of a fair lady, some with dark and sparkling eyes, some with eyes of the clearest blue. Every fruit on the tree shone like a star, and the room was filled with song."
Here is a link to the story of the Goblin and the Grocer: H.C. Andersen Center
The illustration is by Henry Justice Ford
Thousands of Children's books are published each year. I try to read enough reviews and articles to obtain a reasonable awareness of what is happening, especially as regards the truly special books.
I found that an excellent survey of 12 new illustrated books (and a couple of classics) by Maria Popova in her Brain Pickings blog took me into many wonderful places. The imagination, range of concepts, and writing that I encountered in her chosen books, and the passion and lucidity with which she presented them, was first class.
Her selections are wonderful examples of books where writing and illustrations very much enhance one another. They include; The Day I Became a Bird; Du Iz Talk; What Color Is The Wind, and Cry Heart, But Never Break.
In her introduction, Popova writes that she has reviewed, "the picture-books I found most imaginative, intelligent, and warmhearted this year — books that speak, even sing, to hearts of all ages and embody E.B. White’s proclamation that successful writers of children’s books “have to write up, not down.”
Here's a link: Maria Popova on Brain Pickings.
The illustration from Du Iz Talk is by author/illustrator Carson Ellis
Children's Book Sales Continue To Grow
"At Nielsen’s annual Children’s Book Summit in New York City on October 27 (2016) industry experts and executives discussed important issues in children’s publishing, particularly relating to digital content. The opening keynote was presented by Kristen McLean, Nielsen Book’s director of new business development...Among her key insights: The U.S. book market is stable, with little change year over year...The children’s book market shows more growth than the overall U.S. book market: While the overall book market has grown 33 percent since 2004, the children’s book market has grown 52 percent growth since 2004 ...Children’s book sales are still going strong in 2016...
Here is a link to the complete article: Bookweb
The illustration is by Catherine McSherry
"The atavistic and simultaneously feudal-transcendental world from which the fairy tale stems and to which it seems to be tied, has most certainly vanished. However, the mirror of the fairy tale has not become opaque, and the manner of wish fulfillment that peers forth from it is not entirely without a home. It all adds up to this: the fairy tale narrates a wish fulfillment that is not bound by its own time and the apparel of its contents. In contrast to the legend, which is always tied to a particular locale, the fairy tale remains unbound. -- Ernst Bloch, "The Fairy Tale Moves on Its Own Time"
from: Grimm Legacies - The Magic Spell of the Grimm Folk and Fairy Tales by Jack Zipes
The illustration of the Grimms' Frog Prince is by Walter Crane.
Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books
Here is an excerpt from an excellent article by Michiko Kakutani in NY Times:
..."Seven days before his departure from the White House, Mr. Obama sat down in the Oval Office and talked about the indispensable role that books have played during his presidency and throughout his life — from his peripatetic and sometimes lonely boyhood, when “these worlds that were portable” provided companionship, to his youth when they helped him to figure out who he was, what he thought and what was important.
During his eight years in the White House — in a noisy era of information overload, extreme partisanship and knee-jerk reactions — books were a sustaining source of ideas and inspiration, and gave him a renewed appreciation for the complexities and ambiguities of the human condition..."
Here is a link to the article: ObamaNYT
Photo by Doug Mills - NYTimes
Civil Rights and Children's Books
Martin Luther King Day was celebrated on January 16. A fine appreciation was written by Jerry Griswold (emeritus Professor of Children's Literature and author) regarding Dr. King's heritage. In the article, he included comments and insights regarding books written for black children to raise awareness and understanding of both their heritage and the civil rights movement. The books include, Remember -- The Journey to School Integration, by Toni Morrison and The People Could Fly, by Virginia Hamilton.
Here is the link to Jerry Griswold's post
The AP photo from 1960 shows US Marshals in New Orleans escorting Ruby Bridges, 6 years of age, home from school.
Inside the World of Story
"I go back to the reading room, where I sink down in the sofa and into the world of The Arabian Nights. Slowly, like a movie fadeout, the real world evaporates. I'm alone, inside the world of the story. My favourite feeling in the world.”
Haruki Murakami -- Author of The Windup Bird Chronicle
The Song of Yelodoggie is Coming This Year
Yelodoggie travels far and wide, up and down, inside and outside, from outer space to the waters of the sea, seeking the answer...why am I different...why am I Yellow?
Planet Of The Dogs
Long ago there were no dogs on planet earth. They came down from their own planet to help people who were threatened by invaders...to teach people about loyalty, courage, and love...and how non-violent methods can bring peace. Here is an excerpt:
...As the farmers worked to repair the fence, it was clear that many of them thought Tomas must have been dreaming about this new kind of animal he and the children called a dog. “What does this mysterious creature look like?” asked one. “Do you only see these strange creatures at night?” asked another. “Oh look,” asked a third, “Isn’t that a green one over there in the tree?” Tomas, although he had still had some worries about what would happen next, simply smiled and said, “Joke all you want. Soon, you will see.”
“A charming book and fun to read with a good story, plenty of suspense, and such a warm and fuzzy feeling. I love the characters…”
Markell Shriver, Retired College Counselor
Read sample chapters:Planet Of The Dogs
The illustration from Planet Of The Dogs is by Stella Mustanoja McCarty
Parade Of Misfits
Only 99 cents (Kindle) from Amazon.com.
The Global Video Games Market
It's not all Angry Birds. According to a Fortune report, the ten most popular video games of 2016 featured 8 that deal with combat and violence and 2 that deal with sports. Here are excerpts from an article by Don Reisinger:
For an overview, with illustrations, of 25 video games released in 2016, click here: PASTE
"Marcelo Gleiser is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist — and professor of natural philosophy, physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He is the co-founder of 13.7, a prolific author of papers and essays, and active promoter of science to the general public. His latest book is The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning...
...Games like this have an enormous potential, not just as plain fun but as pedagogical devices. I'm not sure yet how consistent with modern science the dream-like worlds of No Man's Sky will be. However, I imagine that, with some modifications, different versions of the game could turn into amazing educational tools to explore cosmology, astrophysics, chemistry, biology and life's evolutionary history. If we have the power to create a hypothetical universe in a game console, we can unleash the human exploratory drive to go where no one has gone before, learning as we wander about..
Here is a link to read the entire article: NPR No Man's Sky
LitWorld Brings Books and Reading to Children of the World...
"Our Mission: Strengthening kids and communities through the power of their own stories. Together, authoring a bold new world of equity and opportunity."
World Read Aloud Day is a Lit World annual celebration of reading.
They are a force for hope and the rights of girls and women around the world.
Here is a link to the Litworld Video...
A Hearbreaking Experience -- Refugee Children and Families Rescued at Sea
This is a link to 4.1 Miles, an incredible NY Times documentary that has been nominated for an academy award.
"This short documentary follows a Greek coast guard crew as they pull family after family, child after child, from the ocean to save their lives...
Directed by Daphne Matziaraki, 4.1 miles is an extraordinary documentary and a heartbreaking experience.
Military Veterans Have Joined with Americans for Responsible Solutions to Help Control the Assault Weapon Insanity
Retired General Stanley McCrystal wrote an excellent Opinion Piece for the NY Times regarding this national crisis. 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..."
Beauty and the Beast
I was quite taken, many years ago, when I saw Jean Cocteau's film of La Belle et La Bete. A romantic fantasy in black and white, it was first released in 1946 -- a film of hope, released in the aftermath of World War 2. The script was based on Jean-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's 1757 fairy tale of the same name. The photography and lighting, the costumes, the settings, the exteriors (filmed on location at the ancient Chateau de la Roche Courbon), and the acting were blended to create an atmosphere of fairy tale magic that exists to this day.
And now, on March 17, Disney will bring us their 3D musical version of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson. I hope Disney also creates a captivating atmosphere of fairy tale magic..
Coming to Your Local Theater
I watched several trailers on YouTube for upcoming sci-fi-fantasy movies. I found the story source for a great many are taken from successful comic books. OK. However, the prevalence of endless 3D-CGI-graphic violence is very disturbing. Expletives abound in many. Ugh.
They make Disney's Rogue One, A Star Wars Story, look, by comparison like an upscale model for more balance. I wonder how so much violence affects the YA audience of teenagers.
I found Arrival to be an engrossing, provocative, sci-fi fantasy...an example of a crossover film that demonstrates the possibilities of high level, imaginative, crossover films of this genre.
I wonder about a new movie, opening in the USA on February 3, entitled, The Space Between Us. I have only seen the trailer...It's a boy meets girl teenage movie...however the boy is from Mars...
Here is a link to see the trailer that I saw:The Space Between US.
Its Sci-Fi but it doesn't appear to be filled with violence.
You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
Our books are available on the Internet through independent bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's, Walmart and many more.
The Planet Of The Dogs series (including Castle In The Mist and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale) is also available in digital format suitable for any device at: .Barnes&Noble, Amazon, Powell's, Kobo, Inktera, Scribd, and Tolino.
Librarians, teachers and bookstores ..the Planet Of The Dogs series is available through Ingram with a full professional discount.
To read sample chapters of any book in the series, visit PlanetOfTheDogs
The illustration from Planet Of The Dogs is by Stella Mustanoja McCarty
"When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.'”
Rudyard Kipling -- The Jungle Book