Showing posts with label folktales. Show all posts
Showing posts with label folktales. Show all posts

Friday, September 9, 2016

New and upcoming story collections to keep an eye on

Hi All! Your resident storyteller and folktale blogger here. Since not many news sources bother with updating you on upcoming folk- and fairy tale collections, here are a few delicious new books to keep an eye out for if you (or your friends) love tales, legends, and mythology:

The Power of a Tale: Stories from the Israel Folktale Archives
A collection of 53 folktales celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Israel Folktale Archives at the University of Haifa. The stories represent 26 ethnic groups from Israel, 22 of them Jewish:  "The narrators of the stories come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and education levels. They include both men and women of various ages who worked in diverse fields. Some were long settled in Israel while others were recent arrivals when their stories were collected and transcribed. They all shared one conspicuous quality-their talent as storytellers. The stories they tell encompass a myriad of genres and themes, including mythical tales, historical legends, sacred legends, demon legends, realistic legends, märchen of various sorts, novellas, jokes and anecdotes, and personal narratives."

The book looks like a very promising collection, and a great example of diversity in the oral tradition. 

Tales of the Narts: Ancient Myths and Legends of the Ossetians
The first English edition of the Ossetian Nart corpus (published this summer), this book is full of amazing stories. The Narts are a group of legendary heroes and warriors that go on epic adventures, fight mythical monsters, and live their lives with courage, passion, and a great deal of curiosity. There has been a theory recently that the Nart sagas have been responsible for the beginnings of Arthurian legends, and while the theory is questionable for multiple reasons, they definitely have all the makings of awesome hero stories.
(I will be doing a performance of these tales in California in October, and I love working with them!)

Nart Sagas: Ancient Myths and Legends of the Circassians and Abkhazians
The second edition of this volume is now available, after a long hiatus. Like the stories in the book above, these are also tales of the Nart heroes, collected from the traditions of different Caucasian ethnic groups. Published with ample commentary, footnotes, linguistic appendices, and everything else you always wanted to know about Caucasian mythology but never thought to ask.

George Macpherson: The Old Grey Magician
One of Scotland's most famous living storytellers, George Macpherson has once again created a truly amazing book: He tracks one mysterious figure, the Grey Magician, across time and space, from legend to legend, from tale to tale, trying to find out who he is, what he wants, and how he affects events in some of the most famous Celtic traditions, such as the Fionn Cycle. If you are interested in Scottish lore or Celtic myth at all, this one is a must-read.

Happy reading to all the folklore-lovers out there!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

5 tips for authors who work with folktales

Fairy tale adaptations are all the rage these days. Some of them are stellar, some of them are decent, and some of them are... boring, I guess. But whatever the case, here is something that not many people talk about: Adapting fairy tales (especially if they are also folktales - not all of them are!) is a tricky issue. Many people just automatically assume that folktales are in the public domain - therefore there is no copyright to consider, or intellectual property to tread on. However, when working with traditional stories - especially if they are from a culture other than your own - is a lot more complicated than it sounds.

Here are 5 tips to keep in mind if you work with fairy tales:

Make sure it is actually a folktale 
Not all fairy tales are folklore. Some of them are literary. These might look like a folktale, but they still fall under copyright and intellectual property rules. This becomes especially tricky when some authors write "fakelore" - publish their own work under the title "folktale" (or, ironically, "original folktale"). In other cases they might publish folktales that are real, but publish them in their own version, re-written, re-told or adapted.
This is not only important because you might get in trouble for copyright infringement. You might also be unwittingly propagating false information on the traditions and culture of a certain group of people.
How to avoid: It is useful to look for the same story in other sources. Sometimes you have to approach the author to ask. Good thing we have social media.

Check on a culture's actual stories before you make up new ones
Attributing a fake "folktale" or "legend" to a foreign culture is a huge literary faux pas - especially in the case of indigenous and marginalized groups. This was one of the main problems people brought up about the Twilight series - the author took an indigenous nation, and made up legends that don't actually exist in their tradition. Since most people had never heard about the Quileute before the books/movies came out, they automatically believed that those stories were real "Indian folklore."
How to avoid: If you are featuring an existing culture in your work, do your homework. Go the extra mile. Read their stories. Maybe you'll find more useful things than you thought.

With that said...

Make sure you are not committing cultural appropriation
Not all folktales are up for grabs. They might not be protected by copyright law, but that doesn't mean you are not being offensive, inconsiderate, or hurtful towards the community that claims them and keeps them alive. Don't assume that finding an indigenous folktale in a written collection automatically means they wanted it to be out there.
How to avoid: Be respectful. Educate yourself about cultural appropriation. Ask.

Make sure you are not promoting stereotypes
Even if certain folktales are okay to use and adapt - make sure you are using them the right way. Selecting certain stories to represent certain cultures (especially if those cultures are not generally well known) puts you in danger of upholding a Single Story.
How to avoid: Read more stories from the same tradition. See if you can present a more diverse picture.

Note your sources
This is more of a courtesy than a necessity: I personally love reading about the original sources of folktales and fairy tales people use. I will be eternally grateful if you note them in your Introduction, or Afterwords, or... wherever. In addition, if you are working with less well known tales from other cultural groups, is is courteous to point people in the direction of your sources, in case they want to find out more, and educate themselves about the oral traditions of the world.

Do you like fairy tale adaptations? Do you write them? Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Storyteller's Perspective: On tradition, selective memory, and #NotAllFolktales

Most of you are probably familiar with the #YesAllWomen hashtag that took Twitter by storm and created a flood of articles, analyses and arguments all over the Internet. It was a spontaneous, online social movement raising awareness of everyday sexism, misogyny, violence against women, gender bias, and some cultural roots associated with all of the above.
In the middle of all of that, following the real-time roll of tweets, blog posts and articles, there I was, as a professional storyteller, wondering what I had to contribute. Of course I have my own personal stories as a woman (#yesallwomen have those), but there was something else, something that has to do with the stories we tell...
... or, rather, WHICH stories we tell.

I once had a serious fight with a faceless man who claimed that I was "against tradition" when I expressed my opinion that folktales that end with "and the man beat his wife, and she learned her lesson, and they lived happily ever after" should not be told anymore. He said I was trying to destroy the culture of our ancestors. I told him that if domestic abuse was the "culture of our ancestors," I am willing to let go of it.
But it's not.

I started tweeting under #NotAllFolktales, posting excerpts and tidbits from traditional stories (myth, legend and folktale) that prove that not every traditional tale is biased against women, or holds the dangerous cultural values that lead to misogyny. I did it for two reasons:

1. A lot of the backlash against #YesAllWomen brought up excuses like "but it's natural" "but it's traditional" and "but it's always been like that." They threw out shards of fairy tales about princesses on both sides. Most people completely disregarded one simple fact: Fairy tales and folktales are not biased because "it's natural." They are biased because they are a product of culture. Four hundred years ago Sleeping Beauty was raped in her sleep, instead of kissed awake. Try telling it that way nowadays, see what happens.

2. People who cry #NotAllFolktales (just like people who cry #NotAllMen, or #NotAllWhitePeople, or any of those backlash hashtags) have the responsibility to change the group they want to set themselves apart from. Storytellers who know that there are stories out there that are not sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. have the responsibility to tell them, understand them, and make them available.

See, my point is: Stories that promote diversity, equality, freedom of expression and choice are all ALREADY OUT THERE. We don't even have to make them up. We don't even have to write "feminist fairy tales" (although if we want to, we can, and they are amazing). Stories have been out there for millennia. We just need to find them (often cleverly hidden or left out of collections and publications), revive them, and tell them, tell them, tell them.

Case in point: I did my second A to Z challenge run about Weird Princesses - folktales and legends that involve female heroes who are not only brave and clever, but also quirky and unique and lovable (or, in Internet speak: anything but Mary Sue). There are hundreds of them, and guess what, boys love them as much as girls. I also frequently tell the story of Dame Ragnell that teaches kids about respect for women, and works splendidly with all ages from kindergarten to high school.
I recently (after the backlash against the Bearded Diva winning the Eurovision) posted a collection of folktales and myths about trans heroes and heroines, as an answer to people railing "young people nowadays don't know what gender they want to be..." It was surprisingly easy to find a whole bunch of folktales from every corner or the world. Heck, I even found a Hungarian folktale about a princess going "men's clothes have always fit me better" (in the end she transforms into a man and marries another princess).

The world of folktales is endless, and stretches way beyond "young male hero saves beautiful princess." There is a story about everything. There are folktales about pregnant women saving the world. There are folktales about old people falling in love. There are folktales about kind stepmothers, loving fathers, homely princesses, divorce, same-sex love and marriage, culture clash and acceptance, and a million other things that are still important in our world.

Find them. Read them. Think about them. Tell them.

As usual, you can find Csenge at:
The Multicolored Diary - Adventures in Storytelling
MopDog - The crazy thing about Hungarians...