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Entries in fairy-tale (32)


The Silver Rose

Once upon a time (about two years ago), in a land far, far away (the Antipodes), a fake princess dreamed of a series of fairytales. Here is the first …

The castle at sunsetThe Silver Rose

n a kingdom long-forgotten, in a town right by the edge of a sea, there lived the last girl who could remember.

All the townspeople about Elisabetta went about their daily business, they knew their own names and what trade they practised, and how to bake bread and which mushrooms in the forest nearby were safe to pick, but from one day to the next, they forgot what happened the day before.

The shoemaker’s daughter was the only one now who could remember how the town had lost its memory. And she was the only one who knew how to restore her people: with a silver rose growing in an enchanted garden, in a great castle on the hill. But there was one catch. The castle was inhabited by an enchanter, whom she didn’t think would willingly give up his silver rose …

The gauntletMaking the picture

initially had the idea of creating fairytales based on different countries, and was inspired by a silver rose languishing in my dresser. The image I had was of a girl running away through a forest, clutching the rose she had just purloined, and looking fearfully over her shoulder at the castle on the hill from which she’d just fled.

Since I had no hope to actually go on location and shoot this in front of a real castle, the original plan was to combine the photograph with a drawing – give myself super-long hair, lengthen my skirt etc. The entire backdrop would be hand-drawn too. But I was a bit lazy and had never got round to executing these grand plans.

The guardian at the entranceThere were hideous gargoyles everywhere …Then today I had the sudden idea of using one of my photographs taken in Sintra, Portugal, which is chock-full of fairytale palaces. I would in fact be spoiled for choice.

It was an easy matter to change the scene from day to night; my only difficulty was in deciding which of the three images I produced most evoked my original vision. But finally, we have Elisabetta fleeing the wicked enchanter inhabiting the Castelo dos Mouros, a 9th century Moorish castle. She’d better be careful not to twist her ankle too, on that hazardous path. There are rocks sticking out everywhere.

As for what happens in the story … who knows, except I feel quite certain it has a melancholy ending. Because who believes in fairy tales any more?

The silver rose gleamed in the dusk


Tales of the Past (With Morals)

She KNOWS she shouldn’t … but she does

nce upon a time – a year ago in fact – I discovered the most beautiful vintage red cashmere coat, trimmed in rabbit’s fur in a boutique hidden in one of Melbourne’s laneways. The coat was expensive, but irresistible: I purchased it. It curled in ruffles around the hem; it swished like a luxurious cloak around me as I walked. All that was missing was a hood.

That didn’t stop friends and total strangers in the street alike to exclaim, “Little Red Riding Hood!” when they chanced upon me wearing it. This happened so many times last winter that I knew I had to create a tale around this evocative theme.

In the height of the summer gone past I finally had the time to do the photoshoot – and sweltered as I pranced in front of the camera. Then only weeks after, I saw the film poster for Red Riding Hood. I had no idea at all that a new film had been made. The movie poster is certainly full of mystery and foreboding. It actually has nine antecedents, the earliest a silent Czech film made in 1920.

Many fairy tales have sinister origins, and unflinchingly employ gore to fully convey their strong moral themes. Little Red Riding Hood is no exception…


The earliest known tale was had its origins in 17th century French folklore, and was written down for print by Charles Perrault in his collection Tales and Stories of the Past With Morals in 1697. It was he who introduced the red hood.

The oral versions are traced back even earlier, to the 14th century, related by French and Italian peasants, in which the girl rescues herself through her own cunning. These old versions were in fact titled after the grandmother, not the caped girl. There are also links to old Russian and Norse stories.

The German Brothers Grimm tackled it in the 19th century, basing their stories on Perrault’s, but writing a sequel where the girl and her grandmother trapped and killed another wolf, presumably as a form of revenge, or deterrent to future erring wolves. 


Earlier versions were far ‘grimmer’ than the sanitised and happy-ending of the 19th century authors’: Perrault’s story ended badly, with the attractive, well-bred young lady being eaten by the wolf. End of story. No woodcutter. No rescue. Basically it was a warning written to good girls: beware of (human) wolves, especially those quiet, gentle seducers who enter your home.

…Perrault’s story ended badly, with the attractive, well-bred young lady being eaten by the wolf

Other interpretations include literal warnings against wolf attacks, wolves being genuine predators; natural cycles, such as solar myths, or seasonable fables, ie spring as an escape from winter – also akin to the notion of rebirth; puberty rituals; and sexual awakening – the red cloak symbolising the menstrual cycle, and the dark forest, womanhood. ‘The anthropomorphic wolf symbolises a man, who could be a lover, seducer or sexual predator.’1

The first and last seem most likely to me, as often the simplest and most obvious explanation is the true one – and the neatest.


Scroll down for some lovely vintage art, and some more modern interpretations from today’s photographers.

Carl Offterdinger (1829–1889), German children’s book illustrator

Walter Crane (1845-1915), English artist and book illustrator

Margaret Ely Webb (1877-1965), American children’s book illustrator and author of art textbooks

From an anthology of fairy tales, 1927

Manga style by Aurore, 2006; (click image for link)

LOVE this coat too! Dakota Fanning stars in Karl Lagerfeld’s shoot for Vanity Fair, Jan 2007

Natalia Vodianova stars in Mert Alas' and Marcus Piggott's interpretation of the fairy-tale for US Vogue, Sep 2009; click image to see more imagesI do like this interpretation of the ravening wolf transformed into faithful friends. Singer/actress Selena Gomez as Little Red Riding Hood, Dec 2010Suitably mysterious. Red Riding Hood film poster, 2011

1. Wikipedia


Caught in the Act!

’Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,

Breaking news from the Yuletide Bureau:

Little did Tatiana – employed in the Siberian division of Santa Inc as an ‘elf’ on temporary assignment to assist during the busy Christmas period – know that Mr Claus had sent his crack SS (Secret Santa) troops out into Christmas Eve night, armed with infra red goggles and high-definition telescopic-lensed DSLRs that were able to spot a misbehaving employee from a very long way away.

They spotted her breaking and entering through the chimney of a small cottage in southern Bulgaria (under the ostensible reason of checking that the chimney’s dimensions would allow Mr Claus’ not inconsiderable girth to pass), and within moments of the perp’s entry had taken strategic positions in and around the cottage’s sitting room. And when they saw her flagrantly breaching her contract with Santa Inc., they were not slow in capturing firsthand evidence of her crime.

Caught in the glare of the flash, Ms Tatiana (as she calls herself, refusing to disclose a surname) could not deny she had indeed been sampling the milk and cookies left out for Santa. When questioned directly, she insisted that she was tasting the goods merely in order to ascertain the quantity of sugar in the cookies. “You know he’s diabetic?” she added in an ingenuous tone. “I couldn’t risk the possibility that Mr Claus might suffer a fatal attack on my watch.”

This was a serious allegation against Mr Claus, the CEO of a major global corporation, but no-one from the headquarters of Santa Inc could be reached for comment.

Ms Tatiana has been remanded in custody pending further investigation.

Merry Christmas.


Monster Fashion

My friend Sapphire and I both love vintage clothes. We both like to dress up. And we are both perfectly happy to clown around in front of the camera. It’s a friendship made in heaven.

We excitedly discussed the idea of doing some B-grade movie photoshoots (Sapphire particularly loves zombie films), and I proposed The Day of the Triffids (right) as our first venture. Sapphire enthusiastically took up the cause.

Obviously some research was required, so I rented out the DVD of the original 1960s movie. I had already read John Wyndham’s book some time ago, and enjoyed it immensely, so the movie was a bit of a disappointment in the way the main female character – a notorious young lady with a reputation for wild partying – was replaced with a wholesome little school-uniformed girl.

Triffid artwork from past decades. (Click on image for larger version.)I was also disgusted (and amused) by the usual histrionics enacted by the other female lead, screaming her head off in the lighthouse, instead of helping her estranged lover fend off the triffid attacking them. Give me a heroine with some gumption! Sapphire, however, took on that role with relish, while I armed myself with a garden rake.

Of course we are both unsuitably dressed for defending ourselves against slobbering cactus hybrids. Those skirts are far too tight to really do anything other than cower in terror against the wall. (AHA! I think I have just stumbled onto the real reason heroines from the old classic movies did nothing but shriek!)

Fashion Notes

Tatiana: vintage 1950s dove-grey dress, R&K Originals (For the Girl Who Knows Clothes), vintage gloves and earrings, Zoe Wittner shoes
Sapphire: own vintage navy shoes; wool top and skirt, belt, vintage gloves, Tatiana’s Closet


Homage To An Australian Childhood

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs (1918) is the quintessential Australian children’s storybook, all about little gumnut babies and their adventures with other creatures of the bush. I remember having it read to my third grade class by a favourite teacher, and being entirely enthralled.

After joyfully pouncing on it in a bookstore one day, I begged my sister to buy me my very own copy “for my 8th birthday”, I coaxed. It cost six whole dollars; very expensive at the time. She bought it for me on the spot – or so I remember – and I have it to this day. The book is very decrepit now, having lost its spine through some misadventure long ago, and I have a recollection of spilling Coke on the cover. I was very upset at the time.

I’d had an idea to dress up as Ragged Blossom in homage to May Gibbs last year, but it was only when I found a vintage hat with all its unravelling tulle that it began to come together. Then I snapped up a pink Hawaiian skirt, and found a Ragged Blossom tree actually all in bloom just three weeks ago. Add a magenta wig borrowed from my cousin, a bit of Photoshop magic, and Little Ragged Blossom comes to life a hundred years after she is first written.

I particularly love the suave pair of gumnuts in the upper box. I distinctly recall being fascinated by this particular illustration. How apt.The End.

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