Our fundraising for the anthology South of the Sun - Australian fairy tales for the 21st century was successful! Due Spring 2020 on Serenity Press, it's for YA + adult readership, challenges stereotypes and champions diversity, as expressed in its iconic cover.
South of the Sun
book cover art by Lorena Carrington
|South of the Sun |
book cover art by Lorena Carrington
The Adventurous Princess
and other feminist fairy tales
written and illustrated by Erin-Claire Barrow
(Publisher Obscura, an imprint of Odyssey Books, 2019)
|Cover art by Erin-Claire Barrow|
Barrow’s book is a rollicking skein of storytelling in ink and watercolour, full of mischief and wonder, and rings a bell of authenticity at every twist and turn on the stair of fairytale. Welcome to diversity, feminism and inclusion, with a light touch. No tut-tutting. Barrows’ spin is free of meretricious virtue signalling or faddish morality.
To quote Dr Eugen Bacon (Review Editor of Aurealis and award-winning author of stories, novels, poetry and the inspiring guide Writing Speculative Fiction - creative and critical approaches), Erin-Claire Barrow’s book is ‘richly diverse with its characters of colour and recasting of the familiar… the collection reimagines heroines as empowered and shaping their destinies… carefree stories that queer the norm’ (Winter 2019).
Dr Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario asserted that ‘The heart of the fairy tale princess should not be solitary, but a prince or a king is not the only answer. Fairy tales have often destabilised the intricate social and power networks of patriarchy through female relationships and fashion. Shrewd, well-dressed, and in the company of redoubtable women, [is] the tradition of the fairy tale princess …’ (pp. 16-18, ‘The Heart of the Princess’, The Victorian Writer, Dec 2015-Jan 2016).
Erin-Claire Barrow’s retellings bear testament to the radical flexibility of inter-gender reinterpretation in fairy tales, thus helping to ensure continuance of these ancient stories and their relevance in our century.
With mental illness on the rise - forecast to become the leading killer worldwide by 2030 - this comment by Erin-Claire in her Foreword is pertinent: that fairy tales ‘often set unrealistic expectations for men to be competitive and aggressive, to be someone else’s hero or saviour, and not to feel fear or anxiety.’ Further, she asserts: ‘It can be difficult for people in our diverse, modern society to see themselves represented in well-known and well-loved stories’, which affects ‘what is valued… we deserve better representation of our diverse society in… fairy tales that challenge rather than embed stereotypes, and stories that inspire…’
Don’t be fooled by the picture-book format. Plenty of young adults and mature readers can relate to these retellings. In parallel, this collection would still appeal to tweens or mature children. As such, if you are a librarian, teacher, storyteller, parent or guardian looking to share fairy tales with younger readers without a trace of sexism, homophobia or other primitive prejudices, this book is sure to answer your call.
|An arrangement of Barrow's fairytale swap-cards |
hat accompany this superbly illustrated book.
Contact Erin-Claire Barrow to order your pack!
‘The Princess and The Pea’: Our bedraggled heroine reacts with dismissive glee at the prince’s comment about his royal parents’ assumption of a pea causing discomfort to a real princess: ‘Delicate!’ She exclaims. ‘Tell that to the bandits I fought last week! Or the dragon!’ (page 3). The prince, meanwhile, is a dreamy, story-loving, lute-playing painter.
‘Cinderella’: kindness, resourcefulness and the ability to talk to birds, are foremost attributes above youth or beauty. The heroine is a grandmother, and her godmother is older still; quite wonderfully gnarled. She gives her a flowing gown with an embroidered shawl (no tight corsets for this lady!) and boots with only a strip of glass. With her wit and wisdom, she charms the widowed King, before ever having to lose a shoe at all, let alone risk her neck in a carriage that turns unreliably into a pumpkin. All the while, her granddaughter woos the Prince. (She charms Charming, and Charming is charmed.) Family dynamics differ only superficially from the traditional tale. Essential elements are at play, with goodness triumphing over greed.
‘The Swan Maiden’: a short, pithy retelling with a satisfying twist - no spoilers!
|The Beast in 'Beauty and the Beast'|
‘Beauty and the Beast’: For a depiction of harrowing loneliness, integrity, abiding loyalty and a stirring development of love between two women, look no farther than this poignant love story. It is by far, in my view, the most emotive story in Barrow’s collection.
|Princess Holding the Golden Ball in 'The Frog Prince'|
‘The Frog Prince’: First half of this retelling resembles traditional versions rather closely, which suits my taste as I had always loved those. This makes it a marvellous surprise, when someone speaks out against the King, like a bell sounding from one age to another: the Queen contradicts him - and he heeds her advice! I won’t reveal what it is, nor what happens next, but it’s cute. Except perhaps for the very end, depending on quite how romantic you are!
‘Snow White’: Here is a twirl of a tale, nipped in the bud by the snap, chink and frost of wisdom. A charming reversal, even a pun, on holding and beholding?
‘Allerleirauh’: Reminding me a little of an Amerindian story retold in World Tales by Idries Shah (perhaps because of the motif of a cloak), this story provides intercultural contrast with more widely known, predominantly European fairytales.
‘The Goose Girl’: One of my favourite childhood tales that invited rampant, dubious colouring-in with rainbow pencils. I relished the chance to revisit this plethora of incantation and transmigration of souls across human and animal forms. Cool totemic stuff.
‘The Little Mermaid’: A charming conclusion to a delightful collection. Dive in - I dare you!
In my copy of the book, Erin-Claire pencilled me a drawing, after we met at Australian Fairy Tale Society events in two States. The pic depicts a woman in a flowing floral dress, her elbow resting on a table. She surveys a map, like those of epic fantasy. Whether she is planning her next move - strategy, creation, quest - or dallying in reverie, is a mystery. This whimsy speaks to the perceptiveness and generosity of Erin-Claire, who is also tenacious, financing her publication via crowdfunding. At a Fairy Tale Ring, people pounced upon the book.
Website of Erin-Claire Barrow