Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bears and Sarahs

Random polar bear fact: Polar bears radiate so little heat that snow doesn't melt on them. (Be sure to tuck that little piece of knowledge away carefully. You never know when it might come in handy.)

Also, I just found out that the US postcard stamp this year has a polar bear on it. I think this is the most awesome stamp ever.

It makes me want to send postcards. Except I'm not going on vacation any time soon so I'd have to say stuff like, "Washed dishes today! Wish you were here!"

In other awesome polar bear news: The Central Park Zoo in NYC is hosting an event called Ice Chefs next Saturday. Two zookeepers are having a Top-Chef-style cook-off to see who can create the best taste-treat for polar bears. The bears are the judges! (Thanks to Cathie for the link.)

I'm also very excited for next Sunday when I get to be part of an awesome reading/signing/spectacle at Books of Wonder, a fabulous bookstore in NYC. They're hosting a "Sarah Signing" -- a panel of YA authors all of whom are named Sarah!! Sarahs will include Sarah Cross, Sarah Beth Durst (that's me!!!), Sarah MacLean, Sarah Ockler, and Sarah Rees Brennan. Here are the details:

Sunday, August 2nd from 1-3pm
Books of Wonder - Sarah Signing
18 West 18th Street, New York, NY

I've always rather liked the name Sarah. For one, it means "princess," and I harbor a secret belief that I am the prophesied princess of the unicorns. (Shh, don't tell anyone. You'll endanger us all.)

For another, the name is pretty much schoolyard-mockery-proof. Once, in fifth grade, a boy called me "Farah Fawcett" because Farah rhymes with Sarah, and I remember thinking, "Isn't she supposed to be gorgeous? Good one there." And then in middle school, a kid would sing that Sara song by Starship whenever I walked into the room. I'm sure I was supposed to feel embarrassed, but being a glass-half-full kind of girl, I thought it was rather nice to be serenaded.

I wonder... if I burst into song next weekend, will my fellow Sarahs think I'm insane? Or will they join in? Hmmm.....

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Obscure Fairy Tale: The Three Princesses of Whiteland

You guys ROCK.

Seriously, I love all the comments on my last post. Keep 'em coming! It's so much fun chatting with you all. Thanks for entering the giveaway contest, and thanks for all the reading suggestions! My TBR pile has grown by leaps and bounds.

The winner of the ARC of ICE is... *drum roll*... Kristen!!! (Please email me your mailing address, and I'll trot off to the post office with your book.)

As a thank you to everyone for entering, I thought I'd tell you about one of my favorite obscure fairy tales, The Three Princesses of Whiteland. It's from the same collection of folktales as East of the Sun, West of the Moon (the tale that inspired ICE). My thoughts on the story are in italics...

The Three Princesses of Whiteland (from Asbjornsen and Moe)

Once upon a time... A fisherman fails to catch any fish. A head pops up between the waves and says, "You'll catch lots of fish if you give me what your wife carries under her girdle." And he says...

"Ahhh! A head! Holy crap, it's a disembodied head in the middle of the ocean and it's talking to me! This is NOT GOOD! Call the police! Call a psychiatrist! Call the tabloids!" No, that's not what he says because he knows this is a fairy tale and one of the rules of the Fairy Tale is that you must accept every freaky talking thing with more grace and aplomb than Julie Andrews at a tea party. So what he actually says is...

"Sure." He doesn't know that his wife is carrying a baby under her girdle.

Out of curiosity, what did he actually think he was bargaining away? Her belly button? Her pancreas?

His wife is upset. When the child is born, the king offers to protect him. So the king raises the boy.

And the parents join the support group started by Rapunzel's parents, PARFTB (Parents Against Ridiculous Fairy Tale Bargains).

One day, the king and the boy go out fishing...

Really? Because that seems a little reckless, given the whole freaky head thing. Can't he take up a safer hobby? Like juggling knives?

After their day at sea, the boy forgets his handkerchief on the boat and returns to fetch it. The boat, moving on its own, carries him across the sea to a beach.

Told you it was reckless. But where's the head?

He meets an old man who says, "Welcome to Whiteland. If you walk down the beach, you'll find three princesses buried up to their necks in sand. Ignore the first two and follow the orders of the third."

Heroes should ask more questions. Such as, are you (A) a wise Gandolf-figure here to point me to my glorious destiny, (B) the evil mastermind who kidnapped me and buried three girls in some weird homage to a teen angst beach movie, or (C) just a random crazy guy?

The first two princesses cry for help, but he ignores them. The third princess tells him that he must enter the nearby castle without greeting the lions that stand guard.

Why is the ability-to-ignore-minor-characters a virtue? Incidentally, the lions don't do anything in this tale. And not to give away spoilers, but you know that disembodied head? Never appears again.

He must allow a troll to beat him with whips, use a special salve to heal himself, and then slay the troll with a sword. If he does this three times with three trolls, the princesses will be freed.

Or he could just fetch a shovel and dig them out right now.

The boy agrees. Inside the castle, a three-headed troll whips him. The boy heals himself and kills the troll. When he returns to the princesses, they are now only buried to their waists in sand.

Dude, seriously, sand isn't that hard to dig. Get a shovel.

The boy returns to the castle a second time, and a six-headed trolls whips him. The boy heals himself again and kills the second troll. Now the princesses are buried only to their knees.

Oooh, scary, knee-deep sand. Can't they just, you know, step out of the sand and walk away?

Lastly, a nine-headed troll whips him until he faints. When he regains consciousness, the boy kills the troll. The princesses are free. He marries the third princess and lives happily for a while.

Because getting beat up by a monster makes for such a good first date.

After a while, the boy misses his parents. His wife warns him to listen to his father, not his mother, and she gives him a ring that grants two wishes. He uses one to return home.

Why not use a boat? It's a magic ring. Go for something cool. If you need transportation, then how about wish for the means of transport? Like a magic carpet or a pegasus or a VW bug with a cute fake daisy on the dash...?

At home, his mother tells him to visit the king to show him what a fine young man he's become, and his father tells him to stay home. The boy visits the king.

The king raised him. He should visit. Perhaps a better warning would have been the standard "Don't be an idiot."

The king is jealous of him and says, "I bet your wife isn't as pretty as mine." And the boy says, "I wish she were here right now so I could show you." Instantly, his wife appears. She tells him he's had his two wishes now, gives him a ring made of her hair, and leaves him.

Chief lessons I've learned from fairy tales: be careful of the word "wish," don't eat unwashed fruit, and if your daughter is cursed to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die, then show her what a spinning wheel looks like.

He begins to search for Whiteland. He meets the lord of the beasts, the lord of the birds, and the lord of the fish. No one knows where Whiteland is until they ask an old pike who says he's been a cook there for ten years.

I love that the fish is a chef. How awesomely random.

The pike says that the queen (who was the third princess) is going to marry a new man since her king is missing.

Can he really be missing if she knows exactly where he is?

The lord of the fish tells the boy that on the moor, he'll find three men who have been arguing for one hundred years about who should possess a hat, cloak, and boots. If anyone has all three, he can turn invisible and wish himself anywhere.

Well, that's convenient.

The boy tells the three men that he'll choose who should possess the items if he can borrow them. They agree, and he whisks himself to Whiteland.

What do you want to bet that he doesn't return the items?

The North Wind offers to blow the new fiance away if the boy can get the man outside. So the boy tosses the man outside, and the wind blows him away.

When did a talking weather system join the story?

The boy shows the queen her hair ring. She welcomes him home happily, and the rightful wedding is held.

Um, weren't they married before? And hey look, he didn't return the magic items. There's a shocker. It's not like this story has any other unresolved plot points... I'm sure he'll use that invisibility power any second now...

And they all lived happily ever after.

Including the disembodied head, silent lions, extraneous princesses, random ancient men, and the cooking (not cooked) fish...

For more obscure fairy tales (with commentary), check out the Obscure Fairy Tales page of my website, where I've gathered links to all my prior fairy tale posts.

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