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An Afternoon in Fairy Land


'An Afternoon in Fairy land' sounded enticing. Discovered quite by chance via the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy The Monash Fairy Tale Salon held an 'afternoon in fairy land' to honour the exhibition, In Fairy Land: an exhibition of Fairy Tale Books from the Monash Rare Books Collection. Brilliant that it was happening on my weekly study day!
Although Phillippa and I have championed storytelling as a way to enhance language skills, develop an understanding of linguistic structures and achieve significant gains in Literacy achievement levels it was an absorbing, and relaxing, experience to be the listener rather than the teller. Louisa John-Krol began the afternoon enchanting us with a traditional tale of riddles and overcoming 'the monster'. David Haworth read his invented fairytale 'The Bone Flute', a collage of fairy tales motifs, plots, characters and a twist (that I won't reveal as I'm sure it will be published somewhere). Sally Newham read 'My Flood Husband' gently, softly filling the room with a narrative of love, longing and loss. I wish I could write like that. Roslyn finished as the afternoon began in true storytelling fashion, a good story, a moral ending and hi jinks on the way.
Dr Rebecca-Anne Do Rozaria's paper 'What Mother Goose Wore' had me mentally ticking off the images of Mother Goose from my childhood reading and wondering about the changes in fairy garb over the centuries. Madeleine Hunter's presentation 'The Problem with Princes' analysed Disney princes in three generations and it triggered some reflection on my part about the Australian 'princes' of the early fairy tales: their build and demeanour that of a stocky bushman with property rather than the swashbuckling hero with inherited (from his father- the King) fairy tale riches.
As my latest (draft) chapter discusses the portrayal of gender stereotypes in Ernst's books and whether or not there are subtle challenges to social norms,  I found Victoria Tedeschi's 'The Damsel in Drag: Feigned Female Warriors and Camp Dwarves illuminating as she presented alternative Snow Whites in 2012 Film adaptations. I thought about Atha Westbury's 'prince' - a blushing stock man, shy in the presence of women. Michelle De Stefani and Zeinab Yazdanfar read from Shahnameh:The Persian Book of Kings, in English and Farsi, a beautiful story, a privilege to hear it.
A bonus was meeting again with Rachel Hammond whose amazing design skills were utilised to create (= fix up) Red Earth Cluster's Auslan books and to see her fantastical Fae Art. 
I decided to present a monologue from Olga Ernst's perspective as a twenty year old with some knowledge of the future of her works. Phillippa suggested that for the audience to note the 'voice' change from that of Ernst to my voice, I should change a small thing such as eye-glasses. Seemed a good idea until I realised that if I had fake 1900s glasses then I wouldn't be able to see my script. I took off a scarf and put it on again to change 'voices'. I tried to summarise my research within the fifteen minutes (which took a number of drafts) and as I wanted to stress the German-essence of her work I began in German. I was coached by Daniella hoping that there were no native speakers in the audience to notice any mistakes. If there was, they didn't comment! 
The best part of the whole presentation was turning up to present with no technology and not stressing about whether the PowerPoint would work. And the fairy cakes.
It is not too late to see this 'enchanting' exhibition.
The exhibition can be seen from 6 March - 7 June 2013 at the Rare Books Exhibition space, Level 1, ISB wing, Sir Louis Matheson Library, Clayton campus, Monash University.

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