A garden always has a point. ― Elizabeth Hoyt (The Raven Prince)
What is the point of the garden, the bush, the landscape in folktales? Follow Christine, Robyn and Phillippa down a wonderland ‘rabbit hole’ as they explore the impact of transplanting traditional tales into new natural environments: the garden, the bush, the island. With a few interesting props to set the scene and a fast paced multimedia presentation they will present a dialogue (trialogue?) that challenges and questions if, how and why, various natural settings have impacted on the mannerisms, behaviours and appearance of characters in retold/ adapted fairy tales and mythologies. Using quotes to capture the voices of past and present writers they will explore these questions:
What is an ‘authentic' fairy garden?
Does the oral tradition of fairy tale gardens and forests preclude all other variations?
How do socio-cultural factors impact on the portrayal of the natural setting?
How does environment impact on the protagonist?
A thought provoking journey that winds its way through European and colonial influences and via the Diaspora will allow the audience to reflect on the planting old seeds in new soils.
Christine introduces Robyn
- We have come together each of us are educators/ Principals, writers, all share love of children’s literature/ story telling, all of us are fortunate enough to have fairies in our gardens and have done our fair share of running with the wolves. We met writing a program for girls in secondary at risk adapting programs to meet their needs. Robyn’s passion for fairy tales – Australian adapted to meet the needs of colonial children. Robyn’s PhD, Imagining Australia in Fairy Tales, explores Olga Ernst’s contribution to the development of an authentic Australian fairytale tradition. Reading about Olga’s literary journey revealed parallels to Robyn’s own journey as a writer in the fields of academia and fiction. Robyn’s personal voice also awoke memories of my earliest immersion in fairytales of the Australian bush and my propensity for glimpsing fairies in the garden.
Phillippa introduces Christine
Christine is a psychologist, tourism accommodation provider and guardian of a restored historic home and garden in the Yarra Valley in a town with an underlying culture of entwined Aboriginal and early settler histoy.We like to talk, explore and challenge each other and we sat down over coffee and later, champagne (It was a long day - overlooking Phillippa’s garden) and questioned the role of the garden, the bush, the landscape, the background environments in folktales, fairy tales and mythologies that we are familiar with?
Reilly McCarron defined fairy tales
efining the ‘garden’ in fairy tales is equally difficult…. Let’s move beyond nclude any place where we can transplant the seeds of a story: forests, mountain fortresses, islands, the bush as well as traditional garden.
We considered how the intersection between people and nature in tales creates a sense of home, even if they venture from it and reflects a socio-cultural identity. The garden is not just a setting it is the environment in which the action takes place. Gardens may reflect our personality, culture, social class, our heritage.
A garden always has a point.
A story always has a point.
The garden is not just part of the setting it is part of the ecosystem of the story, ingredients to spark imagination, a place of refuge and a place to rejuvenate.
The environment also impacts on the mannerisms, behaviours and appearance of characters traditional oral fairy tales and mythologies.
Before we go further let’s explore some scenes which elaborate on the three ‘gardens’ we are discussing: Traditional, Australian, Mythological; and attend to the way they flaunt their malevolence.
The garden of Beauty and the Beast is a seductive, tempting place and because of its bewitching beauty the merchant steals a rose for his youngest daughter.
In Dot and the Kangaroo Dot finds herself in the ‘cruel, wild bush’. (Read excerpt)
A garden always has a point.
Every story always has a point.
Every fairy story has a point.
For centuries, and longer, traditional tales have been transplated into new natural environments: the garden, the bush, the island impacting not only on the sense of good and evil within these settings but on the mannerisms, behaviours and appearance of characters. As with all stories they were appealing to new and unique readerships.
Gardens and forests have always been the playgrounds of the various creatures and characters that inhabit fairytales, oral and literary and myths. Lush creeping ivy, fragrant and colourful flowers, wildly growing shrubs and hidden passageways all enhance a garden's mystical qualities and in forests lurk dangers for the unaware.
· Down the rabbit hole to a Wonderland
· Sleeping Beauty encircled by a forest
· Red Riding Hood fatefully meets the wolf
In Red Riding Hood the wolf entices her to stop and enjoy the moment, appreciating the flowers in the forest. The flowers are a ploy we might suggest the wolf is ‘grooming’ her.
The wolf thought to himself, “What a juicy morsel she’ll be for me!” Now how am I going to catch her? The he said. “Listen Little Red Cap. Haven’t you seen the beautiful flowers growing in the forest? Why don’t you look around? I believe you haven’t noticed how lovely the birds are singing. You march along as if you were going straight to school in the village and yet it's so delightful here in the woods!” p.86 (Zipes, trans. Grimm, 2017)
All of these environments represent places that may be unknown to the characters and that offer situations of transformation. Gardens can be good or evil. Forests can be refuges or places of villainy. Islands can be havens, secluded or isolated.
With our loose definition of ‘garden’ what role does it play in any story, fairy tale or mythology? Let’s wind our way through European and colonial influences and via the Diaspora to reflect on the planting of old seeds in new soils.
In traditional tales and mythologies feys and muses find themselves in socio-culturally contrived environments that strengthen connections with the world and allow the listener/reader to see themselves in complex constructions and encourage them to consider wider issues.
A garden may be the safe space before the wild woods.
The garden, forest, bush allows the character to exercise choices.
We can see the impact of our background and collective experiences.
There is a spirit of place, it can be malevolent or sympathetic.
Rapunzel – covets rampion from her neighbour’s garden (Read excerpt)
Gardens are catalysts for what happens next.
As the Australian Bush is an important, even key, feature of the quest to discover a colonial national identity, it is not surprising to find the Bush became an influencing force in fairy tales set in it.
There are many layers in our Australian fairy tales, a conscious cultural background and unconscious sensibility. In Australia as migrants from respective countries in what was seen as a hostile/unique environment we imported our cultural identity and then re-designed it reflecting on ‘our’ garden: The Bush.
The ready-made Bunyip believed to have inhabited swamps, lagoons and billabongs, was appropriated from “The Dreaming” of Indigenous peoples and was often commandeered to take the traditional roles of the wolf, or in a twist of character, benevolent elder.
Rosalie’s reward; or, the fairy treasure (Gumsucker, 1870) is set in the gold field town of Ballarat and the fairy godmother is a mortal miner who bestows his wealth on her on his death bed for caring for the fairies in his over run cottage.
May Gibbs made an emotional plea ‘Humans: please be kind to all bush creatures and don’t pull flowers up by the roots’ (Gibbs 1947: n.p.). The gumnut babies were traditional: as their wings are not for flight! they treated animals as equals rather than place them in servitude and care for the landscape. They reflected us or what we believed reflected us.
me Australian fairy tales highlighted environmental issues such as the impact of settlement on the landscape and the human threat towards and imprisonment of native animals and treatment of Indigenous peoples.
While Robyn promotes the right of early Australian fairy tale writers to borrow European fairy tale motifs and place them in the Australian bush in a kind of fairy tale kleptomania what links her fairy tales with Phillippa’s re-imagined Muses delighting for a new generation, for a diaspora scattered across the world? The garden of the immortals?
We can’t argue that oral fairy tales are from original stock. Just examining the Greek legend of Eros and Psyche (Physical Love and the Soul) This love story has a strong resemblance to aspects of Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and Snow White starring Aphrodite as the wicked Queen, Psyche’s sisters as the ugly step sisters and of course Eros is the beast living in an enchanted castle with magical candlesticks and an amazing feast.
“Perhaps the best known myth is Eros and Psyche (Physical Love and Soul). In it are many of the twists and turns we associate with later quest narratives and fairy tales… The story’s influence on so much Western thought, folk literature and art justifies its retelling.” Stephen Fry (2017)
As some-one who has re-imagined the traditional roles of the nine Muses and placed them in a contemporary setting in terms of the narrative the ‘garden’ is the immediate confines of the island protects against the hostility of the mythical creatures. Muses are natural magic, manifestations of nature, metaphysical force to inspire man to greater than themselves lends courage into the wilderness the sea – unknown elements
I don't believe that literary fairy tales or mythologies should be confined by rules or structures and I am happy to let them continue to evolve in the imagination of authors and within cultures. The imagining of new fantasy beings by adapting the traditional is exciting and I applaud it. Why shouldn’t we challenge the ‘traditional’ and see what happens when the 3 little pigs become the 3 Bush pigs and the dingrel? Poss-in boots?
Was Achim von Arnim was right when he wrote to Jacob Grimm (22 October 1812) and prophesied that writing fairy tales down would hasten the “death of the entire fairy tale corpus’. (Bottigheimer, p.85, 2014)
Within the last hundred years the form in which the popular narrative genre, the fairy tale is has changed radically. It is more commonly no longer communicated in a direct teller-listener conversation but indirectly through the printed medium of text (and technology). Lost is oral syntax, spontaneity, gesticulation and miming, the moral premise of the story time. What we have now is a fixed documented version that has become part of a fixed literary tradition in various cultures. The channel is now a production team of authors, editors and publishing houses. The narrator cannot possibly know the readers response. Often with illustrations and copyrighted merchandise attached. We need our fairies, muses and magical elders to preserve and continue the evolution and storytelling traditions.