Saturday, 29 November 2014

And so she woke the sleeping maiden with a kiss: 'The Book Corner'.

Welcome *drumroll* to the first ever post from 'The Salty Sea Book Corner'. As I'm studying Creative Writing now, I thought it would be great to feature that aspect of my life on the blog, in particular some of my favourite stories. It was probably this book that influenced me most to start sharing stories with you, because this is a book that has confronted the preconceived notions of "Prince rescues Princess" that we are all so familiar with in fantasy, and given it the middle finger. In the most delicate and British way possible. 
But stop right there. Don't think you know what's going to happen yet... 

Before I dive right into talking about this story, I just want to introduce you to my "Book Nook". It's not quite as cool as the nifty masterpieces of art that you find on pinterest. I live in an attic in student accommodation so my creative freedom is limited. What I've created is a pile of cushions and blankets in an alcove where I can sit and read books (because I prefer sitting on the floor rather than in chairs) and it's pretty dang comfy. In fact, I could easily sleep there (although I find it ridiculously easy to fall asleep anywhere that isn't the place I'm supposed to be sleeping). 

Most of my books are now spread out over various relatives houses in Cornwall, stuffed in attics and bookcases. I've only brought a few of my favourites with me to Bath but I'm always adding to the collection with great finds from Mr B's emporium of reading delights, or the second hand bookshop in the Guildhall Markets.
This is my current reading pile. I wonder if you could guess who my favourite author is? (Or my favourite series)

Most often, I read books outdoors. In parks, at the beach or by the river. When I worked at the restaurant, I would walk down to the weir in my break and sit on the bench there and get lost in the pages of a story.
That would always make that day a little more worthwhile and helped me escape the madness that is a double shift on a Bath Rugby day. 

RIGHT. Let's talk about 'The Sleeper And The Spindle'. It's most probable that I'm going to let slip a few spoilers but I'll avoid the big ones if I can. It's written by the splendiferous Neil Gaiman, one of Britain's best loved recent fantasy authors and is well known for Coraline, Stardust, The Sandman series (as well as my personal favourite; The Graveyard Book).
Now it's interesting, in my current 'Short Stories' module we are studying 'Revisions and Re-workings of classic mythology and fairy tales'. As you can probably guess from the name;'The Sleeper And The Spindle' is indeed a re-vision of a classic fairy story. Can you guess which one? 
Well, I have to inform you that you'd only be partially right. Gaiman has done something a little different. He's created a mash up of a few various fairy tales and twisted them in his delightful and curious style (Yes, we are familiar with Shrek and I'm sure he's not the first to create cameos of different beloved characters) but I promise you this is something utterly unique and skillfully approached. 

 The first thing that gets me about this book before I even open it, is the presentation. Another reason I added my name to the reserve list at Mr B's is because not only was I intrigued by the promise of "Princess on Princess action",but this book is another collaboration between both my favourite author and illustrator; Chris Riddell. My most favourite series ever are 'The Edge Chronicles' are bursting with Riddell's quirky and frankly terrifying illustrations of curious beasties and horrifying monsters. He had also illustrated 'The Graveyard Book' which I adored, and so I was beside myself with excitement when I saw the cover of this.

The introduction to the world with an incredible picture of the map was reminiscent of 'The Edge' and I found myself teetering on the edge of my seat, ready to plunge myself into the world.

The story begins describing an unpassable mountain that not even the crows care to fly over. Not your usual 'Once upon a time'. We are then quickly transported to the castle of an unnamed queen. Many of the characters in this story you will discover are unnamed, but there is a reason for this that I shall let you discover yourselves. It's not often that our protagonist is a queen, especially one so unhappy at the prospect of marrying her king, settling down to rule the kingdom and bear children. No, in fact this queen is positively dreading her impending wedding and the loss of her 'freedoms' and 'potential of adventure'. When the Dwarves come back from their journey with tales of an approaching plague, the queen jumps at the chance for a possibly perilous journey. Does she really have her kingdoms best interests at heart? or is her impulsive decision driven by her fear of inevitable matrimony? Well, what do you think?
There are rumors among the lands, of a sleeping plague. It's spreading like disease and those captured fall into a living death. Wait a moment, this is beginning to sound a little like fantastical zombiism... oh, crap.
The comatose and cobweb covered victims are rising up, and they appear to be pretty hostile. Since when has there been zombies in a fairy tale? Neil Gaiman, NOW you've really got my attention.
The Queen must not only fight the zombies (Sorry, I mean Sleepers) but the plague itself. Fortunately, we are told that she already has experience with enchanted sleep and this gives her that little bit of extra resistance as well as her band of trusty and brave dwarves who are ready to pinch her awake should her eye lids begin to droop.
Eventually, we reach the castle surrounded by a forest of thorns (yes, we know who dwells here) but I shall leave you here for fear of revealing too much. If you think you know what's going to happen, I have to solemnly inform you that you are very wrong. Gaiman begins here to lull us into a false sense of security, letting us believe we know where this tale is going as we enjoy what we believe is an updated retelling of 'Sleeping Beauty'. But don't underestimate him. He's a genius of imagination and cleverly twists and turns the plot at a jaw dropping moment where you feel winded in the chest and find yourself shouting out 'NO FRIGGING WAY'.
I shall leave all details of the plot there, dear readers and urge you to read this wonderful fairy tale for yourselves.

I think one of the defining moments of this story, is the kiss between the Queen and the young sleeping maiden. We are finally beginning to create a world with an acceptance for every sexuality, and even though we've got hell of a long way to go... seeing powerful moments like these in fairy tales,that are going to be enjoyed by children and young adults is just the beginning. Finally, fairy tales aren't telling us that 'perfection and happy endings is finding yourself a nice man to settle down with in a castle'. It's not even saying anything about love. I wish I could tell you that this was a lesbian love story, and that the Queen and the maiden married and lived happily ever after, but sadly that is not the case. The outcome, is actually something equally  exciting and a little different. 
I suppose you could consider it as having a touch of feminism in it's themes. Snow White, as it transpires is 
a "sassy, strong, independent  individual who doesn't need no man, to define her". I think it's telling us that "it's okay to not get married". You don't need to bear children and be cared for by a man to be 'complete'.
A woman can be brave, valiant and strong and save another woman with a passionate kiss. It's not just a prince that can rouse a sleeping princess.You don't even need a happy ending. Or indeed an ending at all. The prospect of adventure, excitement and perilous quests is not one reserved for men anymore. We live in an age where we (as women) have alot more freedom and for the first time, fairy tales are beginning to encourage us to embrace it and grab it by the balls (or boobs). And for the first time, fairy tales are encouraging us to go out and rescue those damn damsels ourselves. 
Snow White discovers with us at the end of the novel, that there is a great big world out there full of adventure and potential for us. She (like us) shrugs off the responsibility and expectations of being a stay-at-home queen/wife and heads off into the sunset with her friends. Finally, those little girls and boys can be comfortable in themselves. Not feel the pressure of gender conventions and the ideas that girls should be dainty and rescued and guys should wield swords and defeat dragons. I'm really excited to see a world emerging where little girls are learning to shoot arrows, make dresses, sword fight and adventure and guys are happy to do those exact same things and even play with barbies if they want. I think also Disney is finally cottoning on, with its recent releases such as 'Brave' and 'Frozen' it seems the 'Nouveau Fairy Tale' is going exciting places, and taking our future generations with it. 

 I would love to hear about any fairy tales you know of/or have written that are a little different and challenge the norm.
Happy reading and writing Jelly beans ♥

ps. Those of you that have read 'Sleeper and the Spindle' with recognise my inaccuracy with the title of this post: "Princess on Princess action". Technically it should be "Queen on ***** action". My justification is that I didn't want to reveal the great plot twist of the story, and it was an article advertising the book pre-release of a similar name that hooked me into buying the book. I hope you can forgive me. xo



  1. Cute pictures and I really like your room/sitting area!
    I also love reading so much! Is that book good?
    And would you like to follow each other? :D

    1. Hiya Isti :D

      Thankyou very much ^.^ The book is indeed pretty good! :D
      I checked out your blog and gave it a follow :) Lots of lovely outfits ^.^
      Would be lovely to follow each other :) xo

  2. I...NEED to read this. Those illustrations! Stunning. Especially the kiss. Plus Neil Gaiman is always excellent.

    Wonderfully written post. I'm a sucker for eloquence, feminism and books so this had me from the get-go.

    1. Ahhhh it's brilliant. Riddell's illustrations totally blow me away. This story was unputdownable :) I devoured it in my lunch break as it wasn't dreadfully long. The kind of adventure where you can be back in time for tea :)
      My latest favourite is 'The Gracekeepers' by Kirsty Logan. Have you read it?

  3. I...NEED to read this. Those illustrations! Stunning. Especially the kiss. Plus Neil Gaiman is always excellent.

    Wonderfully written post. I'm a sucker for eloquence, feminism and books so this had me from the get-go.


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