Monday, October 17, 2016

Twelve Dancing Princesses

Perhaps this is a second-tier fairy tale, not so loved as Goldilocks and Cinderella but it was always my favourite. The Prince's invisible cloak wrapped itself around my imagination, and in this Little Golden Book version, which is the one that I read and reread until it was dog-earred, I was intrigued when the Prince inadvertently stepped on the youngest princesses’ cloak. I decided that the princess was a little stupid not to suspect magic was afoot. This version allows the prince to outwit the dancing princesses though subterfuge and a little bit of magic. 
While I have searched for 'Australian' fairy tales that proclaimed their heritage and argued for their authenticity because of the bush environment and amongst unique Australian creatures I wondered if if when retold in an Australian newspaper it may absorb some of the OZ culture. I also wonder in this age of binge TV watching and the immediacy of everything how a child waited up to a month for the next instalment.

The story is not complete. These are the pages that have been digitised.
Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 - 1947)

Friday 20 July 1928, page 2
THE DANCING PRINCESSES (COPIED). (From 'Red Rose,' Booie Road, Nanango)
Long, long ago there lived a king, who had twelve daughters. It was difficult to stay which was the prettiest for they were all lovely girls, and there were no others the kingdom who could be compared to them. The king was always in fear that his daughters would meet with lovers who might run away with them, so he made them sleep together in one large room with the beds standing in a row; and each night as soon as the girls were asleep he bolted the door very securely. One morning, however when his majesty opened the door he found that his daughters' shoes were danced to pieces. (To be continued)

Saturday 4 August 1928, page 4
THE DANCING PRINCESSES. (Continued) (From 'Red Rose,' M.C.C)
He was very much puzzled but said nothing; he meant to wait and see what happened. On several mornings he found still more shoes in the same state, and then he asked his daughters to explain the meaning of it. But the Princesses refused to give any explanation. It was quite plain that they had been dancing somewhere, but how they got out of the palace, or where they went, nobody could tell. The King sent for all his wisest advisers to see if they could solve the puzzle, but none of them could explain the strange thing, and so his majesty had to think of a plan for himself. For a long time he could not make up his mind what to do, but at last he hit upon an idea that might be useful. (To be continued)

Saturday 1 September 1928, page 5
THE DANCING PRINCESSES. (Continued.) (From 'Red Rose.')
He had given it out that whoever could discover where his daughters danced in the night should have his choice of the girls for a wife, and at the King's death should reign in his stead. It was a very tempting prize. But whoever made up his mind to try to win a princess for a bride needed to be very careful, for if he failed after three days and nights he would be put to death. The news of the King's offer was soon spread far and wide, and in a very short time a prince arrived and undertook the task. The King was now very anxious to find out all about the strange matter, and so received the prince well, and gave him a room next to that of the princesses. It was now arranged that their door should not be locked at night in the hope that the prince would see them come out and discover where they went to dance. The prince was a fine handsome fellow and he meant to win one of the princesses if there was the least chance. He decided to be very watchful and he was quite certain that the girls would not get the better of him. Night time came and long before midnight the palace was in darkness. The prince had settled down to watch. He did not mean to close his eyes; he intended to win the prize. And then he could sleep all the next day if pleased. But try as he could the prince could not keep awake. His eyes got heavier and heavier, and at last he fell fast asleep. (To be Continued.)

Saturday 15 September 1928, page 5
The Prince did not wake until morning, and then he found that the Prin ceases' shoes had holes in them just as usual. He was very angry with himself, but still he had two more chances and would take greater care next time. But the something happened on the next night. The Prince could not keep awake. The Princesses had been dancing again, as was shown by their worn shoes. He now had only one more chance and if he went to sleep, and failed to dis cover where the Princesses went, to dance, he would lose his head. Once more night came and the Prince be gan his lonely watch. He made up his mind that he would not sit down, for if he stood up all the time, he would not be as likely to fall asleep. But us the time passed he begun to feel so drowsy, and he thought that it would not matter if he sat down for just two or three minutes. But it mattered a very great deal, for he was fast asleep in a minute, and so, of course, did not know what went on in the next room. The Prince did not wake until it was broad daylight— and he knew that he had failed in his task. The King was very sorry for him, but he bad to keep his word, and so the poor Prince lost his head. By that time, however, there were many others who came to the palace to see if they could win a rich and beautiful wife.

Werner, J (1954); Grimm, J. & Grimm, W. The Twelve Dancing PrincessesSimon and Schuster: Little Golden Book

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Translating my Australian fairy tale presentation for a German audience

Ein Kohl-Palmen Hüte und ein Peitsche (stockwhip) als Zauberstab: Australische Märchen.A cabbage tree hat and a stock whip wand.

As my German is improving I have been working to translate the slides from my recent Australian fairy tale conference powerpoint into German. This is difficult when translating quotes as the language used is 'old'.  Here is an example:
should this story be favourable (sic) received by the little folks for whom it is written it is the Author’s intention to publish a series of Tales, so that the merry children of the fair South may revel in dreams of their own Fairy Lore.  Sarah Anne Charlotte Roland (pseud. Gumsucker*) 1870
Sollte die Geschichte gerne durch die Leutenlein für die sie geschrieben ist gelesen werden, Absicht ist zu veröffentlichen viele Geschichte, so dass die fröhlichen Kinder können Märchen schwelgen in Träumen ihrer. 
* slang for a Victorian colonist

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


When I discovered this Australian fairy tale it brought back memories of my own childhood Christmases in the 60s and how accurately he had described my family Christmas afternoons. Game playing for those who hadn't eaten too much, usually Rounders for we were a family of girls, my dad creeping off for an afternoon nap, and the heat of the day. We were always given a book for Christmas and I would find somewhere to curl up and read or perhaps we would watch a Christmas movie.

Though celebrating the 'bush ethos' in the description of Harry Smith who has abandoned city life to become a farmer this narrative also recognises that his 'hard working wife' works equally hard and along side him contributing an equal share as they struggle to build a farm from the surrounding bush. His wife is not named but the acknowledgement of her contribution recognises that the Bush not only shaped the traits of the men who settled but expected the women who joined them to be tough, hardworking and capable (Penn, 2007). 

The Australian animals are not rolled out list-like in this tale to claim it as Australian but are plucked from every day life, behaving as did my Aunt's cocky, my grandfather's magpie with individual characteristics that are endearing. Their descriptions had resonance for this city girl who as a child visited relatives in Daylesford and on properties around Monbulk and met their tame and wild animals.

This is a tale worth exploring further. 


DEAR CHILDREN, I can see you all out this pleasant Christmas afternoon. The elders are playing cricket on the parched open, the younger are romping under the shade of the gum trees, or slumbering on the grass, fearless of the slimy snake that may be coiled not far off. And the gluttons of the flock, who have partaken too much of the tempting tart or the dyspeptic plum-pudding, recline in idleness, like young boa-constrictors, who must hibernate a bit before they are able to frisk about. Well, dear, boys and girls, it is too warm to exert oneself on such a day, and, therefore, come and gather around me, your innocent faces all wonderment, and listen to a pleasant fairy tale, all about Australia, and with none of those terrible ghosts and phantoms with which your cousins in England are now being regaled, while seated round the roaring fire listening to Grannie's tales,

" Afraid to whisper for the fear
Of something terrible and near."

It wasn't many years ago when Harry Smith gave up city life and took up a selection in a wild part of the country where the soil was good, the water plentiful, and the forest deep. A great brawny man was Harry, huge of limb, kind of heart, strong of muscle, just the kind of man we want in this new land. And he had a loving, hard-working wife, who made the journey of life pleasant to him, and two handsome children, Willie and Bessie, who were ten and eight years of age. Their parents loved them, and of an evening, when the work of grubbing and ploughing was over, and the clearing acres burned brilliantly, husband and wife back in their hut and taught their children whatever they knew themselves in the knowledge of this world, and reverently interpreted to them the teachings of that sacred book which should be a guide and a lamp to our feet, And a bright, peaceful life these good people led.

Willie and Bessie never tired of roaming in tho forests, searching for flowers and ferns, soaking in vain to catch a glimpse of the melodious bell-bird, whose glorious song, heard in the recesses of the wood, of ta-ta-ta-toye-wattee, was like a siren voice to them, now having a vision of the strange lyrebird, then catching a sight of the swift kangaroo, as it bounded by, or looking for the nests of the rosellas and cockatoos. In their wanderings they had dropped across many windfalls and picked up several pets. There was Mag, the magpie, whose existence was spent in a cycle of curiosity, alternately plucking up young plants by the roots to see how they grew, and hiding everything that she thought valuable, from a pin to a big spoon. lt was the children's opinion that no creature in the world could cock an eye and turn a head so shrewdly as Mag. They found her a featherless, disreputable-looking nestling, just fallen out of the nest one rainy day, and brought her back, she becoming their first pet. Mag had been taught some naughty words by the man Harry employed occasionally to help him, but several douses of cold water had cured her of the failing, and she was careful never to indulge in the prohibited lingo except when at a safe distance, and when engaged in encounters with predatory crows, whose thefts Mag cordially hated, though herself the biggest thief that over walked upon two legs. But Mag, no doubt, resembled some servants, who scruple not to rob their master, hut who fly into a terrible rage if others poach upon their preserves. Next to Mag was Cocky, the cockatoo, and between the two no love was lost, though each united in common warfare against poor Tibby, the tortoiseshell cat. These two would watch puss until they saw her stretch herself on the doorstep, in the sun, to have a nap, and then both would peck at her, and fly off to the palings and shriek with delight. Cocky was the drollest of all birds, and went about imploring everyone to scratch his poll. Occasionally he would wander away, and, after an absence of a day or two, return considerably damaged. He would be very silent and sad for a while, and would mope on his perch, occasionally ejaculating, with much fervour, "Poor Cocky." In addition to these pets there were fowls, dogs, parrots, from the plain but intelligent rosella to the gorgeous but dumb king-parrot ; a native bear, who slept all day, and two unique creatures, Joey the kangaroo, and Pipit the kangaroo rat. Joey was a dear, quiet thing, with great, mild eyes, who followed the children everywhere.

The Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser (Toowoomba, Qld. : 1858 - 1880)Tuesday 24 December 1878 p 4 Article Illustrated

Friday, July 1, 2016

Monash Fairy Tale Salon Meeting

Being on school holidays and without a thesis to write I was able to attend this month's Monash Fairy Tale Salon meeting at Monash Uni. I did wander down memory lane past the Rotunda where lectures on the Paston Letters (now online) took place given by a lecturer who claimed to have the features of a Hobbit (short, hairy, big feet) and liked to bring his own wine cask to tutorials to sip. 
Our discussion about the Australian Fairy Tale  by Carneil raised more questions, and there were some lively divergences:

  • the narrative connection to Alice in Wonderland (Kate falls off a dray- Alice falls down the rabbit hole. Both wake up to find it was a dream)
  • the lost child theme (As a bush child Kate doesn't seem to feel lost.)
  • gender difference. Male fairies epitomize the bushman ethos. Their wives stay home and mend. Suffragette nonsense is not encouraged!

Monday, June 27, 2016

What makes a great conference? Australian Fairy Tale Conference 26.6.2016

    I confess that I have mainly attend education conferences here and overseas, and while they offer the opportunity to meet new ideas, to challenge or affirm my practice format and presentation structure is similar.
    The AFTS community includes academics, folklorists, story tellers, artists, actors and writers and so this is a conference with a difference.

    Eclectic and colourful; the third annual Australian Fairy Tale Conference moved beyond the stock standard ten powerpoint presentations of dubious quality and tiny print. Intermingled with a fairy tale icebreaker, there were academic presentations on topics as diverse as Australian fairy tales and the quest for nationhood (Catherine Snell), the Lost Child in the Bush (Nicola Burke) and collaborative female relationships within revisioned fairy tales (Kirstyn McDermott). That's just a few. There was the telling of an Australian Hansel and Gretel (Jo Henwood) and the reading of a new fairy tale (Jeremy Shub). The keynote by storyteller and award winning children's author Jackie Kerrin was mesmerising.  Faced paced and compelling we listened to story writers, performers, artists, all of whom are focused in some way on researching, appreciating, or performing fairy tales within the Australian context.
    This year the small group of vendors offered interesting stalls to peruse while eating raspberry and white chocolate muffins, and other delights, at morning tea. I went Christmas gift shopping - books (Lyrebird by Jackie Kerrin), Refugee Wolf (T. D. Luong), and beautiful photographic fairy tale artworks (Lorena Carrington). I hope there are more stalls next year.  (Yes, I know it's only June but we all know how fast Christmas approaches)
      It was a small and intimate group that is growing. I hope next year we have more international visitors.  If you missed it don't despair as our (outgoing) President Belinda Calderone has recorded all presentations and they will be uploaded to the AFTS site.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Early Australian Fairy Tales excerpts as presented at The Australian Fairy Tales Society Conference

AND why not fairies in Australia? Why should not our innumerable ferny glades, romantic valleys, mountainous passes, and lonesome glens, be peopled with fays and elves? Why should not Robin Goodfellow be found sitting jauntily astride the gorgeous waratah, or chasing the laughing jackass from its favourite bough? But all in good time. In the generations yet to come, unless the State schools make the little ones too learned, we shall have Australian fairy tales, stories in which goblin, kangaroos and emus, graceful sprites, and bearded magicians, will be found on every Fairyland in Australia. (1880, December 18, Illustrated Sydney News and New South Wales Agriculturalist and Grazier, p. 3)
Excerpts presented at The Australian Fairy Tales Society Conference, 2016

KING DUNCE. Australian Fairy Tales by Atha Westbury                             
Noel Biffin, son of a tinsmith, wants to be a king, and neglects his schoolwork but is chosen to be a king by the fairy Sir Guy Fawkes Popgun. Together they speed away from school on emus.
Only a careless, stupid boy, perched on a high stool within the schoolroom, trying to learn his lesson, long after his companions had been dismissed to their several homes. Only the biggest dunce at Slate-em's Academy, who wouldn't try, like other boys, to master his tasks—not because he hadn't the ability to do so, but because he wanted to be a King. Yes, dear readers, Noel Biffin, son of Jack Biffin, the tinsmith, wanted to be a King. Nothing less would satisfy him. No, not even the rank of Duke or Prince; so instead of minding his lessons, young Biffin drew kings on his slate and in his copybook, and was therefore compelled to ride the wooden horse after school hours.
It was a beautiful evening this, with a grand sunset glow flooding. Slate-em's Academy, and wrapping the Dunce round and round, as with an amber-colored mantle, orange tinted. The old master, nodding in his chair, was quite unconscious of the halo which played round and about his bald, venerable head, and made him appear for one brief moment like one of the Apostles: the good, patient old man was tired with the heat, and weary with the incessant chatter of the boys, and so he dozed in comfort, and saw not the wee, shapely creature, who entered at the window, and approached the boy as he stood upon the stool, and bent his knee before him. Although small, the stranger was very handsome, and decked from head to heel in bright, glittering armour, with a crimson plume adorning his helmet.

"May it please your gracious Majesty," he said, doffing his helmet, "my name is Popgun—Sir Guy Fawkes Popgun, Knight —one of your Majesty's subjects from the realm of Shadowland." The Dunce nearly fell from the stool in amazement at the strange words. He looked towards the still-sleeping master, and from him to the armour-clad knight at his feet, and replied in a low tone, "Hush! Don't speak so loud, I haven't learnt my lesson yet; if he wakens he'll, thrash me. Now, what do you want ?"

Troll Mukka and Dwarf Treblekin by Charles  Marson  (1891)
MUKKA is the youngest of the Hill Trolls—he is only a few hundred years old. He never kept a school, and roves about a good deal. He likes to hear the chink chink of the miner’s pick near his cave, and then to flood him out with dirty water, or to bury him in loose earth. He always goes afoot, not like Wirra; Wirra rides a big black horse, at full gallop on the moonless nights, and the winds shriek when he rides over them and hits them with his stirrup; but Mukka has got an air raft and can sail on a black cloud if he gets one thick enough. He might sail on a thick white one, but then the sun would touch him and he would burst in pieces. He can drink up all the water in the creeks and waterholes and wells, and when the sheep come to water they find only grey mud, and then Mukka laughs. He likes to drink the tanks dry while the station hands are asleep on hot nights.

The Two Fairies by Ernest Favenc (1900)
SHE was a melancholy little Australian fairy, and was sitting on the leaf of a water-lily bemoaning her loneliness. All her friends and relations had gone away, frightened by the noise of quartz-crushing  machines, dust from travelling sheep and cattle, and all the annoyances of civilisation. But the little fairy was very fond of this cool lagoon, with its fringe of water- lilies, and, as it was in a quiet part of the country, she stayed there after all her companions had left, and very miserable she felt.
She was a pretty little fairy, although quite black, and as she sat there rocking on the big leaf, she wondered what she could do to amuse herself. Looking wearily around, she was aware of a strange figure advancing towards her. It was about her own size, but quite white, with beautiful gauze wings and bright golden hair. Although the Australian fairy did not know it, it was an English fairy. The two fairies looked at each other for some time, then the English fairy skimmed across ‘the water and seated herself beside her black sister. “Do you belong to this country? she said.
The Australian fairy nodded and asked in her turn where the other came from.“A long, long way from here, from another country, was the answer. “I went to sleep in a flower, and a littlegirl picked the flower and pressed it between the leaves of a book. So there I was, a prisoner, for the book was never opened until they got out here. Then I escaped.”
“Do you want to go back?” asked the Australian. The English fairy sighed. “Because,” went on the other, “you might stop here with me —I’m all alone.” The English fairy looked around. “It’s a pretty place,” she said, “but what are we to do with ourselves?”“Oh, we’ll have lots of fun. We will go and stir thepossums up; they get so mad at being awakened in the day-time. Then we’ll catch locusts and make them fly about with us; and there’s a bear up that tree; we’ll throw sticks at him until he cries—he can cry just like a baby.”
The English fairy looked rather scornful. “In England fairies don’t play those tricks; the elves and sprites do sometimes.
Favenc, Ernest & Fotheringhame, Josephine & "Mab" & Fotheringhame, James (1900). Tales for young Australia. Empson & Son, Sydney

Rara Avis or The White Emu: An Australian Fairy Tale (1887)
Some years ago there lived in Queensland a man and his wife who had three little daughters but no son. The children's names were Kennedi, Feronia and Amaranth, and very good obedient children they were, and dearly loved by their father and mother.
They travelled in the day time and pitched their tents at night, where they slept soundly under the stars, lulled by the music of the waving boughs. In the early morning the children would be wakened with the singing of the magpies calling thorn to get up. They carried a little canoe in case there were any rivers to cross. Of course, nobody lived there then, at least no human beings, I should say, for at that time there were still a few fairies left in Australia. You must know that fairies are a very timid race, and they always disappear when the railway comes to a place, for they cannot stand the screeching whistle of the train. It makes their heads ache. So you have now to go a long way from the haunts of men to find fairies in Australia, and even there they are now very scarce, and will, I fear, soon be gone altogether. Claude and his family jogged along very happily all this time without any adventure to speak of.  They went many, many miles looking for nuggets, which Claude's father had told them existed in great abundance in a certain part of West Australia, hidden in a cave on the side of a big mountain, but as water is very scarce in West Australia, they did not use the canoe much, neither did they use the fishing lines they brought with them. But they was very happy, for there are lots of beautiful wild flowers and all children love them, so the pleasant days went on. One spring day when their camp was pitched decide the largest watercourse they had yet
come across, their father went out in the morning to see if he could catch a young parrot, which the children wanted for a pot. He was so tired and just about to retrace his stops homeward, when a large emu as white as snow, and with feet of gold suddenly appeared  in the glade before him, and walked leisurely towards him. Claude was very astonished at the sight of a White Emu, he had never seen before, and certainly not one with golden feet, but he was still more astonished when the emu addressed him, "You have sought long for me, but now, O, Claude, that you have at last found what you sought. I am a king in this my dominion, and my name is Rara Avis. I have much to say to you.”

Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends by Beatrice Wilcken (1890/91)
Wilcken created fairy queens and sprites of traditional fairy beauty. Her tales are filled with romance and the tensions and consequences created by human men and their love of female fairy creatures. Wilcken speaks of the folly of love and her fairies are cautioned that ‘Men are a false race. They rush in at a moment’s pleasure and break the hearts of those who trust them’. In ‘The Jenolan Caves, N.S.W’, Wilcken’s hero discovers a traditional fairy, a ‘beautiful girl…her hair a mass of golden curls; her eyes of the deepest blue’.  Falling in love, ‘passionate thoughts overtake him and though the fairy does not reciprocate, when he steals a kiss she is turned to stone.  The consequences are a warning and a lesson to all maidens in the colony to be guarded and wary of men and their lust.