This past Saturday I attended the Myths and Fairy Tales in Film and Literature post-1900 international conference hosted by the Film and Literature Programme of the University of York’s Department of English and Related Literature. This two-day event brought together fairy tale scholars from around the world to reflect upon the fairy tale as it has been expressed in the 20th century to the present day. One of the highlights for me was listening to Marina Warner speak about the flying carpet as a vehicle of enchantment in ‘Eastern Dreaming: Stealing, Flying, and Disappearing in 1920s Bagdad’. I also had the opportunity to have a chat with John Patrick Pazdziora, a writer and scholar who is involved in fleshing out a new theory of the ‘anti-tale’. Of course, the most wonderful thing about Saturday was that I saw two of my American friends for the first time in over five years.
A funny thing happened on Saturday, too, which was that both of my friends said pretty much the same thing to me during two different conversations: “don’t undersell yourself”. My god, is it that obvious? My husband says yes, it actually is. How embarrassing! How sadly common! I know far too many women who do this very thing. In fact, Theodora Goss blogged about this tendency in a post called Value Yourself. So, I asked my husband, “why do I devalue myself”, and his answer was quite simple.
“Simple. You’ve been put down for most of your life.”
I wanted to reply by recounting the numerous times in which I have been uplifted, supported, and praised — basically, I wanted to argue with the man who knows me best. But he was right, particularly when one considers my formative years. We won’t go there. Suffice it to say this is a thing I’ve been struggling with for a long time, and I don’t think it will vanish any time soon (one wishes these issues could be carried off by a flying carpet, but alas, they so rarely are).
Because of these conversations and my own insistence on not succumbing to the bs foisted upon my in my youth, I’ve decided it’s time to start talking about a project I’ve been working on for some time now. Quietly, certainly privately, I’ve been writing a book of non-fiction I’m calling The Occult Symbolism of Fairy Tales. This is a working title and one I think might be too off-putting for the book’s intended audience, so it is subject to change. (I know ‘occult’ doesn’t equal ‘evil’, but others may not.) I’m primarily looking at six of the more popular fairy tales, two each from Germany, Italy and France. I’m looking at the connection between motifs that appear in the tales and in the esoteric studies of the time in which the tales were collected and transmitted in print. This is a big project and one that won’t be finished any time soon, but after recent events and revelations, I feel it’s time to let the book out of the bag.
I’ll end this by saying that personal revelations were not at all what I expected to get out of an academic conference on fairy tales, but it’s no real surprise as that’s precisely how fairy tales work.
Header photo credit: “Riding a Flying Carpet”, Viktor Vasnetsov, 1880.]