Fairy Tales Re-imagined: part one

March 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm (Conferences) (, , , )

Fairy Tales Re-imagined: from Werewolf to Forbidden Room was a two day symposium (10-11 March 2011) exploring the evolution, and contemporary relevance of, fairy tales. Presented by Film Art Media, Inside Out Productions, and ACMI, a significant amount of time was devoted to Re-enchantment, something I have been tweeting about quite a bit in the last few weeks. Re-enchantment is a rather exciting new project that embodies transmedia – that is, it adapts content (pertaining to fairy tales) for communication across multiple platforms – including an interactive website, a series of interstitial animated documentaries (airing on ABC TV), and audio recordings of fairy tales (airing on ABC Radio National, as part of their Sunday Story program).

Sadly, the symposium did not seem to be well advertised (I discovered it whilst trawling ACMI’s online calendar of events), and a few people expressed disappointment about this. While I don’t currently have the time to produce a glorious, in-depth write-up of the whole shebang, I did keep up a fairly comprehensive live-tweet feed, replicated here in a tidier, more logical fashion. (With interesting links! And pretty pictures!) I know it’s still not the same as being there in person, but as an attendee I am very happy to answer any questions and engage in discussion about anything I’ve tweeted.

Warning: contains adult themes and language.

Welcome and Introduction

  • Tony Sweeney (Director & CEO, ACMI) is thrilled to be able to use the word ‘zeitgeist’ in the opening speech.


Re-enchantment – the hidden world of fairy tales for adults

Sue Maslin (Producer, Re-enchantment), Sarah Gibson (Writer/Director, Re-enchantment)

  • Sue Maslin pimps Re-enchantment. Grew from personal interest into this immersive journey into the hidden meaning of fairy tales.
  • Re-enchantment targeted at 15years+; everyone who’s grown up with fairy tales & maybe wondered why they span time & cultures.
  • Colourful, playful surface, but depth of content that allows hours & hours of online exploration & education.
  • Emphasis on engagement and discussion, showcasing multiplicity of fairy tale interpretations.
  • Screening of Re-enchantment short on forests… ‘they remind us of times we are emotionally overwhelmed by fears and anxieties’. Is technology a barrier to experiencing traditional fairy tale emotions and situations eg getting lost?
  • Erotic subtexts to Red Riding Hood… a visual showcase.
  • Re-enchantment has gateways to 6 story spaces – Bluebeard, Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, & Snow White.
  • While Re-enchantment doesn’t retell these stories there is a book in each space that contains different versions of the tale.
  • Can I just say I love the animated artworks in Re-enchantment
  • Exploring the Bluebeard section of Re-enchantment – the different interpretations. (Let’s look at the Misogyny Room!)
  • Death as entertainment – do we use fairy tales to anaesthetise ourselves? #Bluebeard
  • Beauty and the Beast missed out on its own space in Re-enchantment, but gets a mention in the short Beastly Husbands.
  • FYI All ten shorts, as well as being on iView, are on the Re-enchantment site.
  • Great audience question on disability access to Re-enchantment site.
    A: All audio commentary is available in text form. ABC will close-caption the shorts that they air.
  • Maslin announces they’re in discussion with two publishers about a picture book for adults around these themes.
  • ABC in progress of creating apps of the 3min shorts.


Woman and Wolf – the inspiration of Red Riding Hood

(Chair: Dr Terrie Waddell)
Dr Kimberley Pearce: Girl Meets Beast: the Power of the Pelt

  • In Charles Perrault’s Red Riding Hood tale (1867), RRH was devoured by the wolf (in her grandmother’s bed).
  • Modern retellings of Red Riding Hood integrate girl & beast – psychologically empowering, & evoking themes of vagina dentata.
  • Pearce explores films Teeth and Hard Candy, & novel Inhuman as modern, sexual, violent Red Riding Hoods. ‘The Power of the Pelt’.

Jazmina Cininas: The Girlie Werewolf

  • Men were the most famous werewolves but many women were burnt at the stake due to their ecclesiastically-recognised weakness to the devil.
  • Superstition persists in modern times eg Lindy Chamberlain

Jazmina Cininas: A two-legged dingo stole Lindy’s tears

  • “If she has many hairs she is a monster” – the werewolf myth in modern beauty ideals.
  • Fun fact – tomatoes are linked to werewolfism. Originally known in Europe as the “wolf peach” – an aphrodesiac and hallucinogenic.
  • Cininas is full of fun facts – “to have seen the wolf” is French slang for loss of virginity.
  • Less fun, the fate of those with hypertrichosis (“werewolf syndrome”). Julia Pastrana joined a freak show, then when she died the owner had her embalmed & continued to exhibit her (in the mid-late 1800s).

Prof Barbara Creed: Eroticism of Being Devoured

  • Prof Barbara Creed presented a very in-depth, Freudian look at the eroticism of being devoured (Red Riding Hood). Too difficult to tweet!
    I’m not sure I grasped all the ideas, but I know I’ll never see the line “All the better to eat you up!” in the same way again.


If The Shoe Fits – interpreting Cinderella

(Chair: Dr Constantine Verevis)
Dr Meredith Jones: The Princess and Makeover Culture

  • Makeover culture: TV show The Swan; Princess Dianna vs Kate Middleton; Lady Gaga…
  • Sleeping Beauty, Snow White – women rewarded for passivity, for stillness & silence.

Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman.
– King Lear (5.3.275)

  • Michael Jackson: makeover culture gone too far.
  • Current shift towards transformation as psychotic and evil eg Black Swan. Dr Jones bets Middleton won’t evolve as Dianna did.

Sarah Gibson: The Shadow of The Slipper

  • There are over 1,000 versions of Cinderella and over 130 Cinderella films.
  • Stepmother giving preferential treatment to her own children was a common scenario when mortality rates during childbirth were high.
  • Modern Cinderella interpretation – a challenge to face your own feelings of envy – overcome it + self-doubt to achieve what you desire.
  • Why didn’t Cinderella’s father help her? In some versions he’s as much of the problem – incestuous desire.
  • In some versions Cinderella’s stepsisters are punished – pulled apart by wild horses; chopped, boiled & pickled (& sent to their mother).

Prof Peter McNeil: The Horror of heavy Feet: or Why Cinderella Must Have Her Light Shoe

  • Peter McNeil is giving a history of shoes.
  • Shoes as sexual representations: the way “you enter a shoe… like penetrative sex”.
  • Scholarly debate on the size of Cinderella’s shoe, which is not a feature in all versions of the story. Historical fashion of small feet eg foot binding.
  • I’m really not keeping up with all the names of shoe designers that are being dropped. #outofmydepth
  • However, interesting point about shoes being only item of clothing independent from the body. Hold their own shape.
  • Shoes as mysterious – hidden structure, especially sneakers. Stilettos still cannot be entirely made mechanically.
  • Shoes as representations of class: barefoot=poverty, shoe fashion.
  • Cobblers are the male Cinderellas – profession lowly & difficult prior to the invention of high fashion. Self-made men eg Jimmy Choo.

Audience Q&A

  • Q: What is the difference between myths and fairy tales?
    A: Myths are about culture, fairy tales are about individuals. (- Gibson)
  • Recurrent audience questions around Disney and sanitisation of fairy tales.
  • Good audience question on whether it is possible to create brand new fairy tales.
    Answer: it’s already happening with contemporary fiction speaking to psychological experiences eg @MargaretAtwood, Angela Carter. (- Gibson)
  • Oh goody! Someone asked further about Jones’ “contemporary transformation as psychotic” and brought up The Red Shoes.
    Jones’ response: personally, views violence in older fairy tales as psychotic eg Snow White’s stepmother made to dance to death in hot shoes.
  • Q: Could there be a fairy tale about aging?
    A: There’s some contemporary Baba Yaga stories eg Baba Yaga Laid An Egg (- Gibson)
    Jones thinks there will be a continuing shift towards fairy tales featuring aging, wisdom, etc with aging population.
Gustave Doré: Perrault's Little Red Riding-Hood

Gustave Doré: Perrault’s Little Red Riding-Hood

Part two of Fairy Tales Re-imagined.


  1. Some thoughts about Fairy Tales (Intro) | WritingBec's Blog said,

    […] and much thought. Where I can give references, I will. Thanks to Jordi Kerr (@WritingJordi) for tweeting from the conference and maddening/inspiring with quotes from Sarah Gibson, among […]

  2. hemp said,

    ….Fairy Tales….Fairy tales are fun to read and most have a moral or lesson that teaches ..

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