Registration is OPEN: New Course on the Legend at the Carterhaugh School

We have posted before about the Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, an online center for courses on folk narrative and fantastic literature run by two of our founders, Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman.

Registration has just opened for the next course, a 10-week series on the legend. You can read more about it and register here. We’re particularly delighted to say that our third founder, Derek Newman-Stille, will be joining us for a guest lecture on the fairy blast and disability!

Here is the tentative schedule:

July 1st – Introduction to Legends

Supernatural Legends Unit
July 8th – Fairy Legends
July 15th – Vampire Legends
July 22nd – Cryptozoology Legends
July 29th – Sea Legends

Urban Legends Unit
August 5th – Ghost Legends
August 12th – House Legends
August 19th – Internet Legends

Historical Legends Unit
August 26th – British Legends
September 2nd – American Legends & Wrap Up

Don’t hesitate to contact Sara or Brittany if you have any questions!

Interview with Erin Kathleen Bahl

When we first founded TTW, I knew I wanted to interview and feature the work of Erin Kathleen Bahl, a digital humanities scholar with an interest in folklore. Her interdisciplinary scholarship is often, at its core, about how we tell stories through text, images, objects, memory, and more. Her beautiful webcomic “Citrus and Canaries: The Witch’s Orchard Charm,” which she created for TTW, can be viewed here.

1) Tell us a little about yourself! What kind of work do you do?

I am a PhD candidate working at the intersections of digital media, composition, and folklore. I’m especially interested in varying forms of visual narrative; my creative work most definitely informs and is informed by my scholarly work in return. I’ve worked with collaborators on projects involving magical girl anime, 3D motion capture of classical Indian dance, and digital remixes of traditional fairy tales such as “The Singing, Springing Lark” and “The Bremen Town Musicians.” Ultimately, I’m interested in acts of creative making across a range of media environments, and in creating knowledge and telling stories with digital technologies.

2) How did you become interested in traditional narratives? And how did you become interested in digital media?

I was extremely fortunate that my small-town middle/high school offered a storytelling category on our speech and debate team. I competed as a storyteller for six years; the repertoire included a range of traditional stories such as folk tales, fairy tales, and wonder tales from around the world. It was incredible to me how one person could create an entire world for their audience with just their face, voice, and body, and I loved to see how each storyteller brought new life to the tale based on their unique style and individual interpretation.

My interests in digital media were sparked via Wagnerian opera. I worked on Siegfried for several months as a dramaturgy intern at the Hannover State Opera House and was entranced by Wagner’s theories of Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total artwork” that incorporates multiple media and sensory channels. Digital media became a route for me to explore multimedia possibilities as an individual composer, without the resources afforded by a full opera house.

3) What are your thoughts on mixing folk and fairy tales and digital media? What inspires you to pursue this kind of work?

I’m most definitely inspired by the creative community around fairy tales that I’ve encountered both in person and online. There are so many individuals doing beautiful, intriguing, exquisitely crafted fairy tale-related work in a range of contexts, from poetry to jewelry to fashion to music and more! My creative making happens to be primarily digital, and I hope to contribute in my own way alongside others’ inspiring, magical work.

4) Is it different to work in that kind of media with such old materials as your start? Why do it? Does it lend itself better to presenting the unheard stories somehow?

I don’t necessarily see a sharp break between “new” media and “old” story materials—in fifty years or so (or five, even!) the tools I’m working with now may very well be considered ancient! I still feel so new to digital composing in many ways that it’s very comforting to work with familiar stories as a starting point. Working with a fairy tale gives me an underlying structure to rely on in generating ideas, from which I can then feel free to experiment with images, text, and panel structure. I hope to be one of many contemporary voices in dialogue with a vibrant tradition of creative storytelling, in which familiar narratives move across the media forms available in a given time and place.

5) Do you feel that oral storytelling and digital media are connected? How?

In some ways, yes! Both are tools that can be used to create one instance of variation on a traditional source tale. Both deliberately use multiple mediating channels to design an audience’s experience of a story; an oral storyteller might make use of voice, face, and gesture, for example, while a digital media composer might choose to include visual, textual, audio, or video elements. With multiple mediating channels, too, come multiple potential channels of access, which is especially important in working so that audience members of varying abilities have equally rich access to the narrative experience.

6) Do you have any thoughts about how digital media can make traditional narratives and fairy tales more accessible?

I mentioned access for differing abilities briefly above; I also think digital technologies can make traditional narratives more accessible through increased ease of transmission and distribution. Stories from around the world, from multiple traditions and cultures, can be read and shared much more easily today than a century ago. With the online groups I’m part of, additionally, I can see how other individuals may have interpreted and responded to a story differently based on their own unique perspectives and experiences. I come to understand and appreciate more fully the complex layers at the hearts of familiar tales when I have the chance to look at them through other peoples’ eyes.

7) What is your favorite fairy tale?

That’s a hard one! I would have to say “Thousandfurs”—as someone who wears a lot of dresses and skirts, I’ve always loved the imagery of dresses as golden as the sun, as silvery as the moon, and as glittering as the stars. (I would totally wear the golden one every day!)

8) What inspired you to create the piece you made for TTW?

I tend to be inspired by a single image that captures my attention, and that I want to explore in more detail. In the case of this comic, what grabbed me first was the idea of the witch in an orchard full of canaries (i.e., what if the canaries emerging from the stolen oranges in the source tale were not exceptions, but part of a larger flock?) I knew I wanted to build up to that moment, and as I worked the piece slowly picked up more sinister undertones—by the end, the explosion of canaries was no longer a moment of delirious joy, but a fleeting, fragile moment of sunshine in a cold world. I’d like for my work to be rich in suggestion and short on explanation, though, so I’m curious to hear how others respond to and interpret the piece!

9) Where would you like to see digital art inspired by folklore go next? Are there any projects you’d like to do or that you’d like to see happen?

I’d love to see it go everywhere! I’m currently working with Brittany Warman on a creative web-piece called “Facets”—we combine poetry, illustrations, and web design in varying arrangements to present a critical/creative reading of “The Singing, Springing Lark.” I’m also working with Margaret Price on a creative digital scholarly project that uses “The Bremen Town Musicians” to explore audio description of visual narrative as an integral part of a more broadly accessible storytelling experience. In general, I’d love to see more collaborative online spaces like Through the Twisted Woods that fuse scholarship and art, and that are committed to foregrounding marginalized voices in fairy tale and folk narratives. I also hope to see (and help create!) more short-form comics, print or digital, that engage traditional narratives as source material or stylistic inspiration—there’s a lot of great work out there, but there’s always more to explore!

Erin Kathleen Bahl is a doctoral candidate in the English department at the Ohio State University studying digital media, composition, and folklore. Her research investigates the possibilities that new media and digital technologies offer for creating knowledge and telling stories. She is currently working on a dissertation exploring processes of invention and design in composing new media scholarship. Her work has been published in The Nashville Review, Composition StudiesHumanities Journal, Harlot of the ArtsSigns and Media, Showcasing the Best of CIWIC/DMAC, and Computers and Composition (print and online).

“Citrus and Canaries: The Witch’s Orchard Charm” by Erin Kathleen Bahl

TTW is thrilled to publish this beautiful fairy-tale webcomic, “Citrus and Canaries: The Witch’s Orchard Charm” by Erin Kathleen Bahl, a PhD candidate at the Ohio State University. Erin’s academic and creative work bridges the fields of RCL, digital humanities, and folklore. We conducted an interview with Erin about her work, which you can read here.

 

Erin Kathleen Bahl is a doctoral candidate in the English department at the Ohio State University studying digital media, composition, and folklore. Her research investigates the possibilities that new media and digital technologies offer for creating knowledge and telling stories. She is currently working on a dissertation exploring processes of invention and design in composing new media scholarship. Her work has been published in The Nashville Review, Composition StudiesHumanities Journal, Harlot of the ArtsSigns and Media, Showcasing the Best of CIWIC/DMAC, and Computers and Composition (print and online).

Review: Your Name

I’ve had the limited Columbus theatre run of Makoto Shinkai’s film Your Name on my calendar for months, and last week, I finally got to see it. (Ok, I saw it twice, and dragged fellow TTW founder Brittany with me the second time because it’s that good.)

[Image from funimationfilms.com]

I debated whether I should do a review of Your Name for TTW because it is not strictly based on folk narrative- though I have seen reviewers suggest that it is in part inspired by an ancient Japanese poem, “Torikaebaya Monogatari,” which Wikipedia helpfully notes translates as “The Changelings,” a promising folkloric title if there ever was one. However, this connection seems tenuous at best, and, more importantly, I do not have the background in Japanese folk narrative to speak to this with any authority.

Yet even without relying on this potential narrative connection, there is something distinctly folkloric about this film. Academics often talk about folklore as the ever-shifting dynamic between continuity and change- the conversation between tradition and adaptation (see the work of Barre Toelken for more on this.) Folklore is about repetition, communication, identity, and links between the future and the past. And Your Name is absolutely about all these things.

Your Name explores a magical connection between Mitsuha, a girl from a fictional town in rural Japan, and Taki, a high school boy living and working in Tokyo. Mitsuha lives with her grandmother and younger sister next to a shrine that they maintain, and she feels ambivalent and often outright furious at the way she is anchored to the past and to rural life. At one point, she participates in an elaborate ritual at the shrine and is deeply embarrassed when her classmates make fun of her. It is her wish to be “a handsome Tokyo boy” in her next life that seems to somehow catalyze her connection to Taki, whose backstory is decidedly secondary. Much of the initial plot revolves around mysterious body-swaps between the pair and the confusion they experience when living each other’s lives. Mitsuha has to learn to navigate Tokyo and fast-paced work at a restaurant, while Taki struggles with traditional braiding and travels to a sacred location associated with Mitsuha’s family’s shrine. They initially find each other’s lives baffling, and they leave each other notes in their phones (and occasionally on each other’s bodies) to provide guidelines, advice, and scoldings. Communication between the two, despite never having met, is crucial to keeping their lives intact.

I’m avoiding spoilers in this post, so I’ll just say that time and memory are in constant flux throughout the film. Your Name asks its audience to consider what happens when some stories are lost and if they can be revived. It asks what we can learn from other people’s lives and perspectives and presents beauty in the mundane and in the magical- and that is folklore at its best.

The Carterhaugh School

Two of our admins, Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman, recently founded The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, and we are wrapping up our first long course on The Fairy Tale.

From our “About” page:

“The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic is an online center for classes on folk narrative and fantastic literature created in 2016 by Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman. We both hold Masters degrees in Folklore from George Mason University and are currently completing PhDs in English and Folklore at the Ohio State University.

At OSU we have taught courses on folklore, fairy tales, folk narrative, nineteenth-century to contemporary British literature, fantastic literature, and composition, earning nominations for teaching awards and commendations from both supervisors and students. When we aren’t teaching or working on our dissertations, we are scholars and writers who have published peer-reviewed articles, sold stories and poems, written book introductions and encyclopedia entries, and published both creative and academic reviews. Supported by our backgrounds in academia and creative writing, we aim to use our knowledge and our passion for these subjects to share their wonder, solidify their importance in society, and spread a bit of magic into the world.

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Folklore is an enormous category that unfortunately breeds a great deal of misinformation. In a Carterhaugh class, we will be your guides – we know exactly how to navigate this material and can teach you to do the same! We guarantee that the passion we feel for this subject will be contagious – through video lectures, PowerPoint presentations, beautifully designed PDF lesson summaries, interactive assignments, and much more, a Carterhaugh student will fully engage with the fascinating topics that each class offers. These are the courses for people who dreamed of elven battles while studying economics, those who have always sworn they could see ghosts, those who longed for a school of magic to send them an unexpected acceptance letter.”

The Fairy Tale course brought together students from age 12 to 70 and covered tales from England, China, France, Turkey, India, the US, and more. We were blown away by our students’ amazing reflections on the lectures and readings, and we look forward to seeing their final projects, which will span traditional essays, creative writing, fine arts, and other avenues.

Over the summer, we’ll be teaching another course on folk legend, which will feature classes on fairies, selkies, mermaids, and more- and we’re delighted to have our third TTW admin, Derek, join us for a special lesson on the fairy blast and disability studies. If you’ve ever been curious about the kinds of things that we discuss in our classrooms or wanted to learn more about the tales that don’t often get told, please join us! You can sign up for our newsletter to hear about new course offerings here.

“Waking” by Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman

Two of our founders, Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman, have a new poem out in Liminality! Liminality highlights voices and stories that are betwixt and between, and we highly recommend their back issues, as well as the current issue.

Our poem, “Waking,” combines two well-known fairy tales, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, to craft a new tale about rejecting old stories and forging new paths. It’s self-consciously feminist, but upon re-reading, I found myself thinking about non-normative states and sleeping, about the generative possibilities of dreaming across bodies and borders…

You can read “Waking” here.

An Interview with Grace Nuth

TTW: Tell us a little bit about your job as Deputy Editor at Faerie Magazine. What kinds of work do you do for the magazine?

Grace Nuth: As Deputy Editor of Faerie Magazine, my job is basically to assist the Editor-in-Chief, Carolyn, with her editorial duties. I am here to help her brainstorm ideas and contact potential subjects for articles, to provide a second opinion on layouts and copyediting, and to proof the complete issue when Lisa, our art director, completes the layout. In addition to this, I also research and write at least two or three articles in every issue, and help provide content for the Faerie Magazine Facebook page, with over 1.6 million followers.

I’ve also recently helped with planning and directing two photo shoots for upcoming issue spreads.

TTW: Why are you so drawn to the idea of Faerie and to fairy tales and folk narrative? Why do you think fairy tales are important?

Grace Nuth: Oh my. That’s quite a loaded question. Well, first, I have to explain that I rather consider myself to be a 21st century aesthete. I believe that the visceral reaction we have to something beautiful can do more than merely provide a moment’s diversion. Beauty, as a contrast to all the destruction and devastation so rampant in today’s society and politics, can remind us that there is still good in this world to fight for. And Faerie, and fairy tales, and folk narrative, hearken back to a time when…I’m not going to say it was a simpler time, because the struggle between good and evil was still there, but it was a time when we seemed to lean more heavily on the beauty of a story, of a moment, of imagery inherent in fairy tales, to help provide a path through the dark forest into the light of hope. As I’ve heard it said, fairy tales don’t tell us that evil doesn’t exist. It tells us it does, but that it can be conquered. To provide such a timeless message, with such beautiful symbolism and imagery, and still manage to entertain…fairy tales are truly magical.

TTW: What fairy tale/ folk narratives have influenced you the most on a personal and creative level?

My three favorite fairy tales are “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” and “The Snow Queen.” My favorite ballads are “Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight” and “Tam Lin.” And my favorite poem is “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.” All of these stories have influenced me massively. What do they have in common? Extremely strong heroines. But in what ways do they show their strength? A huge variety of ways.

Belle shows a gentle courage, a sensitive and kind nature that helps overcome the Beast’s wild nature and rage. The Twelve Dancing Princesses may at first seem like a passive tale, and it’s true that a large part of why I love it is the incredible imagery. But in the version I tell myself, the youngest daughter shows resilience and an awareness of her surroundings even when enchanted by the strange land she enters. The Snow Queen of course has Gerda, but there’s also the Queen herself, a character who I feel is labeled as “the bad guy” far too readily, when she acts more as an amoral force of nature in the story. Lady Isabel’s tale I adore for one simple reason: The absolutely brilliant retort she gives the Elf Knight as she kills him. (“If seven king’s daughters here have you slain/then lie you here a husband to them all”) And Tam Lin provides Janet, the true hero of her own story who holds fast to the father of her child even as he is transformed into all manner of hideous creatures.

Then there’s the Lady in the Meads, who is perhaps the heroine to whom I relate the most. I could joke and say that as an introvert, I relate to her desire to just be left alone. And in a way that’s actually quite true. But on another level I just feel drawn to this ethereal faerie woman, this “faery’s child” whose “hair was long and…eyes were wild.” We never hear her utter a single word directly in her own story, nor do we get any of the tale from her perspective. And yet I am as entranced by her as the knight claims to be. I feel an overwhelming urge to defend her, so often described as an enchantress with evil intent. I want to shout at the skies, “we never hear her story!!”

Ahem. I do go on. The point is…these stories have captured my imagination and my heart, and each of them contains elements that have helped influence the person I am today.

TTW: The Folk Owl and Lalabug spread is the result of the first photo shoot that you’ve helped execute for Faerie Magazine. How did the idea for this particular shoot evolve?

Grace Nuth: I have to give credit to my dear friend Briony. I was already an admirer of the work of felt artists Lalabug Designs and Folk Owl, and had thought in passing that it would be lovely to feature them. But she persisted in suggesting the idea of a feature spread sharing their work, and even offered to send a package of her own personal items she has bought from these artists for us to use in the shoot. I loved the idea of sharing an article with the magazine that would encourage people to see how they can incorporate faerie style into their winter wear accessories.

I contacted Lalabug and Folk Owl, and both of them loved the idea. Both sent me items specifically for the shoot. With the approval of the editor-in-chief, we were in business!

TTW: How did you select the models who took part in the shoot?

A few months ago, I got together with photographer Winter Kelly and model Ruby Randall to do a shoot featuring the gorgeous gowns of Romantic Threads. As Ruby (who is also a stylist and makeup artist) was doing my makeup, they were telling me about a friend of hers who has Down Syndrome. Lily loves feeling like a princess, and they had planned for a while to do a shoot with her sometime. They would do her makeup and hair, and dress her up beautifully, and take pictures. I had to ask Ruby to stop talking about their plans, because my eye makeup was starting to run from my tears.

You see, I have two family members with Down Syndrome who mean the world to me. My Uncle David passed away a few years ago in his 50s, and he was one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known. And my sister has a young daughter, Abigail, who is the apple of her Aunt Grace’s eye. I casually mentioned to Ruby and Winter that day that I would love to see if there might be a way to incorporate their plan into something the magazine could use.

So…when I thought about creating this shoot to showcase the gorgeous accessories of these two felt artists, I immediately thought of that earlier conversation. The other two models, Chay and Keilah, were suggested by Winter and Ruby. Chay we have actually featured on our Faerie Magazine Facebook page before, and her photos were quite well received. And lovely Keilah has a gentle spirit that Ruby felt Lily would respond well to.

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Lily in an outtake from her Faerie Magazine photo shoot

TTW: Why is fostering diversity in magical images important to you?

Grace Nuth: When you asked me above what fairy tales resonated with me personally, I mentioned the importance of strong female characters in the tales I most admire. I honestly am not sure how much these women in the stories have always reminded me of my own character, and how much their character helped to mold me into the person I am now. But either way, we all put ourselves into the narratives we read. It’s only natural. And the last thing I want is for someone who is Desi, or handicapped, or curvy, to look at our magazine and get the idea that only skinny young white women can be magical, can be faeries.

Now, the problem with this is that until just recently, Faerie Magazine has had to rely solely on pre-existing photo shoots for our features. We’ve been limited to sharing what already was around. But now that we’re starting to coordinate our own photo shoots, you might notice that there has been quite a bit more variety in our recent issues. We’ve featured women of color on our magazine covers in the recent past, and will again with our upcoming fall issue. Lily’s inclusion in our winter issue is very exciting for all of us. And we only want to continue to push these limits of diverse imagery in our magazine.

A few weeks ago, we shared a photo on our Facebook page of a beautiful “Fairy Godmother,” the photographer’s mother who was about to celebrate her 80th birthday. We received a huge response…over 1,600 comments, 50,000 likes, and 9,550 shares. People want this reminder that wonder has no age limit, no limitations. We can all be a part of magic, no matter our age, color, size, or disabilities.

TTW: What do you hope will result from including photo shoots like this in your magazine?

Grace Nuth: I have a very strong image in my mind of what I want to see happen as a result of Lily’s photo in our magazine. I want, more than anything in the world, for there to be a young woman or man with Down Syndrome who opens up our magazine and looks through it. I want him or her to see the photographs of Lily, and to point to them and say “look mom, I can be a fairy princess too!” People with Down Syndrome have been hedged in by societal limitations for so long. When my grandma had my uncle, she was considered revolutionary simply for taking him home with her instead of putting him in an institution. It is only recently that shows like “Born This Way” and individuals like model Madeline Stuart have begun to show the world just how unlimited those with Down Syndrome can be.

Because of my personal experience with family members who have Down Syndrome, this particular topic is very close to my heart. But I believe that the steps we are taking by including this photo shoot in our magazine have ramifications to more than just that singular community. The reminder that everyone has magic inside of them is one that I hope everyone who sees this photo spread carries away with them.

TTW: Do you have any advice for other editors and creators who want to promote diverse voices and representations in their spaces?

The more photographers realize that there is a demand for diverse images, the more variety of this sort of image we will have available to us to share. I would still love to see the top level of elegant fairy tale photographers creating more imagery with women of color, older women, large women, and disabled women (and men!). The ethereal images we want to feature in our magazine are just as beautiful, just as moving, and just as inspirational if they celebrate diversity: sometimes even more so. We just have to make it clear that there’s a demand for images of this nature, and hopefully we will see more like it as a result.

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Grace Nuth is a writer, artist, model, and blogger who moonlights as a librarian. She is deputy editor at Faerie Magazine, where she has also published her poetry and short fiction. She lives in Ohio in a fairy-tale cottage, surrounded by a fairy-tale garden, with her husband and her black cat.

Sara Cleto is a PhD candidate and writer. She is currently writing her dissertation on representations of disability in 19th-century fairy tales and fantastic literature. Her creative writing can be found in Faerie Magazine, Goblin FruitCabinets des Fees: Scheherazade’s Bequest, Rhonda Parrish’s Alphabet Anthologies, and others.

Photo Credits:
Photographer: WinterWolf Studios, https://www.facebook.com/winterwolfstudios/

Makeup Artist/Stylist: Fox Fawn and Fauna / The Fabled Fox, https://www.facebook.com/FoxFawnandFauna https://www.facebook.com/TheFabledFox/?ref=py_c 

Models: Chay, Keilah, and Lily

https://www.facebook.com/KeilahKJude/

https://www.facebook.com/Lilianna-1530027987301236/?fref=ts

Felted Accessories: Folk Owl, Lalabug Designs

https://www.facebook.com/folkowl1/

https://www.facebook.com/lalabugdesigns/