Are fairy tales sexist?

This is a debate that keeps popping in and out of social media, the news, classrooms, pretty much anywhere you turn. I was reminded of it when reading Little Women, in which the girls tell stories that reminded me of fairy tales.

In an era of #metoo, people have been finding issues with fairy tales, claiming that they are offensive towards both men and women as they encourage gender stereotypes. It was recently brought to light once again by Keira Knightley, who refuses to let her daughter watch Disney’s Cinderella or The Little Mermaid. While her comments focused solely on Disney, many people have been considering fairy tales in general as well, with one mother wanting to ban the story of Sleeping Beauty in schools.

In all fairness, you can see why people view fairy tales as problematic. In most, women are damsel in distress’ who wait for their princes to save them, and in both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, they are both kissed while unconscious (in the original Sleeping Beauty, the prince rapes her, and she wakes up to give birth to twins!). Ariel gives up her voice for a man in The Little Mermaid, and in Cinderella, only by marrying the Prince can Cinderella escape. I mean, none of this screams female empowerment to me.

Also, they don’t exactly set good examples for men either. Fairy tales glorify the ‘perfect’ man who is strong, handsome and able to defeat any villain that he encounters. He is fearless and doesn’t appear to have tear ducts. And with suicide being the most common cause of death for men in the UK, being reminded of these emotionless expectations aren’t exactly ideal.

I personally love fairy tales, from the originals, retellings and of course Disney films. They are ancient stories that have lived through centuries. They’re great for quick reads, and I like to think of them as a reminder of the progress we have made when it comes to gender equality.

Fairy tales are pieces of history. Cinderella was first published in 1697, with many other stories published in the 1800s. They are old stories, and folktales passed through the ages. If we were to ban these, we would be erasing evidence of the ideas people used to have. They belong to a time where people were not encouraged to question what they read like we are now. People were less skeptical; they followed what was written. We can see glimpses of this in classic literature. To ban fairy tales would be like banning Little Women or Taming of the Shew, or any Austen novel. They are going to be seen in a different light; much loved at the time of their release, now the flaws in society during the time are exposed. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate them as what they are: iconic pieces of literature.

Furthermore, if we’re looking at ‘modern’ fairy tales, we can clearly see that they too reflect the social values at the time – of our time. Dark retellings are extremely popular, and often the author reverses the roles in the story, so the ‘princess’ saves herself. The remake of Beauty and the Beast portrays LeFou as a gay character (not focusing on it too much of course, so that the attention remained on the film itself) which deters from the heroic male stereotype and Frozen, which is based on The Snow Queen, focuses on the love of two sisters. Angela Carter’s collection of short stories, The Bloody Chamber, even though it was published in the 80s, takes the tropes in fairy tales and turns them around, such as the protagonist’s mother rescuing her from her husband’s (Bluebeard) castle instead of her brothers. And that was written decades ago! Writers for both fiction and film are listening to what our society is saying, and it shows. Children having access to both the originals and more modern takes of these tales will show them just how far we’ve come regarding gender ideals, and they will be encouraged to continue this progress.

Also, let’s give people, no matter what age, a bit of credit. The fact that people believe that children will grow up still thinking that they should spend their lives waiting for their Prince Charming to find them. I can remember Holly Willoughby saying that banning fairy tales is insulting to women as it suggests that we can differentiate between fact and fiction, and I agree. It creates the impression that we’re as stupid as they make out in the stories. We’re going to go out and work, see our friends, build our own lives, and Prince Charming can arrive whenever he wants to. But we’re not necessarily going to drop everything for him and succumb to a life of domesticity.

Times change, ideas change, and so does society. But stories stand the test of time. If we were to ban a piece of literature just because it doesn’t agree with our views, then we would eventually ban every book out there. And who would want to live in a world with no books? I certainly wouldn’t. History has never been completely moral, but I’d rather accept that any misogynistic line that’s crept its way on to a page is nothing more than a sign of its time, instead of erasing a beautiful story from the world.

The books I found at Cardiff Castle

A couple of days before Christmas, I visited Cardiff Castle to see the Christmas lights and take a look around, as I’ve never been before. It turns out it has a beautiful library stocked with hundreds of old books! There was artwork along the walls, and the bookcases themselves were decorative as well. The fireplace was huge (I wish they had lit it though, it’s hard to keep warm in a castle!) and a rather elegant-looking Christmas tree had been put up. There was also a wedding taking place at another part of the castle and were due to have their drinks in the library, so at the entrance was a table with champagne flutes on top. Safe to say, I have now chosen a venue for my future wedding.

I’ve tried to find the exact names of the editions of the books mentioned (some you aren’t allowed to touch), but unfortunately, I couldn’t find them all. So this post is more of a cry for help than anything tbh :L If anyone knows anything about them, please let me know!

william shakespeare

 

 

When I searched for these Shakespeare editions, Howard Staunton came up many times. The only issue is, there are lots of different Shakespeare collections by this publisher, and these never came up in my searches. Most of the ones that did though were published in the 1800s, and to me, these look like they come from the same era. I couldn’t see the first volume of this collection in the library either.

alfred tennyson

 

 

These books are a twelve-volume set of The Life and Works of Tennyson, published in 1898 by Macmillan & Co. They are incredibly decorated hardbacks, with green cloth and gilt on the spine. It annoyed me how two of the books have been placed the wrong way round!

victor hugo

 

 

Look how beautiful these Victor Hugo books are! I found these on Abebooks, but most of the publishing details on in French, and Google wouldn’t translate the whole page. From what I could work out, these editions feature black and white illustration amongst the text and have a hard leather cover. They were released sometime in the 18th/19th century and published by Ollendorf (?).

jane austen

 

 

I can’t actually find any information about these. At the bottom of the spine it says ‘Edinburgh MCMXI’, which I typed in to Google, and could only find different editions of Austen novels. If anyone knows anything about these, please let me know! I love the blue covers.

charles dickens

 

 

Again, I couldn’t find any info on these books, which are old editions of Charles Dickens. I searched the exact wording that’s on the spines, but nothing. Any ideas?

The books I got for Christmas

I’m writing this on Boxing day, at my dad’s house with a cup of tea and the smell of my second Christmas dinner roasting away in the oven. I received so many amazing gifts this year; I’ve been incredibly lucky. I hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas that’s been warm, cosy and full of fun.

Before Christmas, I posted a list of the books that were on my Christmas list, which did have a few more additions by the time Christmas came around. Some I received and some I didn’t, and I had a few unexpected ones as well. Keep reading to see which ones I had.

A Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

 Image by  Waterstones
Image by Waterstones

This is one of the books that was not my list, but I was still delighted with it. I’ve never read it, but I’ve heard plenty about it. When I was at uni, it was read as part of a module some of my friends were on, and they all spoke highly of it. So now I can read it myself and see if I feel the same.

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

As I said on my Christmas list post, I thought I had the whole of Little Women, but once I got to the end of my edition, it turns out I only had part one! And so I’ve been wanting to read the next half ever since. I received the Clothbound Classic edition, the one I was hoping for. The cover is so pretty! I know what happens in the next half (which was called ‘Little Wives’ when it first came out) and I can already tell that it’s going to be emotional.

Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

 Image by  Pinterest
Image by Pinterest

Another Clothbound Classic. I’ve read this story before, and Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors. So naturally, I have to own the Clothbound Classic edition. The cover is stunning, and I can’t wait to give it reread.

Fantastic Beasts and the Crimes of Grindelwald – J.K Rowling

I’m not usually one for reading scripts and screenplays, but I received Fantastic Beasts, and the cover is so beautiful, I think I’m persuaded. The film was incredible, and it’ll be interesting to read the screenplay.

Spelled – Betsy Schow

 Image by  Amazon
Image by Amazon

So I got this the week before Christmas as part of my Bookstagram Secret Santa. My Secret Santa bought me this book because I love fairy tales, and this book combines all fairy tale characters in one world, like Once Upon A Time. The main character is Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, which makes a nice change to many fairy tale rewritings that I’ve read, as I’ve never read one that features her before.

The War of the Worlds – H.G Wells

This is another one that wasn’t on my list. I’m not a big reader of science fiction, but this book was written during the Victorian era, and I think it’ll be interesting to see what sort of ideas there were concerning aliens. I wasn’t aware of how much knowledge there was about the solar system around this era, as the theory of evolution was still considered to be controversial at the time. The Victorian Era is one of my favourite time periods to learn about, so I’m looking forward to furthering my knowledge.

Poor Unfortunate soul – Serena Valentino

 Image by  Amazon
Image by Amazon

This will be the second of the darker Disney books that I’d have read, the first being based on Beauty and the Beast. I love fairy tale retellings, and so seeing ones based on Disney movies is right up my street. The Little Mermaid is also one of my favourite princesses (and I really like the original story by Hans Christian Anderson), so this book is just perfect for me.

A Literary Christmas – The British Library

There are no words to describe how excited I am to read this book. Christmas has been mentioned in so many books and poems over the years, from Dickens to Alcott, Eliot, and Tusser. This little anthology has included all of these authors and more, allowing you to read about the ghosts of Christmas past and present, what Christmas would be like on a diet, or Christmas day as a Tudor. Filled with short stories, poems, and essays, this book explores Christmas in the literary world, and I can’t wait to dive in.

His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

 Image by  Folio Society
Image by Folio Society

If you read my Christmas list post, you’d know that I originally wanted Folio Society’s edition of Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. However, after finding out just how expensive they were, decided to settle for a cheaper version instead. So you can imagine my surprise when I unwrapped Folio’s books! I was speechless. I now own the most beautiful editions ever, and I’m so so so happy. I still can’t get over how exquisite they are, and not just the cover, but the quality of paper and Folio’s signature stitched binding. The collection weighs a ton, but I love them. The only downside? They make some of my other books look plain in comparison!

 

 

7 books that are on my Christmas list

I’ve got quite a few books on my Christmas list this year, and it’s getting longer and longer. By the time I’ve published this post, it’s probably grown even more. So here are my top seven at the moment; if I don’t get them for Christmas (which, considering the length of the list, is quite likely!), then I shall certainly be making a trip to Waterstones very soon.

The Penguin Classics book

 Image from  Penguin Random House
Image from Penguin Random House

This book explores literary history, from Ancient Greece, Japanese poetry, War stories and more. I love reading classic literature, and this looks like it’s filled with inspiration for my next reading slump.

The Librarian – Salley Vickers

Any book that is set in a library appeals to me. I want to read this one in particular because it takes place in the 1950s, and I can’t ever remember reading a book set in that decade. I want to see the differences in attitudes towards reading, and I’m also intrigued by the exploration of what children’s literature has on us. It sounds like a wonderfully bookish adventure, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

I’d Rather Be Reading – Ann Bogel

A book can have so many effects on you, and it can stay with you for weeks, even years. Bogel captures these moments, as well as many others that a reader experiences. She explores the feeling of your first book, finding a book that you love and finding one that you hate. It encourages you to reflect on the effect that books have on your life, and I think it’s the perfect book for an avid reader.

The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker

 Image from  Waterstones
Image from Waterstones

After reading Circe, I’ve been keeping my eye out for mythological-based novels, as it’s a new genre that I’ve never really read before. I find Greek myths and legends so interesting, and reading them imagined is just as fascinating. I especially love the idea of the legends being retold through a woman’s perspective, as these stories feature many well-known, iconic women that we don’t know much about. The Silence of the Girls, described as a ‘feminist Iliad,’ where Barker places the female goddesses at the heart of the story, which I’m incredibly intrigued by and can’t wait to read.

The Dark Artifices: The Queen of Air and Darkness – Cassandra Clare

The Mortal Instruments is one of my favourite book collections ever, as are the many other Shadowhunter novels that Clare has released. The Queen of Air and Darkness is the latest addition to The Dark Artifices, and I’ve been waiting for this book for so long. Julian and Emma have become one of my favourite fictional couples, and I have become so engrossed in many of the other characters that I’m somewhat scared to see what happens at the end of this novel, especially after Livia’s death in the last book.

Little Women (Clothbound Classic edition) – Louisa May Alcott

I bought this book recently, and I loved it. However, it turns out it ends at the end of part one and does not include Little Wives, the rest of the story. Penguin’s Clothbound Classic edition has both parts one and two, so I need to get it soon to finish what I started. As well as this, it’s been a while since I added to my growing collection of Clothbound Classics, so this book will solve this problem.

The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman

 Image from  The Folio Society
Image from The Folio Society

I’ve seen The Golden Compass but never read the books. I’ve always wanted to, just never got round to it. I’m currently meeting up with someone who’s writing a novel, and she told me that Pullman’s style of writing influenced her. This comment reminded me of The Amber Spyglass, and it’s been stuck in my head ever since. So now I am determined to get a copy and read it. (The Folio Society have a beautiful set of all three books, but they’re over £100! 😦 Currently looking out for different editions, although they all seem to pale in comparison!)

The Diary of a Bookseller: my perfect bookshop

Where I live, there aren’t really a lot of options when it comes to bookshops. There was one, The Forest Bookshop, but that closed down, and other than that it’s just libraries. But even then they don’t have the greatest stock. Each city near me has a Waterstones which I love, but it’s not the same as an independent store full of hidden gems.

When I moved to Bath, I fell in love with the number of bookshops that I found. Topping & Company is my favourite, books of every genre imaginable, signed editions, events, all complete with a cup of tea to drink while you browse. It is the closest to my perfect bookshop that I’ve found so far.

I recently read The Diary of a Bookseller, and it got me thinking about what it’d be like to own a bookshop. How big would it be? Would it be second-hand, which genres would it sell? What would it look like?

I’ve written down some of the key characteristics that my bookshop would have, but I’m pretty sure they’ll change over time. Right now though it sounds like the perfect place for me to be right now, so warm and cosy and, of course, filled with books!

Tea and coffee station

There is a well known quote, ‘The secret to a well balanced life is a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other’, and it’s fair to say that no truer words have been spoken here. I want my bookshop to feel cosy and inviting, and the ultimate way to welcome someone is with a hot beverage. Served in the prettiests cups, all mix and match and related to books one way or another, in a variety of sizes (the biggest mugs will always be used for hot chocolates, served with cream and marshmallows, obviously) with a few biscuits or chunks of chocolates. Teapots for tea, and cafetieres for coffee.

Unless it’s a latte, in which case it shall be made with the most instagrammable coffee art ever.

Armchairs

One cannot be expected to walk around trying to carry a handful of books and a hot drink in my bookshop. Soft armchairs complete with throws will be dotted throughout the store.

A fireplace

I’m that type of person who is always cold, and so a fireplace is essential. My bookshop would be quite big, so there will be some heaters here and there as well, but the main space will have an extravagant fireplace to keep my bookshop warm. There wouldn’t be any music, so the crisp snap of a blazing fire will add to the cosy atmosphere. And it can easily be decorated for celebrations, like a wreath at Christmas or ‘cobwebs’ at Halloween.

Ladders

My bookshop will have more books than anyone can imagine, and visitors will need to reach them all.

One of my favourite scenes from Beauty and the Beast is when Belle is in the bookshop on a wheelie ladder that glides along the shelves. I think having a few of those will be perfect in my shop, and I’m sure bookworms would be very excited to see them. It adds a fun aspect to my bookstore.

Second hand books

My bookshop would consist of both new and used books. Even though I’m not a fan of used books myself just because I don’t like folded pages, creased bindings, etc, I love the idea of a book being passed from person to person in its life. And I don’t write in my books, but sometimes seeing other people’s annotations can be cool, especially if it has some sort of meaning.

Plus, coming from someone who has way too many books, second hand bookshops are a great way to get rid of books that you don’t have room for, so I’d love to help people clear their shelves!

Book recommendations

I love book recommendations. When it comes to finding a new read, blurbs aren’t helpful. I prefer it when someone says to me ‘If you like so-and-so, you’ll love this book!”. I’d have little signs or posters dotted around, swapping them regularly for different books. I’d also include one in every online newsletter that I’d write (Customers can sign up to them so they can hear about the bookish events I’d hold!).

Open from early in the morning until late in the evening

I’m talking maybe 8am-10pm. I remember at Bath leaving work at 6pm and everything would be closed. For those who have busier lives than me, how do they find time to run to their local bookshop? Plus, imagine spending a cold winter evening sat in a bookshop, next to the fire surrounded by endless cups of tea and books. I’d never leave.

Now that I have a plan, I just need to win the lottery to get the ball rolling.

Do you ever consider running a bookshop? What would it be like? What are your favourite stores to visit?

#bedofbooks: That Annoying Instagram Trend

bed of books

I love books.

I love reading books. I love looking at books (as well as book blogs). I love just having them in the house. And I love taking pictures of books. Even if that means opening them up and placing them on the floor while I lie on top of them. I might even add a cup of tea as well.

That’s fine because they are my books. I’ll do what I want with them. I purchased them; therefore I can choose what happens to them.

However, according to Hillary Kelly at Vulture, this is nothing more than an annoying trend that is ‘anti-intellectual’ and ‘shorn of meaning.’

I am new to the Bookstagram community, but I was not aware that there are apparently rules to follow. I did not realise that I must only take photos that invite my followers to ‘enjoy or critique or loathe or interrogate the books’ (even though I have had many discussions in the comments of my photos, as well as the accounts that I follow). I certainly had no idea that there are guidelines when it comes to book art and photography. Forgive me for not thinking that creativity is locked in a prison where there is nothing but rules and restrictions. I thought that creativity is simultaneously fun and beautiful.

Usually, I’m not bothered by what people think about my photos. I post pictures that I like and about books that I want to talk about. And as far as I know, pretty much every bookstagrammer feels this way. So the fact someone can be so vexed over a photo of books is just completely beyond me.

Instagram is nothing more than a bit of fun, an outlet. For many, it is how they make their living. For others, it’s what helps keep them reading. But no matter why we do it, bookstagrammers have one thing in common: we love books. And we want to share that.

I haven’t been part of the bookstagram community for very long, but I can already say that every bookstagrammer that I have spoken to has been lovely, engaging and supportive.

So the fact that there are people out there who feel the need to tear us down does offend me, especially when they insult our intelligence.

I like books, others like books, and we want to take photos with them. Whether we have read them or not. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.