Merry meet my fairy souls. Here is a video about the representation of magic in Disney´s Sleeping Beauty or you can just roll down a bit and read all about it. I filmed this straight after New Year so that is why you can see Christmas Tree behind me.
Fairy tale Magic
What it comes to the older classic Disney animations, Sleeping Beauty from 1958 is one of my personal favorites. Style of the animation is gorgeous and as an illustrator, I can only admire the delicate background art created by illustrator Eyvind Earl but my absolute favorite part in the film is the representation of magic.
Disney´s Sleeping Beauty is loosely based on Charles Perrault´s fairytale (which you can read here) that was based on a medieval ballad, which was the first literal version of Sleeping Beauty. Perrault was the first who included the magical elements to the story, like the spell in the spinning wheel and the fairies.
Aurora´s Fairy Godmothers
In the animation, Aurora´s three godmothers are called Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. Flora gives the baby princess the gift of beauty, Fauna gives her the gift of song and when Merryweather is about to give her gift, that is when Maleficent appears, so it is left to Merryweather to change Maleficent curse from death to 100 years of sleep.
Three fairies wear different colors and the color code is based on ancient fairylore where fairies are often associated with different colors.
Flora wears red which represents; life, sun, mother goddess and flowers.
Fauna wears green which represents forest, plants, and animals.
Merryweather was blue which represents thoughts, thinking, and ideas.
These three fairies are all connected to different elements. Flora is connected to fire, Fauna is connected to the earth and Merryweather is the fairy of the air.
In Perrault´s fairytale there was originally seven fairies and that was the original plan in the animation but in the end the fairies were cut down to three. Fairies went through many transformations. Flora and Fauna had different names in the beginning. Flora was called Tranquility (fairy of dreams) and Fauna was Fernadell (fairy of the forest). Merryweather´s name was never changed.
These three Disney fairies have some awesome powers and I dare to say it, I think they are so much cooler than Tinker Bell (no offence, J.M Barrie).
Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather have the following magical powers:
Telekinesis - ability to move objects.
Color manipulation - best example of this is Flora´s and Merryweather´s constant fight whether Aurora´s dress should be pink or blue (I prefer the blue dress).
Conjuration - ability to materialise objects from thin air.
Ability to turn invisible.
Talent to manipulate and transform light.
Pyrokinesis - ability to create fire and manipulate it.
Ability to transform objects and change their size.
Ability to fly.
Ability to change appearance, size and looks of themselves.
"Matronae" / "the mothers"
The Wonderful World of Fairylore
Three fairies in Disney´s Sleeping Beauty are three fairy sisters and throughout history, this group of three fairies or three fairy godmothers has appeared in one form or another. We can find them from many cultures and mythologies.
Often the fairy godmothers appear in groups of three or four and these fairies are always guardian spirits.
In Celtic fairylore, three fairies originate from Matres/Matronae who represented the triple goddess and the name originates from Latin matres meaning mother. These three goddesses were worshipped as the protectors of people and the goddesses of faith in the 5th century in Germania, eastern Gaul and northern Italy. In Wales fairies as a tribe, were known as Benedith y Mamau (the mother´s blessing) referring to fairies role as the protectors of mothers and children.
Fairies that are connected to faith (like fairies in Disney´s Sleeping Beauty) often appear in the groups of three. In Norse mythology, the three Norns who are the weavers of destiny, appear in the group of three and so does the Morai, who are the three goddesses of faith in Greek mythology.
In ancient Finland, it was believed that each person had an invisible spirit who guarded them. This spirit was called haltija . Word haltija has many different meanings. It can mean an elf, a fairy or a spirit/nature spirit.
In Arabic folklore before jinnie/jenyah genies were connected to wish making and magic lamps, they were guardian spirits of people and places in nature.
In Baltic countries, Latvia and Lithuania fairies were known as Laumes and they were the servants of the goddess Laima, who was the goddess of faith and protector of humans. Laumes were the guardians of children and protectors of mothers and pregnant women. It was believed that a fairy was present in each birth and that fairy became the child´s godmother and she protected them throughout their life.
The Fairy Coven, Feminism in Sleeping Beauty
Often people criticise Sleeping Beauty and say that it is not a very empowering film for women. If we think about Aurora I agree that she is not a very active princess but I don´t think that is really that much of a character flaw but it has more to do with the story. We can´t expect that many heroic deeds from her since she spends most of her screen time under the sleeping curse.
the magic in Sleeping Beauty is actually rooted in the group dynamics of the three fairy godmothers which makes the film empowering and quite feminist. These three ladies/sisters team up to raise a child together and in the beginning, they have no idea how to do that especially without magical powers that I assume they have been born with. By doing this these fairies are the heroes of the film. They are the ones who save the kingdom by raising Aurora, protecting her from Maleficent and by helping prince Phillip.
Maleficent The Black Fairy
In the original Sleeping Beauty ballad, the fairies are missing. The story is quite horrifying for modern readers. It includes a prince who rapes an unconscious princess who gives birth to twins while being in a coma. When the prince wants to marry the girl he raped, his wife tries to kill them and the cheated wife is framed as the villain of the story. In Perrault´s version, the prince did not have a revengeful ex-wife but he had a cannibalistic ogre stepmother who wanted to eat couple´s young children.
Obviously, neither one of these scenarios were fitting for a Disney film. The origins of Disney´s Maleficent and Perrault´s Sleeping Beauty is in deeper and older fairy lore. More specifically, in the legend of the black fairy.
As I mentioned earlier it is common in fairy lore that fairies, especially fairies that are connected to plants, flowers and elements are associated with different colors.
Colors of Maleficent are black, purple and poison green.
Black represents a hidden identity and death.
Purple represents high magic, spirituality, and high priestess.
Poison/yellow-ish green represents jealousy and danger.
Fairy of Revenge
Story of the black fairy follows a very old narrative of the fallen one. We can date first "maleficent" stories back to 30 - 40 000 years to the time of shamanism. In the myths of some native American and Finno-Ugric cultures, the world was created by two water birds. In these myths one of the water birds was good and the other bird was an evil/trickster. The world was made of water and these birds dived to the bottom and brought some dirt in their beaks to the surface and started to build the earth. The trickster hid some of the dirt and when the "good" bird found out about this, he forced the trickster to become his servant, so the trickster bird became the ruler of the underworld and receiver of souls. The "good" waterbird is the god judgement and trickster is seen as evil because they don´t want to share their space and/or they refuse to obey the other god. This story trope is as old as story telling itself.
A similar story can be found from the Bible where Lucifer is the fallen angel and is banished from heaven. In Koran, Iblis is the fallen jinnie/genie who is banished by Allah because he refused to bow Adam, the first man.
There are many examples in myths where the "neglected" member in the family/pantheon of deities becomes the ruler of death and the underworld. In ancient Greece after killing their father Kronos, the three brothers, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades divided the world. Zeus who was the oldest became the ruler of the skies, Poseidon who was the second oldest ruled overseas and Poseidon who was the youngest became the ruler of the underworld.
The original fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty does not have straight connections to magic but it does show the cattiness in female relationships. This is something that can also be found in the story of the black fairy. In the folktales about the black fairy she usually starts out like any other fairy but for one reason or another becomes rejected by the other fairies and this chain of actions cause the black fairy to seek revenge to the other fairies. Black fairy is an outcast whose rage turns into an obsession. It is a model example how person becomes twisted and self-adsorbed. Disney´s Maleficent has all the same powers than Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather and eventually, her plot does not work out because she lacks the support of others. Her only true friend is her crow. The ogres that work for her are just minions and can easily turn against her. In the right hands story of the black fairy/Maleficent could reveal many different aspects from human nature.
It seems to be some kind of a Hollywood trend to make fairytale villains seek forgiveness and go through redemption. I have seen this a lot in films and tv in recent years. I did not like the live-action movie Maleficent. I thought Angelina Jolie did a good job playing Maleficent but I did not like the plot. In the live-action, the three fairy godmothers were turned into caricatures and they didn´t really do anything in the movie. Maleficent was not evil. She was "victim of patriarchy" so to speak betrayed by Stefan who she once loved and Maleficent became Aurora´s godmother figure. In the animation, Stefan and the queen are very loving parents and it broke their hearts when they had to give their child away. I did not like the way Stefan was portrayed in the movie Maleficent since he was a great character in the animation. It is also quite rare to see an animated Disney princess who has two loving parents (sadly they often have only one alive). In Maleficent there is a connection to the original ballad where the prince is terrible towards the girl he raped and to his wife but that doesn´t fit with the narrative of the original animation which is based on Perrault´s fairytale and not the ballad. I think the film would have been more interesting if it would have followed the original black fairy trope with its mean girls narrative. In the original animation, it is pretty clear that the fairies and Maleficent go way back but their relationship is not explained.
I am a big fan of ABC´s Once Upon A Time. It is another show where redemption among villains is an extremely common theme. Regina the evil queen starts out as a straight forward villain. Season by season she becomes a better person and by the end of the series, she is crowned again as a good queen. Redemption as a story arc works in once upon a time but there is no denying that Regina, the evil queen of the earlier seasons is more interesting and fun to watch than the good Regina of the later seasons.
Another villain in Once Upon A Time is Rumplestiltskin who also goes through redemption arc. It takes much longer time for Rumple to get his redemption because unlike Regina, Rumple´s support net is much smaller. Once Upon A Time had a very interesting take on the black fairy and to my pleasant surprise, it had its inspiration in the black fairy folk tales where fairies were protectors of children. 80 % of all villains in OUAT had a redemption arcs, Maleficent included.
This is little woosh
The Empowering Villain
What I love about the original Disney´s Maleficent is that she is unapologetically evil. She has very bold moves, unforgettable laughter (for me that is Hannele Lauri who was the Finnish voice of Maleficent and Cruella de Vil lol) and she can turn into this amazing kick-ass dragon. She is very dramatic and among the fairies, my favorite character in the movie. Just look at that.
and the big WOOSHHH!!
You can´t fight me on this. I´ll always pick the animation over any live action ;D
Maleficent embraces her evilness, it is part of her. Seeing the villain as an empowering character does not mean to approve the nasty things that they do or a wish to turn from an outcast person to a psychopath but to admire their strength and attitude. Their wits, talents and cool powers. Villain has certain freedom that the hero of the story does n´t necessarily have. Villain is free to test their limits and they can get away from troubles whereas other characters face the consequences. Villains do face consequences as well but that usually happens in the end of the story. Villains can be more complex and entertaining than the heroes or the good guys of the story. Not to mention viewer can use their imagination to think why the villains behave the way they do.
When most people think Maleficent the first word that comes to their mind is powerful and just that image of Maleficent turning into a dragon or enjoying her revenge can be empowering. Maleficent is quite possibly the most powerful Disney villain ever. What if we turn the premise of Sleeping Beauty upside down and look Maleficent as a character who is proud of the fact that she is an outcast and she does things differently and that is her magical power. Same way as working collectively is the magical power of the fairy godmothers. Magic in Sleeping Beauty is both collective and individual and deeply rooted in the enchanting world of the fairies.
For those of you who want some extra magic to your home I´v added new pillow cases to my store )O( Here are few inspired by Finnish myths and legends.
I am illustrating Hansel and Gretel. One of my favorite fairytales from my childhood. Here are some Gretel character design development. I love designing outfits and think what are the things that the character is interested so it is also a process of not only deciding what the character looks like but who they are and what is their personality.
Hi guys! Learn how to say Finnish months with me.
Tammikuu - January
Helmikuu - February
Maaliskuu - March
Huhtikuu - April
Toukokuu - May
Kesäkuu - June
Heinäkuu - July
Elokuu - August
Syyskuu - September
Lokakuu - October
Marraskuu - November
Joulukuu - December
In this video I explain origins of these words the way they are pronounced.
I recently updated my store and now my paintings on Finnish mythology are available as prints as well.
You can find them here.
You are about to be spoiled with an in-depth analyzis on one of my all-time literal crushes Friedrich Bhaer. All Laurie-fans Auf Wiedersehen. You are allowed to stay if you behave well and respect other people´s opinions. As for those of you who are in #teambhaer willkommen und ich bin sehr froh das du hast mein blog gefunden. (Welcome and I am very glad that you have found your way to my blog).
If you are a fan of Louisa May Alcott´s works and you have ever spent some time in Little Women forums or literal blogs you are more than aware that what it comes pairing our heroine Jo March fans are pretty strickly devided into two groups those being #teambhaer and #teamlaurie and this debate has been going on for 150 years. I must confess I have been on the alcott online circles longer than I care to admit and those are not the only ships that have risen from the Little Women. There is a great deal of people who ship Amy and Laurie. There is a handful (maybe some thousands) of people who like the idea of Beth and Laurie being together (I don´t ship it but I find it intriguing) plus there are people who ship couples from the movie/tv adaptations and not from the books and vice versa and some do both. Last but not least there is a portion of Little Women fans who wish that Jo would have remained single like the author originally intented (I have two of my toes in the #singlejoteam). I recently had a massive Little Women marathon. I read two novels, one biography and watched 8 hours of film (still need to find my old copy of Little Men somewhere).
June Allyson and Rossano Brazzi as Jo and Friedrich in the 1949 film
I have an undying love for all things Jo and Friedrich and they´ve always been one of my favorite literal couples (this is hardcore bhaershipping folks). He is kind, loves books, speaks with a sexy accent and above all, loves Jo more than anything else in the world.
Winona Ryder and Gabriel Byrne as Jo and Friedrich in the 1994 film
My first introduction to little women was the beloved movie version from 1994 and I am not going to lie to you I was swooning over Gabriel Byrne (what can I say I love the academic types). I loved the film and it inspired me to read the book. I think I was about 12. I remember liking the book, especially the portrayal of sisterhood. (I´ve always been very close to my own sister) but since the construction of the book is based on Christian pilgrimate the constant morality lessons in it always put me off (I come from an atheist Finnish family so half the time when I read it I had no idea why those poor girls would intentionally go through weird guilt trips).
Little part of my collection. Jo´s boys, Eight cousins, Little Men, An Old Fashioned Girl, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Rainbow Valley, Emily of New Moon, Anne of Green Gables...
Next round came when I was 17-18 and that is when I read Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men and Jo´s boys and I think for the next couple of years I read the first two books over and over again. In Finland the first book was published in 2 parts, those being Little Women and Good Wives (I believe it is the same in most part of Europe). So here I will reference the first book as Little Women and second book as Good wives. I am probably part of a minority here but for me Little Women does not work without the Good Wives and I think as a book I enjoyed it even more, yes there were still teachings of morality but the characters felt more mature and it made it easier for me to relate to them.
I am now in my thirties and I recently re-read the books all over again and they opened up in a whole new way. Lot of this has to do with the fact that I have spent lots of time studying the life of Louisa May Alcott and Mein Gott she is interesting. Also I think there are themes in good wives that can be difficult to understand if you read it in a very young age. Now I paid more attention to the social climate of the time, Jo´s and Friedrich´s dynamics and started to unwrap the mystery of the German professor.
Heart´s Dearest aka What Happens When You Fall In Love
In the book when Jo first time sees the professor he helps a servant maiden to carry a heavy hold of coal. Jo notices this and becomes very curious about him and it only grows when she sees him arraging his books. Already Friedrich has made quite an impression on Jo and he hasn´t even met her yet.
Louisa May Alcott never got married but I have no doubt that she did knew what it is like to fall in love with someone. Still today for me Jo´s and Friedrich´s courtship (even how unromantic it is) perfectly describes how it is like to fall in love with another person.
This is how Jo describes Friedrich in the beginning:
Professor Bhaer was there while he arranged his books. I took a good look at him. A regular German rather stout, with brown hair tumbled all over his head, bushy beard, droll nose, the kindest eyes I eer saw and a splendid big voice that does one´s ears good, after our sharp or slipshod American gabble. His clothes were rusty, his hands were large and he hadn´t a handsome feature in his face, except his beautiful teeth, yet I liked him, for he had fine head, his linen was spandy nice, and he looked like a gentleman.
Friedrich playing with little Tina completely melts my cynical heart every time.
Jo and Friedrich become very good friends in New York. They go to philosophical symposium where Friedrich gets into a debate and he is such a wonderful speaker that Jo get´s somewhat a spiritual orgasm (that´s the only way I can describe it). There is the New Year´s masquerade, disagreements on literal pursuits (I´ll get back to this). He is very humble and he works as a language teacher in America to provide education for his nephews. When Jo hears that Beth has become ill again and she is going back home she has very mixed feelings about Friedrich and Friedrich being the observing man he is wonders if Jo has feelings for Laurie and by this point he has completely fallen in love with her but because he respects her he wont say a word and decides it is better to be her friend than to loose her.
Then Beth dies, Laurie has married Amy and Friedrich returns to Jo´s life and once again Jo observes him:
Mr. Bhaer´s face had lost the absent minded expression, and looked all alive with interest in the present moment -actually young and handsome, she thought.
Bumpin heads together while chacing a ball of yarn, young Demi making his own observations and the proposal in the rain still give me warm fuzzies. But that is the way it goes in real life. When you truly fall in love with someone you see them as the most handsome or the most beautiful person in the world and you will do anything for them.
Can we stop for a moment to the proposal under the umbrella. Kissing someone in the rain definitely is a tick to the romance box (and Jo is the one who makes the first move, very much like her). Setting is not nessecarily that romantic since they are carrying parcels and there are people passing by but then he shows the poem that brought him to her. Poem Jo wrote after Beth died. He recognized her initials and knew that she was sad and alone and decided to come and see her. In every single movie version Friedrich returns to Jo to bring her newly published book but I think the poem part works so much better and is much more romantic (in a story that doesn´t have that much romance). I was very glad that it was included to the 2017 series.
Perfect Match, Clarity and the silly professor archetype
Louisa May Alcott did not intend to marry Jo. She was supposed to remain as writer/spinster (like herself) neither she intented to marry any of the sisters. But she felt pressure from her publisher and her readers to marry the girls and she was especially annoyed by little girls who wanted Jo to marry Laurie. When Louisa created Laurie, she gave Jo a brother that she wished she would have had and she never intented to marry them. Louisa was very much against girls marrying young (or for money) but what she managed to do in Little Women was to portray different kinds of marriages including the marriage between Jo and Friedrich, a marriage between equals which would have been her liking as well.
There is inconstancy the way Friedrich is portrayed in the books. There is the Friedrich that I love, the endearing, passionate Friedrich, who makes his hair a mess when he is exited, man who is not afraid to show his feelings and he also feels that Jo is the one person in the world who he always must be honest with. Friedrich who had to leave his home country to support his orphan nephews and he is not one bit ashamed to play with kids and they like him because he treats them with equality and respect. He also has a serious side and he is more observing than the people around him may think. I love these small moments of clarity that he has filled with longing to somewhere (or to someone). If Friedrich and Jo would exist today he and the boys would join her on her book tours and he would not have any problems to come with her on women´s marches and other demonsrations. I´m pretty certain Marie Kondo would not be welcome to Plumfield since books especially spark joy for both of them and they probably spent great deal of time in the library during honeymoon...not.. reading.
Then there is Friedrich that falls into the archetype of a ”silly professor”. He wears thick reading glasses, speaks with a heavy German accent, is not very attractive and is absent minded. I think Louisa deliberately added these features. She even wrote to her uncle that she gets strange satisfaction from the horror that Jo´s pairing with Friedrich might cause to her young readers. I think she did regret falling into the silly professor trap since in the following sequels Friedrich is more established character and the silly features are gone. In the end the silliness of the character comes from the fact that Friedrich was the ideal man for Louisa but not her young readers and because Jo was Louisa´s alter-ego Friedrich is the perfect match for Jo. Many of Friedrich´s ”silly” qualities are completely based on stereotypes on foreigners and aging, but really, for the modern audience there isn´t a joke there. Friedrich is German, speaks with an accent and wears reading glasses like millions of others. His being absent minded on the other hand falls into the silly professor trap and so is everyone refering him as old when he is only 38 but maybe that was considered old 150 years ago. Same with the ladies, if you weren´t married before the age of 25 you were doomed to be a spinster.
How To Make Moral Philosophy Sexy
When I did this research to the psyche of Friedrich it was very interesting to see all the variations in the way my fellow bhaerians saw him. What it comes to Hollywood there has always been a bit of debate how handsome Friedrich should be or can he be handsome at all. This is of course very tricky since everyone has different views on what is handsome and sexy and what is not. When I read the books I always imagine Jo looking like Winona Ryder and Friedrich looks like Gabriel Byrne, so for me Friedrich is always handsome and apparently I am not the only one who imagines him to look like Byrne and based on my research readers have imagined him to look anything between Blake Sheldon to Timothy Dalton to Richard Gere (I do love Richard Gere but I can´t imagine him speaking with German accent). Then there are ladies who really love their men with beards (I think Louisa was one of them) and they are happy with the way he is described in the books. Because of completely selfish reason I do wish that Louisa would have written Friedrich to be more handsome simply because I think that him being poor, older than the woman he loves, an immigrant and someone who is made fun of because of his ”foreign oddities” is enough to make him (or anyone else) to feel uncertain about themselves at times. The question if Friedrich should be handsome or sexy feels out of place. Jo is not depicted to be very beautiful in the books but no one questions were extremely beautiful actresses like Katherine Hepburn and Winona Ryder too pretty to play Jo.
Obviously I love Friedrich and I wish that Louisa would have spent way more time writing about him, his life in Berlin, Minna, his passed away sister, his nephews Franz and Emil and what was their reaction to Jo´s and Fritz engament, anything. Good wives feels unfinished, maybe it was difficult for Louisa to write about romance when she was not living one herself, who knows. Then there is the construction of the book. It is aimed for 9-10 year old girls and every chapter needs to have a moral teaching. How do you write about zizzling love affair of two academics who get turned on from books, great deal of hair, beards, accents and intellectual debates when you need to work in such limited frame?
Xenophobia and romanticing Laurie
When I read the good wives first time at the age of 17 the underlying xenophobia in the society was the last thing in my mind but person grows and develops through the years and unlike before it is something that I unfortunately have personal experience (living in abroad for the past 4 years).
There is a scene in one of Jo´s letters that caught my eye:
”The young men quiz him, it seems, call him Old Fritz, Lager Beer, Ursa Major and make all manners of jokes on his name. But he enjoys it like a boy, Mrs K. Says, and takes it so good naturedly that they all like him, in spit of his odd ways”.
This of course is the way Mrs Kirk sees Friedrich but I highly doubt that this is exactly how Friedrich feels about people making fun of him because jokes can hurt at times but it is his optimistic nature and confidence that make him ignore all that and he is also mature enough to know that young men make bad jokes (mostly because they are insecure). Louisa knew lots of immigrants and all her family and friends were underground abolitionist and many of her stories evolved around multi-racial and multi-national couples but once again maybe it is construction and the target group of the book that creates obstacles for deeper social exploration.
”Now don´t laugh at his horrid name; it isn´s pronounced either Bear or Beer , as people will say it, but something between the two, as only Germans can do it”.
Thank you Jo March. You are the best!
Good Wives is a radical book because it was probably first children´s book ever published that portrayed a multi-cultural marriage already 150 years ago.
I love this quote from Little Men.
“If I had not come to America… I never should have found my Jo. The hard times are very sweet now, and I bless Gott for all I seemed to lose, because I gained the blessing of my life.”
Before anyone throws stones at me I do love Laurie especially when he is played by Christian Bale but he is sometimes kind of an ass in the books and it does seem that one of the reasons why the Friedrich/Laurie debate is so heated has also racist roots. Laurie, even when he has an Italian mother is considered more American than German Friedrich. In the original book that was published in 1868 Laurie is both foreign and androgynous. He has brown skin (it could be #blacklaurie) curly black hair, long nose, nice teeth, little hands and feet and he is same size as Jo and when asks Jo to dance he makes a little French bow. When Louisa May Alcott was a little girl and she was foraging around woods she nearly drowned into a pond and was saved by a young black boy who worked in the near-by farm. In Little Women Amy nearly drowns and she is saved by Jo and Laurie. For the 1880 edition of Little Women Louisa´s publisher demanded her to make changes to the books. Little Women was a massive hit, but publishers want to make money. All foreign features of Laurie were removed because they are not suitable for a romantic suitor. Now he had handsome nose, fine teeth, no mention of his skin color and he is taller than Jo, making him superior to her. Story became more sentimental and also Marmee´s character got a make-over. She became much more gentle and idealized. For the recent editions of Little Women description of Laurie, the way Louisa intented it, has been restored.
The idolization of Laurie constantly continues in tv and movie-adaptations. After watching 4 different versions I was rather appalled the way Hollywood versions again and again brushes off the flicky nature he has in the books. For example in the 1949 version Laurie played by Peter Lawford, is one of the most idolized Lauries on the screen. He has run away from school, lied about his age to join the army where he got wounded (not that you can see any wounds). Of course, he is also extremely kind and charming. This film version doesn´t either show his and Amy´s time in Europe, which is a shame since Peter Lawford has insane chemisty with Elizabeth Taylor who plays Amy. I like Laurie and the flicky, bit immature nature is part of his charm. From the 4 adaptations that I watched, so far only Christian Bale´s Laurie in 1994 film manages to the capture the good/bad Laurie that exists in the books but even in that version very harmful pranks that the teenage Laurie does are compeletely missing and the grown-up Lauries´s possessive behavior.
Christian Bale as Laurie in the 1994 adaptation of Little Women
Toxic Masculinity in Little Women
After 150 years of the releasing of Little Women tender side of masculinity is finally a hot topic. With #metoo and #mentoo campaigns I think it is a great thing that we are questioning the cultural and traditional models of feminity and masculinity.
I recently re-read Little Woman and the character of the teen-age Laurie is a mixture of a charming young man and extremely immature brat. In chapter 21 Laurie makes michief and Jo makes peace Laurie is fed up being told what to do by his tutor John Brooke and he feels strongly that he is superior to him. Now, John Brooke is a kind, hardworking, poor man and 11 years older than 15 year old Laurie. Laurie knows about Brooke´s feelings towards Meg and he poses as his tutor by sending her love letters, all because he wants to show Brooke who is the boss. 17 year old Meg who also has feelings for Mr. Brooke politely responds to these letters. Jo finds out what is going on and together with Meg and Marmee they think how to proceed. In the end Laurie is scolded by Marmee and nearly scolded by his grandfather but Jo asks him to be gentle with him. Everyone swores not to tell anything to Mr Brooke. The worst part of this michief is that Laurie completely ignores Megs feelings. In fact he doesn´t think of her at all and she is the one who gets most hurt in the process. Even today this kind of intrusive behaviour would cause pain to any young woman yet Laurie pretty much gets away with it. He is still a hero for the March family because he saved Amy from drowning but because he is a man (and rich, young and handsome which give him many unfair advantages) he can freely ignore the feelings of the other sex.
In the good wives when Laurie falls for Jo he becomes vile, jealous and possessive. Jo refuses to respond to any of his romantic efforts and Laurie doesn´t take no for an answer and this constant pressure he causes for Jo is somewhat creepy. It is not easy for Jo either because they are good friends and she cares for him like a brother. Eventually situation gets so bad that Jo decides to go to New York and work as a governess. When he proposes her and she says no he is extremely aggressive and over-dramatic and now that I read the book again I became really mad at him since he proposed her again straight after Beth´s death (give the girl a break, she just lost her sister). This is especially troubling since at the same time he has realized that he has feelings for Amy as well. I start to like him again when he and Amy return from Europe and he apologizes Jo about his earlier behavior. I like this flicky nature of Laurie because it makes his character very interesting and more complex but it does bother me that most movie and tv adaptations completely ignore it. Being impulsive and having a temper are not necesssarily bad qualities but when Laurie´s actions harm both Meg and Jo it turns into toxic masculinity.
Peter Lawford and Liz Taylor as Amy and Laurie in the 1949 adaptation
Since each storyline has a moral, all Amy´s moral lessons have always something to do with her vanity and popularity. She has ambition to get into the rich society. Laurie has had everything handed over for him and he is quite unaware of his priviledged position. He didn´t want to go to college (who doesn´t want to go to college!) and after he graduated he spent years drifting around spending his money. Laurie´s vanity is about getting attention and it is one of the reasons Jo turned him down, he would have been jealous or depreciative on her writing (unlike Friedrich who understand´s that Jo has the same passion for writing that he has for teaching). Laurie is a complex character and big part of that attention seeking comes from him being an orphan growing up with a distant grandfather and not really finding his place in the world. Laurie´s behaviour towards Amy when they meet in Europe is actually similar to his behavior towards Jo. When he heard about Amy´s possible engagement with Fred Vaughn he became jealous and possessive. Yet I think he and Amy make a great couple because they both matured when they were in Europe together and it was Amy who told him to get a job or to do something else useful in his life and that is when Laurie goes to work for his grandfather. In 1994 film Laurie goes to work to impress Jo but he doesn´t take the job too seriously until Amy scolds him about it.
Eric Stoltz and Trini Alvarado as John and Meg in the 1994 adaptation
Tender Masculinity in Little Women and in Pop-Culture
Friedrich is in this case a complete opposite to Laurie because he is only going to tell Jo how he feels when he is certain that she has feelings for him and when he knows that he can provide a home for her. Friedrich represents tender masculinity and probably one of the reasons why his character received such strong reaction when good wives was first published, was that 150 years ago society was thousand times more patriarchal what is now days and even though we live in the year 2019 tender masculinity is still questioned and made fun of. Good example from this is Gillette´s best man can be campaign which has been both praised and abused. Another example is Hollywood industry where tender masculinity is still frowned upon.
I did dig up some of my favorite examples of tender masculinity from books, tv and films.
Newt Scamander from the Harry Potter franchise played by Eddie Redmaine is an empathic introvert in the fantastic beasts and where to find them. Newt is a gentle soul, extremely sweet and kind, a true hufflepuff and a fan-favorite. Yet his character received lots of backlash from the critics for being ”overly-good” and ”being too-simple”. Producers tried to ”fix” this for the sequel, the crimes of Grindewald by surrounding him with other characters that possesed more masculine traits and we all know how that turned out. Come to think of it I think Friedrich is Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff and Jo is Ravenclaw/Slytherin.
Another very kind man from the Harry Potter franchise is Remus Lupin. Remus is one of the most empathic and complex characters in the Harry Potter universe. Because he is a werewolf and therefore and outsider, it is his ”outsiderness” that makes him very compassionate. He even feels compassion for Snape, who both Harry and Sirius hate. When Lupin and Tonks get married and have baby it is a constant battle for him because he is afraid that the werewolf in him would hurt them.
I would also like to mention every single man in the fellowhip of the ring (yes, I mostly read fantasy and 19th century girl books). Everyone of them represent tender masculinity. They respect each others and their fair maidens. Aragorn and Faramir are some of the kindest men in literature, yet no one ever questions their masculinity because they are also fearsome warriors. Samvais and all the hobbits are tender and kind by their nature. Even the wizard Gandalf wants to use his power only for good.
In Rick Riordan´s Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus books there are some tender, mild-tempered demi-gods such as Beckendorf, Jason Grace and Frank Zhang. Frank is the son of Mars, the Roman god of war, so you might think that he is very aggressive and war-mongering. Frank is actually a Chinese-Canadian teenager with lactose-intolerance and with wonderful fighting skills..he can also turn into a dragon..or any other animal. He is also extremely kind, compassionate and a very loyal boyfriend to Hazel. As far as fandom goes, guys that are more impulsive and who at times fall into toxic masculinity type of behaviour, such as Percy Jackson, Nico di Angelo and Leo Waldez tend to be more popular.
From my all time tv-crushes Leo Wyatt from Charmed definitely represents tender masculinity. Leo has many traits that could be considered ”feminine”. He is extremely kind, nurturing (well..he is an angel) and isn´t afraid to show his feelings. He is wonderful father and he only uses violence when his family is being threatened. Leo is extremely affectionate and adores Piper. I actually think that Jo´s and Friedrich´s dynamics is very similar to Piper and Leo. Piper with her highly active and sometimes neurotic behavior is balanced by Leo´s loving, caring, down-to-earth nature.
I found myself binge watching this broadway clip. These two singer/actors are amazing!!
In most Little women adaptations Friedrich is both good-tempered and affectionate. In the book there is almost a Shakespearean element in him when he likes to use word ”thou” over ”you” and he likes it when things are a bit sentimental and romantic. Friedrich has the most empathic world view and he especially appreciates those who are discriminated and marginazed same way as he is. There are other characters in Little Women who also posses tender masculinity. One of them is Meg´s husband John Brooke. He accompanied Mrs March on her journey when her husband was wounded and worked hard to build a home for Meg. John is a shy man with a very good heart. One of my favorite scenes in the Good Wives is the part where old Mr.Laurence wants to comfort his grandson and asks him to travel to Europe with him. Despite of their arguments Laurie loves his grandfather. Mr Laurence is a bit flicky like his grandson. He can be very angry and moody at times but he has a tender heart and I love his frienship with Beth.
There are certain elements that combine all these men. They are all quite modest and never show off or brag with their talents. Neither they make grand gestures to highlight their own importance. The masculinity that we have been conditioned by the media the way it is presented in films and literature tends to praise men that are quick to action, violence, hide their vulnerability and we easily forgive their aggression, immature behavior and arrogance. Often the leading man is autonomous, good looking and their possesive behavior over women is over-looked.
Tender masculinity in a patriarchal culture is still often treated as a joke and men who show their feelings are considered more weak because empathy and protectiveness are considered to be feminine traits which automatically leads into unfair power structures between genders. Tender masculinity is not an identity of perfection. Often it is a sign of maturity but one does go through a journey to get into that place. It´s a work-of process.
I wish that there will be more books and movies coming up in the future that center more around the positive and tender masculinity. Stories where men treat women as equals and are not ashamed to show their emotions and I strongly believe this was Louisa´s message as well.
Being too honest and finding your voice
One of the more controversial parts of Friedrich´s character in the books is the paternal tone he takes on Jo´s sensational writing (there we have the toxic masculinity trap once again). In New York Jo starts to write sensational stories that are being published under pseudonum. She keeps telling herself they are not harmful, yet dark side of the human nature that she is exploring is making her rather distressed. Friedrich sees one of these magazines and expresses his opinion about them. He knows that Jo writes but he hasn´t seen her writings and he wonders if she is ashamed of her own work. Jo is offended but later on when she goes through her sensational stories she starts to wonder should she write for herself or because of the money. I personally prefer the film/tv versions where Friedrich apologizes and they have heart-to-heart but in away I also like this scene in the books because it shows that usually such mild-tempered Friedrich can get mad about certain things (like children seeing grotesque illustrations). When I first time read this chapter I did have mixed feelings about it but now I agree with both of them. I´ve done some client work illustrations that have paid well but I have not always enjoyed making them and neither have they improved me and challenged me as an artist. Wouldn´t it be better to find that own artistic or literal style and get hired because of that talent that makes you stand out from all the rest.
Friedrich works here as a narrative tool for Jo to find her true voice as a writer. After she stops writing the sensational stories she moves on to the opposite end, and she writes stories that are nothing else than lessons of morality. It doesn´t work and then she moves on to write stories for children. That doesn´t feel right either so she decides to stop writing for a while. Friedrich advices her to observe people around her to make her character more vivid and as a result Jo starts to observe Friedrich (without him knowing of course). Finally after Beths death, Jo starts to write realism and that is when she finally finds her own voice as a writer. Louisa went through a similar arch but much earlier than Jo. But unlike Jo she prefered writing those sensational stories much more than domestic realism for children (like Little Women). This scene is one of the many moral lessons in Little Women, write from your heart and you´ll get the best result.
Though I do not enjoy writing moral tales for the young, I do it because it pays well - L. M.A
Men in touch with their feelings
There is a scene in Jo´s boys where Friedrich hugs his sons
”not ashamed to express by gesture or by word the fatherly emotions an American would have compressed into a slap on the shoulder and a brief ”all right”.
I come from a country where the traditional role of men is not to show your feelings and especially fathers used to be somewhat distant to their children and I have seen this behavioral pattern breaking slowly but firmly (which I am very glad). There is great difference in each culture the way we interract with each others. Both Russians and Swedes are more affectionate than Finns. Same with germans and French versus the British.
Friedrich is very warm, calm and affectionate and I think he is perfect for Jo who is a bit shy but also very impulsive. They share love for learning and academics, both are interested from the workings of the mind. He possesses all the feminine attributes that she appreciates in a man and he loves her spirit and enthusiasm. Based on their companionship and similar views about the equality in marriage and in a relationship, they could work excellently as a romantic/erotic/passionate component. There is some wonderful growth in both characters from the time they meet in New York and when they reunite in Concord but Louisa tries very hard to strip away all the romantic elements. This is very frustrating for a reader because there is so much potential! My guess is that it was difficult for Louisa to write about them as adult women knowing her readership and even in the sequals she focuses more on child characters.
There is nothing "little" in Jo March
I am going to offer an interesting take on Jo March, a theory that is supported by quite many LW fans and Alcott scholars, that is Jo becomes in touch with her sexuality rather late. In the 19th century puberty began much later compared to nowdays but Jo´s development is behind even to her peers. When she meets Friedrich it´s the first time she is sexually attracted to another person. Many readers were put off the way Friedrich is described in the books but Jo is drawn to him. She likes his kind nature, intelligence and his looks. When she writes letters to her family she can´t shut up. All letters are about Friedrich. She has a crush on him. When Friedrich starts courting Jo and she responds to his feelings she acknowledges that Friedrich doesn´t want her to change and loves her the way she is. Jo is always a bit tupsy-turvey and so is he. Louisa added lots of feminism to her books and one of the prime examples of that is Jo making a choise to be with someone who she loves. Even the title of the book "Little Women" describes the transition of girls becoming women. But there is nothing little in Jo and that is why we all love her.
Very modern marriage
I always felt that falling in love with Friedrich and marrying him were something that Jo would do because she wasn´t never going to settle to do something conventional and a marriage with a poor, foreign philosophy professor who was older than her was definitely unconventional and they both have immense respect for each other and agree to work hard to build their future together. When Jo agrees to Friedrich´s proposal he gives her title of professorin making her equal to him (women were allowed to attend lectures and exams at universities but they were not allowed to graduate or matriculate until 1920´s). To me Jo still remains a better female rolemodel than my other literal heroine Anne Shirley. When Anne marries Gilbert she completely throws away all her literal pursuits and ambitions and becomes a devoded wife and a mother. This has always bothered me since, like Friedrich, Gilbert was always very supportive on his wife´s writing career. Jo manages to combine work and family. She continues writing while running the school and by the fourth book she starts to gain fame as an author. I would not have minded if Jo would have remained as unmarried bohemian writer, but since I love Friedrich in my world they would have met in a symposium or a debate and had a passionate love affair (damn these fictional boyfriends! I can´t get enough of them).
Friedrich, the German Puzzle, Great loves of Louisa May Alcott
Both Friedrich and Laurie are based on several different men in Louisa May Alcott´s life. One of the biggest inspirations for Friedrich was Louisa´s first love, philosopher and a poet, Henry Thoreau. I was quite surprised when I read description about Thoreu because it sounded word to word to Jo´s first impression about Friedrich. Thoreu was an eccentric, kind, bohemian. He had unconventional teaching methods taking his students to nature to observe things around them. Based on everything what I have read about Louisa it seems that Thoreu was her first love (like Friedrich is to Jo) and she loved him throughout her life. That if they ever had a physical relationship is unclear (Thoreau was married). Another inspiration for Friedrich was philosopher Ralph Waldo Emmerson and the protective-aspect of Friedrich comes from him. He was a good friend and a neighbor of Louisa´s family and often saved them from debt and stopped Louisa´s father, Bronson pursuing some of his craziest ideas. One more inspiration for Friedrich was German poet and romantic writer Goethe. In one of her novels called the Moods Louisa´s alter ego is young Sylvia. She is married to Geoffrey Moore (Emmerson) yet she is in love with an attracted to Adam Warwick (Thoreau). Louisa published and re-wrote Moods over a period more than twenty-years.
Third part of Friedrich comes Ladislas ”Laddie” Wisniewski and as you can probably guess from the name, Laddie was major inspiration for Laurie. 33 year old Louisa met Laddie while she was working as an accompanion for a lady called Anna Weld. Louisa traveled around Europe with Miss Weld and she met 21- year old Ladislas in Switzerland. Laddie was a militery man and an aspiring pianist. They became good friends and it is possible that they had a fling or a little romance. It seems that Laddie was bit of a playboy and there was somekind of confortation between him, Louisa and Anna Weld. There are attributes in Friedrich that come straight from Laddie. Those are his politeness, him being European and less but not least, him speaking with a sexy accent. Some people find it cringy that Friedrich teaches German to Jo. Apparentally Laddie taught Polish for Louisa and she helped him with English and she felt sexual attraction to her intellectual friends like Thoreu. Perhaps we should move away from the teacher-student relationship to more realistic one, to the fact that Jo and Friedrich are most of all friends who are curious about each others and maybe those lessons were an excellent excuse to spend more time together.
Bad tongues say that Friedrich is based on Louisa´s father Bronson Alcott. If Friedrich is one thing, he is the anti-Bronson. Bronson Alcott was a reverend and one of the leaders of the trancendalist movement. His high level spirituality was toxic for his family. Often he refused to find work and would focus on his writings and theosophical ideas while his family was starving. Quoting Emerson ”wife, children, and friends are less to him than the great ideas he is seeking to realize”. This is something that Friedrich would never do. If you´ve read the books you´ll know that Friedrich is the very definition of a family man (in the most positive sense of the word). Another thing that he and Jo have in common.
Louisa´s parents marriage was filled with arguing. She idolized her mother Abba but she also recognized the unbalanced power structure in her parents marriage. This is why Louisa was very sceptical about marriage but since she felt obligied to marry off all the March girls she gave them all happy and serene marriages. Louisa had love/hate relationship with her father and that is why Jo´s father is absent for most part of the books. Louisa did respect her father as a teacher more than as a husband and a father and some of Friedrich´s teaching methods come from him (and from Thoreau as well). Very little is known about Louisa May Alcott´s lovelife. She burned and cencored many of her diaries. Some people suspect that she was a lesbian, asexual, bi or gender-fluid. Gender-fluid makes the most sense. Same way as Jo, young Louisa was very unconscious about her body and often wished that she could be a boy but we will probably never know the truth.
Let´s Talk About The Age Gap
Many times when people debate if Jo and Friedrich belong together they bring out the age gap. I think this is the worst argument of the bunch. Jo is 25 and Friedrich is 38. The age gap is 12 years which is really not that much. I know president couples with age gaps four times as big (no pun intended). In many Louisa´s stories there is an age gap between the lovers and this is also a theme in Little Women, March sisters are all married to men older than they. Laurie is four years older than Amy, John is nine years older than Meg and Friedrich is twelve years older than Jo. It does seem that Louisa only could feel comfortable with men that were older, or younger than her. Emmerson was 29 years older than Louisa. Thoreu was 15 years older and Laddie was 12 years younger. I find it pretty interesting that the age gap of Jo and Friedrich is pretty close to the age gap that Louisa had with Henry Thoreu and Laddie. She was very careful about her reputation so it does seem that she gave Jo the relationship she couldn´t get.
Personally, I think what it comes to romance in Little Women, books and in real life, everything goes as long as everyone are over 18.
Screen - Friedrich´s
In the name of research I watched four different little women adaptations. There are many more but I chose these four since they are most familiar for the modern audience.
Let´s Just Forget About This Friedrich -Friedrich
In the 1933 film version of Little Woman Friedrich was played by Hungarian actor Paul Lukas. Unfortunately Friedrich Bhaer in this version falls straight into the silly professor-archetype trap. He looks like he is closer to 60 than 40 and accent sounds rather comical. There is no chemistry between him and Katherine Hepburn´s Jo. I do give credit for this film because it shows bit more of Jo´s time in New York, something that most adaptations tend to ignore. Yes, he is kind but also completely lacks the respect that Friedrich of the book has for Jo. This guy even asks Jo if he could write to her father and ask him for something (like her hand). Friedrich of the book would never speak to a man such as this. Both Friedrich and Laurie appear quite comical for the modern audiences. Laurie played Douglas Montgomery looks and acts like a 30´s dreamboat and yet again the complex personality that Laurie has in the books is completely missing.
I Want To Marry This Friedrich
Friedrich in the 1949 version is played by Italian actor Rossano Brazzi and by the gods and goddesses I think I am in love with him. Looks like the makers of this film did learn something from the 1933 version since this film is packed with very handsome men and Rossano Brazzi is the most handsome of them all and one of the many faults of this film is that he is maybe 10 minutes on the screen.
My favorite scene is the part where he plays piano and translates a German song to Jo. I love the part when they first meet in the stairs and he is playing with the children. He is handsome and sexy even with his messy hair and glasses. There is something extremely sincere in Rossano´s performance. He captures Friedrich´s kind and caring nature with very settle movements and facial expressions just in the ways he looks at Jo and talks to her. Sometimes his accent slips from German to Italian but from all the Friedrich´s on this list, he is most convincing as someone who speaks English as their second language. There is also wonderful chemistry between him and June Allison who plays Jo. This guy is probably the most dreamiest Friedrich of them all.
Louisa May Alcott`s Friedrich
In the pbs 2017 adaptation of Little Women Friedrich is played by English actor Mark Stanley. If you have read this post this far you might have noticed that I prefer my Friedrich beardless... I think I need to make an exception since this guy rocks the beard. He looks exactly like Louisa May Alcott described Friedrich to look like. He is not too old or too young, he has a bushy beard and he even has the kind eyes that Jo loves. This adaptation does the same mistake that most adaptations do. This wonderful Louisa May Alcott´s Friedrich is on the screen only 5-10 minutes!
Many Little Women fans criticized this series for being rushed and it is true. Jo´s time in New York goes so fast I have hard time to appreciate all the little things that have been added. There is the symposium (or leaving the symposium), Friedrich is playing with the children. Kitty, Minnie and Little Tina are there. How wonderful that they added Franz and Emil. Could I get a Little Women adaptation that shows more interraction between Tina and Friedrich? Honestly it´s one of the sweetest parts in the book! Also I have not yet come across movie or tv adaptation where Friedrich tells Jo about his sister and the boys (who´s father abandoned them) and they are the reason why he moved to America in the first place. I do love this Friedrich but he is once again over-shadowed by Laurie who in this adaptation is idolized for 2 and half episodes and the cringy behavior he has in the books is once again completely missing. Since this is a tv series the makers could have done such a wonderful job developing Friedrich´s story and his and Jo´s relationship. I mean, they make him look just like in the books but the character is still ignored.
One of the things that this adaptation does right is that it is the poem that brings him to her. I also liked the part where Amy tells Jo that ”everyone likes him” (I definitely do).
Your Heart Understood Mine Friedrich
From now on Gabriel has to share his place as my number one Friedrich with Mark Stanley and Rossano Brazzi. But I still think that Friedrich in the 1994 film is most established from all film Friedrichs. This is one of the rare adaptations which shows the gradual development of Jo´s and Friedrich´s relationship. It is more mature and more suitable for the modern audience than what it is in the books (thank goodness). I have seen this film so many times I can even quote the song he translates to Jo in the opera. As much I enjoy the romantic scenes (this adaptation ticks all those boxes) I also like the part where they first meet and end up talking about books and philosophy but my favorite part is the one where they are in the boarding house and the young men are talking about women´s right to vote and they all ignore Jo who is the only woman in the room. All except Friedrich who asks her to express her opinion and Jo says that women should be allowed to vote not because they are more moral creatures than men but because they are human beings and equal to them.
Louisa May Alcott, an early suffragette, would approve.
When Gabriel Byrne heard that Gillian Armstrong was going to make Little Women he asked to read for the part of the professor and when he came to the audition he was the only man who had actually read Little Women. His mother used to read it to him and his siblings when they were young and he loved the book. (Yes, I am still swooning) and of course then there´s this. I guess some actors are just made for certain roles.
I just recently found out that there is going to be a new film version of Little Women coming up in December 2019. French actor Louis Garrel is Friedrich, Saoirse Ronan is Jo and Meryl Streep is aunt March! It´s better be good!
Jo and Fritz Fandom
Reading the books again and watching all these adaptations (three of them I had never seen before) has actually made me love Friedrich even more. In these four different adaptations Friedrich has been played by Hungarian, Italian, Irish and English actors. I do find it interesting that Friedrich hasn´t ever been played by a German actor or even someone who is a native German speaker but then again I haven´t watched all other Little Women tv-adaptations (there are so many of them) so I might be wrong here.
Edit. I did some more digging and in the 1970 Little Women tv-series Friedrich was played by German-born actor Frederick Jaeger. One more LW adaptation for me to watch.
This was the first time that I read Little Women and Good Wives in English and I did not know that Friedrich´s accent was literally written into the books. In the Finnish translation it is only implied that he speaks with a German accent. I studied German for years so I never had difficulties to imagine it. Another surprise for me was that some English speakers call him Fredrick and not as Friedrich, since they can not pronounce German. Fredrick or Friedrich I love him just the same... but hey one can always call him Fritz <3
As I told in the beginning I have spent lots of time in my life in Alcott forums (when I was younger livejournal was a thing!) and there are some lovely Jo and Fritz fanfics. You won´t find tons of them but about 90 % of Jo and Friedrich fanfiction is actually very well-written. If any Jo/Fritz shippers and fanfic writers are reading this, someone who loves and understands these two characters should write a book about them and give more depth to the story. I´d totally buy it. Heck, I´ll promote it.
Here are few of my all-time favorite Jo/Friedrich fan-fics.
Magic of the girl pirates
How do you say
In sickness and health
These are R-Rated
The Bridal Tour
The ecstasy to guess
For the hardcore Jo and Fritz shippers I can recommend anything from Middlemarch and Laura Schiller.
If anyone in #teambhaer or other LW fans want to hang out with me on social media you can find me on instagram @fairychamberart
Check out my other Little Women articles:
Little Women: Equal Marriage Lost in Translation
Thoughts on TeamLaurie and TeamBhaer
I would love to hear your thoughts. Who´s your favorite screen Friedrich? do you like him more in the books than in the films? or maybe you are like me and think that they all compliment each other. Beard or no beard that is the question? Do you have more examples of tender masculinity in movies and literature that I could add to my list?
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, Penguin Classics edition with Elaine Showalter introduction
Louisa May Alcott, The woman behind little women by Harriet Reisen
Why the Cult of Jo March and Little Women Endures
Writers and Illustrators Please Read This
Today I experienced something that I can only describe as a total scam. We are having Creative Futures week in my university and that is when we get professionals from all kinds of creative industries to talk about their careers and most lectures are usually quite interesting but the one that I heard today made fueling.
There was three ladies. A woman called Sue Miller who owned a company called TeamauthorUK (this name is going to sound like a joke by the time you have finished reading this). She was there with two ladies that had published their books through TeamauthorUK and Amazon. I am not going to reveal names of these authors but they probably recognize themselves if they ever read this.
TeamauthorUK is a company that helps those who don´t have the technical skillset to download their book on amazon and they can also team up the writer and illustrator, proof read the book and help to market their book, or at least that is what they are saying.
You need to pay £2000 for their services. £2000 for someone to proofread your book and put it to Amazon. (That´s about 2280 euros or 2575 dollars).
I don´t know if all of you know this put downloading a book to Amazon is free.
Other one of these authors had published a children´s book with this company. She had quit her job as a full-time teacher and was now a part-time teacher and children´s writer. After she had finished writing her book, which was about a boy in a circus (let´s not get into that). She had pitched it for 20 publishers and they turned it down. Now, if a publisher doesn´t like your book maybe there might be actually something wrong in the story and if she truly wanted to get that book published she could have continued pitching it. Just in the English speaking world there are hundreds publishing companies that specialize on children´s books. These people constantly were comparing themselves to J.K.Rowling and how hard time, she had publishing Harry Potter. She made it because she didn´t quit trying and Harry Potter was published by an actual book company not by a shady Amazon-affiliate.
Just to give some perspective Margaret Mitchell´s Gone with the wind was rejected 38 times and The Help by Kathry Stockett was rejected 60 times. Both these books became best-sellers and were turned into Hollywood films.
What it takes to illustrate a book
Things got even more cringy when she said that after a year of sending the book for publishers she got really frustrated since they didn´t like it and she decided to go self-publishing and she was so glad that it only took a 3 months for the book to be published. She also showed some of the illustrations that were in the book and, as someone who is an illustrator I will tell you this, the more money you can spend on illustrations the better quality it is going to be and less money means bad job. These were definitely the worst. If you go through the publishing process and an actual professional illustrator illustrates your book that can take anything between half year to two years depending on the structure of the book. If you are interested you can read more about different types of illustrations here. Definitely if you finish a book in three months you should not expect it to be a very great quality. Things got even more cringy when she said that since she published the book in 2017 she had sold 160 copies of it so far and when she reaches 700, she has managed to cover all the cost. So if she continues with this same paste, she starts to get her money back in 5-6 years. But will she make any profit?
That is not all. The other writer who had written and illustrated her own book which was about foxes who wanted to buy a pretty shoe (why would foxes want to buy a shoe?). This lady was quite nice and was pleasant to listen but it was also cringy. She refered to herself as a writer and an illustrator but apparently she had never studied either and I was appalled to find out that she gets £2 from each book she sells from Amazon. I used to think that the Amazon/author/seller profit is 50/50 but it looks like the gap is way more wider and the industry selling price for standard 32 page children´s book in the UK is £7.99 (in book stores and in Amazon). This woman wrote and illustrated this book by herself, putting time and effort to it (even if it´s not very professional). She paid £2000 for this scam company to proof read it and put on Amazon and then she gets 2 pounds when someone buys it! I am so angry. I think it´s totally fine if a company puts the book on Amazon for someone and helps them to bring the book alive but the priority should be that those clients who want to publish their book get actually paid as well and that doesn´t happen here.
All Talk, No Actions
In the beginnig of this talk Miller-woman talked how she had a passion for publishing and she loved to collaborate with authors and illustrators. If you talk to any serious professional illustrator most of us agree that print-on-demand Amazon books are really bad quality. I have been writing my own book for a while now (collection of some of my favorite myths and legends). I can see my book clear as day. I have planned the layout for it, size of the illustrations (I am illustrating it myself), I know what I want the cover to look like and what kind of paper I want it to be printed on. I can also estimate the time that I spent on my illustrations (which is way longer than 3 months). If you don´t care that much about those things you can definitely publish your book on Amazon if you wish but you don´t have much creative control over it.
TeamauthorUK also advertises itself that they help writers to market their books on Amazon. Well, I asked Mrs. Miller how they do the marketing and she very vaguely said that since Amazon is such a massive company, books...sort of market themselves.
This company doesn´t do any marketing. It is all a scam!
Because if they would, these writers would be selling their books more efficiently and faster and she also said that it is really up to the author to market their books and build that precense in the social media. Another very cringe moment came when the author of the circus boy book said that so far she has had 1 school visit and she was selling her books at craft fairs but she hasn´t been selling them that many online because she doesn´t promote herself enough on social media. A legimite marketing coach would tell their client that no one buys books at craft fairs but on book fairs and yes social media is important, why isn´t teamauthoruk helping her to promote? She paid Mrs. Miller 2000 pounds to market this book.
Well...this same writer also said that she had read ”Writer´s and artists year book” from cover to cover. I have the same book. I have read it from cover to cover and no where it says that you should pay someone 2000 pounds for nothing and let giant corporations like Amazon take over half of your profit. It´s like she did everything what the book specifically tells you not to do.
Writers and authors association publishes one of these babies each year
There is a reason why people don´t like Amazon
Can I just say something about this Sue Miller woman. She was quite rude when she didn´t answer to my marketing question and when me and some of my fellow illustrators expressed our scepticsm over Amazon she took rather arrogant tone and said:
”Oh you millenia generation are so sceptical about everything and don´t like Amazon because it doesn´t pay taxes”
I am thirtyfuckingone and I don´t know if you can call that a millenia and neither I care but everyone knows that Amazon ceo is the richest man in the world and the company has million employeers who work in shitty unhumane conditions on a minimum wage and this woman was trying to sell it as the only possible way for writers to get self-published and she also tried to make self-publishing sound very difficult: you have to get an isbn number and that takes years, you can´t sell your books on book stores or on libraries. These are all lies. You can buy isbn number online for 10 pounds. There are book stores who take books from independent writers and if your book has an isbn number libraries accept them as well and you get 10p every time someone borrows your book (but that is usually something that the publisher negotiates, both authors and illustrators can get money from their library books). Amazon is not the only way to get self-published. There are lots of small printing companies and in-demand-book companies that can be used and if there is a lack of money but you really believe into the idea do kick-starter or start patreon and just get on with it.
This is called vanity-publishing. Teamauthoruk promotes themselves as a company that is extremely passionate about publishing and connecting creators but they don´t care about these people who get paid 2 pounds from their efforts (illustrators probably get half of that) and they don´t care about quality of the books that they are publishing. One of the other students asked if they give any tips for the writer to fix the story or the illustrations and this is a direct quote answer from Mrs. Miller ”who am I to say to someone if their book is good or bad”. She takes the money from these brainwashed people who don´t know any better and helps them to publish books on a platform that is already free and these illustrators who work for this company, where she gets them from? Fiver?
In the end of the talk Mrs. Miller actually started arguing with one of the author ladies whether she gets 2 pounds and 5 p from each book she sells or 2 pounds 80 p. That is one of the saddest thing I´ve witnessed and what kind of person brings two of her authors to a full room of people and humiliates them. It was so weird and the other author was just sitting between them looking very nervous.
There is a stigma that people who work on creative industries should work for free which is stupid. Illustration is hard work. It can be very lonely at times, very frustrating but also very rewarding because you are doing what you love. People always buy books, greeting cards and magazines, phone cases, clothes with patterns and those are just few examples of what illustrators can design and we also need to eat and pay our rent. I´ve wanted to be an illustrator since I was a child and I love books and designing characters and people like Sue Miller makes a mockery of that and the whole industry by producing these low quality books and taking money from people who blindly believe she is helping them. It also lows down the industry prices when illustrators that are conditioned to think that they should work for free and spend their money on fraud self-publishing companies such as this.
Don´t be one of them.
This talk has been a very heated topic among my class mates and one of my tutors said that she didn´t know who invited them which suggests that they invited themselves just to run this scam to students. Making a book is a collaboration. You should not pay someone to make a book, you should work together to produce the book and share the profit.
I recently came across this video from illustrator Holly Exley and it addresses this very same topic.
Thank you for reading this and feel free to share as much as you please. Straight up lying is one thing that my honest Finnish nature can´t take.
My video on pines (Finnish with subs)
Deities: Ukko, Bear
Pines are common all around Finland and the most common pine specie is the forest pine. In Finland there are many different names for pines. Honka, is a dead pine tree. Jahnus is a twisted pine. Petäjä is tall and straight pine. Petäjä is a proto Finno-Ugric word and one can find similar words for pine from other Finno-Ugric languages. Finnish word for pine mänty – is derived from Baltic word mäntä. Mäntä was an old equipment that was used to stir butter, porridge or other foods. Mäntä was made of from the top of a young pine tree. Needles were plucked off and branches were left for stirring.
Pine is known from is large v-shaped needles. In Finland there are different associations connected to pines. It is considered to be a wise and peaceful tree. Pine is also believed to be rather human. This can be seen in Finnish pine-related expressions such as:
kaikki menee päin mäntyä/ kaikki menee päin honkia
Literal translation: everything goes towards pines (everything is going wrong)
Pine was a common merkkipuu a mark tree. When a person passed away a large piece of bark was removed and person´s date of birth and date of death was carved into the tree. These trees that worked similar way as grave stones they also reminded passed away people that they belonged to the world of the dead, not to the world of the living. When a respected member of the family passed away, the youngest and lowest branch of the tree was chopped off. Some pines were also sacred trees and people left sacrificial gifts underneath it.
In Finnish mythology and folklore pine is connected to several different deities such as Ukko, the god of sky and thunder and bear, the mythical ancestor. In Finnish folklore pines are traditionally considered to be masculine trees. Reason for this is most likely pines phallistic-shape but there are also goddesses and female nature spirits that are connected to pines. For example Tellervo, daughter of forest god Tapio and huntress goddess Mielikki is connected to pines. Tellervo is a forest spirit, goddess of hunt, wilderness and wild animals. Another goddess connected to pines is Hongatar. She is the emuu (creator) of bears and pine trees.
Pines are connected to several deities around Europe. In ancient Rome pine was connected to Mars, the god of war, Bacchus the god of wine and Diana the goddess of hunt. In ancient Greece pine was connected to Artemis, the goddess of hunt and it was also connected to Hestia, the goddess of the hearth fire. Vikings and Germanic tribes connected pine to the war god Tyr.
There is a folktale which tells how pine got sap inside it. In this story a bear was walking in the marshes and he saw a woman who had fallen a sleep next to a pine tree while picking berries. Bear saw that the woman had a wound in her leg. Bear rushed into it´s cave to find the cure and he returned bringing sap with him. But while he had been gone the woman had got up and walked away. Bear became angry and thew the sap towards the pine tree and ever since pine has had sap inside it.
In ancient Finland pine sap was used to heal wounds because it is highly disinfect. Pine is a tree that people like to hug a lot and back in the days people believed that hugging a pine tree would give them courage.
Don´t forget to check my other treelore articles
Birches in Finnish mythology and folklore
Beside art and illustrations I also do wildlife photography. You can find a collection of my images here. Most recent ones are from different parts of Finland and Wales. Enjoy )O(
Birches are the most common deciduous trees in Finland and birch species that exist there are silver birch, downy birch and in Lapland grows dwarf birches. Birches can live up to 300 years and the highest birch can grow to be 40 meter high. Birches have been important trees for many people and several Finno-Ugric, Baltic and Slavic tribes have worshiped them. Russian word for birch берёза (berjoza) means protection.
In Komi and Udmurt (кызьпу) languages name of the birch is connected to burnt clearing. Burnt clearing meant burning forest in order to create farm land. Occasionally too much of the forest was burned and birches were planted into these empty fields. Birch has symbolized purity, goodness, summer and warmth. Finnish word for birch koivu is a proto Finno-Ugric word. For the Mordvans, birch was the tree of life. The sap that was moving inside the tree symbolized the continuance of life and rebirth. The leaves represented ancestors and the starry sky.
In Finland birch has been an important material for building and carving objects such as wheels, dishes, cups, skiis, fire wood, sleighs, and handles for axes and hammers. Birchbark was multipurpose material that was used as much as we use plastic today. It was used for making backpacks, shoes, dishes, tinders and ancient Finno-Ugric people even used it as early writing paper.
In Finland and in Russia birch twigs were used as wands to cast protection spells over the cattle. It was believed that cows who were protected with these ”wands” would provide milk that was such as good as birch sap. Similar custom was practiced in some countries in Southern Europe as well. Birch branches were connected to the arrival of summer and back in the days homes were decorated with birch branches for mothers day and summer solstice festival. During the summer bundles made of birch twigs were prepared for sauna for the whole coming year. Each branch that was used in the bundle had different meanings and symbols. Birch branch in the bundle represented goodness and good health. One of the old Finnish name s for March was Mahlakuu meaning the sap month. Some people drank birch sap for refreshment after the long winter. Owners of the best sap trees might even name them . If one cut down a sap tree they could get fines or give two equal birch trees away. Sap was brewed into beer and into lemonade. It was enjoyed during dinner and also as medicine to heal bladder problems, scurvy and to heal pain in the limbs. Clothes soaked in hot water boiled from young birch leaves were used to heal rash and ache. Tar from birch has been used to heal tooth ache and burns.
Birch is connected to many deities such as Germanic goddess Berchta, who was the protector of mothers and children, Venus, goddess of love and sex of the ancient Romans, Brigid, Irish goddess of fire and forgery, Thor, the Norse god of thunder. In Finnish mythology birch is connected to Luonnottaret, the goddesses of nature.
Birch sap magic:
Girls washed their faces with the first sap of the spring so they would not burn themselves in the summer. They always had to taste the sap first in order for the magic to work.
My video on birches in Finnish mythology (Finnish with subs).
Check out my other treelore articles as well
Pines in Finnish mythology and folklore
I´ve been painting lots of unicorns lately. Unicorn of the enchanted forest is my personal favorite. Watercolors on acid-free watercolor paper. Greeting cards, posters, stickers and other goodies available here.
Here are more details from the painting.
Artist and Illustrator. Mythology and Folklore enthusiastic. Keen traveler. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea, and such.
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