Sunday, June 25, 2017

Bargain Ebook: The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy



The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy is on sale for $1.99 in ebook format. I don't know that it has ever been sale priced before--I've owned the paper edition for years. The book belongs in the subgenre of books that retell fairy tales during one of the World Wars, specifically WWII and the Nazis with this one--which Hansel and Gretel is rather ripe to deal with when you consider the story elements.

Book description:

A poignant and suspenseful retelling of a classic fairy tale set in a war-torn world

In the last months of the Nazi occupation of Poland, two children are left by their father and stepmother to find safety in a dense forest. Because their real names will reveal their Jewishness, they are renamed "Hansel" and "Gretel." They wander in the woods until they are taken in by Magda, an eccentric and stubborn old woman called "witch" by the nearby villagers. Magda is determined to save them, even as a German officer arrives in the village with his own plans for the children. Louise Murphy’s haunting novel of journey and survival, of redemption and memory, powerfully depicts how war is experienced by families and especially by children.

"Lyrical, haunting, unforgettable." —Kirkus Reviews

"No reader who picks up this inspiring novel will put it down until the final pages, in which redemption is not a fairy tale ending but a heartening message of hope." —Publishers Weekly

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hans Christian Andersen Statue and the Tivoli



May 2nd was a very full day for us. We spent the morning at the Thorvaldsen Museum as I have already shared. The afternoon was spent exploring more sites and ended with a visit to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. We stayed at the Scandic Palace Hotel, right in the heart of historic Copenhagen and very close to one of the most famous Hans Christian Andersen sites in Copenhagen, the bronze statue of HCA looking at the Tivoli. Probably the Little Mermaid in the harbor is only more famous for HCA sites in Copenhagen. Sorry, I failed to get a good picture of the Andersen Castle at the Tivoli and hadn't realized it. You can see the statue to the left in the picture above. 

The Tivoli is an amusement park and entertainment facility, one that charmed HCA when it opened. The gardens inspired him to write "The Nightingale" according to Tivoli's historical timeline:

On August 15, 1843 the garden gates were opened for the first time and the guests were awestruck by the elegant and exotic gardens. Among them was the one and only Hans Christian Andersen, who was inspired to write the fairy tale the Nightingale .

Within the gates is one ride inside inspired by Andersen's tale of "The Flying Trunk." We didn't visit due to time priorities and weather. It was cold! I don't know how people were standing to be on many of those rides. The Andersen Castle isn't a museum for Andersen, by the way, it's just a building named after him. I was fine walking around and bundled up, but getting onto a breezy open air ride would not have been my definition of fun. It was colder than usual according to the locals.

And while I am here, I will highly recommend the Scandic Palace Hotel. We were there for four nights and were quite comfortable. The staff was wonderful and I was thrilled with the history of the place, too, for many famous people have slept within its walls, including Audrey Hepburn. The hotel is across the City Hall Square from the Tivoli and literally right next door to the HCA Museum, which I will post about soon. And I will sound fully like a spoiled Tennessean when I say it also had some of the largest rooms we've slept in when traveling in Europe. It's nice to not trip over your luggage when changing time zones has one stumbling around sleepless but exhausted in the dark in a new hotel room. The hotel was also quiet despite being in the middle of the city. The only sounds we heard at night were the clock tower bells which I wish I could hear every day and night. I love them.


Anyway, it took three days but we finally had good sun so I stopped to take pictures of HCA after having only greeted him the previous days for I saw him each day of our stay in the city.


He needed a good cleaning on one side but his knees were shiny from plenty of tourists climbing on his knee. A graffiti artist had tagged the book in his hand recently, too. Poor HCA!


One of the most important rules of travel--and life actually--is to not only look around you but up and down as well. Looking down by the statue treated me to two sewer covers that also honored Andersen, the only two I saw. The rest were ornate but not Andersen related. I wonder if there used to be more. The one above has an inset with the Steadfast Tin Soldier on it. The other was missing its inset figure. Wonder what it was? Thanks to whoever the selfish tourist was who took it! I'm assuming, but I feel pretty safe in doing that.

Wonder what Andersen would have thought about having sewer covers with his visage on them? Rather a dubious honor when one considers it.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cupid and Psyche at the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen, Demark



One of my favorite artistic mediums is sculpture which is fitting since my husband has discovered a budding talent for just that in the last few years. He is chagrined that it is one of the few visual art mediums he didn't study in school but has found it is one of his best. So May 2nd was a banner day since we probably saw more sculptures than we have ever seen in a 24 hour period. 

We started our day with a visit to the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen. Bertel Thorvaldsen is one of our favorite sculptors. Our first day in Copenhagen and within hours of arrival we went to see Thorvaldsen's Christus and Apostles statues at the Church of Our Lady, the cathedral of Copenhagen. So we had already had a wonderful experience with his work. That was a meal. His museum was a feast. 


But what about Hans Christian Andersen and fairy tales? Well, actually, this was a favorite day for me with very little HCA or so I thought. I actually learned that Thorvaldsen and Andersen were good friends. In fact, Andersen was one of the last to spend time with Thorvaldsen before Thorvaldsen's death. From Wikipedia:

Towards the end of 1843 he was prohibited from working for medical reasons, but he began to work again in January 1844. His last composition from 24 March was a sketch for a statue of the genie in chalk on a blackboard. At night he had dinner with his friends Adam Oehlenschläger and H. C. Andersen, and he is said to have referred to the finished museum saying: "Now I can die whenever it is time, because Bindesbøll has finished my tomb."

After the meal he went to the Copenhagen Royal Theatre where he died suddenly from a heart attack. He had bequeathed a great part of his fortune for the building and endowment of a museum in Copenhagen, and left instructions to fill it with all his collection of works of art and the models for all his sculptures, a very large collection, exhibited to the greatest possible advantage. Thorvaldsen is buried in the courtyard of this museum, under a bed of roses, by his own wish.
The museum has hosted a special exhibition about HCA previously (see Writing Is an Act of Love) and owns items about HCA, although none were on display. For example, you can read about Thorvaldsen and Hans Christian Andersen here and A Letter to Thorvaldsen from H. C. Andersen.

But enough about HCA for now. Don't worry. He'll return again in future travel posts. Now I want to turn to mythology and sculpture, especially some of Thorvaldsen's work centering around Cupid and Psyche, perhaps my favorite myth especially since it is a predecessor to East of the Sun and West of the Moon and Beauty and the Beast.


But first I had to share Heavenly Wisdom (1825). She was one of the first figures to greet me in the museum. We have an Athena in Nashville that is quite famous, but I found myself liking this thoughtful one with her little owl at her feet. It's a plaster version. The marble version is found in Saint Peter's in Rome.


As we continue, please note the photos are all my own with all their flaws and you can see them slightly larger by clicking on them. They have been sized down for the web. I am going to link to the piece's museum page where more details are provided and sometimes a better picture. The museum had both marble and plaster pieces. The plasters are always dirtier since they are more fragile but they still have some beauty to be seen.

First, from an information care at the museum, a summary of the Cupid and Psyche tale to remind us of the story.


Now some of Thorvaldsen's interpretations of the story scenes which provide "illustrations" of the story for us today.








Cupid Revives Psyche, 1810 This is beautiful, there is another version, too: Cupid Revives Psyche, 1810 which I like even better but I didn't see it in person to photograph it. The details are more refined in it. Gorgeous.



From the museum card:

After many inhuman ordeals, Psyche has at last found her Cupid again. In her hand she holds a chalice with the elixir of immortality that will render her divine like her lover, so the two can finally marry.


Bonus: I also fell in love with this Huntress on a Horse, 1834 that is a rare piece of classical inspired art that shows a woman in action. Even Athena, Goddess of War, is usually just standing still. Its companion piece of a male hunter was much more sedate in action, making it even more magical.


And finally, there were many, many, many Cupids fluttering around in marble and plaster in the museum, the cute cherub types. Those don't capture my fancy as much but this one made me laugh: Shepherdess with a Nest of Cupids, 1831.

From the museum card:

The small cupids represent various aspects of love: The cupid with his eyes closed represents slumbering love; those kissing represent active, ardent love; the cupid laying his head on the shepherdess’s arm is hoping for love; the one patting the dog represents constancy and the one flying away fleeting love. Perhaps the cupid that is not clearly seen represents secret love.
Finally, Thorvaldsen did several studies and other works of Cupid and Psyche, too. The museum site has some photos of the plasters and sketches. These are not as lovely to me since the plaster has deteriorated, but they provide a look into the artistic process. If this really interests you, search the site and see drawings and other works, too. For now see:

Cupid and the Sleeping Psyche, 1838

Another Cupid and the Sleeping Psyche, 1838

Psyche and Cupid, 1838 (waking Cupid)

Another Psyche and Cupid, 1838 (reunited perhaps?)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hans Christian Andersen at Frederiksborg Castle Gift Shop



As I mentioned in my last travel post about our day visiting the national art museum, Hans Christian Andersen at Frederiksborg Castle, the final destination by design is the gift shop in a museum. Well, we visited this one and I found a few treasures--badly photographed here--to share.

First discovery were the little glass Frog Kings pictured above. Which made me laugh since Frog Kings are so ubiquitous and have nothing to do with Hans Christian Andersen. But it's not surprising that the Frog King is the first tale to be found in the Grimms' collection. I liked this version of the frog since he also holds the gold ball that is rarely remembered from the story.


Moving on, I found some Hans Christian Andersen candy. I didn't buy any--my purchases for this entire trip were minimal and well, it wasn't chocolate. :) Besides, if the label didn't tell you, it would be hard to know this was HCA themed candy. The silhouettes aren't very distinct.


There were a few HCA fairy tale books--nothing new that I hadn't seen before and I forgot to photograph them as a result. But I found these papercut ornaments to be my favorite finds. I was tempted to buy them all until I did the math. They were expensive (about $19 USD each) so I settled on my favorite--the Princess and the Pea, of course. 

I was rather sad that there wasn't a good book to buy--the best ones were ones I already owned and I don't own that many HCA books. Well, relative to other people, I do, but he's not the focus of my folklore library. So I was hoping something would be new to me. But the papercut ornaments seemed fitting so I was happy to find one of those to commemorate the visit.


The Steadfast Tin Soldier


The Ugly Duckling


The Emperor's New Clothes


The Princess and the Pea

Sorry the photographs are dark. You can see the entire collection of HCA themed papercut art by at Oda Wiedbrecht's site with much better photographs, of course. Here is a scan of the one I bought:


Bonus round: As I mentioned, we traveled to the castle by train. I was surprised to find the following message above my head as we waited for the train that morning--whimsical and so very U.S. The world really has gotten smaller. But it was a fitting reminder of how I wanted to spend my day from an unlikely source so I was tickled by it.


And on a similar note, I saw many posters that day advertising a Danish performance of "Into the Woods" at the Tivoli which is essentially the performing arts center of Copenhagen as well as a famous amusement park. I got a bad picture of it--the goal was to get it before several people walked in front of me and to avoid glare. Not very successful. John and I are reflected in the lower right corner. 


But I found the poster again on the Tivoli site for the performance that happened on May 19th. Wonder how well the music--if it does--translates into Danish. Not sure if this was a musical version or not.


And this again shows the universal influence of the Grimms. I've really got to get to Germany next time!

Bargain Ebook: Uprooted by Naomi Novik



Uprooted by Naomi Novik is on sale today only for $2.99 in ebook format, the first time it has been discounted to my knowledge. I owned it in paper format and am happy to get a digital copy, too.

Book description:

WINNER OF THE NEBULA AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL • Naomi Novik, author of the New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.

HUGO AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR | BuzzFeed | Tor.com | BookPage | Library Journal | Publishers Weekly

“Uprooted is confidently wrought and sympathetically cast. I might even call it bewitching.”—Gregory Maguire, bestselling author of Wicked and Egg & Spoon

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hans Christian Andersen at Frederiksborg Castle



On Monday, May 1, we took the train to Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød, Denmark, about 45 minutes away from Copenhagen. Formerly a royal residence, it is now the Museum of National History for Denmark. We looked at a lot of art and saw some impressive rooms like the Chapel and the Great Hall. A small room in the Chapel is also where one can find the original religious paintings of Carl Bloch, one of my favorite parts of our visit. The chapel was quite impressive.


and the Great Hall (that's me in black in the far distance, just left of center, studying a sculpture). This one has great scope for imagining a royal ball, Cinderella visions included.


I wasn't expecting to see any Hans Christian Andersen references--silly me--but somewhat near the end of our visit, we entered a few rooms that had portraits of famous Danes. Well, I looked up over the doorway in one room to spy a familiar face. Hmmm, over a doorway and hard to see, I thought. This picture was taken with my zoom.


Then I entered the next room and realized HCA, unlike most of the other famous figures, was represented twice. The sunlight made it hard to get a good photo, unfortunately, without glare.


That was more than I expected, but there was more to come. Quite literally the last room we visited before returning to the hallway that lead to the gift shop--finding the gift shop's always a good sign that your tour is done--I discovered this little dark alcove. Well, I know him, I thought! 



This time the room was too dark--and no flash allowed, of course--to get very good images. I could barely read some of the items in the dim light when standing in front of it. Some of my photos are too blurry to share, but I did get a few in focus. 


I don't remember ever seeing this portrait before. Obviously, he was going through one of the "I'll experiment with facial hair" stages of early manhood. He was 26 when the portrait was painted.




This was one of the photos I am most familiar with of HCA.


An HCA papercut! Always fun to see one of those!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Two Bargain Ebooks: The Wrath & the Dawn and The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh TODAY ONLY



Both The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh and its sequel, The Rose & the Dagger, are on sale TODAY ONLY for $2.99 each in ebook format. This is the first time the sequel has been on sale to my knowledge. I haven't read these yet, but my sister recommends them. And if you like Arabian Nights and Scheherazade inspired stories, these are a must. These are usually more in the $10 range.

Book description for The Wrath & the Dawn:

#1 New York Times Bestseller

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Book description for The Rose & the Dagger:

The much anticipated sequel to the breathtaking The Wrath and the Dawn, lauded by Publishers Weekly as "a potent page-turner of intrigue and romance."

I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid's empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn't yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.

Monday, May 15, 2017

To Travel Is to Live: Copenhagen and Hans Christian Andersen



Hello all! I have safely returned from a trip to the Baltic where I encountered many fairy tale sightings, some expected and some not. I am going to share pictures and stories over the next several days, going in chronological order for our trip. My husband John and my parents traveled with me on this grand adventure!

We arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark on April 29th. After two flights and too many hours sitting with very little sleep, we wearily navigated the airport to claim our luggage. We turned one corner and suddenly I was face to face with the Little Mermaid! I scrambled for my camera for obvious reasons and snapped these pictures. 

There was a replica of the Little Mermaid statue that sits in the harbor. We weren't planning to go to the harbor during our stay in Copenhagen so I was thrilled to see the mermaid in the airport. (And I would see other versions throughout our explorations of Copenhagen, too, most of which I didn't photograph.) Don't worry, I did plan on a few other fairy tale visits, just not to the harbor which was out of the way of our other destinations and cold. We spend the entire trip in coats, gloves and hats. It was a chilly, even snowy, spring in the Baltic!


There was also a large display case featuring the traveling trunk Hans Christian Andersen used in his own travels. It was large--nearly five feet tall--and suddenly made me feel better about my single suitcase and backpack for a two week trip. But I also felt sorry for whoever had to lug that thing around when it was full--no wheels and not very convenient handles either.


Here is the placard about HCA that accompanied the statue and trunk. You can click on it to make it larger and hopefully read it if you are interested.

More HCA sightings to come as we explored Copenhagen!