Sunday, 12 April 2009

Fairy Stories and the Snow Queen

I have never been happy with the suitability for young children of many Fairy Tales. Already streets and shops are preparing for the Victorian created fiction of Father Christmas and the giving of presents. Throughout the rest of the year large numbers of children are warned to be good or Father Christmas won't come to visit you and then after Christmas when children visit friends and go back to school there are boastful comparisons and showings off of present received. Parents and other relatives are put under great pressure to provide what their children say they want and to ensure that they do not lose face with their friends and other family members. What most children seek and value is parental time and personal recognition, and what most children will benefit from is a gift which will help them grow up and cope with adulthood.

I have no memory of being taken to pantomimes at Christmas which is something shared many other children born when the second world war commenced and therefore enjoyed them when the opportunity arose as an adult. However the storyline of most raises concerns depending on the age of the child and family circumstances. Too many adolescents are not equipped to follow the example of Dick Whittington and head off for London and for every Oliver Twist who found a good home the majority end up on streets and into crime to survive. Similarly it would be wise for most parents to prepare their daughters for the realities of marriage motherhood than to await the arrival of Prince Charming in Cinderella or debrief youngsters who have seen Aladdin about the actual odds of winning the main prize in the national lottery. While Jack and the Beanstalk probably has its origins in the Bible story of David and Goliath, parents would be wise to counsel their youngsters to tell them and their teachers about bullying rather than trying to take the law into their own hands.

I was thinking about such things while watched a two part made for TV film based on the Hans Christian Anderson story, the Snow Queen, more popular these days as a ballet.. The film begins with the death of a young mother by the Snow Queen and the grief of father and daughter and then follows the adventures of the girl when she becomes a young woman when she attempts to rescue her boyfriend who has come under the spell of the Snow Queen, and these include the potential perils of speed dating as prospective suitors whisk her around a ballroom floor, being eaten by a feminist robber, imprisoned by oppressive solicitousness and nearly frozen to death by the Snow Queen

I also watched a two part made for TV film about the life and work of Hans Christian Anderson which intermingled some true facts about his life, such as his romantic love for the Nightingale singer Jenny Lind and that he over stayed a welcome at the home of Charles Dickens with suggesting that many of his stores were based on real life experiences, notably the Snow Queen, represented by Jenny Lind and the ugly duckling represented by the disabled daughter of one of his early benefactors.

There was also time to enjoy a pre Christmas Victorian slice of Cheshire country town life with the adaptation of three of Elizabeth Gaskells novels with an impressive ensemble cast including Dame Judy Dench, Eileen Atkins, Michael Gabon, Francesca Annis, Julia McKenzie and Imelda Staunton.

However the highlight of the day was a confident and relaxed Tony Blair in the first of three programmes explaining how he set out and succeeded in changing Britain, although it became quickly evident that this was only on the basis of approval by Gordon Brown who clearly was the Cabinet enforcer, assisted by fixer John Prescott. In one programme the truth which backbenchers and political commentators tried to explain over a decade was fully revealed. This was as close to dictatorship by three men as one is likely to get in a democracy and it is also now evident that the scheduling of the programme along with the publication of the recent book were good reasons for the aborted attempt to get a new mandate from the electorate. However understandable the action from the personal viewpoint of the Prime Minister, from the Labour Party back benchers and the need for stable and strong government, it only further underlines the desperation of the decision and how out of touch those taking the decision have become with middle England. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was shown taking a photo opportunity with the Israeli Ambassador to give the thanks of the English Football nation for their win over Russia but a lot more similar miracles will be needed.

Meanwhile I have completed the writing of the Introduction to Northern Rivera and selected the nineteen accompanying photographs.

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