The Power of Points of View
Lately, as you'll note in my recent blog posts, I've been following the call to go and listen to the voices of the characters in the stories, and retell the stories from their points of view.
In the process, I'm adhering to my own good advice which is to not change the story, but to step inside it and go to the character who wants to be seen and heard. There's always something for us in the retelling. When I went into The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen, I was alarmed that the story ended so badly. The girl who wears the red shoes gets severely punished by the Angel of the Lord and her community, and the whole story is told from a judgemental point of view. I searched for a character who knew the girl well enough to tell me the story from a place of compassion rather than hard judgement, and when I found that character, I shed a few tears of my own.
The news events of the recent past have highlighted the need to see one another more compassionately. I am deeply moved by the story of the young man who went into a church with a gun and the intention to murder members of the black congregation. When he looked around, he thought for a moment of not killing the people because "they were so kind to me." Tragically, his hard judgement got the better of him.
More than ever, we need to get under surface appearances to meet the real people underneath, and when we step into the shoes of an archetypal character, we can melt the frozen places in our own hearts.
Upcoming Fall Course: Giving Voice to Characters
If you would like to find your own characters, express their voices, and retell a story from a character's point of view, let me know. I'm planning a six-session workshop in the fall, and will provide the details just as soon as I get them fixed. The course will culminate in a presentation of our different retellings and I anticipate that it will be both enlightening and fun!
Meet Your Own Amazing Characters
You can broaden your repertoire and meet amazing characters at any time if you hang out a bit on the WonderLit site. There are nearly a thousand characters in the Story Finder, and each one of them has a voice. The easiest way to interact with the Story Finder is to randomly click on the globe until you land on a character who inspires you. Then write out, in your own words, what the character is saying. Ask yourself, "What does this character's situation prompt me to think about?" and just let the words flow out. See how the character's story invokes your own.
I did the exercise recently with a character from a story called The Comb and the Collar (Olive Fairy Book). The character is an enchantress who lives in a cave by the sea. The walls of the cave are covered in sheaths, and there's a sheath for the knife of every person in the world. If you want to ask the enchantress a question, you take your knife to the cave. The knife will be drawn to its sheath, and when it does, the enchantress will be able to read you well enough to answer your question.
One day a messenger comes to the cave. He's been sent by the son and daughter of an archduke who has gone mad. His children want to know how to restore their father's mental health. When the messenger's knife finds its sheath, the enchantress tells him that the children of the archduke must stop grieving the loss of their father's mind, and go and find it.
"Where are they to look?" asks the messenger.
"In the place where he lost it," says the enchantress.
Apart from the whole knife-in-sheath business, I found the advice of the enchantress very intriguing. I had to ask myself, "When did I lose my own mind?" (or parts thereof) Who gets through life with their minds completely intact, anyway? How well do we know our own minds in the first place?
When I thought about where I might have lost at least a part of my own mind, I went back to a moment in university. I had left English Literature for the more solid, empirical grounds of the history of science.
One day, my professor called me into her office. She wanted to speak with me about my essay on the seventeenth century cosmic world-view. I thought she might applaud my efforts, but instead, she took out her red pen and began swiping it through the lines of my paper. "This was a great metaphor, haha, I loved this one. And this one! Hahaha!" She laughed at every single metaphor I had used in the essay, and there were a lot of them. By the time I got out of there and back to the elevator, I was convinced that every one of my shameful metaphors would have to be scoured out of my language.
That was kind of ironic, given the fact that whole essay was concerned with the seventeenth century metaphor of the universe as a giant clock!
Needless to say, I eventually found my way back to metaphor and made claim to my own mind (however strange....)
So, yeah, play with Story Finder! It's offered to everyone for free, and it has been a real labour of love for me.
PS: The drawing above comes from my notebook. I love scribbling out characters. They always surprise me, and this one really did. It seemed that the enchantress actually took the shape of those about whom she was deriving information. She looks a bit like the archduke. Hhhmn!
Thanks to My Allies
I just want to give thanks to the people who are helping me with all the WonderLit projects. Thanks, Jen Berghage, for taking your lovely red pen to the all the Story Finder entries, and making them all sing! (Jen is an incredible artist in her own right.) And also thanks, Gilles Gagnon, my web technician, for mixing the audio productions and being such a faithful friend. And speaking of faithful friends, thank you Jean Sheppard for being such a constant supporter of all things WonderLit, and to all of you who so generously share your responses to my offerings.
Share Your Insights on Facebook
We've started a WonderLit group on Facebook for everyone interested in fairy tales and journeying with characters that have meaning for them. We'd love for you to join in the conversation and share the viewpoints of your favorite fairy tale characters, insights that you've experienced from your reading, and projects that fairy tales have inspired you to create. Upload your drawing, writing, or link to your blogposts to start a new conversation. We're excited to have new voices join us. The vision for the WonderLit Facebook page is to have a place where we can share what is meaningful to us in the land of imagination and the world of fairy tales.
Want More Information?
If you'd like more information on WonderLit or the courses that are being offered, don't hesitate to contact me. You can also find my books, stories, and more videos on fairy tales on my main website.