Here you’ll find a treasure of books that have been in my library for years.
In the spotlight I’m delighted to present The Tower Princess – a newly published memoir that records my first experience of writing “wonderlit” and living into a fairy tale.
The Tower Princess
In The Tower Princess, storyteller Michelle Tocher plunges into the heart of fairy tales on a quest to reclaim the lost archetype of the true princes. In the mid-1990s when she was struggling with chronic pain, Michelle discovered a feminine wisdom in fairy tales that ignited her imagination and altered her relationship with suffering. In this wise, humorous, and poignant memoir, the author seamlessly amalgamates her life and fairy tales, and show us what we have lost by banishing the fairy world.
With exquisite illustrations by Richard Row. Available for purchase here on Amazon.
IndieReader Approved - 4.9 Star Rating
“Blending fiction and nonfiction, Michelle Tocher’s The Tower Princess is a gorgeous feminist memoir that draws poignant meaning from fairy tales with dreamlike language and keen literary analysis.”
Michelle Tocher merges fiction and nonfiction in her beautiful memoir THE TOWER PRINCESS, in which she discusses how fairy tale princesses, in particular Rapunzel, are feminist icons who extol the positive virtues of womanhood. Tocher’s relationship with her own womanhood prior to her revelations detailed in the book revolved around the social expectations of girls and women, her infertility, and her years of chronic pain led to a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. In retelling the story of Rapunzel in THE TOWER PRINCESS, Tocher explores how storytelling can shape a woman’s self image.
Tocher’s keen observations succeed in digging deep into what it means to be a woman in this world. For instance, she was punished for her perceived vanity as a four-year-old in ballet class admiring herself in her tutu in the mirror, a characteristic depicted in fairy tales as either negative, when an evil queen compares herself to a beautiful young princess, or a positive attribute akin to self-reflection and confidence. Tocher uses the motif of mirrors in an intelligent way to discuss how people view themselves when they believe their appearance is indicative of their character: “You cannot be one person on the inside and another on the outside. Are you the inside person or the outside person? If you think you are only what appears, you are under a spell.”
Both in discussing societal nuances like the above and in extrapolating meaning from fairy tales, Tocher’s literary analyses are poignant and balance ethos and pathos with scenes of personal experience and smart language. The three layers of the book—Tocher’s version of Rapunzel’s story, her own past experiences, and her imagined conversations with “fairy godmothers”—are written with tactical, concise word choice that conveys Tocher’s specific meaning. The language is often poetic, and its dreamlike effect lingers in the memory. The structure of the book has these three parts alternating by scene, drawing forward literary analysis and connecting it to real life as Rapunzel’s story progresses and deepens. The bulk of the book consists of the retelling of Rapunzel and Tocher’s dive into a fantasy where fairy godmothers ask her thought-provoking questions about her identity; while Tocher’s version of Rapunzel is unique and compelling and her observations keen and touching, the balance of content makes the book feel more like literary criticism than a memoir.
Blending fiction and nonfiction, Michelle Tocher’s THE TOWER PRINCESS is a gorgeous feminist memoir that draws poignant meaning from fairy tales with dreamlike language and keen literary analysis.
~Aimee Jodoin for IndieReader
What Readers Say about The Tower Princess...
“The Tower Princess is an immersive and contemplative experience. Each chapter in the fantastical plane of fairy tales reaches a hand for readers to connect to their own experiences. The inhabitants of author Michelle Tocher’s Inner Space are remarkably compelling; with no resistance they whisked me away on an epic journey to restore humanity’s lost connection to the fairy world. Even Rapunzel- who I had thought I knew inside and out- surprised me with her depth and complexity. I keenly felt the stakes and the peril as if hearing her story for the first time, wondering if the happy ending I had always taken for granted would really come to pass. When it did, I was exhilarated- literally. I exhaled a breath I didn’t know I was holding, closed my eyes and basked in the palpable atmosphere of peace.
“The story-weaving in these 304 pages is nothing short of well, magical! What seems to be nothing more than an amusing anecdote about fairy godmothers builds as slowly as the unfurling of a flower until we see the full splendor of Tocher’s covert creation. I felt as if I blinked and its completed bloom sprang out fully formed- exactly how Tocher instructs her audience to view fairy tales. She entreats us to treat them as living, breathing, organisms. The events of The Tower Princess wend in and out of memoir and myth, physical and metaphysical, fiction and non-fiction never settling in one place, as if to do so would calcify the power of such a fluid narrative.”
– Meaghan Wood, Reedsy Discovery Reviewer
The Tower Princess: A Fairy Tale Lived by Michelle Tocher – Reviewed by Meaghan Wood | Reedsy Discovery
“Michelle Tocher takes us into the deep inner life of fairy tales, showing us how a true princess is not a passive girl in a prom dress, but a woman of courage whose love can restore the heart of the world.”
– Ellen Jaffe, Skinny-Dipping with the Muse
“Reader beware. This is no Disney-escape fairy fluff. Michelle Tocher’s marriage of personal and mythic storylines is tinder that sparks deep truths about our most basic human needs and fears. Through Tocher’s fertile imagination and her coterie of fairy godmothers, she brilliantly lays bare the inner treasure we can all claim, especially in hard times.”
– Jeannette Hanna, ikonica
“I feel such great wisdom in you, but coming from the inside, from experience, not from erudite studies. Reading this book, I felt as if you (and I) were getting to know your soul, and, by extension, the soul of the world.”
– Annie Jacobsen, novelist and Jungian psychotherapist
“The Tower Princess was a gift to me on many levels. I am certain that hordes of women will identify with the princess as I do. I found myself marking pages and putting little tiny post-its on the sides of the page, leaving bread crumbs to guide me back to a part of the story that touched me. At the same time I couldn’t wait to move forward to see what would happen next…. It’s so wonderful to know someone who is in touch with other worlds.”
– Susan Schroeer
“Thank you for sharing The Tower Princess with me. I find myself devouring it every stolen moment of quiet time. Your voice is honest, clear and courageous. Thank you for reminding me of the truth found in our imaginations.”
– Sareena Hopkins, Canadian Career Development Foundation
From My Library
The following books have been wise companions to me in all my excursions into myths and fairy tales. They’ve inspired me to keep on going when the challenges of life seemed insurmountable. They’ve led me to stunning insights into the power of myth, and they have helped to remind me of what is universally timeless and true.
Bierlein. Living Myths: How Myth Gives Meaning to Human Experience. New York: The Ballantine Publishing Group, 1999.
Barasch, Marc Ian. The Healing Path. New York: The Penguin Group, 1994.
Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.
Benjamin, Walter. “The Storyteller” in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. New York: Schocken Books, 1968.
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. New York: Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1949.
Campbell, Joseph. Transformations of Myth Through Time. New York: Harper and Row Publisher, 1990.
Campbell, Joseph and Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth. Video series. Mystic Fire Video, 1988.
Eliot, Alexander. The Timeless Myths: How Ancient Legends Influence the World Around Us. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1996.
Frank, Arthur W. The Wounded Storyteller. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995.
Frankl, Victor. Man’s Search for Meaning. New York: Touchstone, 1959.
Gould, Joan. Spinning Straw Into Gold: What Fairy Tales Reveal About the Transformations in a Woman’s Life. New York: Random House, 2005.
Jung, C. G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Vintage Books, 1965.
Jung, C. G. The Earth Has a Soul: C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology & Modern Life. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2002.
Kane, Sean. Wisdom of the Mythtellers. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 1994.
Lane, Marica. Picturing the Rose: A Way of Looking at Fairy Tales. H.W. Wilson Co., 1994.
Larsen, Stephen. The Mythic Imagination: The Quest for Meaning through Personal Mythology. Rochester: Inner Traditions International, 1996.
Luthi, Max. Once Upon a Time: On the Nature of Fairy Tales. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976.
May, Rollo. Man’s Search for Himself. New York: Delta Publishing, 1953.
May, Rollo. The Cry for Myth. New York: Delta, 1991.
Propp, V. Morphology of the Folktale. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968.
Sawyer, Ruth. The Way of the Storyteller. New York: Penguin, 1942.
Tatar, Maria. The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987.
Tocher, Michelle. Brave Work: A Guide to the Hero’s Journey at Work. Ottawa: Canadian Career Development Foundation, 1998.
Tocher, Michelle. How to Ride a Dragon: Women with Breast Cancer Tell Their Stories. Toronto: Key Porter, 2001.
Tolkien, J.R.R. Tree and Leaf. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1964.
Travers, P.L. What the Bee Knows: Reflections on Myth, Symbol and Story. London: Penguin Books, 1993.
Von Franz, Marie-Louise. The Interpretation of Fairy Tales. Boston: Shambhala, 1996.
Zipes, Jack. Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk & Fairy Tales. Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press, 1979.
Zipes, Jack. Why Fairy Tales Stick: The Evolution and Relevance of a Genre. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2006.
Fairy Tale Collections
Cole, Joanna (ed). Best Loved Folktales of the World. New York: Random House, 1983.
Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths, vols. 1 and 2. Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd., 1960.
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales. New York: Pantheon Books Inc., 1994.
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. New York: Penguin Books Inc., 1940.
Kane, Alice. The Dreamer Awakes. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1995.
Lang, Andrew. The Coloured Fairy Books. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1965.
Leeming, David Adams. Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Opie, Iona and Peter (eds). The Classic Fairy Tales. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.
Pinkola Estes, Clarissa. Women Who Run with the Wolves. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992
Tatar, Maria, ed. The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2002.
Yolen, Jane (ed). Favorite Folktales from Around the World. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986.
Recommended Symbol Dictionaries and Reference Material
Chevalier, Jean and Gheerbrant, Alain. The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols. London: The Penguin Group, 1996.
Cirlot, J.E. A Dictionary of Symbols. 2nd ed. Translated by Jack Sage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962.
Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend. San Francsico: HarperSanFrancisco, 1972.
Walker, Barbara. The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993.