Fantasy Friday – Introducing Anne Elisabeth Stengl

I thought it might be helpful to take a look at fantasy authors from time to time. In this case I’m getting to know a new writer right along with you all — Anne Elisabeth Stengl, recent winner of the Christy Award, New Novel division for Heartless (Bethany House Publishers), first in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series.

First, Anne Elisabeth comes from a family of writers. Her mom, Jill Stengl, is a multi-published historical romance author. Perhaps this connection with writing is what led Anne Elisabeth to study English literature at Campbell University.

She’s obviously a creative because she also studied illustration at Grace College. As things she enjoys, she lists opera, piano, painting, and Shakespeare. It turns out she quilts, cooks, and bakes, too.

But writing is her great love. Her fascination with myths and legends can be traced back to her formative childhood years growing up in England “right next to a great, wild, beautiful Common full of ancient oaks, wild rabbits, a stone church (complete with scary graveyard) and all the magic a 3-to-10 year old and her brothers could possibly hope to find” (from “Interview with Anne Elisabeth Stengl”). Not surprisingly, she identifies her writing style as classic Fairy Tale.

Another of her interests is fencing! Yep, fencing. But you have to understand — she met her husband Rohan in a fencing class she took as research for her novel. Who wouldn’t have fencing as an interest under that circumstance? 😉

Anne Elisabeth and Rohan live in Raleigh, North Carolina where she cares for her “passel of cats” and continues to write. Her second book, Veiled Rose came out this past July, and the latest in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series, Moonblood, is due out in April 2012.

About her goal in writing Anne Elisabeth says

My primary goal is to bring glory to God by writing to the very best of my ability. I believe the whole purpose of mankind is worship, and I believe each of us best worships God when doing what we do best to our very best. Writing is my great skill, a gift from God and a talent for which I know he has plans. So it is to his honor when I study and strive and work and learn to better my craft. And I hope and pray that my desire to communicate truth through these simple fairy tales becomes ever-more evident to those who read them. (from “Interview with Anne Elisabeth Stengl”)

And now the premise of the award-winning Heartless from SqueakyCleanReviews:

Princess Una of Parumvir has just come of age, and she awaits the arrival of her first suitors with much excitement. Prince Aethelbald of Farthestshore, however, is not quite what she had in mind. With a name like ‘Aethelbald’ and perfectly ordinary looks, he can’t compete with Una’s dreams of a dashing prince, and she refuses to hear his offer – or to heed the warnings of a Dragon who is seeking her. When Una gives her heart away to a man unworthy of it, she finds herself heartless and vulnerable before the Dragon King.

If you’d like to learn more about Anne Elisabeth, check out her interview with WhereTheMapEnds.

Fantasy Friday – Tangled

Interesting that I spent so much of the last CSFF tour discussing fairy tales because I just saw—well, last week—Tangled, Disney’s retelling of Repunzal. In fact, the first time we went to see it, we were turned away. Sold out, they said.

Sold out? But the movie has been around for a month already. Sold out? Are you sure? They were sure.

To beat the rush of all the people who were turned away after us, we went the next day to a morning showing.

Tangled was well worth the effort. I understand Disney has decided their run of fairy tales will end. I’d like to see them reconsider, but if it must be, they’re going out on top.

Tangled is simply one unexpected twist after another (pun accidental 😉 ), with a lot of witty, Shrek-like dialogue thrown in.

When I got home, I read the version of the fairy tale in my copy of Grimms to see how the movie was alike and how it differed. Apart from doing away with the prince, the movie version was strikingly similar. But more, so much more.

In the end, the key component is sacrifice. It’s a kind of fairy tale version of “The Gift of the Magi.” And there is redemption, forgiveness, enduring love, hope. Besides, the plot is pretty good, too. 😉

Seriously, gone is the love-at-first-sight—or sound, as the case might be—of the print version. Instead, there is a believable relationship that develops, a friendship that takes hold, a realization that dawns only in the midst of crisis.

And yes, there is crisis. Danger from left and right and down the center. Everything seems opposed to our Rapunzel and her chance for life outside the tower. Well, not quite everything. Rescue comes in a surprising guise.

Script writer Dan Fogelman outdid himself with this one, I think. The story structure is solid—to his credit because he changed such a significant part, one of the main characters. And speaking of characters, each was well motivated and believable (even the chameleon! 😉 )

The animation, as you expect from Disney, is superb. The voice actors played their parts to perfection—nothing over done. Throw in cuteness and it’s a movie kidlets would love. But throw in the writing, and it’s a movie adults will want to see again and again.

If you haven’t seen this one yet, I encourage you to put it on your soon-to-see list. If it’s not still playing in a theater near you, watch for it at your local dollar theater or plan to get the DVD (or borrow the DVD from a friend). Especially if this is the end of Disney’s fairy tales, you won’t want to miss it.

Published in: on January 7, 2011 at 7:20 pm  Comments (8)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The Wolf of Tebron, Day 1

Author C. S. (Susanne) Lakin penned this week’s CSFF Blog Tour feature, The Wolf of Tebron, first in The Gates of Heaven series (Living Ink Books).

Interestingly, Susanne provides Endnotes, something atypical for fiction. The first of these identifies “The Enchanted Pig” from the Grimm’s Fairy Tales as a source of inspiration for her novel. While I didn’t find the story in my edition of Grimm’s, I found what I believe to be the tale that inspired Susanne.

“The Enchanted Pig,” included in Andrew Lang’s The Red Fairy Book, is a Romanian fairy tale, collected in Rumanische Märchen. Happily, it is online here. Those who have already read The Wolf of Tebron will find it interesting to compare the two stories.

Fairytales grew out of the larger body of folklore—the traditions of a culture passed on through art, music, and of course, story. Some stories took on specific features and varying purposes, so tomorrow, I plan to take a little closer look at the difference between fables, fairytales, and parables.

Scholars have studied fairytales originating across the globe and have found common elements, or motifs. Each story, then, has been classified according to the central motif. Other scholars have studied the function of the various characters of fairytales, something akin to Joseph Campbell’s, Hero’s Journey.

Early fairytales were written primarily for adults but did not exclude children. A process began, however, of stripping some elements from the stories, particularly sexual aspects, and eventually children became the target audience. Today most fairytales are aimed first at children, but adults are not excluded.

Movie examples of this trend are the Shrek movies and the more recent Tangled, inspired by the Grimm’s fairytale, Rapunzel. Much of the humor is considerably more sophisticated and consequently more appreciated by adults.

Interestingly, The Wolf of Tebron is marketed to adults rather than to the young adult crowd, not because of humor, certainly, but I’ll touch upon that in my review later this week.

For now, check out what other bloggers writing about The Wolf of Tebron have to say:

Published in: on January 3, 2011 at 4:33 pm  Comments (3)  
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Thoughts on the Most Popular Post

😮 Picture me surprised. The post here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction that gets the most hits—a steady number each week—is Myths and Legends, Fairy Tales and Fables … Oh, My.

When I first notice that post was receiving traffic, often from search words, I reread it to see what profundity had captured the minds of blog searchers near and far. What I discovered was … nothing profound at all. A throw-away post, I thought. Some good comments, but nothing controversial. Nothing that led me to explore the topic in more depth. In fact, the comments made me think categorizing fiction into kinds might be a waste of time.

This week I notice that this post had surpassed the previous high traffic article, so I reread it yet again, hoping this time to discover the magical element that brought readers to the topic. Nope. I still don’t see it. If anything, I ask more questions and give few answers.

The one thing that intrigues me about the post is that the definitions for the different fantasy types seem to indicate a differing purpose lurking in the minds of the authors. Was Lewis intentionally passing on lessons in the Narnia stories? Was Tolkien intentionally making a statement about the supernatural as he constructed a history of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings? When Stephen Lawhead embellished the stories of Robin Hood in his King Raven series, was he intending to take the reader away from the old traditional stories for a particular purpose?

In all these types—fairy tales, fables, legends, myths, and add in allegories—it seems the theme is a strong thread holding the stories together. In some cases, the thread is quite plain, while in others it is more subtly woven as a highlight, though it changes the entire tapestry with its presence.

What I’m wondering now is, Are some of the current so-so fantasies missing the mark because they are missing the theme element? Just wondering.

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