Tag Archives: fairy tales

Domestic Goddess Reads ‘Entwined’ by Heather Dixon

12 Apr

Did my past self promise that I would post the opening discussion post on April 11th? Yesterday? That was so cute and naive, past-Charis. It’s sweet how you still believe that future-Charis will do things on schedule! Past-Charis didn’t think through the fact that last week involved a big project (which you will hear about in Sunday’s post!) that took over most of our free time, and things have been a little behind, including the posting schedule here.

But now it’s 11pm on April 12, and I am about to lay some book discussion on you. Are you ready?

I’m going to keep my comments mostly to the first half of the book, partly because I know some people are still reading and partly because I haven’t had time to finish re-reading the book myself and coming up with thoughtful and intelligent things to say about it. So today I’ll talk about some of my general responses to the book, especially the beginning, and next week (if future-Charis gets her butt in gear) I’ll do another post focusing on the second half of the book.  And in between I hope that you’ll all comment on this post with your thoughts and reactions to Entwined (and please don’t feel the need to restrict yourself to comments about the first half–say whatever if on your minds!)

Here we go, In Which Charis Has Thoughts About Entwined:

One of the first things that comes to mind is how much I enjoy the setting. I really like the vaguely-Victorian/magical world, and I like the warm quirkiness of this odd and shabby castle. I think it makes a great backdrop for the style of the story, and makes a story about princesses and magic somehow very grounded and down to earth. I thought that the idea of the castle and its magical history were a good device for incorporating the fairy tale in a way that made sense–by the way, if you aren’t already familiar with the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, you can read it here at SurLaLune.

The story, of course, centers on the princesses, and I adored them–it’s easy to tell that Dixon is from a large family, and as part of a large family myself I definitely related to the dynamic of multiple siblings. Dixon captures the kind of organized chaos that comes with big families and the way that close siblings operate with a pack mentality, and even though most of the younger princesses only speak or are mentioned specifically a few times there’s still a sense that each one has a distinct personality, which I thought was very well done. I also like Princess Azalea–she is so absolutely an eldest sister. Being the oldest girl is, I think, a very distinct role, especially in a family with multiple younger siblings. I can spot an eldest sister immediately, and I definitely related to Azalea’s relationship with her sisters as not-quite-mothery, not-quite-teachery, but still a figure of vague authority.

The other sister that we see the most of is Bramble, and I adore her too–she provides a lot of lively humor and makes a great foil to Azalea (who is busy trying to be serious and hold up all of her sisters after the death of her mother). And how wonderful and adorable is the description of the sisters’ tradition of spying on the ball?

These are sisters after my own heart.

I’ll mention, though, that I did sometimes get distracted with wondering where is Princess Lily? Whenever she wasn’t specifically mentioned I would worry about who had the baby? Maybe it’s because in my last NaNoWriMo project I thought it would be hilarious to throw in a toddler, and then I spent the next one hundred pages forgetting about her and had to repeatedly go back and make sure I had one of the other characters keeping an eye on her. Maybe it’s just because I’m an eldest sister, and part of being the eldest sister is usually keeping track of who has the baby. I’ll also mention that while as I rule I’m not a fan of people naming their children in patterns (alphabetically or, worst of all, all the same letter then everyone has the same initials how is that not a terrible idea), the alphabetically names of the princesses in Entwined is very handy for keeping track of their order!

I loved that dance was such a strong thread throughout the book–it’s only natural, considering the source fairy tale, but none of the other retellings that I’ve read have handled it so well and made it so naturally central.

I don’t think that is snippet is meant to portray Azalea as shallow or silly. Rather, I love that Azalea experiences and understands the world through dance–it’s an integral part of her identity, of her relationship with her mother, of her relationship with her sisters. It’s part of how she processes emotion. This is a great device because it sets up the central element of the book and the fairy tale, the fact that the princesses are forced to sneak off in secret to dance at night.

Speaking of the King, I thought that the tension between him and the princesses was also well handled–reading it with my grown-up brain I can see that here is a man who is dealing with his grief (and has been during the two years of his wife’s illness) by making the rest of his world excessively organized and orderly, to the point of unintentionally damaging his relationship with his daughters, but of course Azalea doesn’t see that because her focus is on her sisters. This flaw in understanding and communication is kind of heartbreaking, but again plays into the plot as Azalea and her sisters promise to keep their dancing a secret.

And since we’re on that plot point, can I mention how much I like the fact that this story emphasizes the fact that decisions and promises made in anger and bitterness are destructive? I appreciated that element a lot.

These comments are really very broad strokes over the book–I don’t want to go on forever, so I haven’t dug into too much detail, and also it is now after midnight–but next week I’ll try to dig a little deeper. In the meantime, what are your thoughts, deep or general, about Entwined? Did you like the way the fairy tale was retold? What did you think of the setting and the characters? Tell me everything!

From the Archives: Princess and the Pea Peg Dolls

21 Feb

Here’s another craft from my past that I wanted to share with you–I made these dolls in 2010 for a Princess and the Pea themed swap package. The Princess and the Pea is a strange fairy tale, but I’ve always found it compelling and I think it’s because I love the idea of all those mattresses. How fun would it be to sleep on a pile of hundreds of mattresses? Okay, probably not that fun, considering the fact that bunk beds make me nervous (you roll off of a bunk bed once, you never forget it). It’s still a fun image, though, and these dolls were a lot of fun to make.

I made five dolls–the king, queen, prince, and two versions of the titular princess, one in her nightdress (exhausted from a night of tossing and turning) and one in a blue gown with flowers, ready to marry the prince.

See how adorable and little they are?

I loved the way that this set of dolls turned out, but I have to admit that my very favorite thing is the expression on the tired princess’ face. She looks so exhausted and incredulous–I just imagine her looking at the queen and saying “You put what under my mattress???”