A Polar Bear Journey

“You have travelled far, but the hardest part of a journey is always the next step.”
― Jackie Morris, East of the Sun, West of the Moon

There are some who argue that the fairy tale re-tellings genre are spoiled by already knowing the story and it’s ending. I say that the stories aren’t – it is not the ending of the story but the journey, and East by Edith Pattou certainly has a big journey, involving compasses, polar bears, ancient Seal tribes and a troll queen.eastL

East (also called North Child) begins with the marriage of Arne and superstitious Eugenia, which whom he eventually has seven children with. It is Eugenia’s belief that a person’s personality, and ultimately their destiny, is reliant on the direction that she was facing when the child was born – that is, a South-West facing birth is a South-West personality, and accordingly is named with the same SW initials. Eugenia neatly has a child for each point of the compass – until her favourite, East-born child, Elise dies, and she has another to replace her.

EBBA ROSE WAS THE NAME of our last-born child. Except it was a lie. Her name should have been Nyamh Rose. But everyone called her Rose rather than Ebba, so the lie didn’t matter. At least, that is what I told myself.

The Rose part of her name came from the symbol that lies at the center of the wind rose – which is fitting because she was lodged at the very center of my heart.

Having been told years earlier that a North child would be crushed by ice and snow, Eugenia is determined never to have a North child, and so when Rose is born, with ambiguity about her birth-direction hidden from her, and she is brought up being told that she is supposed to be an obedient, passive East child.

And so we follow Rose, that is, until one day a giant white bear comes to claim her; one who has watched her through her early life, and who is under an enchantment – and from there, Rose agrees to accompany him in return for health and prosperity for her poor family and sick sister. Pattou follows the original Norweigan story quite faithfully, although it is much more richly embroidered, in which we see the mysteries that Rose faces, and it is here that the real story beings and Rose’s real journey is revealed.

I loved the culture behind this story, that of the ancient tribe that Rose encountered, the Troll Kingdom, the history of compasses and mapmaking, and the stories behind the ship captains who carry Rose across the sea – each lend a story to the main one, showing Rose life beyond her parent’s icy gardens and the idea of love in different forms.

There are many versions of this story (including one being Beauty and the Beast), and I’m sure many of you will have read the story in one version or another. What makes this story more beautiful is the realism of it, the attention to detail in places, characters and culture that Rose is brought up in. While the Trolls and White Bear in the story have a sense of surrealism to them, which is both horrifying and magical, there is also a fiery character in Rose which shines through. And if that doesn’t appeal to you, then there’s several nonsensical troll words like Slank and Turik to twist your tongue on!

Edith Patou, East (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: London 2005) pp. 528, £7.99

Snowbombarding and Snowmanning

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? – J. B. Priestley

Snowbombardment! Rules are,  you build a snow fort and split into two teams, and snowball to the last man. Okay, I completely made that up, but you know you want to play too!

In the meantime, here’s a some pictures from the last few days where we’ve been frolicking in the snow. Yes, it some random pictures of trees again, I’ve been wandering around like a weirdo holding my camera up in the sky while passer-bys wonder why I’m going all Lion King on it. Thank god the snow is beginning to melt, although the snow lump in our garden is probably not going anywhere after we packed it and packed it into a snowman. (Isn’t our snowman a cutie? I kinda preferred it without the nose, must be the airbrusher in me!)

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The Snowman with the Perfectly Round Head

After all the continuous snow today (and one encounter between my bum and the floor), but we ended the evening building a mini-snowman (my nephew came up with the idea of the upside-down plant pot for a head).

And for those of you wondering why the snowman-head is perfectly round, I’d love to say it’s because I rolled it and rolled it until it was round. But that’s a big fat lie. Truthfully, we got bored (by ‘we’, I mean ‘I’, the kids were more than happy to stay outside for another four hours) and decided to cheat by plonking a football on top of the snowman’s body.

Managed to fool a few people though : D

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It’s snow! Snow I tells ya!

Okay, not really real snow, just a marketing gimmick in Bond Street, central London today to make it feel all Christmassy. And a good thing too, with real snow comes the whole palaver of falling on your bum, slidey ice and a lot of unpleasant skidding #Grinch Grumpface#.

Apart from that, look how pretty all the lights look!

And for those of you non-Londoners wondering whether we all look like that fine, smartly dressed young man dressed in what looks like a old-style bus conductor’s uniform and hat…no. No we don’t dress like that. Sorry to disappoint, he’s probably just on his way to have tea with the Queen. And I’m pretty sure those two happy looking girls next to him are certainly too smiley to be Londoners, so we’ll out them in the Tourist category.

Meantimes, my laptop is off to the repair shop (sadface) due to unnecessary tripping over it by several siblings and nephews, so if blogging is sporadic – apologies, I’ll try to keep up where I can!

Edward Scissorhands: The First Snow

Among other things, Edward Scissorhands is a very romantic film, don’t you think? The secret love of our hero, the damsel in distress, the bullying villain, the restrained lover…this is all starting to sound a little Mills and Boons now, but you get what I mean.

Artist Brittney Lee has captured the most iconic moment of the movie with her scene made entirely from intricately cut paper, which I absolutely adore. I love romantique style art like this, it really is one of those pieces of arts which captures something which words can’t.

Image belongs to Brittney Lee