20 May 2011


Faerie Tale Theatre Production Smackdown, Round 3A
(Revisit Round 1 and Round 2)

There's something about the Final Four of a smackdown that makes everything so much more dramatic. I always look forward to this point because it's the last time I have any say in the results, and I can never predict what the four contenders will be.

And given my new passion for "wildcards," neither can I predict whether the Top Two will be from this Final Four. Scroll down when I'm done with my part of the post, and you'll get to vote again!

Round 3A
The Faerie Four

The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out about the Shivers . . .

Let's get one thing clear: this boy may never have been afraid, but that doesn't automatically mean he is brave. Remember that true courage does not mean the absence of fear but the willingness to face what one fears.

What Martin is, is innocent. He is equally unmoved by baseless terrors, like his family's superstitions, and real dangers, like diabolical spirits. Then again, his being so childlike is also what makes the latter powerless to harm him.

I didn't reread the original folktale for this smackdown, but I can tell there have been changes. For instance, weren't all the "ghosts" just people dressing up and trying to get the better of the boy? Here, however, we only have one such scare: the other "ghosts" are very real and the guileless Martin actually has to defeat them in order to win the princess's hand in marriage. And when our archetypal Fool becomes a romantic hero, the message changes, aye?

The princess also gets "more lines," for what it's worth, although her role remains essentially the same. Remember that the climax of the original story (Should I say "Spoiler alert" here?) is that the boy who is afraid of nothing finally learns what the shivers are on his wedding night, when his bride dumps a bucket of river water over him and a fish gets into his night shirt. And thus does the no-longer-so-innocent boy discover what many of the bravest men have been chilled to learn: a man's wife is always scary to him.

In Faerie Tale Theatre, however, Martin gets the shivers much earlier, at the prospect of marriage. It's kind of the same--and it's played with its own sort of humour--but it doesn't carry half the weight as matrimony and its unique mysteries.

. . . The Snow Queen

When other boys leave home, it is in order to shiver with greater freedom. Kai's "shivering" begins when splinters of a cursed mirror fall into his eyes and heart, making him see only the worst in everything. By the time the Snow Queen finds him, he has become cold enough to leave home and loved ones in order to be with her. Only she seems perfect to him.

I used to know the Hans Christian Andersen faerie tale reasonably well, but have forgotten much of it. Although I didn't reread it for this smackdown, either, I noticed this production misses a few episodes from Gerda's quest to bring her best friend back home. All reasonable edits, though: including all of them would have stretched the running time and/or cluttered up the story.

As it stands, I like the production's juxtaposition of summer and winter. We first see Gerda and Kai in the summer, playing together in their rose garden; then we see them studying together and telling stories in the winter. After Kai gets spirited away by the Snow Queen, Gerda gets to meet the Lady of Summer. And we get our happy ending at last when these two extremes meet in the spring. I don't recall such precise parallels and symbolism in Andersen's original story--but they suit the more visual medium of television. The question is whether the imagery goes beyond sets and storyline into theme.

Now, my memory might just be faulty, but I don't recall the Snow Queen as anything other than a force of nature--forbidding yet neutral. Her Faerie Tale Theatre incarnation, however, is more of a faerie godmother, kidnapping Kai in order to save him. Never mind that this doesn't make much sense. (Why would the Snow Queen want to help some random boy? Especially when it's still implied that the only thing that can melt his heart is Gerda's tears?) I think they should have gone in the other direction and made her a villain.

* * * * *

The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out about the Shivers vs. The Snow Queen

Winner: The Snow Queen--because despite some odd creative choices, it remains truer to the spirit of the original faerie tale.

* * *

As promised, now it's your turn!

Last week, Jack and the Beanstalk trounced Puss in Boots in a mini face-off decided by you. But how shall Jack and his high hopes fare this week against the Snow Queen and her cold countenance?

Before you go and cast your ballot, however, I have one last complication request. Since we're this late in the smackdown (and it is about a TV production), I hope you will watch a bit of each episode before making your decisions. It really can make a difference, even if you only take in ten minutes of each.

The following links will take you to the first part of each episode on YouTube, where the entire series has been uploaded by some wonderful soul.

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And if I haven't already given you enough to fill up your weekend (LOL!), you might want to check out the rest of this Friday's faerie tale posts at This Miss Loves to Read.

Image Sources: a) The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out about the Shivers DVD, b) The Snow Queen DVD, c) Jack and the Beanstalk DVD


Jillian said...

Jack and the Beanstalk still!

To be honest, I don't really have a legitimate reason. I chose Jack and the Beanstalk mainly because of the beans. LOL!
The story has always attracted me because of them! I mean the book pretty much devotes a good amount to describe how rich and colorful these magic beans are!

Who wouldn't want to have those??

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Wonderful post! I am very familiar with Andersen's story, but I confess it's the first time I read anything about the one featuring the boy who was not afraid. It sounds lovely and I must read it. You are very right about what bravery truly is!

I need to start watching these productions very soon! It's great to know all these famous fairy-tales can be watched, not only read.

Enbrethiliel said...


Jillian -- Thanks for your vote! There's nothing like magic beans to swing a decision, aye? ;-)

If you have time, why not watch a bit of each episode, too? I wish I could have live blogged both of them, to give everyone a better sense of them as productions, but I was strapped for time! =(

Irena -- I definitely recommend watching these! =D Perhaps the best thing about Faerie Tale Theatre is that it is both as faithful as possible to the original while taking necessary (or just clever) creative liberties. I've never liked the way Disney adaptations supplant the originals; Faerie Tale Theatre doesn't do that any more than your community theatre company would.

Syrin said...

Jim Henson's Storytellers did a really great version of The Boy.. that I like a lot.

I watched a bit of both the challengers before voting, as you requested. :) I was a little bored by Jack and the Beanstalk, but I really like the settings of The Snow Queen, so that one is getting my vote.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks a lot, Syrin, both for voting and for watching a bit of each episode before you did. =)

I remember seeing a cartoon adaptation of The Boy . . . but I don't think I've seen Jim Henson's take. That ought to be really good; the man was a genius!

Lesa said...

Snow Queen for me-- I did glance at the vids and am more in a Snow Queen mood today.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Lesa! =D

antiaphrodite said...

I vote Snow Queen! And yes, I watched the clip :-D

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Antiaphrodite! It's a lovely clip, isn't it? =)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jack and the Beanstalk for me.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Melissa. =)

antiaphrodite said...

And I meant actually that I watched both! X-D

Enbrethiliel said...


I knew you did before you told me! You are that dedicated and conscientious when it comes to smackdowns. Was there ever any doubt? ;-)

antiaphrodite said...

You are that dedicated and conscientious when it comes to smackdowns.


Enbrethiliel said...


Voting is now closed for the Jack and the Beanstalk vs. The Snow Queen Face-off.