20 Images Of Norwegian Architecture Plucked Straight From A Fairytale

The Norwegian countryside is strewn with architecture that looks better suited to crown the pages of a fairytale book. More commonly known for its Vikings heritage and fjords, these photographs display a wide variety of architectural styles that have been used throughout the Middle Ages to the 19th century in Norway. Check out the stunning collection below.

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A little bit of illustration porn to brighten your Friday! Kay Nielsen is one of my favorite Golden Age illustrators (you might know him from his work on the “Night on Bald Mountain” section of Fantasia), and there’s a gorgeous new edition of his version of East of the Sun, West of the Moon out now.

If you like these, I highly recommend digging up his The Twelve Dancing Princesses, which will curl your toes with its exquisite … exquisiteness? I dunno. Kay Nielsen’s pretty pictures make me not word so good.

Have a good weekend!

– Petra

Why Wait For Prince Charming, When You Can Become Him

Earlier, friends got into an argument about shipping (specifically, Finn/Poe, but it doesn’t really matter). It devolved into the usual “why must you take our nice hetero friendships and make them gross” vs “because nobody gives us nice gay relationships” arguments and then everybody just stopped hearing each other.

I’m too goddamn tired right now to go on a polemic about all this. Instead, let’s talk about fairy tales. Specifically, let’s talk about Romanian fairy tales, which I grew up on, and which are the best fairy tales in the whole world. (I will fight anyone who thinks different. Proper, round the back of the Wetherspoons after closing time, might bring a blade, fight.)

I’m not Romanian. But my dad hung out with Communists a lot*, and spent a good chunk of time in the early 1980s in a pretty riverside town called Curtea de Argeş. After his first long stay in Romania, my father brought back gifts for me. You will be unsurprised to learn that dolls were never a go. Seeing the dog-eared state of my copy of D'Aulaires, Dad figured that more books of fairy tales was a good idea. He was right. I received two books of Romanian fairy tales in English translation, from the foreigners’ hard currency store in Bucharest. They soon became my all-time favourite books. I have one to this day, and occasionally comb used-book sites to try to find the other, though I only dimly remember its cover.

*There’s much more to this story, but you’ll not get it unless I’m in a bar, and you buy me decent whisky for the telling.

Folks, I will reiterate: Romanian fairy tales are the best. Especially coming off D'Aulaires, which was a sort of Ovid for the short-pants set. Let’s briefly refresh things that happen to female characters in Ovid: Europa, raped by a bull. Leda, raped by a swan. Syrinx, turned into reeds because she wouldn’t put out. Daphne, turned into a tree for same. Echo, wasted away after falling in love with a boy who never texted back. Eurydice, trod on a plot point and sent to the underworld. Persephone, abducted to the underworld for more rapey-tiems. Semele, turned to ash for demanding a paternity test, and her fetal child sewn into Zeus’ thigh to be taken to term. Yeah, Cronenburgh doesn’t have shit on the ancient Greeks.

Then we come to Ileana Simziana, a Romanian story about an unnamed female heroine who dresses up as a boy, obtains a magic horse because she is clever and kind, fights giants because she is brave, wins both the freedom and the love of a badass fairy queen (the titular Ileana Simziana) via a mix of cunning and force, and finally swaps genders after being hit by a stray curse while she was stealing some holy water. That’s right, girls: why wait for Prince Charming, when you can become him?

(Illustrations by Maria Surducan for a different tale, Youth Without Age)

I originally found it curious that the heroine was never named. She is referred to throughout as “the emperor’s daughter”. In the rest of the stories in that particular book, the (male) heroes are all named. Although there are almost no decent resources in English for Romanian tales, I did find several references to the Ileana Simziana story where the emperor’s daughter simply took on the generic Romanian hero name of Fet-Frumos, aka Prince Charming. Perhaps the translator of my book chose not to name her, since there were a couple of Fet-Frumos stories in the collection as well and she was afraid lest we foreigners become confused. (She was probably right.)

I need to track down a copy of the other book I had, as I remember it had even more stories where a lot of queer longing was neatly sidestepped by princes magically becoming princesses and vice versa. It was to the point that I became uncomfortable reading the book, because that sort of thing never happened in the stories I had access to. Women in the King Arthur tales were either virgins moping wetly in castles, or evil temptresses. I could be… something other than that?

Not that there weren’t women in castles in Romanian tales. But they were all fairy queens who took precisely zero shit and were busy making the lives of everyone around them miserable, including their captors’. Often they simply existed as formidable figures with no male antagonist / imprisoner: women like Inia Dinia or the other Ileana (Cosinzinea) who took off in annoyance after the hero did something stupid (divulged her name to a stranger; slept through a booty call), went to the ends of the earth, and made the hero go through years of hell to win them back. The hero almost always accomplishes this via something he’s baked, too. It wasn’t all chucking hairbrushes at giants. Women in these tales had more heroic agency than anything else I had read at the time, and possibly to this day.

And not that girls aren’t perfectly able to read the Arthurian stories and just, fuck it, imagine themselves as a knight. It’s what most of us have been doing our entire lives: reading stories in which we have no agency, no significant function, and then creating a new character for that story in our heads. Sometimes that character is female, and sometimes it’s not.

This is how we come back around to fan and slashfiction, and why it has (to a white, cis, male audience) such bewildering popularity: we are so unaccustomed to seeing our gender / sexuality in roles of power that the most comfortable way we can express a romantic relationship of equals using the pre-existing figures of mainstream fiction is via the interactions of two straight males.

Yeah, just stay with that for a moment. That really sucks, doesn’t it? Where are the female characters with equal screen time and power/agency to the (white) male heroes? Where are the queer ones? Where are the heroes of colour? It’s fine to deny us the ability to be leads, but don’t then get mad when we do aftermarket adaptations of the ones that you give us.

It’s slowly getting better. People are a lot more conscious now about representation, and the messages we send to young girls about what it is acceptable for them to become, encased in the sugary wrappings of fiction. 

That’s fantastic, of course. But there is an overwhelming resonance, a sense of place, that occurs when you find something very old, something that’s been around a long time, that whispers to you it’s always been okay to be like thisYou have always belonged here.

Click here to download a pdf of Ileana Simziana. (from Romanian Folk Tales, ed. Minerva, trans Ana Cartianu, 1979, Bucharest. My own dog-eared copy).


With permission from lettherebedoodles I decided to take their amazing Racebent Disney Princess Series and, rather than just seeing them as different versions of the original characters, give them stories and fairy tales of their own. I plan on doing her entire series- hopefully I won’t disappoint!

Some of the stories will be based on the culture the new heroine is based on, and others will be stories from other cultures (such as ‘traditional’ western fairy tales), even real life people will inspire these Disney-style Princesses and Heroines. But please remember- this is all for fun. I’m not pretending to be an expert on any of this. I’ll try my best to do right by these characters and cultures, and if there is something horribly offensive, please let me know how I can fix it.

Sorry I’m a crappy lazy graphic designer, btw.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Amondi – Amondi

Inspired by the Luo legend, “Nyamgodho, Son of Ombare”, this is the story of Amondi, the daughter of a king and the most talented musician in all of Africa. Any song she sings can tame birds and beasts, and any object she picks up she can use as an instrument. She even tamed a lion, which grew to be her dear pet. Her voice even seemed able to do magic, and she was beloved by all for it.

One day, a poor, starving man appears to beg Amondi for her help. Introducing himself as Nyamgodho, he tells her that a demon has stolen his wife and dragged her into the Lake- along with all of the family’s wealth and possession. Now he and his children are alone and starving. He begged her to come and sing at the lake, to try and free his wife from the demon’s grasp. Touched by the poor man’s story, Amondi agrees, and begins the long journey back to his home on the Lake. However, she soon starts to realize that things are not quite what they seem, and that the man’s intentions may not be as pure as she originally thought.

Hatshepsut - The Pharaoh Queen

History knows her as Hatshepsut- one of the most powerful and successful pharaohs of all time. And a woman. Beautiful, fierce and cunning, she was a warrior and a leader. But this wasn’t always the case. As a child, she seemed hardly notable, shy and quiet.

But the gods knew she was destined for greater things than simply being the quiet, submissive wife of a pharaoh. This is the story of how Hatshepsut met the goddess Sekhmet. This is the story of how she became her pupil and friend. This is the story of how Hatshepsut became a pharaoh.

Kawariki - Tutira the Shark Man

Based on the Maori story “Kawariki and the Shark Man” Kawariki is the daughter of the leader of the tribe, a powerful tohunga who could use magic called Matakite. Her childhood friend, Tutira, was the child of prisoners-of-war, now force to work as servants. The two were inseparable growing up, and eventually fall in love. But Kawariki was expected to rule and Tutira to serve. Kawariki’s father Matakite tries to command her to stay away from Tutira, and orders her to marry a man from another tribe. When she fights against his orders, Matakite turns Tutira into a monster, a creature that can only live in the sea and away from her- a shark.

But Tutira can still turn back into a human once a month, during the new moon. The two try to find a way to turn Tutira back into a person permanently, before Kawariki is forced to marry someone she doesn’t love. 

Bari- The Abandoned Princess

Based on the Korean myth of Bari the first shaman, this is the story of a princess who grows to be so much more. Bari was the 7th daughter of a cruel King named Ogu, who was hoping for a son. He abandoned Bari to be raised by farmers, angry at her for being female. Bari grows up knowing that she was abandoned, and is mistreated by those around her. Many people think she is cursed.

However, one day King Ogu and the queen grow severely ill, close to dying. The only cure is revealed to be water from the spring of life, which can only be reached by going through the Underworld. No one will go to get the healing water, and so Bari goes, hoping to earn back her parents love by healing them.

As she journeys, Bari meets all sorts of other people who have been abandoned- by their families, children, and society, even the gods. Bari helps them all, and soon begins to realize that maybe what she really need isn’t the approval of the people who abandoned her…

Important (FINAL!) Note: I’m done with this series! It took a lot longer than I originally thought it would, due in great part to how difficult it was to find mythology and legends from African cultures. But I really enjoyed putting this all together, and it was definitely worth it to wait until I was able to find an actual East African story. Granted, I decided to approach the story from a different angle (it’s one of my favorite things to do) but I hope people like that choice. Fairy tales are a big passion of mine, and I really enjoyed exploring the many different ways they can be told. I hope you enjoyed reading all of these, but most of all I hope I did right by the cultures and stories I explored in this series. 

You think fairy tales are only for girls? Here’s a hint—ask yourself who wrote them. I assure you, it wasn’t just the women. It’s the great male fantasy—all it takes is one dance to know that she’s the one. All it takes is the sound of her song from the tower, or a look at her sleeping face. And right away you know—this is the girl in your head, sleeping or dancing or singing in front of you. Yes, girls want their princes, but boys want their princesses just as much. And they don’t want a very long courtship. They want to know immediately.
—  Rachel Cohn, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares

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Synopsis for unfamiliar readers :

Emma Crewe doesn’t care for books, but has the power to literally be lost in one.

When Emma lands in another world following a library fire, she discovers she’s a Namesake — one with the power to open portals to other worlds via the power of their name: strange, fantasy, and fairy-tale lands we know thanks to literature, cinema, and folks tales. The rules of Namesakes are quite clear - Alices always go to Wonderland. Wendys always go to Neverland. However, Emma finds herself in Oz, where she is expected to act as the latest in a long line of Dorothies. She instead unveils a magical conspiracy plot that’s more than 100 years in the making.

While Emma is stumbling down the Yellow Brick Road, her younger sister Elaine discovers she’s a Writer — one gifted with the power to make stories come to life. Will Elaine be her sister’s key back home?

Aided by magic-wielding twins from Oz, a half-Cheshire Alice, a devilishly charming Jack, a sword-wielding Lost Girl, a hungry card soldier, and a confused Canadian, Emma must walk through many stories to find everyone’s happy ending.

Updates 3 times per week Tues/Thurs/Sat
For lovers of fantasy stories containing fairy tales, conspiracies, romance and adventure.

Follow Isa (artist/co-writer) on Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram
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More cool comics at Hiveworks.