East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Kay_Nielsen_-_East_of_the_sun_and_west_of_the_moon_-_soria_moria_castle_-_he_took_a_long_long_farewell_of_the_Princess

Yep, our February ‘theme’ was the 19th century Norwegian fairytale collection put together by zoologist Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and folklorist (there’s a title) Jørgen Moe. East of the Sun, West of the Moon is just one of the stories contained within, but it’s also the title of the most common English collection, and it’s the one we have. The artwork used is by Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen, and they’re some of the most famous, beautiful and evocative fairytale illustrations we can think of, so it was a pleasure to incorporate them.

Should you wish to, you can read all the stories from the collection online here, which is well worth a few of anyone’s hours. The very shortest story in the collection is minuscule indeed, and you can read it here on our Instagram page.

The illustration used on the envelope is from the story The Three Princesses in the Blue Mountain, and on the bookplate, the girl riding the polar bear is our main character from East of the Sun, West of the Moon itself.

As with all fairytales, the collection’s European roots mean that there are many crossovers and influences between these tales and others you may have heard, or grown up with, and the infinite variations on the same themes that come with the telling and retelling of these stories and tropes make fairytales one of our very favourite genres to visit and explore. They’re the backbone of so much of all fiction (some would say, of all fiction), and the way we choose to read and understand them can tell us so much about the social and cultural world not just that we live in, but that we inherit.

The Crow and I grew up entranced, and sometimes terrified by, the wonderful Storyteller presentations of several European fairytales – if you’ve never seen these, they feature the best beloved John Hurt, and the magical puppetry of the Jim Henson workshop (best known, of course, for Labyrinth). If you pop over to this link, you can find the episode concerning the tale of The True Bride, which is clearly a strain of the same story (Wikipedia tells me it’s the German version of it, which seems logical). We also hugely recommend making a vat of tea and perhaps some biscuits or carrots or whatever you nibble whilst consuming entertainment, and then losing yourself in the entire Storyteller series, which is all available up there. Truly, important stuff.

It won’t have escaped regulars’ notice that East of the Sun, West of the Moon is also the title of the a-ha album we’ve listened to the most during the making of recent boxes, and in light of that here’s a bonus, a daft and poor quality little YouTube clip of the title song because grainy, quiet, daft a-ha are our favourites.

We are asked so often to find magic, to find escape, to find imaginative reads for our subscribers, and the hunt often starts with these oldest tales, from wherever in the world we can find them, and the many ways they’ve strained through time into novels, children’s and adults’ alike, good and bad, thrilling and cautionary. This book is the tip of the iceberg of one of our greatest human traditions, and it also celebrates the collection and preservation of these stories, which, in a tiny way, is also, we like to think, what Prudence and the Crow is all about.

Speaking of which, as February’s been a short month and it’s nice to give people a chance to get a recurring subscription that comes out after the first of the month, we’ll be keeping recurring subscriptions starting with a March box open until 4th March, so, should you wish to join us thus, or to buy a one-off, 3, 6 or 12-month gift subscription for someone, do head over to www.prudenceandthecrow.com and sign up!

Finally, we launched the PatCReadingList Project this month – to further knowledge about what’s been read in schools in our ship-to countries over the last thirty years, we’re calling for recommended reading lists, recollections and core course texts in various ways: hop over to the post for a detailed explanation of what, where, why and how-to! We’ve had some wonderful responses, and the more the very much merrier (esp. Americans – we’d love more from you!), so please do join in, definitely do share the post around (shareable Facebook post here) and, hopefully, we’ll come up with some interesting things to share right back in the future.

We wish you a beautiful and delightful March, for that is what’s next. Happy Leap Day!

~Prudence (and the Crow)

 

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The #PatCReadingList Project!

20160227_174256Calling all teachers, students, parents! We’re launching a new project, and we’d love your help sourcing old reading lists! If you’re curious, please read this whole lengthy post to find out more!

Here at Prudence and the Crow HQ, we spend a lot of our time working with people’s reading likes and dislikes, loves and hates, filling in gaps, adding unexpected delights, and stretching boundaries. We use a huge range of references and personal knowledge to do this, but we’re finding there’s one thing we don’t always know, and the more we don’t know it, the more interested we’ve become.

We don’t know what you read at school.

The Crow and I went to the same secondary school, although, as we were in separate halves of the year, we studied different things from each other, so we’re aware this is a big question, and that just because things are on a list, doesn’t mean everyone had the opportunity to study them, and, further, that just because you’re meant to study something, doesn’t mean you did! However, this is where we’re starting.

Further, we have little idea about, for example, Canadian school reading. We have loads of wonderful subscribers in Canada, and we’re interested in developing our familiarity with literature you might have focused on, or at least been aware of, at school. This goes for everywhere we ship to – currently the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, EU countries, Norway and Switzerland. No matter the language, we want to know what books you might have met!

How can you help? Firstly, if any teachers, parents, students have website links to school reading lists, that would be ideal. In the first instance, core recommended reading lists would be brilliant. Secondly, if you have, from any such academic place, or home school curriculum, your reading lists, whether for GCSE English, for ‘things you’re expected to read before you’re twelve’, for ‘wider reading’, for SATs, for the International Baccalaureate, for whatever exams you’ve sat, or teach, we’d love it if you could share them with us, whether typed or scanned.

Because, in the first instance, we need to narrow it down a touch, we’re looking for this information in relation to the last 30 years, so any recommended reading lists for children aged 5-18, from any of the listed countries, from 1986-2016.

We’ve set up an email address specifically for this project (and ONLY for this project, please do not send any subscription box/subscription account-related queries to this address, for they will not be answered!) – please send, either as links, Word document or PDF attachments, or in-email text, any reading lists, or lists of works of fiction those between the ages of 5-18 were/are directed to read between 1986-2016. (I know, I haven’t told you the email address yet, that’s at the end after I’ve reiterated some more!)

We need to know the following with your submission:

– Country of list origin

– State of list origin (if in a place that has states! If not, postal district or county is great.)

– Age group list is directed at

– Class list is directed at (if, say, reading list for Key Stage 3, or for GCSE Drama

– Year list is relevant to

An example would be, “1996 Wider Reading list for GCSE English Language (14-16 years old).” followed by the list of books.

We do NOT need any personal information from you, whatsoever – this isn’t about collecting individual data, but rather more general data to give us a broad context of understanding for what we do. We may in future look to do some more specific work in light of what we find out (I’m excited to see how much we have in common, and I have a few theories that I’m eager to test), but at this stage, we really do simply want to collect as many reading lists from as many years, ages, states and countries as possible!

You’re welcome to submit a personal recollection of books from school if you don’t have a specific issued reading list, as many or few as you like, an example of which might be:

[UK: England]

1998 – Harper Lee – To Kill A Mockingbird, Shakespeare – Macbeth, Alan Bennett – Talking Heads – GCSE English Literature
1993 – Nina Bawden – Carrie’s War, Robert C. O’Brien – Z For Zachariah, Year 7 class reading

So, if you can help with books-suggested-by-educators from the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, EU countries, Norway and Switzerland between 1986-2016, here’s what you do:

Submit your reading list by email to: patcreadinglist@gmail.com with the subject line [COUNTRY] Reading List. Delete the word ‘COUNTRY’ and replace it with the country/ies your list is from.

In the body of your email, please put the information requested above (country, state, school class, age and year), and, of course, don’t forget to attach/include the reading list!

In due course, we hope not only to improve what we do, but to share our findings, write up some interesting bits and pieces, and widen the discourse about reading in education. We have a few ideas for follow-up questionnaires and so on, but one step at a time!

Finally, if you could share this post, we’d greatly appreciate it – we’re looking for as wide a selection as possible. You can also see and share this post on our Facebook page – as you know, Facebook has a very special way of choosing how visible things are, so every like and share contributes to the success of this project!

Thanks for reading, and, if you can, for helping! We’re looking forward to finding out more! ~Prudence (and the Crow)