with Creative Partnership by Bryan Prywes
From Craft to Craft:
A three-dimensional adaptation of Grimm’s fairy tales
The German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm began collecting fairy tales in the early nineteenth century. The tales were primarily collected from middle-class women who heard the tales from their lower-class nursemaids, governesses, etc. Originally embarked upon as a scholarly project, the brothers only later reincarnated the tales for children, with their scholarly notes printed separately. The children’s versions of the tales eliminated offensive erotic and sexual elements as well as specific male and female role models emphasized in the originals, added cute diminutives, and modified the tales to fit the role of the education manual so that they could be incorporated into school curricula. The tales became German bestsellers second only to the Bible.
The story of “The Juniper Tree” (“Von dem Machandelboom”), the particular tale which we have chosen to adapt, can originally be found in the first volume of the Grimm brothers’ Children’s and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen), published in 1812.
We had difficulty assigning a single genre to the Grimm’s fairy tales. On the surface as “fairy tales,” they tread a line between fable and folklore. Their simplistic diction lends itself well to the fable genre, as the tales are meant to be enjoyed by children, and quite oftentimes, the characters learn a moral lesson in the end. Although they do not have a specific cultural setting, which is a defining feature of folklore, the tales also resemble this genre, in the fact that they are easily and frequently passed down from generation to generation and also amongst peers, often orally. However, upon further analysis of content, the tales strongly demonstrate an element of the gothic style more often associated with Poe. The imagery is often gory and violent, which seems to be incohesive with the much milder fable and folklore genres.
We chose to adapt tale of “The Juniper Tree” because it not only had an extremely intriguing plot, but it also contained many aspects of the Grimm’s fairy tales characteristic genre collage, with its simplistic and repetitive language, yet tantalizingly gory imagery. However, we wanted to take our interpretation of “The Juniper Tree” in the direction that Grimm’s fairy tales have evolved to modern day. Adaptations of many of the tales have withheld the test of time, but have been reincarnated into significantly more happy and light versions of their earlier counterparts, a la Disney or Into the Woods, for example. Our particular adaptation takes the form of a three-dimensional video storyboard with dialogue, maintaining the overall plot of the original tale, as well as some of the original text, but adapting the visuals and the script through silly clay figures and colloquial language to better adhere to the more light-hearted pattern of modern day interpretations of the original fairy tales.
The Creative Process
The key to creating our adaptation of “The Juniper Tree” was editing. Originally, we had simply transcribed the story’s text into dialogue and narration, but this idea did not seem to portray “The Juniper Tree” as we had envisioned it as an adapted piece. It seemed too true to the original tale, and while we wanted to maintain some aspects of the original story, we essentially wanted to make it entirely our own. We then decided to eliminate the majority of the original text, maintaining the only original text we found to be crucial to the overall tale, the bird’s song: “My mother, she killed me. / My father, he ate me. / My sister, Marlene, she made sure to see / my bones were all gather together, / bound nicely in silk, as neat as can be, / and laid beneath the juniper tree. / Tweet, tweet! What a lovely bird I am!” We also modified repetitive scenes, such as the exchange between the bird and the workers, originally with the bird singing, the worker asking to hear the song again, the bird refusing without reward, and then the worker finally bestowing a gift for the song, to a single line of speech, but strived to maintain the memorable, resonating concept of repetition by using the same line of speech to replace each instant of this modified scene: “Well aren’t you just the sweetest bird I’ve ever seen? Here. Have (gift) in return for your beautiful music.” In the same vane, we included a simple, yet catchy melody for the bird’s song. In these regards, we maintained aspects of the original tales and genres by preserving some of the original text, most of the original plot, the simplicity in language, and the appealing repetition, yet still managed to modify the story to become a new and originally crafted piece. I also wanted to maintain original aspects of the tale through the clay created characters, so I attempted to make the boy “as red as blood and as white as snow,” and the bird with “bright red and green feathers, and his neck appeared to glisten like pure gold.”
We also wanted to convey simplicity in the visualization, so we decided to limit the visualization to single images rather than moving shots. Therefore, we then analyzed the story and selected a small compilation of scenes through which we felt the figures we had created could aptly represent the story as a whole. We crafted each moment into a single pose and photographed a still frame of each scene. Our final scene selection, with characters and props, is as follows:
* Mother under the tree praying – (mother, juniper tree)
* Father crying – (father with teardrop)
* Father proposing to stepmother – (father, stepmother, ring)
* Stepmother resenting boy – (stepmother, Marlene)
* Boy asking for apple – (boy, stepmother)
* Boy and stepmother with chest – (boy, stepmother, apple, chest)
* Stepmother slamming boy’s head in chest – (boy sans head, stepmother, chest, apple)
* Stepmother tying up boy’s head and positioning with apple – (stepmother, boy, apple, kerchief)
* Marlene asking stepmother for apple – (Marlene, stepmother, boy, kerchief, apple)
* Marlene asking brother for apple – (Marlene, boy, kerchief, apple)
* Marlene knocking off brother’s head – (Marlene, boy sans head, kerchief, apple)
* Stepmother and Marlene with the body – (Marlene, stepmother, boy sans head, kerchief, apple)
* Stepmother cooking boy into a stew – (stepmother, pot, spoon, boy’s head)
* Father eating stew – (father, chest, pot, boy’s head, stepmother, spoon, Marlene)
* Marlene putting bones under juniper tree – (Marlene, bones, juniper tree)
* Bird emerging from juniper tree – (Marlene, bones, juniper tree, bird)
* Goldsmith with gold chain – (goldsmith, gold chain, bird)
* Bird flying with gold chain – (bird, gold chain)
* Shoemaker with red shoes – (shoemaker, red shoes, bird, gold chain)
* Bird flying with gold chain and red shoes – (bird, gold chain, red shoes)
* Miller with millstone – (miller, millstone, bird, gold chain, red shoes)
* Bird flying with gold chain, red shoes, and millstone – (bird, gold chain, red shoes, millstone)
* Father looking up with gold chain – (father, gold chain, juniper tree)
* Marlene looking up with red shoes – (father, gold chain, Marlene, red shoes, juniper tree)
* Stepmother looking up – (father, gold chain, Marlene, red shoes, stepmother, juniper tree)
* Stepmother crushed by millstone with boy standing on top – (father, gold chain, Marlene, red shoes, stepmother, millstone, boy, juniper tree)
* Family walking back inside to eat stew – (father, gold chain, Marlene, red shoes, stepmother, millstone, boy, juniper tree)
We decided to focus on scenes that portrayed either strong character emotions or significant aspects of the story’s plot.
The final step in the creative process was compiling the audio and visual components together and inserting supplementary audio and visual effects for additional joviality and audience understanding. The final project was a three-dimensional video storyboard with dialogue that we hope was able to maintain aspects of the original Grimm’s fairy tale, “The Juniper Tree” while also adapting to the light-hearted representations of children’s tales of the modern day. We hope you enjoy our work!
Nora Mitnick and Bryan Prywes
Nora Mitnick and Bryan Prywes
with Special Thanks to Michael Stay