Saturday, October 16, 2010

Swan Lake and the Ugly Duckling

      Swan Lake is one of the most famous ballets ever performed and has been reproduced in many countries throughout the world.Tchaikovsky wrote the ballet in 1876.Tchaikovsky was a famous composer of ballets and his other works included Sleeping Beauty in 1889 and The Nutcracker in 1892
   The classic ballet begins with the celebration of Prince Siegfried’s 21st birthday. He is expected to take a wife in marriage. Discouraged, he retreats to an enchanted lake and discovers a uniquely beautiful swan floating among her companions. At dusk, she turns into a beautiful woman named Odette. She is the swan queen. An evil sorcerer named von Rothbart has turned Odette and her fellow lake maidens into swans by day and they can only be human by night. The weeping of the maiden daughters parents caused the formation of the lake itself. 

Swans Swimming on the Lake 

Swans on the Lake

   There is much controversy over the origin of the Swan Lake story. For centuries, legends of swans, symbolizing the purity of womanhood, can be found transcending both Eastern and Western literature. It is known that Tchaikovsky was commissioned by Vladimir  Begichev, of the Russian Imperial Theatres in Moscow and a friend of Tchaikovsky, to write a score for Swan Lake in May 1875.
   It was Begichev who wrote the initial programme of the ballet. He, along with Vasily  Geltser, a dancer in the Moscow company, are credited with writing the words for the ballet. It is highly likely that Tchaikovsky had a good deal of influence over the story’s development as well. Legends of swans were presumably familiar to Tchaikovsky and his artistic friends, who no doubt discussed the idea of the swan as a symbol of womanhood at its purest.

Swan Lake 

   The legend of the Swan Maiden goes back for centuries, appearing in differing forms in both eastern and western literature. Women who turn into birds and vice versa were popular themes, and the swan was particularly favored due to its grace when swimming in the water. The ancient Greeks considered the swan to the bird closest to the Muses. When Apollo was born at Delos, the event was celebrated by flights of circling swans.

The Ugly Duckling 
Hans Christian Anderson
    I can't understand how this ugly duckling can be one of mine!" she said to herself, shaking her head as she looked at her last born. Well, the gray duckling certainly wasn't pretty, and since he ate far more than his brothers, he was outgrowing them. As the days went by, the poor ugly duckling became more and more unhappy. His brothers didn't want to play with him, he was so
clumsy, and all the farmyard folks simply laughed at him. He felt sad and lonely, while Mother Duck did her best to console him.

   "Poor little ugly duckling!" she would say. "Why are you so different from the others?" And the ugly duckling felt worse than ever. He secretly wept at night. He felt nobody wanted him.
   Then one morning the ugly duckling sees the beautiful swans . He knows them. He wants so much to swim with them in the river. But he is afraid of them. He wants to die. So he runs into the river. He looks into the water. There in the water he sees a beautiful swan. It is he! He is no more an ugly duckling. He is a beautiful white swan.

 Ugly Duckling Danny Kaye

The Swan Song
      This term derived from the legend that, while they are mute during the rest of their lives, swans sing beautifully and mournfully just before they die. This isn't actually the case swans, even the inaccurately named Mute Swans, have a variety of vocal sounds and they don't sing before they die. The legend was known to be false as early as the days of ancient Rome.
Nevertheless, poetic imagery proved to be more attractive and many poets and writers used this legend. Chaucer included this line in the poem Parliament of Fowles.
Shakespeare,  used the image in The Merchant of Venice, 1596.

Aesops Fable  A Raven and a Swan
     A Raven saw a Swan and strongly desired the Swan's beautiful white feathers. Thinking the color was due to constant washing in the water the Swan was swimming in, the Raven left his perch and went to live in the lake. But washing in the lake's water had no effect on the Raven's color and as he could not fish for food, he perished.
    Maybe these are two ravens that did'nt perish but transformed into Black Swans.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Robert Louis Stevenson

His stories are great childrens classics Treasure Island, Kidnapped,The Black Arrow and then his poetry. Robert Louis Stevenson has always been one of my favourite authors and I remember reading a short story of his called The Imp as a boy and it has forever stuck in my head.
  The other two works of his that has me a little ga ga is The Body Snatchers and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and they are the stories we are looking at in this post.


     Stevenson was born on Nov. 13, 1850, in Edinburgh, the son of an engineer. He himself studied engineering and then law at the University of Edinburgh. Since childhood, however, Stevenson's natural inclination had been toward literature and he soon made his way into writing by the excellence of his style. 
   Stevenson suffered from tuberculosis and often traveled abroad in search of more healthful climates. His earliest works are descriptions of his journeys. An Inland Voyage (1878), describing a canoe trip through Belgium and France in 1876. Travels with a Donkey (1879), an account of a journey on foot through mountains in southern France in 1878. Subsequent travels took him by ship and train to California (1879-80), where in 1880 he married Frances Osbourne they settled in Samoa 1889 in a final effort to restore his health. He died in Samoa on Dec. 3, 1894, and was buried on a mountaintop behind Vailima, his Samoan home. 

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde based on scientists 
Freud, Kraft-Ebing and Darwin 

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the two characters of the novella are but one; one body two conflicting characters, the good and evil. In a way, these two characters bear more than two symbolic values In Victorian era, Dr. Sigmund Freud and Richard Kraft-Ebing gifted the world with the new branch of science Psychology and Psychoanalysis. Stevenson was impressed rather inspired by series of papers written by these two eminent scientists and published in journals of that period. Then there was most famous biologist, Charles Darwin, who produced tremors by publishing his research work the origin of species.Darwin's thesis of evolution of human being (monkey-ape-homo sapien) was also a thrilling new biological approach. Stevenson was inspired by these prominent scientists. Somewhere in his mind their thesis remained embedded within him and when he dreamt a nightmare, it triggered him to write Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Quotes
      I incline to Cain's heresy,' he used to say quaintly: 'I let my brother go to the devil in his own way.

The last I think; for, O poor old Harry Jekyll, if ever I read Satan's signature upon a face, it is on that of your new friend."

I swear to God I will never set eyes on him again. I bind my honour to you that I am done with him in this world. It is all at an end. And indeed he does not want my help; you do not know him as I do; he is safe, he is quite safe; mark my words, he will never more be heard of."

It was for one minute that I saw him, but the hair stood upon my head like quills. Sir, if that was my master, why had he a mask upon his face?"

    O God!' I screamed, and 'O God!' again and again; for there before my eyes--pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death--there stood Henry Jekyll!

   With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.

Stevenson Quotes 
Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.
Even if the doctor does not give you a year, even if he hesitates about a month, make one brave push and see what can be accomplished in a week. 
Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences. 
That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much.  
The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us. 
The habit of being happy enables one to be freed, or largely freed, from the domination of outward conditions.
 Stevensons Books and Poems
My Shadow
The Vagabond 

The Body Snatchers
First published in the Pall Mall Gazette Christmas issue
The Story summary
Four men sit drinking in a British tavern. There is a sick man in the house and a famous London doctor has been summoned to treat him. When one of the men, Fettes, hears the doctor’s name, Wolfe Macfarlane, he wakes suddenly from his drunken stupor and rushes to see the doctor’s face. He recognizes and threatens the doctor, who flees. Doctor Macfarlane and his accoster, Fettes, had studied medicine together under a famous--but unorthodox--anatomist.
They were in charge of obtaining bodies for dissection. Fettes regularly received and paid for corpses late at night from the men who robbed graves for them. One night, the body of a woman he knew was brought to his door; he was certain that she had been murdered but he said nothing. One day he met Macfarlane at a tavern. He was being strangely heckled by a man named Gray. The next night, Macfarlane showed up with Gray’s body and demanded payment for it. He had evidently murdered the man. Fettes was shaken but acquiesced. Soon the body was dissected, so the evidence of murder was gone.

History behind the Body Snatcher Publication

It was written in June, 1881, and was originally
  intended to form one of a series of tales of
  terror that Stevenson called  "crawlers,"
  which had been planned in collaboration with Mrs.
  Stevenson, and were to be brought out under the
  title of The Black Man and Other Tales.  Of these
  stories Thrawn Janet adn The Merry Men were
  published in the magazine but The
 Body Snatcher was laid aside the tale being so horrid.  Subsequently in
  1884 being asked to contribute a story to The Pall Mall Xmas Magazine ,
 he offered
Markheim, but as it fell short of the space
  reserved for it, Stevenson sent The Body Snatcher,
  which, in a letter to the editor, he describes as
  "blood-curdling enough and ugly enough to chill
  the blood of a grenadier". Unique and gruesome
  methods of advertising were used by  
The Pall Mall, and much attention was drawn to the
  story.  In London, posters were displayed of so
  ghoulish and startling a character that they were
  suppressed by the police.
The friendly cow all red and white,
I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
To eat with apple-tart.

She wanders lowing here and there,
And yet she cannot stray,
All in the pleasant open air,
The pleasant light of day;

And blown by all the winds that pass
And wet with all the showers,
She walks among the meadow grass
     And eats the meadow flowers.
Travels with Robert Louis Stevenson in the Cevennes 
Anna Tambour 

While striking his bargain, Father Adam petted my neck for the first time. At our separation he shed a tear, and the tear made a clean mark down one cheek as he fingered with delight his heavy coins. And although everyone in the village knew the truth about his loving attachment to me, they waved in complicity as my new owner led me away. As we rounded the corner, my left ear pointed back to the laughter from where we had been, while my right leaned toward a chortle at my side. "Cheaper than my sleeping sack!" Mr. Stevenson exclaimed, in words that sounded like pebbles rolling down the cobblestones. I felt quite deflated. I had been quite proud at the price he paid for me, and here he thought me cheap. He spent the next few steps congratulating himself rather insultingly until he interrupted himself with "What shall I call her?"