This blog goes on under a different name and new web address from January 2011. Please follow me...

Beyond the Lone Islands

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Beatrix Potter

I can't really recall if I ever read Beatrix Potter as a child, but I recently enjoyed watching this film about her life, Miss Potter, starring Renée Zellweger; even if some comments I read on the internet suggest that the film is perhaps not exactly accurate in all the details.
I also found this delightful Peter the Rabbit website, where you can read more about Beatrix and her world, as well as look at some of her beautiful pictures. There are also some games you can play online, and the pictures below you can send as e-cards from the website.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Quotation of the Week (5/09)

Another C.S. Lewis quotation, from The Last Battle, Ch. 13:

"Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out."

(This is Aslan's remark about some Dwarves who think they are still inside a "pitch-black, poky, smelly little hole of a stable", although they are really in the open air, surronded by sky, grass and flowers.)

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Treasured Friends Award

Treasured Friends Award

The rules are simple, just pass this award on to 5 other bloggers who fit the description of the award. Please visit their blogs and leave a comment.

I received this award from Rose-Anne, who is also a treasured across-the-world friend of mine, ever since the days back when you needed pen and paper and stamps to keep such relationships going. Thank you for being a good friend, for this award and for inspiring me to start my own blog!

However, the award also presents me with a problem (or five!), since I'm a newborn baby in the world of blogging, and have no idea if I have any other friends who fit the description AND keep a blog. So here is what I'll do: I'll pass this award on by email to some treasured friends I know at least use the computer. ;-) I'll also continue to explore the vast ocean of the internet, and hopefully make some new friends visiting other random blog islands out there!

Friday, 23 January 2009

Winter Slide Show

Quotation of the Week (4/09)

I found the gadget "Quotation of the Day", linked to The Free Dictionary, and have inserted it in the margin of this blog. Now at least something on this page will be changed every day! ;-)

However, I have also collected a number of quotations myself over the years, and my intention is to add a Quotation of the Week from my private collection.

Since I started the blog with a quotation from C.S. Lewis, why not continue with another one by the same author, from the last of the seven Chronicles of Narnia:

"Of course, Daughter of Eve," said the Faun. "The farther up and the farther in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside --- like an onion: except that as you go in and in, each circle is larger than the last."

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Nail Soup

In the previous post, I said that The Tales of Beedle the Bard reminded me of stories I read as a child in an old reader that had been my grandfather's, printed in 1910. Many of these stories exist in slightly different versions in different countries, and belong to the inheritance of folk tales and fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm (German: Die Brüder Grimm); link to English Wikipedia article.

One of the stories I have in mind is called Nail Soup; in other countries also known as for example Stone Soup or Button Soup.

This is the storyline in short:

A tramp knocks on the door of a house. And old woman opens. The tramp asks for shelter for the night and some food. The woman says no, her husband is away, she can't take him in, and besides she has no food to offer. The tramp begs her to let him stay anyway, and suggests they help each other, and he will provide the food. The woman is sceptical, but curious and greedy, and agrees to let him in.

The tramp asks for a pot, and some water, and when the water is boiling he pulls a nail out of his pocket, turns it three times in his hand, and puts it into the pot. The woman asks what he intends to do, and he says he is making Nail Soup. The woman is astonished, she has never heard of such a thing, and she would like to know how it is done.

"Oh," says the tramp, "it ususally comes out very good, but the thing is, I've been using the same nail all week, so it wouldn't hurt to put in som extra flour."
"Well," says the woman, "I might have a pinch of flour left."
So he puts the flour into the pot, stirs and tastes the soup, and says: "Oh, this is a very good soup indeed! Why, if I just had a couple of potatoes and a bit of meat to add to it, it would even be good enough for gentlefolks!" So the woman gives him potatoes and meat, and he puts them in the pot, and stirs and tastes again. Then he adds that now, if he also had some milk and some groats, the soup would be good enough for the king himself. It turns out, of course, that the woman has milk and groats as well.

Finally, the tramp takes the nail out of the pot, and declares the soup is ready. But at the king's castle, they would of course also have bread with the soup, and a cloth on the table...

The woman puts all she has in her larder on the table - bread and butter and cheese etc, and they end up having a proper feast together; the woman still amazed at how much can be done with just a common nail!

In other versions of the story, a whole village becomes involved in the making of the soup.

A question to discuss: Was the nail necessary for the soup or not?

It was actually not just one but two stories in The Tales of Beedle the Bard that brought my mind back to this particular folk tale. One was The Wizard and the Hopping Pot, the other The Fountain of Fair Fortune. One theme that these three stories share is (in my interpretation), that sometimes the solution to a problem is both more complicated and at the same time simpler than we realize.

For those who haven't read Beedle the Bard and just want a short summary of the tales, here is a "spoiler warning" link to the Wikipedia article.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the Bard played an important role in the last of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, The Deathly Hallows, where the title was presented as being a storybook well known to children in the Wizarding world.

After the publication of The Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling produced seven handwritten and illustrated copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Six she gave to people who had been helping her in different ways with the Harry Potter series. The seventh was offered for auction and bought for £1.95 million by, the highest price ever at an auction for a modern literary manuscript. The money was donated to The Children's Voice charity campaign.

I found out just before Christmas 2008 that the book had now also been published for the general public, the proceeds going to the Children's High Level Group. Since I've been a Harry Potter fan ever since I first started reading the books in 2001, of course I bought it as a Christmas gift for myself!

My first impression of The Tales of Beedle the Bard was that they reminded me a lot "in general" of old folk tales, like the ones I used to read in my childhood in an old book at my grandfather's house - an old (Swedish) reader printed in 1910 that my grandfather (born in 1904) used in school. There weren't all that many children's book in their house, so I used to return to that old reader every now and then. I still have it, and I sometimes still return to it in search of certain old stories, fables and myths.

I think Rowling has caught the style of old fairy tales very well, but also as ususal managed to add her own twist. Just a bit school-mistressy perhaps that she thinks she needs to point that out herself in the Introduction... ;)

In Muggle fairy tales, magic tends to lie at the root of the hero or heroine's troubles - the wicked witch has poisoned the apple, or put the princess into a hundred year's sleep, or turned the prince into a hideous beast. In The Tales of Beedle the Bard, on the other hand, we meet heroes and heroines who can perform magic themselves, and yet find it just as hard to solve their problems as we do.
J.K. Rowling, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Introduction

I enjoyed the stories though, including Professor Dumbledore's Notes, which follows each of the five stories. I'm glad it was decided the book should be made available for all readers!

Interested in discussing Harry Potter? Visit

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The Magic Toyshop

I've just finished reading The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter (Swedish title: Den magiska leksaksbutiken). I don't remember when I bought it, probably at some sale; it's been sitting on my shelf of unread books for at least a couple of years. The story was nothing like what I expected from the title or the cover; it's certainly not a children's story and the 'magic' of the toyshop very different from e.g. Narnia or Harry Potter - not that kind of otherworldly magic at all, even if there are some strange people. The 'evil magician' of the toyshop is the uncle in whose house 15-year-old Melanie and her two younger siblings come to live after their parents died in an accident. But the power he exercises over his household (his wife, her two brothers and the three children) is of the bullying puppet master kind and there is not really ever even an illusion of anything else.

Half way through the book, my reflection was that the language and style in which it is written reminded me of Martha Quest by Doris Lessing which I also read quite recently. A 'young girl growing up into a woman' perspective but although we see things through the main character's eyes, she still remains somehow distant, not quite in touch with either herself or her surroundings or the reader. This comparison still remains in my mind after I've finished the whole book, even if Carter's story is darker and more sinister than Lessing's.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

The Illusionist

Watched The Illusionist (from 2006) on DVD today and think I have to add it to my Favourites! It keeps you guessing along with the detective and the audience in the film, what's real or magic or illusion...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Colour of Magic

I've started over listening to recordings of Pratchett's Discworld series, beginning with The Colour of Magic. I heard this has been made into film now starring David Jason and Sean Astin, which sounds interesting; but what I'm really curious to know is what they do about "the eighth colour", Octarine (described as greenish purple in the book)...

Monday, 5 January 2009

The Dawn of a New Year and a New Blog

After some trial and error, it seems I have created a blog!

In choosing the title, I had in mind the Island of the Voices in C.S. Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Lucy enters a Magician's House to find the Magician's Book, and within that book A Spell to make hidden things visible.

She read it through to make sure of all the hard words and then said it out loud. And she knew at once that it was working because as she spoke the colours came into the capital letters at the top of the page and the pictures began appearing in the margins. It was like when you hold to the fire something written in Invisible Ink and the writing gradually shows up...
I really have no clear idea yet what hidden things I want this blog to make visible. But maybe if I start writing, I will find out...


Blog Widget by LinkWithin