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Monsters ink

One of this fall’s most anticipated films is “Where the Wild Things Are,” which attempts to bring the 338 words and 18 pictures of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book to life on the big screen. The stakes are high because the book is perfect; its simple story, about a misbehaving kid named Max and the creatures he meets on his imaginary voyage, is now a revered parable about growing up, staying young, and dealing with the unknown. With an army of puppeteers and CGI effects, the filmmakers will also be reacquainting audiences with one of the great supporting casts in children’s books: Sendak’s monsters. The Wild Things – fierce but charming beasts with bulging eyes, fangs, and claws – became, for generations of the book’s fans, iconic. With mismatched animal bodies and goofy, humanoid features, they looked like a cross between ogres and teddy bears. And they promptly claimed a spot in our pop culture bestiary, along with Godzilla, King Kong, and Barney the Dinosaur, where they’ve roamed ever since.

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Fairy tales have ancient origin

A study by anthropologists has explored the origins of folk tales and traced the relationship between varients of the stories recounted by cultures around the world.

The researchers adopted techniques used by biologists to create the taxonomic tree of life, which shows how every species comes from a common ancestor.

Dr Jamie Tehrani, a cultural anthropologist at Durham University, studied 35 versions of Little Red Riding Hood from around the world.

Whilst the European version tells the story of a little girl who is tricked by a wolf masquerading as her grandmother, in the Chinese version a tiger replaces the wolf.

In Iran, where it would be considered odd for a young girl to roam alone, the story features a little boy.

Contrary to the view that the tale originated in France shortly before Charles Perrault produced the first written version in the 17th century, Dr Tehrani found that the varients shared a common ancestor dating back more than 2,600 years.

He said: “Over time these folk tales have been subtly changed and have evolved just like an biological organism. Because many of them were not written down until much later, they have been misremembered or reinvented through hundreds of generations.

“By looking at how these folk tales have spread and changed it tells us something about human psychology and what sort of things we find memorable.

“The oldest tale we found was an Aesopic fable that dated from about the sixth century BC, so the last common ancestor of all these tales certainly predated this. We are looking at a very ancient tale that evolved over time.”

Dr Tehrani, who will present his work on Tuesday at the British Science Festival in Guildford, Surrey, identified 70 variables in plot and characters between different versions of Little Red Riding Hood.

He found that the stories could be grouped into distinct families according to how they evolved over time.

The original ancestor is thought to be similar to another tale, The Wolf and the Kids, in which a wolf pretends to be a nanny goat to gain entry to a house full of young goats.

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Steven Guarnaccia ‘The Three Little Pigs’

Published by Corraini –one of my favorite publishers of all times.

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Once upon a time there were three little pigs who lived in a big house in the forest…
The tale of The three little pigs is set by Steven Guarnaccia among houses by great architects of the XXth century. Frank Gehry, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright are in fact the main protagonists of this contemporary tale with other renowned architects in their houses of scraps, of glass and of stone and mortar.
In their famous buildings they live among objects designed by some of the most internationally representative architects and designers. But one day the wolf pays a visit to them…

As for Goldilocks and the three bears, Steven Guarnaccia re-designs a classical among tales for children from an architect and designer’s point of view, by realizing mixed-media illustrations with precise strokes and clear and harmonious colours. Also, in endpapers one can find a useful list of the renowned design objects which appear in the story, in order to find and recognize them by glancing through the book.
… and they lived happily ever after.

Frank Baum, the Man Behind the Curtain

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It seems appropriate that a story with such mythical dimensions has inspired its own legends—the most enduring, perhaps, being that The Wizard of Oz was a parable for populism. In the 1960s, searching for a way to engage his students, a high-school teacher named Harry Littlefield, connected The Wizard of Oz to the late-19th-century political movement, with the Yellow Brick Road representing the gold standard—a false path to prosperity—and the book’s silver slippers standing in for the introduction of silver—an alternate means to the desired destination. Years later, Littlefield would admit that he devised the theory to teach his students, and that there was no evidence that Baum was a populist, but the theory still sticks.

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Le Roi et l’Oiseau

Le roi Charles V + III = VIII + VIII = XVI (Charles Cinq et Trois font Huit et Huit font Seize) est un tyran qui gouverne le royaume de Takicardie. Ce roi est amoureux d’une charmante bergère, mais le cœur de la jeune fille est pris par un petit ramoneur « de rien du tout » (ces deux personnages sont sortis de tableaux présents dans la chambre royale, ainsi que le roi qui règne après que la police a pris en chasse le ramoneur et la bergère). Grâce à l’aide d’un oiseau, qui a l’habitude de narguer le roi, ceux-ci arrivent à s’enfuir du palais royal, poursuivis par la police. Le film évoque cette poursuite avec poésie et douceur.


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Totally Tintin, Celebrating one man and his dog

A SPECTACULAR new museum dedicated to Hergé, the pen name of Georges Remi, who created the comic-book hero Tintin, opens in the Belgian town of Louvain-la-Neuve on June 2nd. The museum, a fine addition to a somewhat drab skyline, is best seen at nightfall or under grey skies, says its architect, Christian de Portzamparc. In murky conditions, the building’s structure of angled white planes glows from within, offering glimpses through huge windows of an “imagined landscape” inside.

The museum, newly built at a cost of €15m ($21m), runs around a central atrium formed of curving walls in bold colours, pierced by high metal walkways. An internal lift shaft at the core of the atrium is painted with a chequerboard pattern, evoking the moon rocket in one of Tintin’s bestselling adventures. The structure stands on stilts in a park and visitors enter across a long wooden footbridge. It feels like boarding a ship only provisionally moored at Louvain-la-Neuve, a symphony in red brick mediocrity.

Within is a landscape of the imagination, brightly lit and coloured, as outside a steady drizzle falls against the windows from leaden skies. If that sounds like a memory of childhood reading indoors, it is no accident. Since Tintin’s first appearance in a Belgian Catholic newspaper 80 years ago, generations have roamed the world vicariously through his comic-book adventures as a trouble-prone (if unusually clean-living) foreign reporter.


L’Etoile mystérieuse

* L’Etoile mystérieuse (Relié) de Hergé