may_lily: (Rapunzel yawning)
Sunday, April 7th, 2013 12:57 pm
From my tumblr.

Sun, Moon and Talia is the only one of Basile’s fairy tales to get mentioned in those ‘how fairy tales really ended!’ lists. ‘Sleeping Beauty wasn’t kissed, she was raped!’

No one talks about how Puss in Boots was female, didn’t kill an ogre and pretended to be dead to test the boy’s loyalty. We rarely get told how Rapunzel/Petrosinella didn’t get a haircut, stole the witch’s magic and got her (the witch) eaten by a wolf. Aschenputtel’s sisters cutting up their feet get brought up a lot (never mind that it was published over a century after Cendrillon) but where’s Cenerentola murdering her first stepmother?

But rape is just so titillating, isn’t it? To be perfectly honest, I believe that’s why Sun, Moon and Talia is remembered when all the others aren’t. Sex, especially non-consensual sex, is so much more interesting than boring old heroines having adventures.
may_lily: (Hold me)
Sunday, March 24th, 2013 09:10 am
I want to be excited about Team Starkid's take on Aladdin, Twisted. It ought to be just my cup of tea. But...

Starkid keeps making shows starring men. Harry Potter and Starship did well with good female roles, but Batman didn't. And here's a show based on a fairy tale about a male hero, and they're focusing on the male villain. (Hear that, Mr. There-Aren't-Enough-Male-Fairy-Tale-Heroes?)

Their 'Twisted' logo is pretty clearly based on Wicked. And I keep thinking about how Wicked was based on a book series about women, and was itself about the relationship between two women. (As an aside, Wicked is finally coming to my country, and I can't wait!)

Plus, they're explicitly basing it on the Disney version. Disney removed Aladdin's mother, and chose not to include the princess's mother (I can't remember if she appeared in the story, but IIRC she does play a role in many pantomime adaptions).

And then there's the fact that they're a troupe of mostly white people making a show based on a fairy tale set in China/a movie set in the Middle East.

I'm sure it'll be enjoyable. But I just keep thinking, it could be so much more.

(I do seem to be disappointed about Disney overshadowing earlier versions lately...)
may_lily: (White Rose)
Wednesday, March 6th, 2013 09:46 am
Sometimes it's funny going back to things from your past. I played Ocarina of Time when I was about sixteen. We didn't own it, we had to borrow it, so I never finished it. I remember finding the first stage, in the Deku Tree, to be so difficult. I got the 3DS remake recently, and the Deku Tree was just an ordinary intro level to me now.

It really is a great game, I'm glad I finally got the chance to play it all the way through.
may_lily: (Default)
Tuesday, March 5th, 2013 01:17 pm
For the past week I've been extra anxious about my creative writing class. It's a combination of things, including needing to accept criticism, the travel distance, and being so damn sick of homework. I'm trying to work on my anxiety, so maybe this class isn't what I need right now? I'm getting into the same position I was at university, where I just couldn't force myself to write anything. At least yoga's been pretty good and I have every intention of continuing.
may_lily: (Snow White in Spring)
Thursday, January 31st, 2013 11:13 am
From my tumblr.

I finally managed to get my hands on Enchanted Eloquence. This book is amazing and full of really helpful footnotes; I’m incredibly sad that it’s out of print. The story that I particularly wanted to read was Charlotte-Rose de la Force’s Green and Blue. I suspect that it has some connection with Henriette-Julie de Murat’s The Prince of Leaves. I don’t know exactly what that connection might be; perhaps they were working from the same idea, or perhaps one inspired the other, but there are a lot of similarities between the stories and I’d be surprised if it was just a coincidence. The Prince of Leaves can be read online in J. R. Planché’s Four and Twenty Fairy Tales.

Green and Blue )

The Prince of Leaves )
may_lily: (Best friends)
Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 01:24 pm
From my tumblr.

I saw the trailer for ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ yesterday. I knew the movie was coming up but I haven’t been paying much attention to it. I like Oz, but I’m tired of reimaginings of the first book when there’s a wealth of material that Baum wrote that hardly ever gets touched. My kingdom for a good adaption of the Marvellous Land of Oz, particularly one that keeps the Tip-Ozma reveal. I think there’s an anime adaption, but it’s not easy to get.

I have to admit that I shipped (book) Glinda and the Wizard back in the day, and it looks like that’s what they’re going for in the movie. Except the way she’s clinging to him in the poster, the sort of vulnerable air she’s got… that’s not Glinda at all!

And where’s Ozma? Who are these random witches? Admittedly, Ozma was probably a baby when the Wizard turned up, so maybe that’s something they’ll address.

I did like the china girl. The china city is an episode that doesn’t get remembered in adaptions often, so it’s nice to see that nod to the book.
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may_lily: (Default)
Friday, January 4th, 2013 07:42 pm
I want to do things but I can't think clearly tonight.
may_lily: (Default)
Friday, January 4th, 2013 06:57 pm
I'm lonely tonight and I need to gripe. Read more... )
may_lily: (a place where I'm wanted)
Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 02:55 pm
Why do I keep dreaming about Darren Criss? I mean, I like him, but not that much. I hardly ever dream about any other celebrity, but he's turning up all the time. In half of them we're BFFs who hang out all the time, and in the other half I'm deluded into thinking we're BFFs and trying to hang out with him while he's trying to get away from me.
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may_lily: (White Rose)
Monday, December 31st, 2012 09:02 pm
From my tumblr.

Part 1 (Beauty and the Beast) and Part 2 (Persinette/Rapunzel) of Forgotten women writers of popular fairy tales.

‘Snow White and Rose Red’ is not as popular a fairy tale as ‘Beauty and the Beast’ or Persinette/Rapunzel, but it still gets a fair amount of attention. The Grimms based their story on ‘The Ungrateful Dwarf’ by Caroline Stahl. Here is an online translation of Stahl’s story.

The Grimms embellished the story enormously. The most significant changes are that the sisters are now old enough to marry, and the bear is an enchanted prince. The prince marries one of the girls and his brother marries the other.

To the best of my knowledge, ‘The Ungrateful Dwarf’ is the only one of Stahl’s fairy tales to be translated into English. However, I did find a collection of them online in German. I was only able to read them with Google Translate, but even that proved enlightening.

As far as I was able to tell, Stahl did not write romance. For example, ‘Die Haselnüsse’ (The Hazelnuts) is a Kind and Unkind Girls story. Instead of marrying a prince, as is common in that type of story, the heroine is adopted by the queen. Stahl’s decision not to write romance becomes especially clear in her retellings of Madame d’Aulnoy’s fairy tales. Madame d’Aulnoy was preoccupied with romance; hardly any of her stories lack it. But in Stahl’s version of ‘Gracieuse and Percinet’, she removes Percinet entirely. In ‘The Orange Tree and the Bee’ the lovers become brother and sister. It’s clear to me that Stahl made the conscious decision to write romance as little as possible in her collection of fairy tales.

So what do the Grimms do when they get hold of her story? They add a romance! Stahl wrote a tale about little girls, but the Grimms decided they needed to be marriageable young women. That said, Stahl’s writing is rather sparse, and the Grimms’ more detailed description of their woodland life is a lovely image.

It’s notable that, looking at SurLaLune’s illustration collection, quite a lot of Snow White and Rose Red illustrations depict them as children rather than young women despite the Grimms’ changes. Something of Stahl’s intentions must be making it through.
may_lily: (Rapunzel's hair)
Saturday, December 29th, 2012 10:36 am
From my tumblr.

Continuing from Forgotten women writers of popular fairy tales.

‘Rapunzel’ began as a literary fairy tale called ‘Persinette’ written by Charlotte-Rose de la Force. There are similar fairy tales that existed before ‘Persinette’ was written, exemplified by Giambattista Basile’s ‘Petrosinella’. ‘Petrosinella’ goes like this: a pregnant woman has a strong desire to eat parsley and steals it from the garden of an ogress. The ogress catches her and demands her baby as payment. When the child, named Petrosinella, is seven, the ogress takes her away and keeps her in a high tower with no doors. She enters the tower by climbing up Petrosinella’s long hair.

Eventually a prince discovers the tower and he and Petrosinella fall in love. They decide to flee and steal three magic acorns from the ogress. As they run, the ogress chases them. They throw back the acorns which turn into wild animals, and a wolf eats the ogress.

Certainly Mlle de la Force based her story on this tale or one related to it, since the first half is more or less identical. The second half, however, is entirely her own. The pregnancy, the haircut, the prince’s fall and blindness, the twins, and the magic tears were all her own invention. This is why I will always refer to the story as Persinette/Rapunzel. Mlle de la Force deserves credit for her creation.

Read more... )
may_lily: (Beauty and the Beast Love)
Thursday, December 27th, 2012 06:48 pm
From my tumblr.

Nearly all of the fairy tales that are best known today were written by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and to a lesser extent Joseph Jacobs and Asbjørnsen and Moe. What do these writers have in common? They’re all men.

Many women were writing fairy tales at the time of Perrault. The best known of these is Madame d’Aulnoy. But her stories don’t get constant picture books and big-budget movies. There were women fairy tale writers around the time of the Brothers Grimm as well, but I know less about them.

Three fairy tales written by women have managed to achieve fame: ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Rapunzel’, and ‘Snow White and Rose Red’. Of these, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is the only one regularly credited to a woman (when it’s not being erroneously credited to a man), albeit to the woman who wrote the adaption rather than the woman who wrote the story in the first place. ‘Rapunzel’ was first written by Charlotte-Rose de la Force as ‘Persinette’, and ‘Snow White and Rose Red’ was written by Caroline Stahl as ‘The Ungrateful Dwarf’.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ was first written as a very long, complex story by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve. I’ve already written quite a bit about it: see Serpent Fairies, Disguise, and Princess or Peasant. Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont took this story and simplified it. It’s this simplified version that gained popularity.

Several of Madame de Beaumont’s other fairy tales have been translated into English over the years, but I have been unable to find a website that makes them easily available. None of them ever gained the popularity that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ did. It seems that there is something in the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story that captures the imagination in a way that her original stories didn’t.

Coming soon: my thoughts on Persinette/Rapunzel and Snow White and Rose Red.
may_lily: (Beauty and the Beast Love)
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 02:47 pm
From my tumblr.

Among those who’ve read Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve’s Beauty and the Beast, it seems to be a fairly popular opinion that the revelation of Beauty’s royal heritage is a ‘cop-out’. I’ve already written about why I don’t agree. In a nutshell, appearance vs reality is a repeating theme, and Beauty, her parents, and the Prince all must deal with loving someone who appears to be beneath their station. But I got to thinking: what if everything else was the same, but Beauty’s father wasn’t a king? Would the story have the same effect?

A powerful, supernatural woman falling in love with a handsome shepherd is an existing literary trope: think of Selene and Endymion or Henriette-Julie de Murat’s Jeune et Belle. The fairy got in trouble for marrying a mortal, so she’d be in just as much trouble if she married a shepherd as if she married a king. I wonder if the Wicked Fairy loving the king would turn out the same way, however – and this sub-plot is necessary to get Beauty away from her original family to be brought up by the merchant. Would the Wicked Fairy’s pride not allow her to woo a shepherd? Or would her rivalry with Beauty’s mother cause her to want to take her husband, no matter who he was?

Beauty’s aunt insists that the Prince’s mother accept her as a merchant’s daughter before revealing her as a princess. The mother does become considerably happier after the reveal, though. Suppose the revelation had been ‘she’s actually a fairy’s daughter, which is better than a princess’ (from the point of view of the fairies, anyway)? Would the queen have accepted that?

I find it significant that four characters agree to marry below their station: Beauty to a Beast, the Prince to a merchant’s daughter, the fairy to a mortal, and the king to a shepherdess. If the king was a shepherd and married someone of the same rank as him (or so he believed), would it have been worth losing that extra parallel to his daughter’s story? I don’t have an answer.
may_lily: (an angel among us)
Saturday, December 15th, 2012 02:36 pm
From my tumblr.

Contrary to popular belief, Cupid and Psyche is not a Greek myth. It was written by Apuleius in his Latin novel the Golden Ass in the 2nd century AD. I am not aware of any ancient Greek sources that refer to a story of Eros and Psyche.

It’s debatable whether the story is even a myth at all. To the best of my knowledge, it’s not found anywhere else – you won’t find it mentioned in Ovid’s Metamorphoses or Virgil’s Aeneid, for instance. In Fairy Tale in the Ancient World, Graham Anderson suggests that Apuleius took a folktale and reworked it to include mythological characters.

This is similar to what the French conte de fées writers did. In fact, some took their inspiration directly from Cupid and Psyche, as it had been translated into French around that time. This is particularly clear in Madame d’Aulnoy’s Green Serpent, in which the heroine reads Cupid and Psyche in an attempt to learn to curb her curiosity (it doesn’t work; she still peeks on her husband).

The story has proved to be enduring. There are quite a few fairy tales that follow the basic plot: a girl marries a mysterious, supernatural husband; she breaks a taboo and the husband must leave her; she goes on a journey to find him; she must complete a near-impossible task to win him back. One of the most well-known is East of the Sun and West of the Moon, but there are plenty more. But I wonder, are these tales direct descendants of the folktale that inspired Apuleius, or were they inspired by the French literary fairy tales that were inspired by Apuleius?
may_lily: (Tiana and the frog)
Monday, December 10th, 2012 03:15 pm
From my tumblr.

The most well-known version of the Frog Prince or the Frog King is the one the Grimms published in their Children’s and Household Tales. A princess is playing with a golden ball and loses it in a well. A frog offers to return the ball if she promises to let him eat with her and sleep in her bed. She agrees, but when she gets the ball she she leaves him behind. He arrives at the palace and tells the king about their agreement. The king insists that the princess keep her promises. She reluctantly does so, until she finally throws the frog against the wall, which turns him into a handsome prince (the curse-breaking kiss didn’t appear until much later).

But there is another version that the Grimms included in the footnotes to this tale in early editions of Children’s and Household Tales. You can read it at SurLaLune (after the main story). A king is sick and needs water. His daughters try to get some for him, but cannot get clear water without the help of a frog. The frog asks each daughter to be his sweetheart. The first two refuse, but the youngest agrees. The frog asks to sleep in her bed for three nights. The princess isn’t keen, but agrees to keep her promise. After three nights, the frog becomes a prince.

This second version of the Frog Prince story appears quite a lot. For example: the Maiden and the Frog, the Queen who Sought to Drink from a Certain Well, the Well of the World’s End, the Wonderful Frog, and the Paddo. A parent asks for water, the daughter cannot get the water without a frog’s help and makes a bargain, the frog stays in her house for a certain amount of time, sometimes the frog asks her to kill him, and then he becomes a prince. By contrast, I don’t know of any ‘lost ball’ versions other than the Grimms’ main story.

Compare the characters of the two heroines. In the first story, the princess just wants to play. She refuses to keep her promise without constant prodding from her father. The death of the frog is due to her getting angry with his demands. In the second story, the princess is trying to help her father. She chooses to keep her promise without any prompting. In versions in which she kills the frog, it’s because he asks her to.

The story the Grimms chose to highlight, the one that overshadows all the others, is about a frivolous girl who needs her father to keep her on the straight-and-narrow. The brave girl who does her duty for her family and keeps her promises has been forgotten. (That said, I do rather like the ‘I have had ENOUGH of this!’ attitude of the princess at the end of the first story.)
may_lily: (Jade in the snow)
Monday, December 10th, 2012 10:07 am
From my tumblr.

I wanted to get my thoughts down on the trailer for the Snow Queen from Wizart Animation (not Disney’s Frozen). It turned into my thoughts on Hans Andersen’s story as well.

I initially thought that that it looked too slapsticky for my taste, but that’s probably just the marketing. I’m not sure how I feel about the Snow Queen being a threat to the world rather than a personal threat to Kay. However, one aspect of Andersen’s story that I’m not keen on is the Snow Queen and the mirror shards representing ‘cold reason’. It’s just too much of the ‘scientists can’t appreciate beauty and wonder’ trope, which couldn’t be further from the truth. (It does make me giggle to think of Gerda going ‘Fuckin’ magnets, how do they work?’) So I can’t say I’m surprised at the film-makers choosing a different interpretation.

I do hope that the Snow Queen does actually affect Kay’s heart/mind and doesn’t just turn him into ice, though. I love the part in the story where Gerda melts Kay’s frozen heart. No doubt they will need a final confrontation with the Snow Queen as well.

Honestly, it bothers me that the Snow Queen just disappears from the story and there’s no final meeting with her. My vision for the ‘personal threat’ version of the confrontation: Gerda makes it to the Snow Queen’s castle, meets the Queen, and says she’s there to take Kay home. The Snow Queen says she’s welcome to speak to Kay, but he’s there of his own free will, and she cannot take him if he does not wish to leave. Gerda melts Kay’s heart and the ice shards form ‘eternity’. The Snow Queen must honour her promise and give Kay his freedom (and the new pair of skates helps them leave the icy castle more easily).

Kay and Gerda being siblings: I like it. I appreciate that their relationship in the story is ambiguous, rather than clearly romantic, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing for adaptors to decide they want to take the focus off romance. (Plus if Kay’s out of the running as a potential love interest, it’s easier to ship Gerda with the Robber Girl!)

The troll: I don’t like him. The Snow Queen is Gerda’s journey that she travels alone. She finds friends, advice and assistance along the way, but in the end she has to do it herself. Even the reindeer leaves her, and she’s left without boots or gloves in the Snow Queen’s domain, with nothing but her faith and love for Kay to keep her going. The trailer implies that this is the troll’s journey as much as Gerda’s, and he needs to find the courage to stand up for himself to the Snow Queen or some such. In fact, the trailer focuses on him even more than Gerda, but I suppose we can’t possibly expect people to come and see a movie if they think it’s about a girrrrl.

Hopefully the major episodes will all appear: the old woman with the flowery garden, the Princess, the Robber Girl, and the Lapp Woman and the Finn Woman. Certainly the flowery garden seems the be there, but the old woman seems rather more violent than in the story! There also seems to be a castle and knights involved, so hopefully that means the Princess will be there. The Robber Girl seems to have become a pirate. She still has her reindeer, so no objections here. The ‘About’ page on the website has a picture of what appears to be the Lapp or the Finn Woman. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them combined into one, no point in Gerda having two near-identical encounters at that point.

Overall, I’m looking forward to it. They’ve made some interesting choices and it’ll be great to see how their interpretation works out (I can’t see myself ever liking the troll, though). I’m pleased to see the story getting some attention after Disney decided they didn’t want to bother with an adaption after all.
may_lily: (Snow White in Spring)
Friday, November 23rd, 2012 05:02 pm
From my tumblr.

I’ve been reading the Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. What’s great about this book is that it includes stories that were left out of later editions of their Children’s and Household Tales, that were only in the annotations, or that were found in their notes and never made it into the book at all.

There’s a super interesting version of Snow White included. The version in which Snow White’s persecutor is not her stepmother but her mother (from the first edition of Children’s and Household Tales in 1812) is relatively well known. D. L. Ashliman has a translation on his site. However, it turns out that an even earlier version was included in an 1806 letter from Jacob Grimm to Friedrich Carl von Savigny. This version has several significant differences to the version that is best known today.

- Snow White doesn’t have black hair, but golden hair. It’s her eyes that are ‘black as ebony’.
- Like the 1812 version, her persecutor is her mother, not her stepmother.
- In order to get rid of her, the queen takes Snow White into the forest in order to pick roses, and leaves her there to be eaten by wild beasts. There’s no huntsman to take pity on her, nor any attempted cannibalism.

The ending is the most interesting part for me. Instead of a random prince happening along, it was her father! Naturally, she wasn’t revived with a kiss (that wouldn’t get attached to the story until much later). However, it doesn’t seem to be the ‘knock the piece of apple out of her throat’ method either. I found it somewhat difficult to interpret how it was done. The king got some doctors, and:

"When they took the body, they tied a rope to the four corners of the room, and Snow White came to life again."

The story does end with Snow White marrying a prince her father found for her, and the queen is forced to dance in red-hot shoes at the wedding.

Does anyone know if it was Disney that first added ‘revived by a kiss’ to the Snow White story? I’m pretty sure it had been done that way in Sleeping Beauty for a while, but I haven’t found any version of Snow White prior to Disney that included the kiss.
may_lily: (Beauty and the Beast Love)
Wednesday, November 21st, 2012 10:51 am
From my tumblr.

On re-reading Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve’s original Beauty and the Beast, I noticed some remarkable similarities between the characters of Beauty, the Beast/Prince, and Beauty’s parents. I realised that the theme of apearance vs reality goes even deeper than the ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ message of the commonly told tale. In Madame de Villeneuve’s story, Beauty is revealed to be a hidden princess, and her mother is a fairy who disguised herself as a shepherdess and married a king. I know of two English translations of Madame de Villeneuve’s version online: one by Ernest Dowson and one in Four and Twenty Fairy Tales by J. R. Planché. Planché’s version is slightly bowdlerised; he changes ‘Will you sleep with me?’ to ‘Will you marry me?’

It’s a common enough story - a prince falls for a commoner, but they are not permitted to marry. The commoner turns out to be long lost royalty, the marriage is on and there’s a happy ending. Beauty and the Beast appears to follow this plot, but there’s a twist - every marriage is agreed to before the reveal of the apparently lower-status person’s true standing.

The King is the only character out of the four (Beauty, Beast, Fairy, King) who does not wear some sort of disguise at any point. He falls in love with a shepherdess. He never knows that she is a fairy, and thus higher in rank than him. Beauty’s aunt (the fairy shepherdess’s sister) makes a point of emphasising that everyone in the kingdom may marry who they love, regardless of social status. It’s a little strange to me that the Queen (the Beast/Prince’s mother and the sister of Beauty’s father), presumably having come from that culture, makes a big issue out of the Prince marrying a commoner, but her objection and eventual acceptance was necessary to emphasise the point about love regardless of social status.

The Fairy falls in love with the King. As a mortal, he is below her station, and she suffers severe penalties when the marriage is discovered. Her marriage is finally sanctioned when she firstly performs a service for the Queen of the Fairies, and secondly undergoes the serpent test, rising in status among the fairies so that she may marry who she pleases without penalty.

I wrote about the serpent ordeal earlier. Perhaps it is meant as a parallel to the Prince’s experiences as a beast. The fairies must first lower themselves to the status of a lowly crawling creature before rising in status among their peers. The Prince goes through his ordeal and meets his beloved Beauty, while the Fairy goes through something similar in order to finally be with her husband.

The Beast appears to be, well, a beast. Beauty, as a human being, objects to marrying him and prefers the Fair Unknown of her dreams. Her gradual realisation of his gentle nature and her adopted father’s advice lead her to accept him before she is aware of his true nature as a prince.

Beauty appears to be a commoner. The Prince doesn’t care one bit about her social status and is determined to marry her. His mother objects, insisting that he should only marry royalty, and the Prince is in such despair that he asks to become a Beast again, so that his social status should be no obstacle to his marriage to Beauty. Luckily, Beauty’s fairy aunt convinces the Queen to accept their marriage. It is only after the Queen agrees the Beauty’s aunt reveals that Beauty is a princess.

There is one more character who wears a disguise - the Wicked Fairy who transformed the Prince into a beast. She falls in love with the King, Beauty’s father, and disguises herself as a queen in order to win him. A queen would be a suitable match for a king, but he is having none of it. He forever loves his shepherdess wife. A good match in rank is not necessarily a good match in love.

Beauty, the Beast-Prince, and the Fairy all hide who they are, appearing to be lower in social status than they were born to. All of them find love while in their disguised state, and their lovers do not learn the truth until after agreeing to marriage. These parallels and musings on status were lost in Madame de Beaumont’s simplified adaption. I wish that Madame de Villeneuve’s fascinating work was better known.
may_lily: (Rapunzel and Pascal)
Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 01:27 pm
I have to wonder if Disney chose Pascal as the chameleon’s name in Tangled because of Pascadozzia in Petrosinella, or if it was just a coincidence.
may_lily: (I'm a ballerina)
Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 12:40 pm
I saw Giselle for the first time the other day. I couldn’t help thinking, when the Wilis were dancing Albrecht and Hilarion to their deaths, ‘misandry 4 lyfe’.
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