Saturday, July 9, 2016

3rd Annual Australian Fairy Tale Society Conference

We have a few fabulous conferences in Australia that, one way of another, focus on spoken stories and the oral tradition. The Australian Fairy Tale Society Conference is one of my favourites for its mix of the academic and performative.

I was  thrilled and honored to be invited this year to deliver the keynote. It forced me to sit down, think hard and make logical segues between bunch of ideas that I'd had floating around in my mind for a while. The theme was Into the Bush: Its Beauty and Its Terror. (Lordy I had fun!)
I’m an urban person. For me, the bush can be, discombobulating. The beauty can take my breath away and the strangeness can overwhelm and confuse.  The rational lens through which I view the world has clouded at times when I've been in the bush.  And it’s in this vulnerable and heightened state that I’ve had moments where I’ve suspected that there is another reality: a mythic or magical realm in parallel. Especially when moving through country that is still active storied - like in the central desert. 

Its a pleasurable but rattling feeling to be tipped upside down and shaken by powerful 'mythscapes'. 

I enjoyed all the papers and readings but I particularly enjoyed Robin Floyd's presentaion: Stockwhip Wand and a Cabbage Tree Hat: Australian Identity in Australian Fairy Tales. I was intrigued by the fact that I could relate to the sensibility of the texts created in the 1800s and early 1900s.
These texts are available on line and well worth exploring. Olga Ernst's book has a story set at the end of my street by the mouth of the Yarra River. It's odd, but fascinating.

On a similar theme, Catherine Snell's presentation: Australian Fairy Tales and the Quest for Nationhood was thought provoking. 
I love these embossed book covers. This illustration is from a tale by Atha Westbury about a  Leprechaun who arrived in Australia inside a hat box. Whether this was on purpose or an unfortunate event, I cannot say, but I can say, I will be tracking down this story to find out.

Looking forward to the next conference already!


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