Monthly Archives: December 2013

Why the Real Snow White Was Murdered in Brussels

magaretaMany fairytales are based on real persons and events. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm made it their mission to preserve Germanic folktales.

One of the most popular tales is for sure Snow White. But few people now that the story is based on a cause célèbre that took place in royal circles. It involves star-crossed lovers, child labor and death by poison.

The tantalizing tale starts with the beautiful Margaret, daughter of Count Philipp IV of Waldeck-Wildungen and Margareta of Eastern Friesland. Margareta was Philipp’s sixth child. Her mother died when she was four. Her father remarried. His second wife Catherine of Hatzfeld was a strict stepmother. She died childless a few years before Margaret herself passed away.

Margaret grew up in Freidrichstein Castle near the German town of Waldeck.  Life for many was far from a fairytale exisance.

For one, the area was known for its mining activities. The Waldeck family owned gold, silver, copper, lead and iron mines. In the local copper mines, much of the work was done by small children. The brutal working conditions and malnutrition stunned their growth. They were referred to as “dwarfs”.

Furthermore, Margaret’s hometown was the hunting ground of a grisly murderer. A local man suspected some children of stealing from him, decided to take matters in his own hands by giving the little suspects poisoned apples.

By the time Margaret turned 16, her relationship with her stepmother had turned so bad, that her father decided to send her abroad. She went to live at the court of Brussels under the protection of Mary of Hungary. Needless to say, her father also sent her there to marry well.

The young beauty got the eye of two prominent suitors: the Spanish Crown Prince Philipp and the Dutch Count of Egmont. Both suitors showered her with gifts and attention. Margaret and Philipp became lovers and he contemplated marrying her. That created a major problem for Philipp’s father; Margaret was not eligible enough. Marriages at that time were alliances between families, not love matches. Margaret could not offer the future King of Spain Philipp II any interesting political ties or benefits.

Soon after, Margaret’s health started slowly to deteriorate as she mentioned in letters to her father. She also wrote her last will and testament in shaky handwriting resulting from tremors due to poisoning. When she passed away at the tender age of 21, rumor circulated that she had been poisoned by or someone who hated her or by the Spanish court to prevent Philipp from marrying her.

Her life might have been short, but her legend will live on for many more centuries to come!

(Image courtesy of the Royal Library in Bad Arolsen, Reference: Genealogica iconica seu picturata comitum in Waldeck, antehac in archivo asservata ca.1580)

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Throwing The Book At Bookworms – Texas Style

eckPoor Jory Enck! He borrowed a GED study guide in 2010. He got it at the Central Texas community of Copperas Cove located about 70 miles northwest of Austin.

In September 2013, a new law came into effect that defines the failure to return library books as thef, which is a felony. The new law makes sense; non-returning of library books drains recourses. In Texas alone, the libraries loose an estimated $18 million in “lost” books (around 1 million items). Since many communities have to deal with shrinking budgets and rising costs, they are looking for ways to have their library items returned in time.

The Texas procedure is as follows. Any library item that is not returned within 20 days carries a fine of $200. If this fine is not paid in time, a warrant will be issued by the municipal court for theft.

That’s what happened to Mr. Enck. The police went to his address due to a reported disturbance. Once they arrived, they arrested based on a previous warrant for theft of the study guide. He was promptly arrested for theft since he failed to return his overdue library book.

Mr. Enck was released on a $200 bond, and returned the book in question to library. He also turned to the media to state that he wouldn’t set foot in a library again: He also said: “I think I will probably just purchase a book from Amazon.”

Mr. Eck forgot to mention that he had not been able to return the guide earlier since he had to serve a three-year prison sentence for robbery.

Texas is not the only state cracking down on people like Mr. Enck. Iowa jails this kind of offenders for one week. A man from Newton (Iowa) served jail time of more than a week for not returning six CDs and eleven library books with a total worth of a whopping $770. Vermont and Maine are also cracking down people that don’t return their library items.

The Enck incident is for now an oddity. However, it could happen far more frequently in the (near) future, especially since after such an arrest, long overdue library items are suddenly returned.

So what do you think? Are libraries (and the government) correct to crack down on people like Jory Enck to preserve their assets?

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Pixar’s Golden Rules For Storytelling – Excellent Advise For All Writers

pixarPixar Animation Studios is known for its animated feature and short films. The Emeryville-based enterprise is known for its compelling story lines.

Following are 23 rules that will help writers to hone their storytelling skills. Enjoy!

  1. A character is more admired for trying than for succeeding (e.g., Finding Nemo)
  2. What interests you as a writer can be very different from what the intended audience is interested in. (Remember Toy Story 2?)
  3. Trying for a theme is important, but keep in mind that only at the end of the story will it be clear what it’s all about; that’s also the time to start rewriting!
  4. The bare bones of a story consist of: Once upon a time there was […], Every day, […], One day […], Because of that […], and that […], Until finally […]
  5. Keep it simple and focus by combining characters and avoiding detours.
  6. Write about what the characters are good at and juxtaposition them against their polar opposites. (e.g., Shrek and Farquaad). 
  7. Describe how your characters deal with challenges. (e.g., Ice Age)
  8. Write the beginning and the end of the story. Only then write the middle part. (e.g., Casablanca)
  9. Once the story is finished, let it go. It will never be perfect and will only suffer from too many rewrites.
  10. When suffering from writer’s block, make a list of what will not happen next
  11. Analyze stories you like and find out why they speak to you since it influences your writing.
  12. Start writing down the story and start editing and/or sharing it. You cannot write the great American novel in your head.
  13. Be creative by disregarding the first few ideas that come to mind since they will be (too) obvious.
  14.  Characters should have opinions and attitude since your audience doesn’t like them to be passive, malleable and too perfect!
  15. Get to the core of the narrative by analyzing what drives you to write this specific story.
  16. Stay true to your characters by putting yourself in their situation. (e.g., Poirot)
  17. Make your audience root for your characters by letting them overcome difficulties or even making the fail. (such as  Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in The Perfume by Patrick Sueskind)
  18. Keep disregarded writing; it will be useful at a later stage or for a different story you will write at one point in the future
  19. Know yourself and realize when you are really writing or just tinkering around.
  20. Use coincidences to get characters into trouble, but never to get them out of it.
  21.  To find your style, take a novel, story, TV show or movie you hate and rearrange them to your liking!
  22. Put emotion in your writing by identifying with the story’s setting and characters.  
  23. Figure out what the essence of the story is and how to tell it in a concise way. This will be the basis for your storytelling.

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