The Sprats, a real fairy tale couple we can aspire to on Valentine’s Day

 

JackSpratt Valentine

Love is in the air, but in fairy tales, there are not frequently couples we can aspire to.

When you think about fairy tales and romance, you might first think of innumerable princess stories. However, in them, you will find dark themes hiding beneath the surface. Many of these stories were cleaned up by Disney in order to make them more palatable to a 20th century audience, but these original stories are riddled with jealousy, attempted murder, poisoning, and abusive families. Perhaps the most blatant example of “what not to do” in a relationship is the tale of the imprisoned  and abused wife of Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater!

In these romance stories, physical beauty is revered, while those possessing inner strength are often locked away and forgotten to toil on backbreaking chores. If one theme holds constant, it is that in the end, only the most beautiful, and pure princesses find mates.

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Thinking about this, I found myself searching for a realistic couple I could respect in the fairy tale world. I wanted a pair that exhibited unconditional love for one another, and whose traits make them complete partners by virtue of their opposite strengths. I came to the unexpected realization that maybe this ideal couple is not the most obvious husband and wife. They weren’t beautiful, or wealthy. They weren’t refined. In fact, in all of my travels, I’ve only encountered one (somewhat terrifying) interpretation of them at the Magic Forest.  (Though while researching this post, I did locate a second example at Rock City’s Fairyland Caverns in Chatanooga-Which is going on the list of future visits!)

I digress, the couple in question is Jack Sprat and his wife, Joan. For you scholars, there are additional lyrics to the rhyme, (though most of us only know the first stanza pictured above). I’ve included the song in its entirety at the end of this post. There are several interpretations of this tale, with some believing it is a reference to King Charles I and Henrietta Maria. Others believe it is actually referencing Richard I.

Ignoring British history, let’s read this purely as a children’s rhyme. We get to know Jack and Joan only through one short verse, but it is clear that they work in tandem to accomplish their goals (as most successful marriages do!)  Jack and Joan make due with what they have, always ensuring that the other is cared for.  Throughout the rhyme they both have enough to eat and consistently demonstrate their love one another (just as they are).

In a comedic, but romantic gesture, after they are married, Joan is too fat for the carriage, so without judgement or hesitation, Jack wheels her home in a wheelbarrow. The plump wife, and skinny husband seem perfectly paired. When trouble befalls Joan upon falling out of the wheelbarrow, Jack is first concerned for her safety. Once settled into their roles, Joan brews beer and cooks dinner; while time and time again we see Jack portrayed as a doting husband who makes sure Joan’s clothes are mended, and her belly is full. We see him hunt ducks and buy her anything she needs. Despite the mundane life they seem to lead, we even see two embark on international travel together, while their little cat has adventures of his own.

You’ll find no beautiful princesses here, and no dashing princes. Just two simple people sharing a life together, and there’ something quite admirable about that.

For the full picture of the Jack and Joan Sprat’s life, I encourage you to read their entire story in these lesser known verses below. The thing I love about this is that even though we see both of them fail and make foolish mistakes, their love for one another stays constant. Despite the odds, the love and respect for one another never falters.

THE LIFE OF JACK SPRAT, HIS WIFE, AND HIS CAT.

This one ear’d Cat,
Belongs to Jack Sprat.

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean,
And so between them both,
They lick’d the platter clean ;

Jack eat all the lean,
Joan eat all the fat,
The bone they pick’d it clean,
Then gave it to the cat

When Jack Sprat was young,
He dressed very smart,
He courted Joan Cole,
And he gained her heart ;

In his fine leather doublet,
And old greasy hat,
O what a smart fellow-
Was little Jack Sprat.

Joan Cole had a hole.
In her petticoat,
Jack Sprat, to get a patch
Gave her a groat ;
The groat bought a patch,
Which stopp’d Joan’s hole,

I thank you, Jack Sprat,
Says little Joan Cole.

Jack Sprat was the bridegroom,
Joan Cole was the bride,
Jack said, from the church
His Joan home should ride ;
But no coach could take her,
The lane was so narrow,
Said Jack, then I’ll take her
Home in a wheel-barrow.

Jack Sprat was wheeling
His wife by a ditch,
The barrow turn’d over,
And in she did pitch ;
Says Jack, she’ll be drown’d,
But Joan did reply,
I don’t think 1 shall,
For the ditch is quite dry.

Jack brought home his Joan,
And she sat on a chair,
When in came his cat,
That had got but one ear,
Says Joan, I’m come home puss,
Pray how do you do,
The cat wagg’d her tail,
And said nothing but mew.

Jack Sprat took his gun,
And went to the brook,
He shot at the drake,
But he kill’d a duck,
He brought it to Joan,
Who a fire did make,
To roast the fat duck,
While Jack went for the drake.

The drake was a swimming,
With his curley tail,
Jack Sprat came to shoot him,
But happen’d to fail ;
He let off his gun,
But missing his mark

The drake flew away,
Crying, quack, quack quack.

Jack Sprat, to live pretty,
Now bought him a pig,
It was not very little,
It was not very big,
It was not very lean,
It was not very fat,
It will serve for a grunter,
For little Jack Sprat.

Then Joan went to market,
To buy her some fowls,
She bought a jackdaw
And a couple of owls;
The owls they were white,
The jackdaw was black,
They’ll make a rare breed,
Says little Joan Sprat.

Jack Sprat bought a cow,
His Joan for to please,
For Joan she could make
Both butter and cheese,
Or pancakes, or puddings,
Without any fat,
A notable housewife
Was little Joan Sprat.

Joan Sprat went to brewing
A barrel of ale,
She put in some hops
That it might not turn stale
But as for the malt,
She forgot to put that,
This is sober liquor,
Says little Jack Sprat,

Jack Sprat went to market,
And bought him a mare,
She was lame of three legs,
And as blind as a bat,
Her ribs they were bare,
For the mare had no fat,
She looks like a racer,
Says little Jack Sprat.

Jack and Joan went abroad,
Puss took care of the house,
She caught a large rat
And a very small mouse,
She caught a small mouse
And a very large rat,
You are an excellent hunter,
Says little Jack Sprat.

Now I have told you the story
Of little Jack Sprat,
Of little Joan Cole,
And the one ear’d cat.
Now Jack has got rich.
And has plenty of pelf,
If you’d know any more,
You may tell it yourself.

Here’s to all the really real couples out there that are taking care of each other and making sure their loved ones stay fed and happy!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

Hansel and Gretel – Lost in The (Enchanted) Forest

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The holidays are coming, and soon you’ll begin to smell warm baking sweets wafting in the air.  After your delicious Thanksgiving meal, you too will want to stuff yourself with pies and cakes. But watch out – if you eat too much, you might be offered a long walk deep into the forest. Its starting to get dark early, and it’s very easy to get lost in those woods.

Such is the tale of Hansel and his sister Gretel, whose father reluctantly lured his children into the woods after being convinced by his new wife that the family could not afford to feed four mouths. Hansel, over-hearing the evil plan, cleverly decided to drop a path of breadcrumbs along the way so that the children could easily find their way back home. Poor Hansel, he didn’t account for the birds. On a night a lot like tonight, and after many days of wandering with no food, they had grown very desperate and hungry. The two children could hardly believe their eyes when they came upon a house made entirely of gingerbread, held together with icing, candies, and sweets. Just a little nibble won’t hurt anyone, right?

The Enchanted Forest in Old Forge New York opened in 1956, and at first glance,many would assume that the gingerbread house was built early in the park’s history. In the late 50s and early 60s story parks were booming and the Enchanted Forest was expanding attractions rapidly. In actuality, work on Hansel and Gretel’s house didn’t begin until 1981, and due to the complexity and size it took approximately 4 years to complete. The final cherry was put on top in time for the 1985 season, which means that next summer the house will be celebrating its 30th Anniversary! The Gingerbread house was designed by Jack Molesky who was the park artist for many years, and the level of detail and artistry are stunning to behold. The dripping rooftoops and giant candies really do look good enough to eat!

As you walk through Storybook Lane, the path winds through the ubiquitous tall trees of the Adirondacks, and when you’re deep in the woods you begin to feel as though you are lost too.  Once you reach the end of the path, the first thing you’ll encounter are the tall candy canes and lollipops among the trees, and just beyond those, you’ll catch your first views of the Gingerbread house. Plucked from a child’s dream; surreal, and out of place in nature, the house has dripping ice cream doorways, shingles built from frosted cookies, and candy cane frames. Chocolates, cookies, candy, and pretzels decorate the awnings. Its not until you look into the windows, that you realize the real treat is inside the house!

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As you approach the ice cream door, there is a tiny step for small kids to easily peek inside an open window. I can’t help thinking if this wasn’t designed deliberately to allow smaller children an opportunity to assert their independence. Surely looking in this window is a rite of passage for children eager to prove their bravery to their siblings and parents. Kids can look inside without an adult’s help. In fact, as a full grown adult I had to kneel if I wanted to look inside. I heard mom’s say “What’s in there? What’s inside?” But this wasn’t built for mom and dad. From its bright candy exterior, to the creepiness that lurks inside, the design accomplishes what the house in the story set out to do, to lure in and ultimately frighten children.

There is no sugar coating what’s behind the glass, the sweet candy house quickly turns sinister when you catch your first glimpse of an innocent Hansel held prisoner in the  back of the house, with a forkful of spaghetti and meatballs (still grasping a lollipop in his left hand). In the main room- a kitchen and across the gingham tablecloth, a scowling witch stands watch over a feast she has prepared with the intent of fattening up the lost children.

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Her green face, black pointed hat, and robe are inspired by Margaret Hamilton’s best known role in the Wizard of Oz. The archetypal pointed hat wearing witch with the green face did not exist prior to 1939, and even her angular features are reminiscent of the Wicked Witch of the West’s.

This witch appears to be deep in thought, trying to decide the best way  to cook these two little morsels that have wandered into her house. Hansel’s plans don’t always work out, and he doesn’t look smart enough to hatch a scheme to turn the tables on her in this scene either, so we’ll just have to assume that the story ends well. Maybe Gretel’s got the brains in the family.

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The exterior of house was very well maintained and it likely gets a fresh coat of paint regularly. It appears to have gone through some changes over the years, but I was unable to locate any other shots of the interior in my research. (If you’ve got any, I’d love to see more!) I was able to locate a few older images of the exterior. The first shows a very natural earth tone house with biscuits and donuts. This is a vintage postcard and I’m not convinced that this is an actual photograph. It could be a miniature artist’s rendering.  Perhaps it is a model created for concept or promotional artwork.

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Another photo shows a dazzling 1980s rainbow color scheme with bright candy store reds, yellows, and greens as opposed to the current mint green and pastel pink palette used today. This paint job is straight out of Rainbow Brite’s or Strawberry Shortcake’s colorful world.

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This house became an unexpected favorite of mine when I found it at the park, and I had to be pulled away from it, like most of the kids there. It’s a little off the beaten path, and can’t be seen immediately. I didn’t expect to fall in love with it, but there was something so wonderful about the mean spirited nature of the story baked into a sweet pink candy house, that I wanted to stay for dinner too.

I hope you’ve been paying attention. If you decide to go out walking in the forest, just remember those breadcrumbs won’t do you any good. Please, be very careful whose house you decide to nibble on, or you could get swallowed up by the woods on your way home…or something worse. And if your host keeps filling your plate this Thanksgiving, make sure you’re not the only one eating. She might still be preparing her feast.

 

Christmas in July! Santa’s Workshop-North Pole, NY

When times were simpler, and kids still believed in Santa Claus, a magical new type of theme park began to pop up around the United States. In the 1950s and 1960s, Santa set up little sub-stations all over America. Once inside, kids could see Santa’s Reindeer, meet his elves, and touch a real “north pole” (or for unimaginative grown ups-a pipe covered in frozen water). The real treat usually came in a visit to see the man himself, Santa Claus! Little parks everywhere popped up to honor the Jolly Old Elf, and celebrate the non-secular Christmas traditions  that most American families were beginning to partake in after WWII. Santa'sWorkshop

Today we’re paying tribute to one of the many wonderful Santa Claus parks that still dot the American landscape. This one is in…well, North Pole, NY! Santa’s Workshop is one of the oldest continually operating amusement parks in the United States, but you wouldn’t know it to look at it. This well maintained treasure looks like it could have been built within the last 10 years, but it actually opened in 1949. The park was designed by Arto Monaco between 1947 and 1949, and if you are paying attention out there in Kiddieland, Monaco’s is a name to know-He worked on over a dozen parks primarily in and around the Adirondack Mountains, including the Enchanted Forest in Old Forge, Storyland in NH, and his own Land of Make Believe which eventually closed in 1979 after repeated flooding.

 

Santa's WorkshopSanta’s Workshop’s primary draw is its shows, featuring familiar characters like Little Bo Peep, Alice in Wonderland and two red-haired rag dolls named Sam & Sandy (Not to be confused with Raggedy Ann & Andy©®); as well as homegrown Characters like “Rowdy The Rascal  Reindeer”, “Miranda Mouse” and  “Chris Moose”!  The high point of my day was seeing Miranda Mouse perform over a 1971 track of Lynn Anderson’s Ding A Ling the Christmas Bell. (with Rowdy’s rendition of  the 1968 Buck Owens’ hit “Christmas Shopping”  a close second!) The park currently features 8 different shows daily.

Check out this 1988 commercial featuring some earlier incarnations  of these characters.

In addition to the shows, the park has a reindeer barn where you can feed Santa’s real reindeer; along with a variety of appropriately themed rides, like the Candy Cane Express, The Peppermint Swing, and the Christmas Tree Ride (where you get to sit inside a giant Christmas ornament and spin around a huge tree!) The most breathtaking is the Christmas Carousel, with gorgeous original 1940s deer that have flirty eyelashes and jingle bell saddles place of the usual boring horses.  Naturally the carousel plays Calliope Christmas tunes in place of the usual carousel music.  We’ve seen a few other Reindeer carousels in our travel, but non as sweet as this one.

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You can see the Christmas Carousel running around the 3:00 mark in this 1970 8mm family film:

One of our favorite things is that this park doesn’t hide its history. Although everything is modern and clean enough for even the most germ-phobic modern parents, the park houses a small history museum called “Santa Claus Memory Lane”. Inside you will find 65 years worth of vintage park merchandise, signage, and costumes. I could have spent hours in here looking around the cases! I’m lucky it was not a gift shop or I’d have come home broke and needing a second room!

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Regardless of your religious affiliations, or feelings on the Holiday season, there is no denying that these parks are just good old fashioned fun. They’re a part of our cultural history and we’re thrilled that a few of them still exist in the modern world. Have you ever visited Santa’s Workshop? If not, we highly recommend that you get yourself to the North Pole (New York, that is!) and take in this treasure!

 

Happy Memorial Day from Kiddieland!

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Memorial day marks the beginning of summer, and the opening day of many parks and attractions in the US.

We hope that you hit the road and got out to your favorite boardwalk, amusement park, mini golf course, or tourist trap this weekend to enjoy some food and fun with loved ones. Where did you spend your holiday?

Happy Memorial Day from Enchanted Kiddieland!

Do you know your Elfabet?

You are probably familiar with Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, right? Well I bet none of you have heard of “Vollymolly, Alphy, Quantam, or Xixie?” These are some of the names of Santa’s 26 elves according to the Elfabet Game at Santa’s Village in Jefferson, New Hampsire!

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The Elfabet game is a scavenger hunt style game which begins at “Elfabet University”.  Here, you are given a personalized card on a string, intended to be worn during your day at the park. The card has a Christmas tree made up of every letter in the alphabet.  As you walk around enjoying the park, you’ll encounter little elves, each of them holding a gift box. The box has a lever on it and a punch mechanism inside that lines up with the letters on your tree card. Once you complete the punch card and return to the Elfabet University, you will be rewarded with a personalized diploma, and a prize! And trust me when I say the prizes we got were pretty great!-Skylar chose an Elfabet magnet, and I chose an Elfabit enamel pin; Neither of which could be purchased in the gift shop. You just had to earn them! The great thing is that even though we were 2 adults in our 30s, we were not only allowed to play the game, but encouraged to participate. Park staff seemed excited to see how many we had found and hinted at the location of letters we were still missing. Before we left the park, we were sure to  find them all and collected our diplomas and our prizes!  As we discovered them, I also snapped a photo of each elf! AtoF Alphy, Betty, Carol, Danny, Emo, and Fournier GtoL Goodenbread, Hans, Icy, Jollybelly, Kringle, and Lucky MtoR Mr. Medee, Norma, Olaf, Peanut, Quantum, and Raymond Sto X Sharyn, Tonio, Upsy Daisy, Vollymolly, Whistler, and Xixie YZ   Yuleo, and Zulema!

 

Santa’s Village opened in 1953, and this game is a wonderful update to a vintage park! You can see the love in this park, as everything looks well maintained and new. Our little Elfabet friends fit right in with the theme and were a fun activity for kids of all ages! It was free to play, and kept us amused all day. Plus, who doesn’t love to get a prize?

Now you know your Elfabet, from Alphy to Zulema! Have you ever played the Elfabet game? Did you find them all? Show us your completed punch cards in the comments!