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Little Nothing


A stunning, provocative new novel from New York Times bestselling...
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Discuss Little Nothing by Marisa Silver:
How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

Created: 08/09/17

Replies: 16

Posted Aug. 09, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1626

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How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

Wolves, dwarves, clocks. These are images we see in some of literature's most popular fairy tales and folklore. How do you think Little Nothing plays with this storytelling tradition?


Posted Aug. 19, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
teachlz

Join Date: 07/28/16

Posts: 18

RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

In my opinion, Marisa Silver writes a very dark twisted tale, filled with symbolism. I think the author describes superstitions, and magical potents, vs. entering into a more modern lifestyle. This is a very dark fairy tale or folklore, with some horrific details in the storyline.


Posted Aug. 19, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Marcia S

Join Date: 02/08/16

Posts: 179

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RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

It is like the darker Grimm's fairy tales or old folk lore stories where there is a mixture of superstition and the cross between good and evil. Often those stories had a message or warning. I'm not sure what message comes out of Little Nothing!


Posted Aug. 20, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
nanl

Join Date: 09/28/15

Posts: 23

RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

Traditional fairy tales and folklore have characters that are either good or evil. This is not so clear in Little Nothing. Are the parents good or evil? What about the wolf persona?
Also, there is usually a moral ...I don't find one here.
Where it stays true to traditional tales is that there is a main character who is unfairly treated badly and has to rely on others who are ultimately evil or ineffective.
I think this gives a really interesting twist on the traditional tales. Who wasn't surprised when the second section starts with her being the Wolf Girl with no explanation; i.e. that she was cursed or that a parent had violated a promise to a manipulative being.


Posted Aug. 20, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
renem

Join Date: 12/01/16

Posts: 185

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RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

I was a little surprised by the jump into Pavla's Wolf Girl persona too. I would of loved to have had an explanation of how it came to be. It wasn't until the end that we were told how she physically changed into the creature she needed to be to escape. Did she also need to be a wolf?


Posted Aug. 22, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
joyces

Join Date: 06/16/11

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RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

This is a book that uses every fairy tale technique and sort of combines them all into a pretty difficult book. The real and unreal in this book are hard to define and sometimes not some thing I want to try to digest. The fairy tale and folklore traditions are all there but a little more grim than any of Grimm's stories. It was sometimes just one horror after another and you were so happy to follow Danilo and Markus living such normal though difficult lives.


Posted Aug. 22, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
melanieb

Join Date: 08/30/14

Posts: 125

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RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

This book was different from what I expected and about halfway through the book, I thought I would stop reading it because the plot was too strange but I stayed with it and the story turned out to be thoughtful and wise. I can see the fairy tale and folklore influences in the writing style.


Posted Aug. 22, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
barbm

Join Date: 02/04/16

Posts: 77

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RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

A twist on the traditions of fairy tales and folklore.... or a twisted perspective on them! It is beyond dark, without a clear villian/hero/moral. Folklore seasoned the tale but was not a singular strong thread. As a reader I was drawn in by the essence of a fairy tale and the early lore, but I kept reading because the story was intriguing. Definitely a skillful writer!


Posted Aug. 23, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 259

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RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

There are the stock characters and motifs, which others have mentioned, so I won't repeat that. I was challenged in reading this, but I do find a deeper inspiration from fairy tales: the theme of transformation. In fairy tales, often a good character is hidden inside a repugnant outer form (the frog prince, the beast in "Beauty and the Beast"). The magic of the "liberation " from an animal form comes through human nature, the better side of it at least: love that has been kindled by the beast's generosity or kindness. (For example, Pavla returns to human form when she shelters her dying/ dead parents, after leading Ivan to their house.) That seems to be true for Markus too. And for Danilo, though he is never in an animal form: there is a low point when he's in prison and feels like he is no longer human, and it's his caring for Markus that ultimately restores him to humanity.

Another theme in fairy tales that I see here is how the "bad characters" are defined by their (human) tendency to reject or exploit the "other": starting with Pavla 's parents (but they are changed by their love, though out of fear, they later subject her to Smetanka); her classmates (who change as well); Smetanka, Klima (who never change, and die as a result) and so on. The contrast between Ivan and his companion, when they encounter Pavla as a wolf, is like the contrast between Danilo and Smetanka when they encounter her as a dwarf. That is the conflict we are grappling with in our society today. I think that's a connection the author wanted us to make, through her use of folklore -- the problem of how we fear and abuse the "other " is as old as humanlity, she appears to suggest. And it never works out well for us when we do that.


Posted Aug. 26, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
beac

Join Date: 08/23/11

Posts: 73

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RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

Usually, fairy tales have something that explains the change in the story, the characters, etc. I don't think this book did. I didn't know what to make of it most of the time.


Posted Aug. 26, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janicea

Join Date: 04/20/17

Posts: 10

RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

Like several of you, I did not know what to make of the book and its characters. I am happy I continued reading, even though I still have questions about the plot and characters, as it made me think about the folklore angle of the book. I am trying to figure out the moral of the story and a few cliches come to mind, such as be satisfied with what (who) you have, don't try changing someone, good versus evil, but none of them really get to the heart of the story. I am still trying to figure it out. I found it to be complicated, yet interesting, story. The book remains in my mind as I sift through the meanings, characters, and story line.

How did Pavla become a wolf?


Posted Aug. 27, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
nancyh

Join Date: 06/25/13

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RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

I think it was more like old fairy tale, like Grimm. I agree with Nani's, remarks. There was no explanation for her turning into Wolf Girl. I got confused during this part. I finally just excepted it and kept reading.


Posted Aug. 28, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
andreab

Join Date: 07/29/14

Posts: 101

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RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

This story could very well be in a Grimm's Fairy Tales volume. With witches, dwarves, giants, torture tables, a wolf-girl, hunter, unrequited love and human misery, all of the elements are present. The story's themes flowed from one oddity to the next and wrapped up the loose ends at the close of the book.


Posted Sep. 01, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
catherineh

Join Date: 02/08/12

Posts: 7

RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

A very sick type of play!
Little nothing is filled with swearing and vulgar language, that you will never see in Grimm's Fairy tales or Perrault.


Posted Sep. 05, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 259

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RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

I respectfully disagree that it was "sick." I believe the author was trying to address the evils of our world today, and the kinds of love that redeem us, through the use of fairy tale elements, which also addressed good and evil. Actually, there is plenty of vulgarity in the original work collected by the Grimm brothers, and in folk tales.


Posted Sep. 06, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Silly Lotus

Join Date: 10/07/15

Posts: 15

RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

I don't think it was sick, I think the violence was not overstated or ignored (ie the attempted rape, the war scenes). I think the transformation was difficult to reconcile. Why was Little Nothing always different, born a dwarf, half woman half wolf, all wolf... only becoming a "human" when incarcerated for her parents murders.


Posted Sep. 07, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 259

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RE: How do you think Little Nothing plays with the storytelling traditions of fairy tales and folklore?

I think she became human again as she sheltered them, grieved over their bodies. She wasn't the killer, but being the only person found with them, she got arrested for it.

The transformations here are always symbolic: she turns into a wolf the more she is treated as less than human, and sees herself that way, losing Danilo's love (as she believes); she turns back into a human when she reclaims her humanity in seeking her parents and finding them dead, but not running away, staying close to them, grieving. Like the setting in "universal time," always long ago and far away, but always here and now, transformations in fairy tales symbolize changes of heart, putting the outward appearance in line with the inner state of being. Silver asks us to read this as both a fairy tale and a true commentary on how we treat people who are different, how easily we exploit and accuse the innocent and turn to violence. Danilo is the one character who sees Pavla's true self regardless of whether she's "wolf" or human. A lot of fairy tales have this element: the hero or heroine is the one who overlooks the external changes and remains true (Tamlin, Frog Prince, Beauty and the Beast, Gawain and the Loathsome Lady, etc.)


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