** This is not part of the Writing Bestselling Children’s Books musings, that will come later on today.
This is about general ruminations about faery tales and it was brought on by a wonderfully thoughtful and eloquent blogpost on Katherine Langrish’s website – Seven Miles of Steel Thistles. This is the utterly fascinating and fantastic blogpost here, which prompted this prompt. But I daresay, my eloquence is zot compared to Katherine’s and it really is more a musing.
In her final paragraph, Katherine says:
They are so far from the stereotype of the fairytale princess that one has to ask how it arose, and to wonder whether late 19th/early 20th century editorial bias – to say nothing of rewriting – had anything to do with choosing more ‘properly behaved’ heroines for children’s anthologies?
Firstly, I am so incredibly pleased to have stumbled across this blog. I love fairy tales and have loved them since I was very tiny when my dad told me African and South African fairy tales and fables which he in turn had been told by his parents. My mum, being from English stock, had no business for fairy tales at all. She created them herself, through her various hobbies and art projects. I also had a steady staple of stories from Disney via their various movies growing up. But I have to admit that I never liked the idea of a passive heroine. Someone waiting to be rescued. That really rankled. Which is probably why I liked Ever After so much, the movie starring Drew Barrymore in which she saves the prince from the gypsies by carrying him away on her back. Or when she gets all feisty with the prince because he stole their horse.
I also think this is why I’m loving the Fables graphic novels so much. In particular 1001 Nights in Snowfall. There are several stories contained in this volume and one in particular spectacularly tells the back story to why the Big Bad Wolf was so bad…or where Sherezade came up with the idea of entertaining the Caliph with 1001 stories to secure her own life. It also puts a very interesting spin on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and how she takes her revenge on them once she’s married Prince Charming.
I really think that reworkers of fairy tales, people like the Margo Lanagan, Midori Snyder, Ellen Datlow, Robin McKinley and Holly Black, to name but a few, deserve a lot of credit. In particular Margo Lanagan who has received a vast amount of negative as well as positive commentary on her recent novel, Tender Morsels, that in return had me thinking: when did people stop remembering those original and very scary stories that were hardly ever very pleasant and not at all meant for kids? And why aren’t the girls feisty anymore?
As much as I love Enchanted, the movie, I do think that our heroine really should have been a much wiser person, although she grows wonderfully throughout the movie.
I suspect that I need to do a lot more research into and about fairy tales, their origins, their various hidden meanings, the whole package. Because more than anything else, like history, I find fairy tales (which hardly ever seemed to have fairies in them!) very interesting and worth the time and effort to delve into. And yes, I do quite fancy having a whole bookcase dedicated to research on fairy tales. Just don’t tell my husband.