It’s Fairy Tale February everyone! 🙂
When I was in elementary school, our teacher put on a Fairy Tale trial as a way to teach us about the US justice system. I got to play the part of one of Cinderella’s evil step-sisters, and when it was my turn on the stand, Cinderella’s lawyer asked why I always made Cinderella do all the work. I told him I had very bad asthma, so was unable to do the household chores. And…we got off. Not Guilty.
I had always loved Fairy Tales, but after that, I began to look at them differently. Maybe Cinderella’s stepsisters really did have asthma! Maybe…maybe they were all just misunderstood. I began collecting fairy tale retellings, devouring them in every media I could – books, picture books, movies…Each new fairy tale retelling revealed a glimpse of a maybe or a possibly, some other angle to a story I once thought I knew very well.
And I think that’s the true magic of fairy tales. The original tales are relatively flat – we’re told what happens, but not much of why. The characters, especially the villains, aren’t fleshed out because that’s not really the point of those tales.
Then along comes a retelling, focusing on some tiny detail. We learn why the princess was so desperate to marry the prince, why the seven dwarfs cared for Snow White, why the evil stepmother reacted the way she did…we can follow the familiar elements, see the pattern we’ve already learned, and still discover something new. And that’s why fairy tales never go out of style. The themes they cover, the story arcs they follow, these things are not new or even terribly unique, but the chance for character development, to turn these tales into character-driven stories, well, that opens up all sorts of possibilities.
How about you? What’s your favorite fairy tale retelling?