by A. Faris
Re-reading fairytales as an adult, now that I am a mom, I realize that many fairytales have dark subtexts. If one goes back to the original stories – not the cleaned up 'It's a wonderful world' Disney-esque versions, you'd quickly realize that fairytales are not just happily-ever-afters. They are rich and complex, with much to mine from them.
Good does not always win...and heroes and heroines are not always perfect beings. The Little Mermaid killed herself for love, Goldilocks was a housebreaker, and the list goes on.
I can appreciate why adults feel compelled to wash out such dark themes for children – I, for one, do not want to explain to my three year old why The Little Mermaid killed herself - but they become pale imitations of their selves. The only danger in that, however, is if the orginal stories are lost to us and only the children's versions survive.
What fairytales leave us is, thankfully, a gold mine of ideas and themes that can be re-visted. Obeserve the Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner, the reiterations of 'Beauty and the Beast', 'Red Riding Hood', 'Cinderella', to name a few, in romances, and the fairytale-like stories of AS Byatt (with decidedly adult themes). There is a reason why these stories remain with us through the times, to be enjoyed over lifetimes.
A. Faris is the author of 'The Golden Harp', a retelling of 'Jack and the Beanstalk' and 'Out of Joint', a historical paranormal, soon to be released by Decadent Publishing!
Thank you for this very interesting post. It reminds me of a class I took in university--we explored the fairy tales in depth. It's been too many years since I took this course. This morning, inspired by your post, I re-read some of the assignments I wrote for that class. They made for an enjoyable reading experience--thank you for encouraging me to re-visit them.
When I was a child, I loved Hansel and Gretal. I was not frightend by the tale of the brother and sister who were sent into the woods.
If my grandchildren read about the witch and her oven, they would have nightmares. Yet, the story has been adapted into multiple versions for years.
Leanne, it's fun to go back to old courses, isn't it? Although sometimes I think I wrote the daftest things as a twenty year old. I took a similar course - was it Campbell who wrote Mythic and Archetypal principles? I have always thought that was a brilliant idea.
Kathleen, my sympathies are with the witch, believe it or not. Hansel and Gretel did eat her house. :P But the oven IS stuff of nightmares.
I love reading the different takes on fairy tales over the years and have argued with a dear friend about the 'adult' versions. As far as she is concerced, FT are for children and shouldn't be touched... I tried to tell her they were cautionary tales meant to 'scare' children into behaving and she won't have it.
Some people will not look beyond the Disneyfication! I'm glad to say, I like 'em all!
I had a boyfriend fro mGermany when I was just out of high school. His German version of fairytales....wow! Bloody, dark, scary. Not cute and Disney-ish.
His mom used to scare the heck out of him with Hansel and Grettel! Like punishment for tramping through the house with dirty shoes. :-)
I love fairytales. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the occasional song thrown in for good measure. LOL But seriously, they are a wealth of great plotline and fantastical elements.
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