Tag Archives: Fairytales

Why I Still Turn to Fairytales…

Some might say it is a little bit queer (rolls eyes at self) that a thirty three year old man would be desperate to see Cinderella as his 33rd birthday treat, yet this was my story just a few weeks ago. Since I can remember when I have loved a good fairytale. This I blame on my family frankly.

Firstly my highly over imaginative grandfather who made me believe that the tower at the top of our hill (actually part of The Heights of Abraham) was where Rapunzel lived (who I named my pet duck after) and who also wrote me magical tales with me in them when I was three upwards. Secondly my pair of wicked ugly aunties (only joking Caz and Alice, honest, gulp) who told me tales of witches who lived on the hill, which I think they made up. Thirdly my mother who would read and reread (and reread and reread and reread) the wonderful Ladybird Well Loved Tales to me as a child. Fourthly my Gran who also read me those and would watch the Slipper and the Rose (one of the best versions of the Cinderella story, end of) at least four or five times, with a break in between for The Wizard of Oz or the odd Doris Day movie, when I would stay in the school holidays. I know, this explains so much right there doesn’t it?

My old family home, surrounded by forest – Sleeping Beauty much?

So I guess fairy tales were a safe haven when I was growing up and indeed have been my turn to books whenever I am feeling a little off kilter, ill, out of sorts or have the dreaded readers block. There are the odd exceptions but Into the Woods was a film not a book and probably shouldn’t be mentioned ever again. Oddly enough once I realised how much darker they were than sanitised Ladybird or Disney incarnations I loved them all the more, though still haven’t read all the ‘fairy tales uncut’ as it were. That was why there was really no other first tattoo option for me; I am planning a ‘woodland fairytale scene’ on my other arm as we speak. Seeing Cinderella, which was extremely good indeed thank you for asking, and having the new routine of watching an episode of Once Upon a Time with my breakfast and coffee and sometimes my lunch – the urge for me to read the originals and the new homage’s and the like has come back really strong.

I thought instead of me just asking you for advice on which ones I should look out for, though you all know I am going to ask that later let’s not pretend, I decided I would share with you some fairy tales and fairy tale themed books I have loved and some I have been buying and hoarding and planning to read at some point.

Just a selection from my shelves...

Just a selection from my shelves…

First up are some books that I would really, really recommend and indeed have reviewed. There are of course the originals but you all know about all of them. There have been some wonderful authors who have taken on the fairytales and given them their spin. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber is one fine example, as is Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales (which do what they say on the tin) and I would highly recommend Sarah Pinborough’s trilogy of Poison, Charm (which I have read but yet to review) and Beauty (which I have yet to read) which give the tales of three princesses a much darker and saucier feel, and cleverly interweaves them all.

If you fancy some new fairytales then you can’t go wrong with the fantastically gothic graphic novel collection of both Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods and Isabel Greenberg’s An Encyclopedia of Early Earth one which will give you the horrors, the other which looks at myths, fairytales and legends and their creation. Then there is the wonderful collection by Viktor and Rolf, which safe to celebrates the campiness of the fairytale, disco hedgehog anyone? Oh and how could I forget the sublime, sublime, sublime Diving Belles by Lucy Wood which is one of my favourite short story collections every and will have you seeing magic, mermaids and witches everywhere when you leave the house.

There is one standout though that both reinvents and invents. With Bitter Greens I think Kate Forsyth, who is actually a Doctor of Fairytales yet who we shall just call Queen of the Fairy Tales for now, has done something incredible that any fairy tale or story lover of any type should read. In it we meet three women all isolated from society for various different reasons, a storyteller locked in a nunnery, a woman locked into getting revenge and a young girl locked in a tower. These women’s tales come together to create a wonderful novel about storytelling, history, and fairytales and of course my favourite tale of all the story tales… Rapunzel. Just read it. I need to read The Wild Girl which I believe looks at the Brothers Grimm themselves and nicely links in to some books I haven’t read yet but have bought.

So what of the books to read?  I didn’t realise this until recently, and now it seems so obvious, but Kate Hamer’s debut about a child abducted The Girl in the Red Coat is one I am itching to read, as is Kirsty Logan’s collection of modern fairytales The Rental Heart. Then there is the series that I have seen lots and lots and lots of people going crazy over, the dystopic Lunar Chronicles which sees Cinderella as a cyborg, Little Red Riding Hood turn detective/street crime fighter and Rapunzel a computer hacker. I. CANNOT. WAIT!

Oh and then there are two nonfiction books I should mention. Once Upon a Time which is Marina Warner’s short history of the fairytale (apparently she is an expert so I might end up wanting her entire backlist) and I am also desperate to read, Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland which comes with the subtitle the tangled roots of our forests and fairytales which I have had on the shelves for far too long and needs to be read.

Phew I think that is enough! As you can see this list is not exhaustive and I am sure there are many, many recommendations you would love to pass onto me. Hint, hint. Has Margaret Atwood not done some fairytales, it will be a crime if not. If you would like to hear Kate Forsyth and I talking fairytales, you can do so here, oh and if anyone would like to be a secret benefactor and send me to Australia to do a doctorate of fairytales and follow in Kate’s footsteps do let me know. Right over to you; which of the above have you read and what would you recommend?

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Why Do We Love A Good Fairytale?

As the air has taken a rather autumnal feel here in the Wirral and after reading the quirky ‘Topsy Turvy Tales’, I have turned to reading the Grimm Brothers fairytales (between all the other reading I am doing that I can’t discuss) and I was wondering why as adults we still find fairytales so appealing.

Now if you are thinking that I am happily sat reading the old ladybird classics of an evening you would be wrong. Though I do have my old (very) battered versions from my childhood which I think I actually pilfered was passed on from my mother and aunties and uncle and then saw my siblings reading them (and battering them more) before I managed to get my mitts on them again. Anyway, I have been reading the ‘uncut’- as it were – versions of these tales and yet again, as I was with Perrault’s collection and Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Little Mermaid’, I am shocked at how much darker, twisted and gruesome the tales really are. Disney this is not.

I was actually thinking that children might be more scared of these versions and hence that is why they have been edited, but actually I bet kids would love them, especially when the baddies really come a cropper. I know as an adult I am, but what has led me back to reading them from those initial days a few decades (ugh!) ago?

As a child I loved fairytales for the following reasons…

  1. There was invariably a wood in them and my childhood home was surrounded by them meaning I thought these adventures could have happened in my childhood (particularly my favourite ‘Rapunzel’ as shown below as on our hill we had a very similar type of tower in the woods, seriously look below)
  2. There was generally a sense of menace, something I still love in a book now.
  3. There were elements of the magical and was invariably a witch or talking animal involved, I believed in both of these things vehemently for years, until I was about 24 in probability, ha.
  4. There was a happy ending and love conquered all, naive and slushy but true.
  5. They were a complete escape.

 

I was very lucky as apart from pilfering being loaned the Ladybird Classics, of which my favourite was Rapunzel as I mentioned, I had an amazing Granddad, called Bongy, who made more fairytales for me when I went to Newcastle with my mother while she was at university. Each week, or every few weeks, another tale of ‘The Amazing Adventures of Esmerelda and her Friends’ would arrive in the post, all hand written and hand drawn. Again real life and fiction merged as Esmerelda would visit her friend Simon bringing all her friends including a duck called Rapunzel and nine hens, all of which I had back at my grandparents in Matlock waiting for me in the holidays.

So where is this nostalgia trip leading? Well that is my point. I think one of the reasons we love fairytales is the nostalgia, well at least it is for me, and the fact there is something very safe in a fairytale no matter how menacing they get. I think, even if we know it might not always be true or run smoothly, we believe in love and the idea of a, hopefully, happy ending for all of us one day. It’s the ideal isn’t it? I also think it is the escapism, even if the world is quite similar there is something ethereal and magical about it that makes us know it is not our world but just tangible enough that it could be. Am I making sense?

It isn’t just the ‘adult’ (only not adult-adult you understand) versions of the tales we had as children though. Authors like Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, John Connelly and soon Philip Pullman have re-worked or used the ideas of traditional fairytales in their fictions. Authors like Dan Rhodes, Lucy Wood, Ali Shaw and Eowyn Ivey have also created their own original fairytales for an adult audience which are working wonders and shows we do still love them.

I also wonder if a fairytale is really the true essence of stories. Tales made from folklore, legends and myths handed down by word and discussed before they were ever put to paper, it is what stories and therefore, I think, novels originate and even when you are reading a modern novel with no sign of magic or talking animals your still being told a story and a fairytale of a kind because none of it is real, just a little more cloaked.

What do you think, and what is your favourite fairytale?

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Occasional Shorts: The Little Mermaid – Hans Christian Andersen

I’m currently recovering from a big bout of biopsies earlier in the week and so sadly ‘Middlesex’, which I was reading and loving, has gone to the bedside table for a while and hasn’t been picked up. Oops. I have started cracking open some short story collections and thought ‘ooh if there is a short story that takes hold of me then maybe it would be nice to do a post based on just that tale’ and after  the very first short story in my Hans Christian Anderson I already had a post. So today introduces ‘Occasional Shorts’. Now if you have only seen the film of ‘The Little Mermaid’ or haven’t read the tale then you might not want to read on as there is a rather massive spoiler coming, you have been warned…

I was surprised when I read Perrault’s ‘Fairytales’ a while back that the endings of the tales were nothing like the lovely ladybird editions I was read as a child. Imagine my shock and horror when I read ‘The Little Mermaid’ and it was nothing like the Disney film that I watched, slightly excessively, as a child. You see everything starts as I remembered.

The youngest mermaid princess in the kingdom, both are unnamed in the edition I have read, wants to see the world above the waves and waits and waits until she finally turns fifteen after which she becomes a little obsessed with the world beyond. One night when viewing life above the ocean a boat sinks and she saves a handsome prince and falls in love, so much so she gives her voice (and her tongue, Disney didn’t feature that did they?) to an evil witch in return for legs and the condition that she must make the prince fall in love with her. So far it was much the same as I thought… so far!

However this then completely changed when her legs caused the pain of a thousand knives every time she walked. Poor thing, I thought, she better get the blinking Prince. So imagine my utter shock (spoiler coming) that she didn’t and instead he meets someone else and she is given the option of killing him, his blood turning her legs back into a tail, or turning into sea foam and dying. I wont say which it was but I was mortified.

This may seem a silly post, it could be the painkilling drugs, but I genuinely am quite disturbed and as I read on its getting darker and darker. Normally this would be something I would really like, oh ok I am enjoying how different and dark they are, but would I read these versions to a child? Is it changing my childhood subconsciously as ‘Sleeping Beauty’ did when I read the Perrault tales? Naturally I will have to read on to see what further shocks await!

Have you re-read any fairytales and been rather shell shocked by it all, or is it just me? Oh, and what’s your favourite fairytale?

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Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow…

I don’t know how much the great UK snow storm has impacted the news world wide but it’s been on the news so much here I was trying to avoid blogging about it. I am not a big fan of the snow though weirdly, and it must be to do with my childhood in the Peak District – more on that later with a Peak Plea, it is the sort of weather that makes me want to read fairytales. Why is that I wonder?

When I say I am not a big fan of snow I actually think it looks stunning, what I hate is that the UK is rubbish at having snow and London in particular seems to go into some apoplectic panic and grinds to a halt. It also gets really, really cold and I don’t like the cold so I was feeling a bit bah humbug when it arrived, especially as the local kids seem to need to have major screaming fits every morning at about 6.30am when they have a pre school snow fight in the area behind my house which does I admit look rather pretty…

However an email that I got from the lovely Granny Savidge Reads put me to shame that I was moaning about the snow here as she is genuinely stuck in the depths of the Peak District. It may look beautiful…

…But when its so deep you actually can’t get anywhere its not so much fun, and believe me the snow has got that deep where she is. For example the image below is her garden table and chairs…

I told her to embrace the fact that this means there is much more time for reading. This got a faint laugh but I think there is a bit of snow cabin fever going on to be honest. Naturally I have been on the phone to her lots and lots during this period of ice-o-lation (do you see what I did there) and we were discussing whether we should embark on some snow themed reading!

Any snow based books you can recommend? (It may help with my latest bout of readers block… seriously it keeps reoccuring this year, its not good is it? Maybe I should turn to those fairytales after all!?!)

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