I was having a conversation with a dear friend of mine, when somehow or other we got onto the subject of fairy tales. She loves Disney, and likes the sweet fantasy of happy endings.
I’m sure you’re all terribly surprised to hear that I favor a darker approach.
Before anybody starts forming any mental pictures, I’m not a goth.
Mostly because I’m too old, and while young men and women look lovely in goth clothes (and even lovelier in steampunk garb) older ladies just look creepy.
I AM creepy, and even sinister, but I don’t see any point in dressing to advertise it.
I keep the dark side hidden. But I believe that all things have a balance, and that to have the sweet glittery fluffy cupcake, there’s also the dark and terrifying clang of the oven door. Hope it’s not too hot in there!
Anyway, I’m a lifelong fan of fairy tales and mythology of the world.
It started at an early age. Talking to my mom a few years back, she expressed regret over something she bought – a set of children’s books, from a door to door salesman. My parents were young and struggling, and had very little money, but my mom saw deep longing on my face and spent more than she should have. In remembering the incident, she said she didn’t know if the books were worth it.
What she didn’t realize, until that conversation, is how dearly I loved those books. I remember them vividly. There were fairy tales of all sorts – The Brothers Grimm, Mother Goose, Aesop’s Fables, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault. To my further delight, they included 1001 Nights (the tales told by Scheherazade), extensive Greco-roman mythology, the Rudyard Kipling Jungle Books and all of the Just So Stories, all of the Alice in Wonderland books, Treasure Island, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson….
THAT’S how you get a child with an active imagination. To this day, it’s pretty hard to mention a fairy tale or a myth and not hear my opinions and comments on the origin and meanings. I’ve added to the book collection, somewhat – it now includes The Golden Bough, Bullfinch’s Mythology, and Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces.
I love the early, truly grim versions of the classic fairy tales. They weren’t written for children – society in those days did not think of childhood the way we do, as a safe, warm, fluffy place. They were stories for the whole tribe to nod over and discuss, and they contain some damn good advice:
If you talk about fairy tales, I’m likely to have an opinion. I have so much of an opinion, as a matter of fact, that I’m going to break this down into a series because nobody, not even my nearest and dearest (I’m talking about the dog) has the patience to listen to the whole damn thing at once.
So… if you like going into the woods, if you feel sorry for the wicked witch, if you think that the Prince is late all the time and quite frankly not all that charming, come sit by the fire with me. I have a story to tell.