Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Fairy Tales: They used to be pretty Grimm.

Upon watching The Brothers Grimm (Which is a must by the way, it is rather brilliant, and takes pieces of inspiration from everywhere) I decided to write about Fairy Tales.

Fairy tales are odd things really. They were folk tales made up to scare people, cause superstition and to provide some sort of twisted form of moral reasoning.

So what moral exactly did they provide? For a start, lets dwell on the infamous Snow White. All I'm getting here is that you shouldn't trust kindly old women, because they just might turn out to be your evil stepmother hell-bent on killing you.
And Little Red Riding Hood? Carry an axe around with you, just in case.

Not really the kind of thing you want to teach children is it? (Although perhaps being on the defensive isn't such a bad idea. There are wolves and witches out there you know.)

Really, the traditional morals are usually something along the lines of: 'love conquers all', 'be wary', 'don't talk to strangers', 'good always triumphs over evil, 'the grass is always greener on the other side'(Billy Goats Gruff guys) and such. But to be honest I think they're mostly explaining why you shouldn't be as plain idiotic as the heroes/heroines in these stories.

Now, as I've said, the heroes and heroines in the stories are pretty stupid. But that's pretty much nothing compared to the antagonists. Clumsy 'bloodthirsty' giants, trolls under bridges, witches living in gingerbread houses, evil beauty queens, frankly ridiculous bears and wolves and not to mention the scariest of all: an ugly little all singing, all dancing man who makes people guess his name. Oh, the horror.
Although saying this, folk tales have had some very good villains. Vampires (NOT the sparkly kind), Werewolves (Not the dog kind), Dragons and truly awesome Sorcerers are some good examples.

But fairytale land wasn't always this way. All the cutesy-ness can pretty much come down to one infinitely famous company. (And others who try making it more.. child-friendly). Of course I'm talking about Disney.
As much as the Disney movies are old classics, in my opinion the more scary and, yes, gory older versions are better. It exposes more in the characters. Cinderellas sisters were so selfish and wanted the Prince so much that they would cut off their own heel and toe just to fit into a shoe? That says something.
Lets not forget how much the real Little Mermaid had to give up. Every step she took out of the ocean was like knives being stabbed into her feet. Not only that but she didn't get the Prince in the end. She died. Ouch.
See what I mean? The morals are more... pertinent.

If you are like me, and much prefer these kinds of stories, or fairy tales rewritten, then I have a few books for you:

1. Anything by Gregory Maguire.
-Try Mirror, Mirror (For Snow White).(Click Here for a Review.)
-Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (For Cinderella).(Click Here for a Review.)
-Or for something different, and not actually a fairytale Try Wicked (For The Wizard of Oz, also made into a theatre production). (Click Here for a Review.)
2. Neil Gaimans' Stardust (Also made into a film) is also a reworking, but of the whole fairytale genre. I rather love this book.(Click Here for a Review.)
3. Lets not forget that Shrek has a whole rather funny ensemble of fairy tale and storybook creatures.

One thing I must mention, is the utter awfulness of the Princes in these stories. They're charming, heroic and supposedly gorgeous. Can you imagine how vain they must be? And probably with very little capacity for staying still and listening. Although the adventures may be exciting, I have a feeling the conversation wouldn't be.

To end, I'll give you a moral of this here blog:
If you want a fairy tale with substance, do it yourself. (And don't trust odd little men who offer you favours.)


  1. I personally like the moral in Hansel and Gretel: Don't eat other peoples houses.
    Or The Princess and the Pea: Don't sleep on vegetables

  2. What you should actually read (if you haven't yet) is Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes. These tell the stories how they should be told.

    Extracts can be found on Wikipedia :)

    PS, your best blog yet!


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