Bookish Things

Twisted Fairy Tales – why we can’t let go.

I have recently read a take on the Beauty and the Beast story called “The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty’s Prince” and I have just started “A Whole New World: A Twisted Tale,” which is based on the story of Aladdin, and I began to wonder what drove me to revisit these timeless stories and why do people continually adapt or alter these classics?

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Now, this is not an under-discussed topic. I vividly remember discussing this phenomena when completing the course “Children’s Literature: Criticism and Practice” for the Master of Education, TL through QUT. It intrigued me then, and it still intrigues me now.

Let’s have a quick look at all the fairy tale related popular culture items:

  • Disney – need I say more?
  • TV shows – Grimm, Once Upon a Time, Beauty and the Beast, and many more
  • Movies – live action versions as well as cartoons, and not just Disney ones
  • Book adaptations – most recently would be Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories, plus too many to name
  • Graphic novels – Evermore is a post apocalyptic twist and is very cool!

The list goes on and on and are often mostly based on the same, popular stories – which in my opinion, is not a bad thing. So, why do I call it an obsession?

Well, maybe obsession is the wrong word as it often invokes negative connotations, however I am unable to come up with a better term for our need to revisit our beloved fairy tales. My theory is this:

Fairy tales are familiar. We knew them as children and have grown up with them. Therefore, when we are given the opportunity to be taken back to the world the world from which we learned many life lessons, we jump at the opportunity.

When fairy tales were first created, their purpose was to teach young children moral or life lessons. It was a way of passing on family and traditional lore, thus educating the next generation (BBC News, 2016). Each continent has their own version and traditions when it comes to fairy tales, however their purpose remains the same. I truly believe, that although the lessons that are taught in fairy tales are no longer as pertinent to today, the way in which they have evolved to capture our imagination (with beautiful artwork and catchy music) has certainly assisted in maintaining their presence in our childhoods.

So why revisit them in many different ways? Well, fairy tale stories are classics. They also follow the tried and true formula of “once upon a time” and “they lived happily ever after.” This happy ending resolution is definitely something the keeps me coming back again and again because I know that no matter what trials they face, the hero will always come through. I also know that the opportunity to see the story from a different characters point of view, or with a what if thrown in that turns the tale on its head, coupled with the familiarity of the characters and their world allows me to engage with a new story without exiting my comfort zone. Would I turn to twisted fairy tales all the time? Absolutely not, but I do turn to them when I need to indulge in some comfort reading.

In terms of recommending them to my students, I love seeing a students face when they realise that there is more about the worlds they have grown up wishing about. I particularly enjoy watching students feel excited about reentering this world in a slightly more grown up sense – engaging with familiarity in terms of characters, but extending their reading abilities through slightly more challenging literature. Twisted fairy tales has definitely been high on my list of requests lately and I am pleased that there are more and more books and graphic novels coming out at the moment that meet these needs.

References:

BBC News. (2016). Fairy tale origins thousands of years old, researchers say. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-35358487

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