Saturday, January 19, 2013

Retell Me a Story Guest Post: Jessica from Books: A True Story

I'm pleased to welcome my last Retell Me a Story guest poster, Jessica who blogs at Books: A True Story. She can also be found on twitter, goodreadstumblr and Facebook. Thanks for joining us, Jessica!

Taking Fairy Tales Where They've Never Gone Before

I love fairy tales. Especially the Disney ones. I grew up on those. As a little girl, I'd whoosh from the back of the tub to the front to make a maximum wave of water (which usually ended up on the floor) while singing at the top of my lungs “Part of your woooooorrrrrld.” My mom would get mad and I'd explain that I was just being Ariel and flash my best innocent pouty face.

When I got older, I learned that most fairy tales are originally from The Grimm's Fairy Tales. Surely the Disney versions couldn't be that far from the original ones. Right?

Oh so wrong.

Take Rapunzel. I was no longer a kid when this movie came out (Ugh it's called Tangled but even my boys call it Rapunzel). I'm crying at the end thinking that Disney finally killed off a main character. But then magic saves him. Happily ever after the end.

Here's the Grimm version in a nutshell:

Mother Gothel banishes Rapunzel to the desert when she finds out Rapunzel has a lover and blinds Rapunzel's lover WITH THORNS (Side note: Why does Rapunzel's lover not have a name??). Blind lover wanders around for a few years before he happens to find Rapunzel and her two kids starving to death in the desert. The end.

That....is....a really depressing story.

So why do we love fairy tales so much? I can't help but wonder why people would tell these disturbing stories to their kids. Maybe there is some sort of benefit to traumatizing your kids that my kids are missing out on. Hm.

But here's why I love fairy tales – they have excellent conflict.

That's one of my favorite things about the Once Upon a Time TV show. It really embraces the conflict in fairy tales and in some cases kicks it up a notch. Little Red Riding Hood EATS her lover, anyone??

So if fairy tales have excellent conflict and story the way they are, why do so many people retell them?

I have no idea.

Personally, my favorite thing about retellings is how they update the setting and characters to make them more relatable and interesting. The best example I have of this is War of the Worlds. If you read the book, it's about a sci-fi alien invasion with everyone running away from the aliens with their horses and buggies. Which is really kind of sad when you think about it. The movie with Tom Cruise has a very similar plot, but they run away in SUVs instead. And they fight back with tanks. That's a little more relatable to me. Not that I've ever driven a tank, but I have driven an SUV.

So I am tipping my hat to all those amazing authors that take amazing fairy tales and make them modern and relatable to me. Let's take fairy tales where they've never gone before! Like space! Or Montana!

Where do you think fairy tales are headed?  Where do you want them to go?

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  1. Which translation of Grimm are you reading? The several that I've read always go like this: The Prince throws himself from the tower in grief when he learns the witch has hidden Rapunzel from him. He falls among thorns that blind him. He wanders the world for some years, and meets Rapunzel again. She cries when she sees him, and her tears restore his sight. Then he takes her and the kids to his kingdom where they live happily ever after. Grimm is gruesome, but they still get the happy ending.

    I'd actually love to see faerie tales retold in different time periods besides modern and vaguely Victorian settings. I like those, but I want to see decades such as the 20s explored. Something much further back would be wonderful, too. Say, the 17th century. I love how the movie Ever After with Drew Barrymore was set in France during the Renaissance. What I'm really after is a specific time and place in the retellings I read.

    1. Ooh, yes some fairy tale retellings set in other time periods would be awesome! I loved Ever After and I think some very specific places and times would make fabulous fairy tale retellings.

  2. Fairy tales fascinated me as a kid. I've always liked tragic endings so maybe that's it. I'm still not sure why they keep getting retold, though.

    1. Ah, the tragic endings. Sometimes you just need to have a nice sad ending. But, sometimes I'm all about the happy endings too :)

  3. Awesome post! I think they get retold because they never get old. And I hope they never do.

    1. Me too! I love finding and loving new retellings (um, obviously)


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