Miss M. and I are both fascinated by fairy tales. She likes them because they have princesses (and wicked stepmothers and princes and horses). I am intrigued by them, often not by what they contain, but what they leave out. Characters act illogically sometimes (Why did Snow White keep opening the door to peasant women even after all those attempts on her life? And why, knowing that the girl was so addle-brained, didn’t one of the dwarves stay home to protect her?). Details are pregnant with meaning–but I don’t know what that meaning is (why a pumpkin, for instance?). I am irritated by the many passive females in them, by Sleeping Beauty for falling asleep, by Snow White for constantly needing to be looked after, by Cinderella for oh-so-patiently enduring her servitude. So I twist fairy tales, to fill in the gaps, to flesh out characters, to reframe them so that they make sense to my modern mindset.
Yet there is a universality to these tales, that tug at the heart and at the deep dark places of the mind, that echo across cultures and generations. There’ s something primal about them–when I play with them (and I have whole folder of writings entitled Fairy Tales!), I feel like I am coming back to drink from some old old well. Something about curses and magic, about men being transformed into beasts, the power of true love’s kiss, of giants and witches and trolls; all these seem to come out of psychic landscape that all humans inhabit.
How do you feel about fairy tales? Which is your favorite fairy tale?
Here is one of my own light-hearted experiments to understand, and give a context to fairy tales. I’m particularly fond of this one because I managed to allude to so many stories in one go.