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The Power of Fairy Tales

Jacob Grimm was born on January 4th 1785. He is best known as one of the two Brothers Grimm with his brother Wilhelm, collectors and writers of folk tales and fairy stories. He trained as a lawyer and was a linguist, writing books on the history and grammar of the German language. However we remember him for his contribution to the stories we all heard as children: Rapunzel, Hansel & Gretel, Cinderella, The Elves and The Shoemaker, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin. Without the Brothers Grimm our childhood would have been much poorer.

Teika Bellamy runs an independent publishing company, http://www.mothersmilkbooks.com/ that publishes re-writings of fairy tales each year. They are terrific and if you get the chance to read one of the volumes of The Forgotten and The Fantastical then do, you’ll love them. The popularity of these tales is enduring, even in this supposed sophisticated 21st century. We still long for tales of heroes and villains, maidens and knights (although in Teika’s volumes the knights may need rescuing from the maidens!)

The re-telling of the familiar stories refreshes them in my opinion. I still recognise the pattern of the old story but the new slant makes them relevant to more modern readers. Who hasn’t longed for Snow White to kick the dwarves up the bum and make them do their own cleaning and cooking? Who hasn’t wanted Sleeping Beauty to ride off into the sunset without the prince, taking her destiny into her own hands? Roald Dahl wrote a series of Revolting Rhymes where he re-imagines the old fairy tales, putting his own macabre spin on them of course!

For many of us, especially of a certain age, these stories were among the first we were told as children. As a young girl I wanted to be just like Sleeping Beauty, a lovely vision who was ‘saved’ by a handsome prince; I longed to be woken from my slumber by a kiss. The power of that romantic vision was such that for much of my youth I though that I’d be defined by the quality of the love I attracted; how sad is that? Of course real life isn’t like that; I was never a beauty and no prince rode up to ‘save’ me (from what I was never sure). I discovered my feminist identity and stopped hoping for a man to define me. I began to forge my own identity as a modern woman.

And yet … Those childhood tales have a power that is hard to resist. There is part of me that still wants her prince to come riding up on a white charger, to be that princess with flowing hair and a beautiful frock. I blame my inner Romantic; she’s a sucker for anything like that! She’s the one that weeps at soppy films and books – not me, you understand. I’m a tough cookie, not soppy at all. But the romantic vision of the fairy tales has been part of my life for many years and I can’t quite shake it off.

However, this year I will try to silence that soppy Romantic within me and re-write a fairy tale. Who knows, I may even submit it to Teika for the next volume of The Forgotten and The Fantastical.

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