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Fairy tales Reimagined

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Brenda Coleiro

on 17 November 2014

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Transcript of Fairy tales Reimagined

Retelling Fairy Tales
Brenda Coleiro
Children’s literature offers children the first glimpse of a larger world.

Through literature, they learn to ‘imagine how another human might live, think, dream and feel’ (Tim Gillespie).

Children’s Literature

Many are the books or stories that leave an imprint on our minds, due to issues that we can relate to, or themes or topics that shock us or instil in us a strong emotive reaction.

Fairy tales

‘Sex was out and violence was in, and lots of it, especially in the form of gleeful retributive justice’.

(Marina Warner)

In the twentieth century, as the fairy tales written for children soared to popularity, a number of writers endeavoured to create new fairy tales for both a mature and a young readership.

This was done both by creating stories that followed conventional fairy tale patterns, and also by retelling and by reinterpreting these familiar tales.

These give the original tale a number of deeper possibilities, whilst creating a unique story different from the one that spurred the retelling, and which is in turn kept alive by the numerous transformations that it experiences.

The reader is provided with powerful retellings that deal with contemporary issues and bring back some of the horror and darkness that the tales originally contained.

Whilst challenging the readers’ expectations, the symbols in these retellings help transmit and unveil repressed traumatic events that reflect reality.

Some of these retellings form part of this kind of fiction that is often equated to the problem book.

‘There seems to be consensus now that children’s literature is the most […] appropriate literary forum for trauma work’.
(Kenneth Kidd)

Through the way fairy tales are made to ‘represent the unrepresentable’, Margarete J. Landwehr proposes that one should also consider fairy tales as
of harrowing events like the Holocaust.

With a number of retellings emerging, these fairy tales ‘become ever-more refined, they come to convey at the same time overt and covert meanings, [and] come to speak simultaneously to all levels of the human personality’.
(Bruno Bettelheim)

As Jane Yolen explains:

“The idea for an adult novel on the subject Briar Rose, had come to me when I was watching the documentary ‘Shoah’ in which the concentration camp Chelmno was described -- a camp in a castle.  Castle, barbed wire, and the gassing of innocent folk.  It suggested the fairy tale
Sleeping Beauty
in a horrible way.”

“[I]nstead of a graphic portrayal of torture or murder that could repulse readers and inadvertently dissuade them from seeking more information on the Holocaust, or worse still, cause them to deny that such horrors could happen, metaphors present scenes in a disguised, more tolerable manner.”

(Margaret J. Landwehr)

As Kate Bernheimer observes, ‘we are [currently] experiencing an explosion of fairy tale influences in art and literature’.

A number of film makers have recently tried to remediate a number of such stories into films, whilst also giving these classic tales a new and more contemporary perspective.

Fairy Tales
What comes to mind when you think of
fairy tales
These tales that are often perceived to be innocent tales for children are actually brimming with darkness.

The original tales were originally written for an elder generation of readers.

Most of the happy endings we are familiar with are meritable to Disney’s remediation of these tales.

"So the king said it was time for a party with cake and ice cream and golden plates. And not to mention invitations sent to all the good fairies in the kingdom." "But not the bad fairy." "Not the one in black with big black boots and silver eagles on her hat." (BR, p. 19)
"THEN HE CAME AT LAST TO A TOWER ROOM. IT HAD A TIN ceiling and a tin floor covered with latticework. In the middle of the room was a four-poster bed, fine damask curtains hanging from each corner. And on that bed lay the most beautiful young woman the prince had ever seen." (BR, p. 225)
"There were several hutches at the field's end, and they could see three men and a boy of about thirteen shuffling along, feeding the rabbits. To the right was the Narew River, meandering slowly." (BR, p. 202)
"Several times a week, when the rabbits kept in hutches by the SS needed fodder, young Srebnik rowed up the Narew, Chelmno’s river." (Shoah)
"I came the very last into our van and the doors slammed after me. The floor was of tin and latticed. It hurt my bare feet. We were all screaming, crying out." (BR, p. 210)
"and she said 'I curse you, Briar Rose. I curse you and your father the king and your mother the queen and all the people in your village. And all the people who bear your name." (BR, p. 19)
"Well, as it is your graduation from kindergarten, and next year you will be in hard school..."—hard school was what Shana and Sylvia called it because they had homework—"you will probably not want to hear my little story ever again."
Becca had leaned over, putting her head on her grandmother's arm. "I will want to hear it always, Gemma. Because it is your story."
"From your lips to God's ears," Gemma said.
"That's not from this part of the story, silly Gemma," Becca said. And as her grandmother smiled, Becca spoke the next part of the tale.
"When princess Briar Rose was seventeen—that's ten-levens more than me, Gemma."
"That's twelve more than you."
"When princess Briar Rose was seventeen, one day and without further warning... What's a warning?"
"Telling you to watch out."
"Oh! Without further warning, a mist covered the entire kingdom. What's a mist?"
"A fog. An exhaust."
"A mist. A great mist. It covered the entire kingdom. And everyone in it—the good people and the not-so-good, the young people and the not-so-young, and even Briar Rose's mother and father fell asleep. Everyone slept: lords and ladies, teachers and tummlers, dogs and doves, rabbits and rabbitzen and all kinds of citizens. So fast asleep they were, they were not able to wake up for a hundred years. Are you a hundred years, Gemma?"
"Not yet."
"I'm six."
"Not yet."
"Is a hundred a lot?"
"A hundred years is forever."
(BR, pp. 42-44)
"Why say stirring. That's like soup, Gemma. That's silly. And Sleeping Beauty isn't a silly story."
"No," Gemma said, her voice suddenly quiet, thoughtful; her eyes far away though she was staring at the Ferris wheel. "Not a silly story at all."
(BR, p. 151)
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