As a child, I loved the Gem Classics Library of Fairy Tales. These were multiple books containing collections of the classic fairy tales – Emerald Fairy Tales, Sapphire, Ruby, Diamond, etc. I fell in love with fairy tales, and continue to enjoy them today. Why are so many people drawn to these stories, all around the world?

Fairy tales appeal to our very basic human needs. In Snow White we have a queen that epitomizes vanity and jealousy. Snow White is beauty. We can relate because even the best of us have felt these emotions, dealt with the insecurities of a world obsessed by beauty. These stories allow us to confront these fears and emotions. We see the dangers of being consumed with jealousy. The queen destroys herself in her efforts to destroy Snow White.

And the endings feel good, they leave us with a sense of rightness. We want to believe that good values will conquer over bad. At the same time, it appeals to our carnal nature. The villains don’t just disappear, or go to jail. The queen in Snow White is punished by wearing hot iron shoes. Versions of Rumpelstiltskin end in his stomping into the floor and tearing himself in two.

All around the world, people have been telling stories with the same themes. For example, almost every culture has a Cinderella story. What changed over time is the values and message of the tales. Victorian tales dealt with the wish fulfillment of good things come to those who wait, and had very passive heroines. Modern retellings generally have stronger, more active heroines, to reflect the independence of modern women.

Not only am I a fan of the traditional tales, I also seek out retellings. Robin McKinley and Donna Jo Napoli write wonderful young adult versions (though enjoyable for more than youth). For a fantasy targeted to adults, try Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters Trilogy. The first book, “Daughter of the Forest” is based on the tale of The Six Swans.

Since I can never get enough of fairy tales, I’ve even written a couple of my own, one based on Sleeping Beauty, and one on Snow White. If writing your own, you can change everything but the bare bones – the basic structure or theme. Change the motivations, the protagonist, the setting, whatever else you want. It will work as long as your characters are believable.

If you stray so far from the original fairy tale that it’s no longer recognizable, you may lose the ability to label it a fairy tale, but don’t let that stop you if you have a different story to tell. Does it matter the roots as long as it entertains?



Source by Mary Jensen

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