Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fairy Tale: Happily Ever After

I must warn you, I'm a bit of a cynic. The Disney-ized versions of fairy tales are too pat for me and I tend to prefer a more realistic/jaded version of popular fairy tales. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Snow White all just kind of sat back and waited to be rescued. All beautiful, serene, passive women. They're always so nice. I think perhaps the latest Disney princesses have a bit more gumption, so at least they're moving a bit in the right direction.

The stories were around before the written word was, so there are many variations of them. Some of them are only slightly similar. Aurora=Sleeping Beauty=Briar Rose=Talia=Rosamund and more. Variations on a theme with some of these being more horrifying than others.

I like fairy tales turned on their heads. Wicked by Gregory MaGuire was one of the first turned-on-their-head tales for me. I LOVED it. I have read just about every book he's written (#4 in the Wicked Years Series comes out in November,) they're all well known stories told from a different perspective. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is an alternative view of Cinderella; Mirror, Mirror is a twisted look at Snow White; and you can imagine the protagonist of What-the-Dickens : The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy. He's got more books than these, but you get the gist of the kind of book he writes.

My 9-year-old daughter and I both read the Grimm Sisters Series by Michael Buckley a couple months ago. We both loved those books. Descendants of the brothers Grimm find out that the fairy tales are more fact books than story books, and the actual characters are living in Ferryport Landing along with a grandmother they never knew they had. There is one more book in the series, and we're both anxiously awaiting it!

There are all kinds of picture books about well known characters told a different way. One of my favorites is The Three Little Wolves and The Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas. How could you not love a children's book that has a pneumatic drill toting pig in it??? The True Story of The Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka is another version of the three little pigs. Both are fun and a little different that the usual 3 pigs we all know. Children's literature is full of fairy tale characters placed in different story lines. It's fun to see the different stories that evolve using the same characters.

With fairy tales turned on their heads, it is necessary to be familiar with them in some way or another to get the full effect of their "upside-down-ness". It would be a stretch to fully understand the humor of Cinder-Smella, A Timeless Tale of Stinky Feet (by Alan Sitomer) if you aren't familiar with Grimm's Cinderella (or Disney's for that matter). The original fairy tales were not children's stories. The oral tradition of these folktales contained stories not fit for children. The Grimm brothers collected a bunch of them and cleaned them up a bit. Disney has cleaned them up even more.

Take a look at some of the Disney fairy tales and then grab up a couple of fairy tales told from a different perspective. There are a lot of kid versions and adult versions. See which you prefer, and see which the children in your life prefer. Let us at the Marble Public Library know if you need more titles than I've already mentioned here.

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