This week’s theme is “Ten Reasons I Love X”, and for a minute I couldn’t think of a thing I wanted to gush about — or I could, but nothing I thought I could come up with a whole list for, or which might be interesting to anyone else.
Then it struck me. So here are ten reasons I love fairytales (and fairytale retellings)!
- Something about them has spoken to people for a long, long time. These are really old stories that have been told by consensus, basically — by people deciding on the bits they like and adding new parts and ditching things which don’t make sense anymore. They’re like a well-worn shirt.
- They’re still variable. We can still change them. Every day, if we want to. We can tell the same story with different characters (and even read the same stories with different characters) and explore all the little ways we can tweak the meanings, the messages.
- They contain all kinds of magic. It doesn’t matter what magic you need, you can probably find it in fairytales. Alchemy? Ask Rumpelstiltskin. Fairy Godmothers? True love’s kiss?
- We can use them to ask questions. Like, why would you love a Beast? What’s going on with this story?
- They’re suitable for any age. These stories are timeless, and it’s because they contain stuff that appeals to children and adults alike. The child wonders about what’s there to find in the wood, other than the Big Bad Wolf. The adult knows the anxiety of Red Riding Hood’s mother, or the patience of the grandmother, or the hunger of the Wolf…
- They can be universal. We could go around collecting dozens of variations on a fairytale, or collect them together and call it an archetype. There’s versions of these stories in so many cultures — doesn’t that say something?
- They can be specific. Robin Hood lives in Sherwood Forest, and you can go there and walk where he walked. Or walk past a lake where a fairy came out of the water to marry a human man. This or that glade or grotto, somewhere you know and can visit and touch, has a secret magic.
- You always know what’s coming. Once upon a time. A wicked witch. True love’s kiss. Happily ever after.
- But they can surprise you all the same. It doesn’t have to happen the same way every time. Sleeping Beauty can fall in love with the Wicked Witch or a stableboy or serving maid. The important part is the kiss, the happy ever after. Cinderella can be an android.
- We can make new fairytales with the old formulae. We know how it goes: sets of three, a stepmother, a tiny house in the forest…
For two writers who do really good takes on fairytales, try T. Kingfisher and Robin McKinley… Sarah Pinborough’s retellings are also interesting. And there’s a lot more out there.