Once upon a time, in a land far far away…

My theme for this week is fairytales. Everywhere I’ve looked a big, bad wolf or a witch with a malevolent gleam in her eye has caught mine. First off, I picked up Philip Pullman’s retelling of Grimm’s Tales, an author I admire greatly for His Dark Materials trilogy. Check out a beautiful animation of the cover artwork here.

Then I was talking to a friend about the recent spate of fairy tale film adaptations. Kristen Stewart has signed up for a second Snow White and the Huntsman, there was Red Riding Hood earlier this year and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and, I kid you not, Jack the Giant Slayer are coming in the spring.

Lastly, but by no means least, we have our much-anticipated February release Bitter Greens on the horizon, which ties the fable of Rapunzel together with the story of Charlotte-Rose de la Force, one of the tale’s earliest tellers. I raced through this chunky book and it has climbed high in my list of favourite A&B reads. I challenge anyone to resist its charm.

Returning to Pullman, he wrote very intelligently about the fairy tales in the Guardian earlier this autumn.  What I particularly liked about his article was the importance he attached to the tellers of fairy tales themselves, who are continually passing on a baton, adding their own nuances and twists over time. To quote: ‘The fairy tale is in a perpetual state of becoming and alteration. To keep one version or one translation alone is to put a robin redbreast in a cage.’ A very apt image considering how in Bitter Greens the tale of Rapunzel locked in her tower is passed from Sister Seraphina to Charlotte-Rose who is embarking on her own version of the tale as Bitter Greens draws to a close.

What’s your favourite fairy tale, and what twists on the traditional would you recommend?

Lesley Crooks, Sales & Digital Manager

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2 thoughts on “Once upon a time, in a land far far away…”

  1. The fairytale I am most drawn to is Sleeping Beauty, especially its early versions in which the prince does so much more than kiss the princess – in fact, she sleeps right through her own pregnancy and giving birth! In my retelling, she has an active inner life while she sleeps, and in her dreams she challenges a society which would curse her with death by spinning wheel. The symbolism is rich – does it mean death by domesticity, by women’s work, by industry?

    Bitter Greens is a wonderful read, and I look forward to sitting down with Philip Pullman’s retellings.

  2. I think the little mermaid was, not necessarily the one I loved best, but the one I can’t get out of my head to this day: images of her tail painfully splitting into two legs and the agony of each step certainly packed a punch!
    On a side note, this blog triggered a memory of a fantastic international fairy tales book I had as a child, lots of African and Asian stories. The one that is most memorable involved a sumo wrestler training himself up. He ate rice that was progressively cooked in less and less water until he was able to chomp through raw rice quite happily. It’s not much to go on, but if anyone can help me out with the title I might like to revisit for my niece. Thanks!

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