“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Cinderella” and “The Little Mermaid” are stories we all know and love. They are ‘fairy tales’: stories that were written a long time ago, the stories parents read to their children at night, the ones about magic, adventure and possibility, of enchanted forests and talking animals, fairy godmothers and glass slippers, evil queens and poisoned apples… Fairy tales are stories that we never forget. But it’s fair to say that many of us only know our fairy tales because we have seen the films by Walt Disney – films I admit I used to watch all the time. However, the truth is that the Disney films (and the stories we read as children) are very different from the original tales written a long time ago – tales that were not actually written for children. For example, did you know that in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, the Queen goes to Snow White’s wedding and is forced to wear a pair of burning shoes and dance until she dies? Or that in “Cinderella”, the stepmother gets one of her daughters to cut off her own heel and her other daughter to cut off a toe, so they can fit their feet into Cinderella’s lost slipper? And did you know that in “The Little Mermaid”, the mermaid actually dies, after the boy she loves marries someone else? No true love’s kiss, no fairy godmother, no happily ever after – the original fairy tales are dark and depressing. Today, fairy tale retellings are very popular and have become a new trend in our literature and culture. For example, author Jackson Pearce has a series of retellings: her book ‘Sisters Red’ (2010) is based on “Little Red Riding Hood” and ‘Sweetly’ (2011) is based on “Hansel and Gretel”. The third book of the series, ‘Fathomless’, is based on the story of “The Little Mermaid” and comes out later this year. Pearce’s books are set in our world and add an interesting twist to the classic tales. With this trend, fairy tales are on the television too. For example, in the new programme ‘Once Upon a Time’, all our favourite characters are trapped in our world after the Queen from “Snow White” casts an evil spell over the fairy-tale kingdom. The programme combines the magic and fun elements of the Disney films with the darkness of the original stories. ‘Once Upon a Time’ has been so popular that it will continue for a second series. Fairy tale retellings also come in film versions. In fact, two adaptations of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” have come out this year: ‘Mirror Mirror’ and ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’. But the two films are very different from each other. ‘Mirror Mirror’ is a comedy that everyone can enjoy, while ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ is “no fairy tale” but a dark film full of violence and suspense. It seems that today’s adaptations are getting darker and darker; therefore, unlike the Disney films, modern fairy tale stories are returning to the themes and styles of the original versions – the true stories. Fairy tales are timeless. And even after all these years, we’re still seeing new versions of the classic stories. For children, fairy tales offer an escape from the modern world to a place of magic and adventure. For adults, fairy tales are the stories they grew up with, the stories they remember as children. So, it’s interesting for them to see again the characters they know and love, but with new twists and new worlds – and new stories. In general, the fairy tale trend is very popular. Therefore, the retellings and adaptations in books and films give us all a chance to relive the favourite stories of our childhood. Happily ever after.
What was your favourite fairy tale when you were little?