(7/30/03 11:40 am)
some (non)rhetorical questions|
I think it is safe to say that everyone logged in to this website has a deep interest in fairy tales. But why? What is it about these stories that resonates with so many people over so many generations?
Personally, I think that fairy tales are a lot like music (and as difficult to define)--a succinct way to give voice to emotional truth that gets lost in more complex idioms. (Not to mention they are a lot of fun.)
So why is it that there are so few original fairy tales being written? (Or at least published.) I don't mean variations on old/classic fairy tales, but original stories that use a symbolic shorthand to look inside ourselves and our communities that most people would readily identify as fairy tales such as Jane Yolen's The Girl Who Cried Flowers or Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Changing Maze.
I am not saying there are no new original fairy tales, I am saying there aren't many (or more to the point--enough.) I have been a bookseller for more years than I would care to admit and I can testify to the fact that there are damn few original fairy tales being published.
So, here is/are my question(s):
The classic stories are wonderful stories, but are they OUR stories? If they are our inheritance, shouldn't we be taking the next step and adding our own stories to the canon?
I would really like to know how other fairy tale lovers feel about these questions. Thanks for letting me voice them.
(7/30/03 2:13 pm)
Re: some (non)rhetorical questions|
I think there is a definite line between the 'classic' fairy tale and a fairy tale from modern times.
Maybe because of the oral tradition of the 'classic', or the mass marketing with say Disney, or simply parents reading the fairy tales to their children that they were read as children down through the ages, or more than likely a combination of those factors plus other factors I have failed to realize, which makes the 'classics' the mainstay of fairytales.
Personally I HATE the remakes that dumb down the morals, for instance have the Wolf very very sorry at the end of Little Red Riding Hood.
I think there are some very good modern day Fairy Tales out there that have nothing to do with remaking or revisiting an earlier fairytale. However, sadly they do not get the same amount of play...unless a movie is made about them. I think that the modern fairytales that will survive to become classics, much like 'The Wizard of Oz' are going to be the ones, that might not be the best but can gather a big audience.
For example: Toy Story, through the movies and marketing, and perhaps Harry Potter.
Time will tell if these stories become classics, but I think the point will be moot for us if they do.
As for your direct question, Yes, I believe they are 'our' collective inheritance. I think 'we' collective should be adding to them.
My question to you is: Are you a bookseller at say one of the major bookstores? Because, and I don't know, but would assume (and I am aware of the problems with assumptions) that they would wish to stock books that are going to sell rather than take too many chances with books that won't.
To that end isn't it also the fault of the Publishing companies who aren't signing authors who write modern fairy tales...again an issue of selling and making money.
One last thought pertaining to the above statement, with the upcoming release of Peter Pan 2003, and several other works relating to Fairy Tales coming out...keep your fingers crossed, if those movies do well, perhaps we will see an upturn in more original fairytale books.
Just my thoughts, and sorry for the stream of consciousness, my boy was sick all last night, pretty tired here.
(7/30/03 3:33 pm)
Re: some (non)rhetorical questions|
Since the fairytales we regard as classics started somewhere off the page, maybe looking for the modern fairytales should begin there, too. Maybe someday one of those awful forwards- like the cookie recipe everyone passed around for a while, supposedly started by a woman who was charged 200 dollars to buy it from a department store- will wash up as a full blown story, with three questions at the cash register and a hobgoblin CEO and a happy ending with the world fed by cookies. I think you can find the modern equivalents in film, too, and even in the news. To me, the classic fairytales are a mix of the mysterious and the constant- wonderment, strangeness, and the human reaction to both, which I find even if the characters are a bean and a coal and a straw. Itís easy to know youíre reading a fairytale if itís a rewritten one; harder if youíre reading, say, Pattern Recognition (William Gibson). When fairytales were told, I donít think there was any sense of genres- that thought may be my own ignorance, though. Anyway, it all goes back to something some philosopher said sometime, to the effect that no idea is new- that our ideas and stories are all built upon stories and ideas past. Itís a rich trove, and it is ours, and it continues to evolve. And Iíd be glad to see many more new fairytales in print, too!
(8/6/03 2:31 pm)
It has taken me a while to get back to you, but in answer to your question "Are you a bookseller at say one of the major bookstores?" The answer is no. I am a bookseller at an independent bookstore in upstate New York. But you are correct that the buying habits of the chains have a devastating effect on the publishing industry. That combined with the conglomerating of quirky independent presses into a few gigantic bottom-line-oriented megamonsters has had a chilling effect on anyone trying to publish anything out of the ordinary. You need only look at what happened at Harper Collins a couple of years ago when the bottom-liners took over and canceled a huge number of the books already under contract--many already in production!
(Clearly it is dangerous to get me started on that subject.)
I see the dawning of web-based publishing to be a hopeful sign. Mybe there is hope for original fairy tales after all.
Hope you and your son are feeling better.
(8/6/03 8:11 pm)
Why we love them|
I love them because they have magic in them. A story can have magic and still be dull, but those are the ones by modern people who in my opinion are essentially writing politics stories or school stories or such with some irrelevant magic thrown in.
"From Elfland to Poughkeepsie," Ursula LeGuin
"The Ethics of Elfland," G K Chesterton
(8/13/03 5:06 pm)
First of all, gormghlaith, that was wonderful about the cookie story -- the slick urban legend meets maerchen (maerchen triumph).
There ought to be some kind of human relevance or recognizability in the bedrock of stories, under the dressing of changing times, that survives (analogies of archetype, but not of specific figures -- rather of a recurring narrative; or what Chomsky thinks lies under the transformations of a particular sentence, or what the Russian formalists called skaz -- not plot, but the relationships among the elements temporally sequenced, "who did what to whom when" -- these are all coming to mind, but none of them quite fit). If one of the old stories hasn't any of that left, then we don't need it and won't want it. But if we really don't, there's cause for reflection about what we are becoming (I don't say that in a cautionary or alarmist sense necessarily -- but if old narrative bottom lines are truly of no interest any more, then there's a human paradigm shift of some kind sneaking up.)