The Universality of Fairy Tales
This week, I finally managed to work on my short story collection, adding another 11,000 words. I am now halfway to my completed word goal. I found inspiration for each of these stories in the fairy tales I grew up reading.
My grandmother had an extensive collection of books, most from the 1940’s. The unabridged Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Aesop’s Fables, Fairy Tales for Children, and a list of other titles my aged brain can no longer remember. I would spend every summer at her house, reading in whatever quiet corner I could find, absorbing every fantastic detail flowing across the page in flowery phrases. The feel of the cloth binding and the smell of the musty pages still spring to my mind when I recall the tales of Briar and Rose Red, The Girl Without Hands, and The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn How to Shudder (whew, what a title).
Many tales share similar themes, born out of fears which spring unbidden into the minds of human culture across the globe. Others seem obviously borrowed from neighbors and trade allies, the minutiae altered to fit the adopted culture. An example of this is Cinderella, versions of which are found in Egyptian, Chinese, and most European regions. Fairy Tales often served to teach morality and traditional values to children - cautionary tales used by parents as warnings of what would happen if one misbehaved or went against society’s accepted norms. We still do the same today, though these subliminal lessons are now developed via film, TV, and wondrously written novels.
The behavior which is considered accepted in modern society has thankfully expanded quite a bit since the days of frightening children by candlelight, and many of the old tales today seem ridiculous, irrelevant, and out-of-touch. And well they should. The social mores civilizations cling to adapt and change as frequently as the language we use to convey them.
Still, they hold a certain fascination for us. They outline the forbidden, explore the unknowable, and celebrate the human determination to struggle on despite all odds.
The fairy tale genre is one I delve into quite a bit. Ripping inspiration from time-honored tales, I work in my own twist and flair, and do my best to put a modern spin on ancient stories. This is the basis of my world setting The Shade, and my on-going short story collection Faerie Lights and Night Frights.
In many ways, fairy tales are the basis for much of what is offered in the fantasy and horror genres across the globe. Writers are shaped by their environment, and the stories we learned as children have a lasting impact on our imagination. These stories are told over and over again, altered just a little by every generation, because they hold a powerful truth at their core - our fear of the unknown and our struggle to become better. I will likely never outgrow fairy tales, and neither will the world.
Until next time, Keep Reading, Keep Learning, Keep Writing.