March 16, 2013

Jane Nickerson: Top Ten Changes I Would Make in Fairy Tales

Strands of Bronze and Gold Today I have a guest blog from Jane Nickerson for you all.  You can read my review of STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD and check out the tag for more information on her new novel.  Her novel may let us in on what she'd change about "Bluebeard," but read on for her solutions for other famous tales.

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It’s obvious that there are many problematic aspects in most famous fairy tales. Why must everyone be beautiful? Why is there so much royalty going around? So many poor woodcutters? (Oh, now that I think of it, there probably really were so many poor woodcutters in that day and age.) Why so many childless couples who end up with either doomed or miniscule only children? Most of the problems are explained away because “it’s a magic thing.” However here are ten changes I would make if I were Queen of Fairy Tale Land:

10. The youngest child would not always be the most good-looking and clever, and the step-parent would never be evil, since step-parents have enough problems taking on a ready-made family as it is. But then again, one would hate to make the biological parent evil instead…

9. I would give the bright and beautiful heroine more choices for a love interest. A single prince should not be her only option. By the same token, it’s sad when only one sibling gets matched up. I would introduce the eleven unmatched dancing princesses to the (coincidentally) eleven unmatched princely brothers of “The Wild Swans” princess. That’s eleven options for each of them. If you stir them up, there’s bound to be one that each of them likes…but what if they all want the same one?

8 ½. Seven league boots for everyone!!! It’s only fair.

8. There should be more than three wishes. And the wishes are not allowed to be tricksy. Fairness again.

7. Several fairy tales involve the hero in burglary—The Tinderbox, Jack in the Beanstalk, Aladdin. The idea is that, because the owner of the object is evil, the hero isn’t really a thief. Huh. That doesn’t actually make sense. Therefore, there must be some clever, lawful way for them to get the loot. Gambling (if that’s legal in Fairy Tale land), labor, performing a service for the owner, some sort of trade, etc. Of course then the evil owner would probably try to cheat them out of the object, and then the hero would have to steal it…

6. How can King Midas turn everything he touches into gold and not be gold himself? It boggles the mind.

5. There’s got to be some reason why Little Red Riding Hood can’t tell that her grandmother has a furry face and pointy nose. It could be too dark, except that we need to keep those classic lines—“What big eyes, hands, teeth.” Perhaps the grandmother has some skin disease and needs bandages all over, except for the eyes and mouth. Leprosy? 4 ½. How can the wolf even blow that hard? Are wolves known for lung capacity?

4. Prince Charming has got to be able to recognize Cinderella in some other way than by her shoe size. For one thing, just how miniscule are her feet? Does she teeter about on points like Barbie dolls do? Having a body part that is so different from every other human your age is sort of the definition of a freak. And yet the glass slipper and big-footed stepsisters are such fun components. Maybe Cinderella also develops a sudden skin disease so her feet really are the only way she can be recognized.

3. I don’t want the miller’s daughter in “Rumpelstiltskin” to end up married to the king. He’s a greedy guy who only wants her because she can spin straw into gold. How about she runs off before she has to marry him? And even before she spins any straw or meets Rumpelstiltskin. Except then there’d be no story. A problem.

2. Rapunzel’s hair is simply too long. It would totally get in the way, be absolutely disgusting because it would be crawling with dust bunnies and impossible to wash, and get yanked out of her head if anyone tried to climb up it. Unless, of course, the young man and witch were tiny. Perhaps we could mix together one of the miniscule only children stories with this. Then again, I’ve seen some illustrations for the story that involve special hooks and pulleys to fix the weight problem, but still…Must be magic.

1. Isn’t it icky that the prince kisses Snow White’s corpse? And how long has she lain there supposedly dead, but not rotting and without nourishment? The nourishment thing also causes problems with Sleeping Beauty. Must be magic.

You know, all the solutions I can come up with are so problematic that, in the end, maybe we should continue to say that it’s a magic thing and leave it all as it is.

8 comments:

  1. hah fun post! I agree about the prince kissing dead Snow White. there is this funny picture of Snow White on tumblr being kissed with a flashing "necrophilia" sign over it.

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    1. You're on tumblr?

      I think it's better than the prince kissing Sleeping Beauty.

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  2. Love this post! Yes to more love interests than the prince! And to #5, I've always wondered this. Marissa Meyer dealt with this pretty brilliantly in Scarlet in my opinion.

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  3. I would say Cinderella's feet would be recognizable by the blisters. Imagine dancing all night in glass heels. That'll cut up anyone's feet...

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  4. Ha! I love these changes. I think there are some hazards when you take on fairy tales, but it's also fun to have a known trope to twist or overcome. In fact, it's been done so much that plain princesses/heroines are pretty much a 'thing' themselves!

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    1. That's true! I don't think I've read a fairytale without any subversion in a long time.

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