Sunday, June 30, 2013

Thrice-Told Tales: "That's a fairy tale." "Aren't we all?"


Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing.

--Mary Margaret,  Once Upon a Time pilot

While fairy tales may be losing their respectability in some people's minds, they're still growing and sprouting new forms. As C.S. Lewis pointed out in the beginning of That Hideous Strength, the evil stepmothers and woodcutter's cottages that feature in the beginning of many stories were originally familiar scenes that transitioned to the fantastical. Modern stories that place Snow White  in a small town in Maine or the Big Bad Wolf in Manhattan are merely moving the story into our time.

The first of these stories is the YA series  The Sisters Grimm.Orphaned after their parents mysteriously disappear, sisters Daphne and Sabrina Grimm are sent to live with the grandmother they've never known. Granny introduces the girls to the unusual assortment of characters who inhabit Ferryport Landing, a town on the Hudson River were many strange and mysterious crimes have been occurring. In Ferryport Landing, Sabrina and Daphne learn that they are descendants of the famous Grimm Brothers and that those famous fairy tales were actually histories of a magical parallel world. * Characters are trapped in the town, unable to leave until the binding placed on them is broken.

A similar curse is placed on the inhabitants of Fairy-Tale Land in ABC's drama Once Upon a Time. In the first episode, viewers learn that the Evil Queen attempted to revenge herself on Snow White by casting a curse that exiled the inhabitants to our world with no memories of their true identities. The only one who can break the curse is Emma, the child of Snow White and Prince Charming, sent away to safety minutes before the curse. But they must wait twenty-eight years for her to grow up and return.

Finally, the graphic novel series Fables features characters from a variety of realms, all who have fled the great Adversity as he conquered the realms of the Homelands. They originally came to the island we know as Manhattan, establishing a community there and another in upstate New York for those of their number unable to pass as human.  

One of the best aspects of such public-domain characters is the opportunity for different character interpretations. For example, almost all princes in fairy tales go by "Prince Charming?" Is that just a pseudonym or is he one person?  If the latter, what lies behind his womanizng ways.

*taken from a reader's guide to the series.

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