I’m reading a paper at a conference on Friday, and so I’ve had little time to do anything other than prepare. I am, though grudgingly I admit it, behind deadline. I’ve spent the day doing what I should have done Thursday. Which was what I should have done two weeks ago.
So, no Brothers Grimm today. They’ve waited two hundred years, they can wait a little longer. You might, however, like to read part of what I wrote for my paper—although this has been cut from the manuscript. So, yes ladies and gents, this is your one and only chance to read the following. I invite you all to read over my shoulder as I present:
Relics from the Cutting Room Floor
Inevitably, in any fairy tale retelling—even a good retelling—we sit in judgement on our childhood. The tales we read then we deem not enough. Even if we retell the tale to recapture the sense of wonder we had when we first heard it, the more interesting our retelling is the farther we tend to move from the mythic centre that so moved us. When we retell tales, we try to correct them, to make the facts ‘believable’—as if it’s more believable that Prince Charming should be a loser than a married couple should find true happiness. In fact, both are true, but one may give us reason to hope.*
But when we write new tales, we do not return to the narrative experiences of childhood; we do not want to straighten out some factual narrative to match our grown-up view of the world. We return to the sense of wonder, to the sense of joy, that first overwhelmed us in the tales. And we ask—how might I create that? What tale can I tell that will make a child feel that? How can I be like a little child again?
When we tell new tales, we let the tales judge us; our words join their number, for good or ill, whether we know it or not, whatever tale we’re telling. When we tell a new tales, we are perhaps more aware of that then when we retell. And perhaps we risk greater peril, but perhaps the wonder we rediscover is worth it.
*Either that we might have a happy long-term relationship too, or that we’re not bigger losers than Prince Charming…your pick.