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Ask A Geek Anything: Issue 14

Good morning and welcome to Ask A Geek Anything, Issue 14

Welcome back to our little piece of the internet Fairyland, where we answer all the questions that won’t have us cursed by the Evil Queen! Our glorious leader is off fighting the good fight at Pennsic, so while the cat’s away, the mice will play. This week’s question was for the whole staff.  Cedar  asks, “What are the fairy tales and myths that the staff of AAGA think are so overdone they never want to see them again and will run screaming from the room when they pop up in a book? Or alternatively, which are the tales they’d like to see done well?”

First up is the brilliant and noble John Konecsni:

Illustration from Fairy Tales of Charles Perreault (Clarke, 1922)

Illustration from Fairy Tales of Charles Perreault (Clarke, 1922)

I’m not actually opposed to any fairy tales. Nor do I think any are overdone. I’d like to see more of them. Preferably IN THEIR ORIGINAL FORMAT. Okay, maybe a little less dark than the originals – Frozen was based off of Hans Christian Anderson, and yet, somehow, didn’t make me want to slit my wrists – but if anyone else gives me Maleficent and tries to tell me it has anything to do with the characters in Sleeping Beauty, I may have to start going on a rampage. I also read the comic Fables, which is basically if Once Upon a Time were good – and predated that pretentious piece of crap on ABC. Otherwise, I can take or leave them. But please, no Greek Myths – Hollywood just doesn’t seem to do them well. At All.

You want a fairy tale I’m tired of? I’m not going to point to any particular Brother’s Grimm Fairy tale or story, but a different sort of fairy tale: PC cliché. Sick to death of them. I’m tired of “misunderstood monsters,” also see: Sparkly vampires. I’m tired of rewriting myths so that they fit the PC cliché of the week.

Next up is our self-rescuing princess Connie Elliot:

Little Red and her wolf, from Fairy Tales by Charles Perreault (Clarke, 1922)

Little Red and her wolf, from Fairy Tales by Charles Perreault (Clarke, 1922)

Cinderella. Oh, dear Heaven, I am sick and tired of damsel-in-distress stories where the heroine needs someone else to save her. In many ways, Cinderella is often presented as a person without her own power. Others have to come in and somehow save or elevate her. Really? Do we need to see this again?

All that said, I have seen it done really well once, in the movie “Ever After” where the heroine, played by Drew Barrymore, gets by with a little help from her friends.

The last staff member who took a stab at this week’s question is the gracious Amanda Fuesting:

From an old French fairy tale

From an old French fairy tale

I have been reading fairy tales forever, and prefer all of them in their original versions. I grew up on Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and found myself sorely disappointed by Disney for almost everything but the artwork. The Disney version of Sleeping Beauty remains my favorite movie for the sole reason that the artwork is phenomenal. That said, I don’t think anyone should make another version of Cinderella ever again for any reason at all. I am sick to death of it. It’s always poorly done, and always made for dazzle rather than substance.

I don’t particularly mind the Disney movies, as I now recognize that they’re targeted at a specific audience, and usually try to keep at least a little bit of the flavor of the original story. They never really get the details right, but I doubt parents these days would be particularly happy if Disney made the movies anywhere close to the original stories in detail. I really like the television show, Grimm. It’s entertaining and brings a lot of the fairly creatures and characters to life, often in fairly humorous ways.   There’s a lot of attempts to re-make fairy takes these days, and they often fall flat for people who actually read the stories. (I’m looking at you, Once Apon A Time.)

I actually have a long list of fairy tales I would like to see done well. I’d like to see Snow White and Rose Red done in a manner close to its original format. The girls are helpful, polite, brave, and clever. They’re also very good daughters and their relationship with their mother is wonderful. I’d like to see Toads and Diamonds done as well. This is a very Cinderella-type story, but without all the frills and dazzle. It also holds the good sister and bad sister directly responsible for their attitudes and actions. It was one of my favorite growing up. Puss and Boots is another that I’d like to see done in a manner fairly close to its original form, though I confess to falling just a little in love with Puss from Shrek. I would also like to see some of the Uncle Remus stories revived. I think I read The Wonderful Tar Baby about a million times, and I love most of the stories from that collection, though the dialect can make them hard to read. Any of The Arabian Nights stories would be fun as well, particularly if they could be done without removing the original flavor from them. I particularly like the fact that women are typically fairly clever in these stories, and are not without agency of their own. Others I’d like to see done include The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Feather Bird, and The Fisherman and His Wife.

fairy tale

Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina

My main problem with all the remakes and revivals is that fairy tales are often supposed to act as object lessons, a way to teach morals and ethics in a way that children can learn. Nail Soup, for example, teaches the value of being clever and gracious. Toads and Diamonds teach the value of being polite and helpful. The Fisherman and his Wife teach the value of not being greedy. In a lot of the remakes and revivals of the stories, the moral is completely lost. From where I stand, that completely misses the point of fairy tales to begin with.

 

Well, that’s all we have time for today, folks. Thanks for stopping by, and please comment below with any questions you might have. We’re seriously running low.

 

 

 

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About Cedar Sanderson

Writer, mother, reader, gardener, cook… artist.

5 comments on “Ask A Geek Anything: Issue 14

  1. Ooh, I have a question! Lately I’ve been collecting a lot of old sci-fi pulps and paperbacks, and have found a lot of great stuff crammed with shmancy cigarette ads (particularly Kent in MoF&SF and various Ace paperbacks); while I can chalk up spacemen smoking cigarettes to the fact that everyone smoked cigarettes back in 40s and 50s, I’ve begun to wonder how much influence tobacco had on the SF/F publishing industry; casual observation suggests they might have been bankrolling the industry at least up through the 70s, but I haven’t found anything written on the subject. Where would I go to find out more about the history of the ties between big tobacco and science fiction publishing?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I LOVE misunderstood monsters!

    Thing is… 99% of the ones I’ve seen aren’t “misunderstood monsters,” they’re either not monsters, or their monstrous actions are ignored or excused, not plausibly explained in an understandable way. (The latest fad, which John nodded towards, is the “don’t make the villain better, destroy the hero” method of making a misunderstood monster.)

    Probably because it’s really, really hard to do– the only one that comes to mind right now is Rory’s Sparrowind: The Dragon Who Lived As A Knight. Not that it’s the only one I’ve seen, but…hey, I’m not being paid for this. 😀

    ****
    Disney does a good job of filling their market– they can’t make a video version of the old Grimm’s for the same reason that the woodcuts don’t give my kids nightmares. (yes, we have a first-few-editions level collection, bought because of the woodcuts)
    The spoken word is different than a video. My husband and I figured out the other day that as the screen a kid would be expected to see it on went down, the film adapted.
    Imagine watching Frozen on your paperback-sized phone, and contrast with watching Snow White on an old time movie screen. It’s not a close track to total screen size because of the movies weren’t available on all screens– but now? Good grief, my kids have a (bought ‘open box’ $30 tablet that will stream movies, all for themselves!
    ****
    I don’t exactly have “a” story that I’m sick of, but I am very tired of “reinterpretations” of fairy tales that… reverse-engineer another, relatively common, fairy tale. Example: the “Cinderella helps herself!” thing that’s only “Cinderella” in that it goes from “life sucks” to “married to the prince.” Tired of Cinderella being too passive? Then go off of one of a gazillion “clever girl” fairy tales! Really, it is not that hard, and even Cinderella did pretty good for her time and place. Transplanting her into the 20th century, where an adult woman can move out pretty dang blessed easily and isn’t assumed to have very strong ties to her step-mother….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of my favorite themes is redemption of evil such as that of Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s not a theme that works well in fairy tales, because they demand an ultimate, unrelenting evil. We want a villain worthy of nightmares–not a misunderstood, mildly cranky one. We want our hero/heroine to be taken to the limits of endurance, then rewarded for perseverance or sterling character.

    Modern interpretations of Cinderella fall flat because times have changed. A young woman isn’t dependent upon relatives like she would have been in times where it was unthinkable for a woman to support herself. Current sensibilities won’t sanction real child abuse: having the irritable stepmother commandeer Cinderella’s cellphone doesn’t pack quite the punch as keeping her prisoner and destroying her prospects!

    I watched and enjoyed Once Upon a Time even when the plot turned in circles and became nonsensical for the sheer beauty of the cinematography. The colors are bright and beautiful–someone on the show does a magnificent job from an artistic standpoint.

    Amanda Fuesting’s point that modern fairy tales strip the moral of the story out is an interesting one that explains to me why many of them simply don’t work.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Of course, the one Disney change to a fairy tale I’m perfectly happy with is “The Little Mermaid”. The original moral is way too easily twisted into “don’t try to follow your dreams, don’t try to better yourself, know your place and STAY there, peasant!”

    Can someone go through the mid-80s Analogs and find an editorial that was done about what stories should NOT be submitted by newbie authors to the magazine. The greatest offender was used as the series ender that totally destroyed the BSG reboot for me.

    Like

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