I was sorting through my writing notes this week and came across scribblings and print-outs for several fairy tale projects. I’ve written retellings of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the Celtic legend of World-Under-Waves, and Grimm’s The Donkey, as well as several original stories in the fairy tale tradition.
Unfortunately, fairy tales are not high on the list of stories people like to publish. I figure the only way they’ll ever be published is if I become a known fantasy novelist and they can be marketed as a fairy tale collection by the-author-of-that-other-book-you-like. Still, they are one of my favorite writing projects.
Since fairy tales don’t seem to be what publishers are looking for, why do I still think they are important to write? One reason is because I love stories with history, and fairy tales go back so far that we can’t pinpoint a date when people started telling them. They seem to have always been there in verbal traditions being passed down to spell-bound generations of children.
Another good reason to write fairy tales to to get in touch with our storytelling roots. I view myself as a storyteller first and a writer second. If there is no story to tell, there is no point in writing fiction. Fairy tales have been adapted and retold across cultures (there’s even an Algonquin version of Cinderella) and they need to be told and retold to each succeeding generation. In the words of Maria Tatar (quoted in this article), “We should keep changing them. These were told around the fireside. They were never meant to be set in stone.”
My next fairy tale project will be a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. This has been my favorite fairy tale since I first saw the Disney version, and I’ve been wanting to write my own version for some time. I didn’t want to start until I had a really good idea, though, and I think I might have found one. My plan is to write it from the Beast’s point of view as a journal. It started as, “What if the Beast’s pen came to life and followed him around recording whatever he said?” To make it readable, I’ll have the Beast start talking to the pen fairly early in the story so it’s more of a journal than just recorded speech. What are your thoughts on this idea?