Fairy tales can be retold with contemporary themes. At the Perth Writers Festival 2015, two Australian novelists discussed their latest novels, based on fairy tales. Interestingly, both writers use the story of Rapunzel as a starting point for very different stories. You can read a translation of this fairy story by the Brothers Grimm here.
This was the first of many sessions I attended. I was enchanted. Now I have two new books on my ‘to read’ pile and can’t wait to read them.
An additional bonus for me was that the session was chaired by Delys Bird, who was my first lecturer in literature as part of a Women’s Studies program I undertook as a (very) mature student. I am very grateful to Delys who encouraged me to think about women’s writing in a very different way from before.
‘Fairy stories are deeply embedded in our culture,’ she said in her introduction to the session. ‘They serve as a meaningful commentary.’
According to author Danielle Wood, her novel Mothers Grimm is not for little girls. It links four stories about motherhood based on fairy tales. Now I’m dying to find out how anyone can tell the story of Rapunzel using a contemporary pregnancy yoga class. Or Hansel and Gretel using a child care facility.
The cover states that it is ‘Wickedly dark, astonishingly funny, happy endings are not guaranteed.’ Instead, Danielle says that the stories are about love and pain, and the wonder of contemporary motherhood.
Kate Forsyth also writes about Rapunzel in her novel, Bitter Greens. She said, ‘Rapunzel is locked away from the world in her tower. But, she falls in love, falls into bed, falls pregnant. That’s a lot of falling!’
Points about fairy tales
Kate Forsyth said this about fairy tales
- We have complex relationships with fairy tales
- Fairy tales are women-centred.
- They are almost always about women’s power
- Women in fairy tales are not passive
- They have a powerful voice
- They are often healers.
Danielle Wood said
- I like re-purposing, and using fairy tales to write a novel is a form of re-purposing.
- Different fairy tales mean different things at different times in our culture
- Now we think about different forms of ‘romance’ – family romance, mother-daughter romance and the love between sisters are different forms.
I attended four more sessions after this one. Each was interesting in its own way. But the idea of fairy stories and the way they are deep in our psyche fascinates me.
The Perth Writers Festival 2015 (which was held on the beautiful campus of the University of Western Australia, Crawley) was off to a good start. It was good to catch up with some many writer- and reader- friends over three days.