Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fairy Tales as Tales of Transformation

If you look up fairy tales, in say, Wikipedia, you find such a mishmash of definitions and attempts at definitions that it makes you understand: What makes a tale specifically a fairy tale is hard to nail down. In cases like this, I resort to personal experience.

What is a fairytale to me?

First and foremost, for me fairytales, are about transformation. (I'm not cheating or anything, Hilda Ellis Davidson and Anna Chaudri consider transformation to be a key element of the genre too.) But aren't all stories about transformation, you say. I mean isn't the essence of any good story some sort of change?

In this regard, to me, fairy tales are concentrated. The essential nature of a fairytale is to capture that fleeting, ephemeral moment when the transformation of the little girl, little boy, princess, prince, orphan, servant, bird, or toad, occurs. The prince slips on Cinderella's shoe, with a single kiss the Frog Prince resumes his human form, and Grandma is revealed to be the big bad wolf. In one breath, characters have become something different than they were. Not just to themselves, but to the rest of the world. Even when they are restored to positions and places from which they were knocked down, stolen from, and betrayed, they do not return the same.

All fairy tale characters bring along with their new self an increase in wisdom and life experience.

Which, in my opinion, is the requirement for the Happily Ever After. Because, as most of us know, Happily Ever Afters can be tricky. So unless you've got some kind of new magic, ability, skill, or awareness up your sleeve, you're going to be in trouble.

Which is never to say that we're ever completely protected from the Evil Forces that want to crash our castles, but wisdom and experience… well, paying attention helps.

I believe in fairy tales, which one might extrapolate to mean: I believe in transformation. I do. In that regard, I've begun writing Once Upon a Time Today collection.

"In these stand-alone retellings of popular and obscure fairy tales, adult characters navigate the deep woods of the modern landscape to find their Happily Ever Afters."

I've imagined this collection for a long time, and after experiencing my own moment of transformation this summer, the wind whispered while we were riding the ferry, "It's time."

So, today, I introduce to you A Short Story: The Girl Who Watched for Elves. It's the first of three short stories that I consider a prelude to the collection.

Do you believe in fairy tales?

In A Short Story: The Girl Who Watched for Elves a young woman spends a transformational afternoon with a tarot reader. As the reader interprets the images in the twenty-card spread, the young woman experiences a deeper acceptance of where she’s come from and a more hopeful view of where she’s going. The traditional tarot images—representing the formative points in her past, the challenges of her present, and the promise her future holds—awaken the young woman to a sense of life’s magic.

~ Excerpt ~

On a crisp fall day, a young woman visited a tarot reader.

He shuffled his cards and proffered the deck for her to cut before proceeding to lay out twenty cards, in two rows of ten.

The young woman sat across from the reader in anticipation.

What secrets might he reveal to her about herself?

The reader gazed at the tableaux, then at her, then back at the cards. He adjusted his glasses, and settled one elbow on the table.

What did he see in the cards?

"The world you were born into was very hot," he said.

She nodded, appreciating this new way of looking at her origins.

Once upon a time, a girl was born into the heat of battle. This battle wasn't apocalyptic in the sense of the world at large, no, the battle she was born into was rather microscopic, when considered in relation to the billions of people who lived on planet earth and the problems that plagued them. But she was only an infant, with a newborn's limited ability to move, and no ability to leave the battlefield, so to her, it was like being born into Armageddon ...