1) The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen) – the ORIGINAL version, thank you – the tragic one, no Caribbean singing lobsters anywhere near it, thank you so much
2) The Nightingale and the Rose (Oscar Wilde) – another tragic one (begin to see a pattern…?) and if this doesn’t make you fall in love with language itself nothing ever will.
3) Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman) why yes, we are doing modern and novel length by the rules of the original list – and this is a magnificent modern fairytale.
4) Little Match Girl (Hans Christian Andersen) – oh, okay, another tragic one – this one always made me cry – I think it was the Grandmother that always slays me in the end because of the way I loved my own grandmother and I could FEEL THE LOVE.
5) The Once and Future King (T H White) – just to BREAK the pattern, here’s another (relatively) recent book – and it is SO a fairy tale – and it’s one of the few books which has ever made me laugh out loud.
At The Guardian, Marina Warner discusses her top 10
“When I first began working on fairytales,” she writes, “they weren’t really considered a proper subject of study, and I felt inhibited about my enjoyment of them: was I betraying my feminist loyalties? Was I letting down the cause of high art and serious literature?
But fairytales had grown up in the 70s: Anne Sexton’s savage poems and Angela Carter’s celebrated revisionings took them out of the nursery. Since then, they have been growing ever darker and more disturbing, especially as the Grimm brothers’ violent, deadpan ways of telling now dominate definitions of the genre. Parents are rightly puzzled as to whether they should be reading them to their children, though children relish the gore and vengeance.
The most lingering and powerful tales don’t always have an original written text, but shapeshift through time, bobbing about on the streams of story. I’ve tried to choose 10 of the most inspiring, and include some of the great collectors; but as in any exercise of this kind, there are so many that I have had to leave out.
Why we need fairytales
Oscar Wilde’s magical stories for children have often been dismissed as lesser works, Jeanette Winterson writes at The Guardian, but as examples of how important imagination is to us all – young and old alike – they are a delight.
Love transfigured by imagination … ‘The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde. Illustration: Grahame Baker-Smith
Reason and logic are tools for understanding the world. We need a means of understanding ourselves, too. That is what imagination allows. When a child reads of a Nightingale who bleeds her song into a rose for love’s sake, or of a Selfish Giant who puts a wall round life, or of a Fisherman who wants to be rid of his Soul, or of a statue who feels the suffering of the world more keenly than the Mathematics Master who scoffs at his pupils for dreaming about Angels, the child knows at once both the mystery and truth of such stories. We have all at some point in our lives been the overlooked idiot who finds a way to kill the dragon, win the treasure, marry the princess.
As explanations of the world, fairy stories tell us what science and philosophy cannot and need not. There are different ways of knowing.
The top 10 stories of mothers and daughters
From the Book of Ruth to Pride and Prejudice, here is Meike Ziervogel’s pick of literary mother-daughter relationships
I write to understand myself better. Each story is an exploration, a journey, a search for something I cannot express in any other way. Mother-daughter relationships have been my preoccupation over the past 20 years. Here are some of the books that have inspired me.
Poet Anne Sexton – Photograph: Virago
Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton by Linda Gray Sexton
Anne Sexton wrote brilliant poetry. But she was also bipolar and incapable of fulfilling her role as mother. Linda Gray Sexton’s intelligent, harrowing account of her childhood made me realise that women artists and writers who descend into a dark space for their art have a duty towards their children to climb back into the light on a daily basis.
Chin Up: 5 Utopian Sci-Fi Books Perfect for Adaptation
One of the most recent bizarre trends in contemporary cinema, Lisa Rosman writes in Word & Film, is the rise of the dystopian sci-fi flick. Do we really need a new movie every week to remind us of how dour our future may be? Frankly, it’s high time Hollywood made utopian sci-fi tales, instead. We could use some positive models for a change, and we know just the books that would make great adaptations.
Woman on the Edge of Time: Written in 1976, Marge Piercy’s feminist utopia is astonishingly prescient. It follows a woman subjected to experimental brain surgery, She develops the ability to time travel, and she visits a 2137 in which all people can biologically nurse their children; gender, race, and corporations no longer exist; human reproduction now takes place in labs; and everyone thrives in small, Quaker-like communities. To date, this is one of the most radical sci-fis ever conceived; its rejection of biological determinism (and gendered pronouns!) dovetails nicely with today’s transgender movement.
THIS ‘n THAT
25 Songs That Reference Books
Artist/Song: Led Zeppelin – Ramble On (from 1969’s Led Zeppelin II)
Book: Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings
Lyric: “‘Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor/I met a girl so fair/But Gollum, and the evil one crept up/And slipped away with her.”
Songs and books
Words you think you know
Unabashed by these 10 Difficult-to-Remember words
Quote of the Day
“Gossip is charming! History is merely gossip. But scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.” ~ Oscar Wilde
If you found this blog post interesting, amusing or helpful, then please use the icons below to share it with other writers, readers or the guy next to you on the subway.