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Roots

Hey! I'm still here. Let's talk about fairytale re-tellings.


The stories we know as fairytales and folk tales have been a part of human history for longer than we will ever know. They existed first as stories passed down in the oral tradition from generation to generation, and though we can find the first times these stories were written down, we can't say for sure what they were before that. It's like a big long game of Telephone; what we got written down in the 9th century is likely a garbled version of whatever our 4th century ancestors were telling each other. And ever since they were written down, they have continued to evolve and change with each generation that tells them. The basic stories - the rags-to-riches tale of Cinderella, the cruel queen persecuting the innocent princess in Snow White, the beautiful maiden falling in love with a gruesome suitor in Beauty and the Beast - are a template that each generation uses to tell stories that tell us a lot about wh…

Fairytales for Troubled Times: Crimson Peak

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I began a series on Guillermo del Toro’s fairytales with The Shape of Water, and noted at the time that I had intended to start with what is probably his best-known fairytale, Pan’s Labyrinth. And I really did intend to write that one second. But here we are.

The thing is, Crimson Peak is not a fairytale. Though the “it isn’t a horror film if it doesn’t scare me personally” crowd is absolutely ridiculous, they also happen to be correct as far as the fact that Crimson Peak isn’t a horror film, either. The studio certainly marketed it as such, which is the main reason it was considered a box office failure. But it is distinctly, down to the letter, a gothic romance. And although it adheres firmly to its genre, there are touches of fairytales present, if only touches.

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Fairest

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Once upon a time, the fabric of the universe was woven into existence. By whom or what is and always has been a matter of much debate, but the queen is sure it must have been a man, for she could not believe a woman would weave such a particular cruelty into it as had been done. This cruelty, this inescapable tragedy of fact, is that a woman has no power except what beauty wins her. Beauty wins a husband to provide for her, or beauty wins her a way to make her own money, but without beauty she can secure neither. Without beauty she must struggle, and beg, and suffer all her days. Without beauty, a woman is nothing.

They, whoever they are, create a world unnavigable without beauty, and then tell her she is evil for wanting to be beautiful.

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Epistle

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Do not weep for us. Our story is not a tragedy, though you would be forgiven for expecting it to be. If I say I’m going to tell you a ghost story, you expect a violent murder, a gruesome horror, star-crossed lovers, one-sided romance, a great rise, a crushing fall. I think perhaps that is why we stay--as a reminder that the world is just as full of light as it is dark.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

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Red in the Dark

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It is a story you know: a story you may not remember hearing, or reading, but somehow, you know. It is a story woven into the fabric of the world, so long a part of us that it no longer belongs to its heroine; or rather, that its heroine is no longer one person, but many, and the story belongs to all of them now. You know the sun will rise in the east, you know dark clouds bring rain, and you know there is a girl cloaked in red on her way through the woods.
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New Short Story: The Light

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Oliver stood in the cavernous entrance hall, breathing shallowly and tapping his feet. His collar seemed to have shrunk in the time he had been waiting, and he wedged two fingers between the shirt and his neck, tugging at the collar in an effort to loosen it. He had no reason to be nervous. It was only a meeting, a business proposition from an old friend. He was under no obligation to agree to it; he only needed to hear Peter out, thank him kindly for the opportunity, and turn it down.

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New Short Story: Ascent

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As a child, Tara thought she understood more of the world than the adults around her. Some things were so plainly obvious to her that, when she realised adults did not understand or believe them, she could not think of how to begin to explain. Whatever foundation of truth they had forgotten or never known was so intrinsic to the nature of things, it felt impossible that they could be experiencing life in the same world as her yet be so ignorant of something which she found so plain. Whenever she did try to explain, adults always ignored her, dismissing her as a fanciful, imaginative child. As she grew, she would begin to feel sorry for them, but at the time, all she saw was red.

Upon meeting her new step-father, one thing was crystal clear to Tara and, unfortunately, no-one else: he was misaligned. Before he said one word to her, she knew he was out-of-step with the essence of the world, and the implicit understanding of what is right and what is wrong.

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The Next Disney Movie That Will Never Be: Bear King Valemon

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Though it’s been out in the States for a while, Midsommar has only just made its way to the UK and I saw it this past Tuesday. Knowing the general themes, I was on the lookout for references to Scandinavian folktales, and at first it seemed it was clever of me to do so, as I quickly noticed the painting of a large brown bear and a small girl wearing a crown in Dani’s apartment. I wondered if that might be a reference to the Norwegian folktale “Bear King Valemon,” (also known as “White-Bear-King-Valemon” by people who are overly fond of hyphens) and it turns out it is not even slightly. But as it’s on my mind anyway, I thought I’d talk about it a bit.
I should note first that it’s very similar to “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” which I’ve talked about previously here. It’s another Beauty and the Beast archetype and many of the larger plot details are very similar.
The story begins with a king who has three daughters. The elder two are “mean and ugly,” while the youngest is “sweet…