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The Timelessness of Fairy Tales
by Anna Staniszewski
During my school visits, I talk a lot about fairy tale retellings. I ask the students why they think we keep reimagining and twisting familiar tales. One of the biggest answers I get is: “We retell fairy tales so that they won’t be boring.” While this answer might feel overly simplistic, I think it’s actually spot on.
Now, I’m not saying fairy tales are boring. I grew up loving all sorts of tales, and they’ve obviously had a big impact on my writing. But there’s something to be said for taking stories we know (i.e. boring ones) and giving them our own personal twist (i.e. making them into exciting ones).
I think the opportunity for newness is what makes us keep coming back to fairy tales. Before fairy tales were ever written down, they were told and retold around the fire. They were simple out of necessity (so they’d be easy to remember) but that simplicity also left a lot of room for the storyteller to add his or her own touch.
That’s what I personally love about reimagining fairy tales: you can work in your own sense of humor or view of the world, and do it all through a story that’s both familiar and unfamiliar.
In [simpleazon-link asin=”1402279302″ locale=”us”]My Epic Fairy Tale Fail (My Very UnFairy Tale Life)[/simpleazon-link], for example, I made Sleeping Beauty a narcoleptic, and I exaggerated the concept of a brave knight until he was so brave that he would save everyone from everything (including stray bits of dust). I had fun putting in these twists because I was able to take the characters’ original traits and expand them until they felt new again.
Ultimately, I think fairy tales are timeless because they feel familiar and comfortable, and yet there’s plenty of room for them to grow and evolve into something new and unexpected.
Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives outside of Boston, Mass. with her husband and their adopted black Labrador, Emma. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. You can visit her at www.annastan.com.