Saturday 12 May 2018

Filling the gaps in fairy tales

I have fairy tales on my mind.

I was thinking about the language that fairy tales come to us in. The way the key ingredients of the story – the protagonist, the place, the time – are so amorphous: the youngest brother, a forest, once upon a time. It’s like the way you tell someone the plot of a novel or a film: 

‘So there’s a girl and she’s an orphan, and she goes to live in a big house with an older man so she can look after his child…’
‘This boy finds an alien in his garden shed and takes him home…’

‘There’s a ship’s captain and he’s obsessed with capturing this whale…’

Do you think then, that the fairy tales that have come down to us are just the bare bones of the stories as they were originally told? When people told them aloud, were they threaded through with the names of places, with motivations and characteristics? And if people in times gone by did just tell these bare bones, was it because they preferred their stories to be all plot and no characterisation? Or perhaps it’s a function of telling stories aloud, that getting into a character’s head and talking about their surroundings is distracting, that it might make the listener lose the thread of the plot.
For a couple of years I’ve been writing a series of short pieces I call Snippets, tiny morsels of fairy tale detail – motives, thoughts, conversations, descriptions, before and after. I’m poking into the gaps that fairy tales leave, sometimes twisting a little from the standard tale, sometimes doing no more than bringing it into a sharper focus. These stories are immensely satisfying to write and I’m in the process of trying to find a way to send them out into the world to seek their fortune. It's not not the easiest thing to do as they don’t fit into any easily defined category. You can read a few of the tales here on this blog, tagged ‘Snippets’. Let me know what you think.

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