So, the end of the first week of March and the first Vampire month author of this year has her chance to talk about a topic of her choice. Given that her work is based on vampires interacting with fairies, it makes sense that she discusses fairytales….
As I mentioned in the interview, I don’t think we should get cross if other people’s interpretations of folklore don’t fit into our own boxes for it. Folklore is an excellent raw material, and although I do use tropes from all sorts of fiction, I always go back to the original source, folklore and fairytales for my basis. Then I cherry pick what I want and what fits in with my universe. Writers and storytellers have always done that, and one of the things I find fascinating is reading old tales and seeing how attitudes and stories have changed and what hasn’t changed.
The Brothers Grimm even edited their own collections of fairytales, so that the final versions we know today are quite different than the original versions they collected.
Take the trope of a kiss breaking a spell. Did you know that most of the famous kisses from fairytales originally never happened?
Snow White, for example. In the original version, when Snow eats a bite of poisoned apple and the dwarves place her in a glass coffin, the prince does happen by, but he does not kiss her. Dead, pretty girls being his thing apparently, he begs the dwarves to let him have the coffin. They refuse at first, but he won’t give up, so they go ‘Oh all right, you weirdo’. The prince then has his servants carry the coffin around wherever he goes, until one day, one of the servants goes ‘bugger this for a game of soldiers’ and drops his end of the coffin, the shock of which jars the piece of apple free. No kiss.
And flipping the genders round, you all know the story of The Princess and the Frog. A princess drops her favourite ball into a pond and a frog retrieves it, and makes her promise to make him her companion afterwards, sharing her food and bed. The princess thinks ‘Sure, whatever, it’s just a dumb frog, I’ll just run off’. So she does. And then the frog turns up at her door, and she doesn’t want to keep to her end of the bargain, but the king says ‘You made a promise and you have to keep it, you’re a ruler after all, what would happen if we didn’t keep promises? Democracy, that’s what. So unless you want to be replaced by a prime minister you’ll court that frog’. So pulling her face a great deal and with more cajoling from her father, she lets the frog sit at the table and eat from her plate, and then takes it upstairs to her bedroom, but when she sees the frog creeping under her bedcovers, she thinks ‘Ew, and dad isn’t here to stop me’ and hurls the frog against her bedroom wall. This is the fairytale for people who think violence solves everything, as this does break the spell and the frog becomes a prince. No kiss.
And then there’s Sleeping Beauty or rather, Talia. In the original version, she was not cursed by a fairy, but nevertheless, getting a chip of flax under her fingernail after prinking herself on a spindle somehow caused her to go into a deep sleep. Her father places her in one of his mansions and then abandons her there, letting the mansion go to ruin. Must be nice to be rich enough that you can just abandon one of your mansions. One day, a king comes riding by, and his falcon flies into the mansion. I guess the king isn’t as rich as Talia’s dad, because he is not for losing a perfectly good falcon, and as no-one answers the door, he commands a ladder be brought and climbs into the house. Coming across Talia lying on a bed, and looking very pretty, and being unconscious and not being able to say no, he sleeps with her. Then he just leaves. No kiss. She gives birth nine months later to twins, and one of babies sucks her finger while looking for a nipple and sucks out the flax and she wakes up. Have I mentioned there was no kiss?
And that’s why I always go to the source. Most of what everyone knows about folklore and fairytales these days are surprisingly modern and wildly inaccurate to the earlier versions, insofar as you can be inaccurate about a lot of stuff people made up hundreds of years ago.
Stories change. And thank goodness they do!
Where to find Alicia: