Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fairy Tales

by Allison Pang

I hardly know where to begin here.

Fairy tales have been one of the main staples of my reading life for as long as I can remember. Grimm's. Anderson. All those lovely colored fairy books. (i.e. The Blue Fairy Book, etc.)  Plus numerous books on Asian, African, Native American stories...I loved them all.

But, of course, I'm still going to say The Little Mermaid is the one that holds the greatest influence over me.  (Link here if you aren't familiar with the original.) One of Anderson's original stories, it originally had a "sad" ending where the mermaid merely became foam upon the water - but critics deemed it depressing, and so he changed so that she became a spirit of the air in the hopes of receiving an eternal soul.

Not sure if that's a whole lot LESS depressing, but at least it gives her hope.

I still always thought the mermaid got a raw deal, though - I'm all about stories of sacrifice for love, but it's doubly bad when the object of your affection is pretty much oblivious to you. But that's what makes it so poignant. There's no happily ever after here - sometimes things just don't work out, no matter how many chances you take...but sometimes it's more about the journey than the destination, as they say.

Still, when it comes to fairy tales, I'm also a big fan of retellings and reinterpretation. So many of the old tales were fairly simplified when it comes to characterization - breathing new life into it can really make a story pop for someone else. Robin McKinley is queen of this - DeerSkin, Spindle's End, *two* retellings of Beauty & the Beast in the form of Beauty and Rose Daughter, to name a few.

So, will I be retelling The Little Mermaid? In a way, yes. Twice, possibly. I've got two comic projects in the works - I've got a story coming up in Issue 5 of Womanthology: Space (which will be put out by IDW) - I've always joked that I wanted to retell TLM via a futuristic/steampunk work with robots  - there's a very good chance I'm going to attempt to do that here, though it depends on how many pages I'll be allowed and if I can condense the story to fit.

The other is in my own webcomic Fox & Willow. F&W has an overall story arc between a girl and her cursed Kitsune companion - but each issue is a retelling of a common fairy tale, with hopefully a few twists. For example, the first issue is Came a Harper, which is a line from Loreena McKennit's song "Bonny Swans", so the story deals with some of the events from that particular tale.

But the second issue is definitely a different take on The Little Mermaid - I don't really want to do spoilers, but let's just say the prince isn't the end game here.  We'll also be tackling Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel,   and the Snow Queen, among others. The point isn't really the retellings, per se - sometimes Fox & Willow are more passive observers to what unfolds, but it's the lessons they take away from each chapter that become important in how they attempt to undo the curse and fight their own demons.

We've just started the comic this month, and we update every Monday and Thursday, so I'm going to plug it and ask people to come check it out! :)

In the meantime, just two last things as far as retellings go. 1) I did want to mention this marvelous piece of flash fiction I found on Tumblr a few months ago, by Hamburgerjack. Goldilocks had never really been on my radar as a favorite story, but this one really opened my eyes and the sentiment is lovely.

And 2) This really awesome animation of Little Red Riding Hood - definitely worth a look and a nice spin as well.  :)


  1. Great post, Allison. And, YEAH! The Little Mermaid did get a raw deal. I'm glad to hear you're working with this story and others in comics (I had no idea! That is really cool!

    1. Thanks! :)

      What's really interesting is that after I posted this, I read a bit somewhere that said that The Little Mermaid was actually a love letter from Andersen to a man he'd fallen in love with (and who was engaged to be married.) Essentially, Andersen confessed the way he felt to the guy who rebuffed him, and then Andersen wrote TLM. Sort of the ultimate in unrequited love stories, I guess. (Tho today we'd probably just tell him he's being emo.)

  2. I totally thought I commented on this yesterday. Hmmm. But that's interesting about Andersen. Was he closeted? I can see that metaphor. Not unlike the one in Story of O, in many ways.

  3. Interesting about Andersen, I loved that version of TLM and I remember watching a cartoon as a kid of that version. Always made me sad..