A lot of people have a favourite fairy tale. Maybe it’s just whichever one was your favourite Disney film or maybe it’s one of Angela Carter’s dark tales for adults that grabbed you. Maybe it’s just one that stuck with you and you haven’t a clue why.
You might think that- being a collector, lover and navigator of tall tales- I’d have a hard time deciding on my favourite. But I don’t. My favourite fairy tale, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince. I don’t think I could describe how much I love this gorgeous little story of friendship and charity. It taught me the importance of kindness. It taught me that ‘being romantic’ doesn’t mean ‘being in love’. But most of all it taught me that you don’t need a happy ending to tell a satisfying story.
We all lose in life. Samwise might have a few tales to tell but Frodo Baggins has suffered, and continues to suffer, dreadfully. Harry Potter has lost more than his fair share of friends and family. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t happy when Voldemort or Sauron are destroyed. It’s just that evil doesn’t get vanquished at the drop of a hat and the good deeds of dear friends are not forgotten as soon as they’re fallen. It’s this bitter-sweet type of ending I want to use in my novel but it is a thing easier said than done; to keep the ending happy while trying to give a sense of loss which is affecting but not overwhelming.
It’s hard to lose or hurt someone, even if you made them up.
“‘Dear Prince,’ said the Swallow, ‘I cannot do that;’ and he began to weep.”- Oscar Wilde
I think the great pressure on people to grow up somehow makes fairy tales a taboo for anyone over the age of eight. But, sometimes in secret and sometimes unapologetically, I’ve always loved fairy tales.
I never grew out of Disney movies. ”Woodsman-come-hero” still comes pretty high on my list of possible future professions. And the books that travel with me to and from university are Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales, The Thousand-and-One Arabian Nights, Cu Chulainn of Muirthemne and Japanese Tales; all in suitably imposing hardbacks.
So naturally, when I write, I write fairy tales. I’ve written a fair few now and I enjoy doing it but I feel like it’s time for something more challenging. I’m writing a novel. It’s been planned for a while but i’m still smoothing out the plot. Writing a novel will mean a whole lot more planning than fairy tales and I won’t be able to fall back on the narrative voice of the archetypal Fairy Tale Narrator; I’ll have to find a style that suits me.
That said, it won’t be too big a departure because, of course, I’ll be writing fantasy.
Some habits die hard.
“Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure, because we are made”- J.R.R. Tolkein