Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Nicer Shade Of Fairy Tale

WonderBaby is a little young for fairy tales and folk tales, but I stockpile them anyway. I still have all of my old collections of Grimm's fairy tales, and Hans Christian Andersen, and some collections of Italian folk tales and Chinese folk tales and at least one copy of Isaac Bashevis Singer's Gimpel The Fool. I loved fairy tales when I was young - the darker the better - and I'm hoping that WonderBaby will love them, too. So I want to be ready - books all lined up on the shelf, ready to go - when she is.

The fairy tales that I received in the mail last month are not in the vein of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen. If there is any hint of darkness to The Fairy Chronicles, it's the sort of darkness that just creeps in at the edges, only to be shooed away, quickly and efficiently, by sweetness and light. So I was not disposed to like these stories, preferring, as I do, dark morality tales featuring witches and trolls and other forces of evil that come perilously close to prevailing every time.

The thing is, I'm no longer a child - I'm a thirty-something curmudgeon - and so I'm probably not the best person to evaluate fairy stories aimed at the pre-tween girl market. At the least, I'd need to set aside my curmudgeon cap and consider the stories on their own merits. Which is exactly what I tried to do.

And I can say this: The Fairy Chronicles - a collection of fairy stories that hold in common the conceit that real girls might themselves be fairies - provide an interesting twist on the fairy genre. The main characters are young girls who discover that they have special fairy powers like speed and agility and 'ferocity in defense of others' - good, solid grrl-power stuff - and who embark upon a variety of fairy adventures in which they have use their special powers to resolve some problem or address some threat (in one case, a Web of Dreams has been broken, allowing nightmares to enter childrens' sleep too easily, and needs to be repaired.)

As I've already said, these threats do not stir any real fear (and, for the record, I AM as easy to scare as a nine year old girl) but end of the day, there's really nothing wrong with that. I shared one of the books with my sister, who has a daughter who is close in age to the target audience here, and she commented that her daughter would appreciate an adventure story that could be read at bedtime with no worry of nightmares. (Point well taken.) She also said that her daughter would love the premise that quote-unquote ordinary girls might be fairies - a welcome change from the usual run of Disney stories that feature princesses.

The stories told in these books are very much of the ilk that my mother told my sister and I at bedtime and around campfires: all the adventure and colour of a classic fairy tale, with none of the death and dark evil. The adolescent me might have loved the darkness of Grimm and Andersen while curled up in the bright comfort of our family sofa, but I recall well that I preferred the sweet security of the fairylands that my mother conjured for us when it came time for bed.

My sister (as always) absconded with The Fairy Chronicles, and this is, as I've said before, probably the highest praise that she could offer (thievery being the sincerest form of flattery.) When WonderBaby comes of fairy tale age, I'll probably still start with the classics. But if she starts crawling into bed with HBF and I after night-time readings of The Snow Queen or The Tinder Box, I'll ask my light-fingered sister to send those books right back.

Read more about The Fairy Chronicles here.

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