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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 20 August 2017

"Postmodern fairy tales" by Cristina Bacchilega

This fascinating book examines modern versions of Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and Bluebeard and offers a postmodern critique. At best this opened up entire new vistas for turning old tales into fresh delights. In many ways this was an inspiring book. He points out, for example, that the use of a third person narrator in a fairy tale and the absolutist "Once upon a time" etc suggest that there is only one version of truth: "'There was', 'there are', 'she was' - such statements present the narrative's vision as the only possible one. Like the mirror, the narrator knows all" (p 34)

My favourite chapter was the one about Snow White in which the author focuses on the mirror, mirror on the wall, asking:
Who made it and why?

  • "Whose desires does it represent and contain?" (p 28)
  • Whose voice is the mirror's? Queen, SW, Father, Narrator: "the mirror's judgement as unquestionably authoritative" (p 33)
  • "Mirrors should reflect more deeply." (p 47)

But he also asks about the Happy Ever After bit. What, for example, did Snow White think when she comes out of her coma to discover that she is naked with a strange man. In one tale the prince's response is to stick the needle back into her arm to make her unconscious again and give him the chance to think what he does next. And why does the Prince appear to adore a dead body? Creepy!

And SW is a liminal story: "Snow White has three parts, a structure which perhaps re-produces on a narrative level Snow White's three-fold nature and three-part initiation process (separation, liminality, and aggregation)." (p 43): in short: she is taken into the forest and left for dead, she lives with seven dwarfs, she eats the poisoned apple and has to go through death to be reborn.

This continues in the other tales. For example, one postmodern version of Red Riding Hood has a sad werewolf. Well why not? And Angela Carter has Beauty willingly undergoing transformation into a Beast. Well why not?

Great lines:
  • "In folk and fairy tales the hero is neither frightened nor surprised when encountering the otherworld" (p 8) I've just been reading Kieran Egon's The Educated Mind and he suggests that this is developmental; he states that for a kid aged 5 "magic is entirely unobjectionable" but when he reaches 10 he wants to know the details. So perhaps this feature of folk and fairy tales identified here is due to them being aimed at a young audience. 
  • "Magic is invoked through the tale's matter-of-fact, artfully simple narrative that relies on dialogue and single strokes of color to produce a feeling of familiarity and wonder at the same time." (p 28)
  • "The ambivalence of the word 'to fuck' in its twinned meanings of sexual intercourse and despoliation: 'a fuck up'" (p 52)
  • "Cupid ... as boy with no manners or respect, as erotic god of love, as invisible presence in the dark, and as faithful husband in the end" (p 74)

A thought-provoking perspective on a well-thumbed genre. August 2017; 146 pages

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