There’s something childish, exciting, and quintessentially magical about fairytales. The problem is, most of them are pretty puerile or morbid stories. Either you get the dolled up Disney version of Cinderella, or you go back far enough to the Grimm Brothers’ version where the stepsisters are hacking off parts of their feet in order to fit into the glass slipper. (I’m not sure if that’s the legitimate Grimm version, but someone told me that variation on the tale, and I can’t imagine anyone besides the Grimm Brothers coming up with that.)
On top of that, fairytales are usually vague coverings for loosely veiled morality tales. They’re clever and imaginative only enough to entertain a child as he’s force fed a lesson about right-and-wrong. Yet, these stories stay with us. We take their little clever and imaginative bits and expand on them tenfold. There are few things more enchanting than retold fairytales, and this is because they hit at our oldest dreams and earliest memories while also updating, expanding, and building upon the themes and plots we love.
Imagining any traditional fairytale in the twenty-first century opens up a limitless sense of possibility. There are so many ways in which to update a story, from names to setting to the actual conflicts faced. I think there is an art to choosing which aspect to keep, which to change, and which to disregard. There’s a challenge in it too…unlike other stories, you are working with someone else’s characters. While working on The Neverland Wars, I felt a tremendous pressure to live up to J.M. Barrie’s original character, as well as the cultural conception of Peter Pan. I tried to stay as true to cannon as possible, but also give people a Peter Pan that felt like an amalgamation of the other incarnations (Live-action, Disney, theatrical, etc.) that they had come to associate with the name.
It seems appropriate that so many fairytales would be retold in young adult literature. The retelling and modernization (if not futurizing) of childhood stories is not that different from the way in which teenage years thrust individuals into acute realization of the difference between their past and childhood, and their future in adulthood. I think it is neat that new novels can breathe a sort of final breath of life into these old stories, and give us a way to relive them under our own terms and conditions as adolescents. If you haven’t gathered from my work, there’s something that inevitably strikes a chord in me whenever childhood meshes with adulthood and the dichotomy becomes clear and understandable…as opposed to our actual teenage years, where the distinction between age and youth is anything but clear and understandable.
Note: The featured image is four green gummy-bears fused together. When I found this gummy-centipede, it was also a maturing insight into how the adult world works to produce childish things.