Thursday, September 22, 2005


An exploration of the fairytales underlying A.S. Byatt's short stories.

Said article is fairly academic and, well, boring (and, frankly, I prefer Byatt's novels to her short stories, but I prefer novels in general over short stories) — and I've had far too little coffee yet this morning to be able to process it — but this jumped out at me:

Byatt reveals her concept of fairytale images as a way of understanding the working of imagination: "You can understand a lot about yourself by working out which fairytale you use to present your world to yourself in."

My mother's favourite fairy tale is Little Red Riding Hood. Perhaps it speaks to her worldview, or to her deepest, darkest, truest self, more than I ever previously considered. A journey, a task, beset by danger; a naive initiated into adulthood. Perhaps her affinity for this tale is purely sentimental, as the one she remembers most distinctly her mother telling her. But it may have taken on larger significance when her childhood was interrupted by war in Poland in 1939 and treacherous journeys ensued.

(If I asked her what her second favourite story is, I'm certain she would tell me The Little Match Girl.)

My sentimental favourite is Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. It was read to me in Polish, and I was affected by the accompanying illustrations by J.M. Szancer as much as by the story itself. (The book was my sister's, but she's now bestowed it on Helena.) I'm inspired to re-read it now to know what it tells me about my world.

What fairytale are you?
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