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?


Anonymous said...

I don't know if I'm a fairy tale or not. I'm definitely not Snow White. I'm not Puss-in-Boots either.

My favourite fairy tales involve, well, fairies in whose world butterflies are a mode of transportation and the earth's flora are in need of guardians such as themselves. They announce the arrival of Spring (my favourite season) and live outside!

Anonymous said...

Huh! I never thought about this before, but I'd have to say The Three Little Pigs. As a child, I think I just liked the repetitive phrases, but as an adult, I like the idea that hard work and intelligence will be rewarded.

Aussie Mama said...

I would like to think I am Rapunzel, but I am probably more one of the three little piggies.

I always loved Hans Christian Anderson, the tin soldier.

melinama said...

I blogged my answer (The Crane Maiden) here:
Interesting question! Thanks.