Do you remember being a child and listening to someone reading from a big book of fairy tales? Or, even better, listening to someone telling a tale? Maybe cuddling with your favourite teddy bear or sitting on the lap of your grandma. Maybe you learned to read with those fairy tale books. But even if you had no books at home and spent all your childhood in front of the TV, you know fairy tales. You know that the Princess was cursed and fell asleep in the highest tower. You know that the prince appears at precisely the right moment. You know that the monster is going to be defeated, the bad stepmother, the ogre, the man eater.
You know that the fairy tale is going to end well.
Sure, there are short ones, that just describe devastating tragedies. My guess is that most of those have been crafted for educational purposes. I don’t want to talk about those today. I want to talk about your favourite fairy tale. My guess is, it will involve a hero or heroine, some adversaries, some difficulties, some kind of support for the main character, some surprising plot twists, and a happy ending.
But today is not about the hero’s journey.
Because any fairy tale is full of other things, that might not even contribute to the main story that is told. Maybe there is some landscape, the wide plains, or the meandering river or even the high mountains. Or a baker, or a shoemaker, a wizard or shepherdess, someone going about their business on the side-lines of the main story. Maybe there is a whole herd of magic horses, but we just get to know about one of them. Probably neighbours or family of our main characters go on with their lives, unnoticed.
I want you to look at the fringes of your favourite fairy tale with curiosity.
Look at the people, the animals, landscapes. Notice the spaces that are not described in the main story. What do you think happens there? How is the life of the second daughter going? What happened to the rest of the herd? It can be interesting, enjoyable, and maybe even healing to investigate those neglected parts of the well told tale.
Try to call back those memories from childhood first, but if you feel called to, reread the fairy tale. I am quite sure, you will notice things, you had completely forgotten, or even didn’t notice in first place.
Reading your fairy tale with yet another perspective in mind can be enlightening.
I recently read in an essay by Ursula K. LeGuin that she loved the idea of absolute calm and silence inside Sleeping Beauty’s castle: to be resting, preserving her childhood independence for a long time before she must grow into marriage, motherhood, housekeeping and so on. Enjoying the growing hedge of roses and the birds singing in the sky in complete freedom, without having to comply, without having to meet any expectation – certainly a very tempting idea. Wouldn’t you agree?
Try stepping outside the story and looking at the occurrences with fresh eyes.
How would life be up in the highest tower? What could you see? Who else is living in the deep forest? How would you feel about living in that castle? Or leaving it? Where would you travel if you had a ship of your own? Could you befriend the giant Roc? What would you ask the astronomer at the end of the world? I’m wondering how the devil ended up living with his grandmother… or what happens to the mountains that sprang up from the magic comb, thrown over the heroine’s shoulder…
How is life travelling with a whole herd of talking horses? Did the Puss in Boots feel lonely? Where did the seven dwarfs come from and are there more of them? Who is living right before the highest mountains?
You see, so many questions! And all the answers are in your imagination…
Heartfelt, wherever you are,