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For December we'll once again post our annual Christmas stories! This year's first line to start each story: She'd never seen a Santa suit used in quite that way.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fairy Tales and Romance by Naomi Stone


Please join me in welcoming Naomi Stone to The Roses of Prose.

Thanks so much for having me here with the Roses of Prose today. I thought I'd talk about a lifelong interest of mine: Fairy Tales.

I’ve read a lot of fairy tales in my time. The complete collection of Lang’s colorful fairy books (‘The Red Fairy Book,’ ‘Blue Fairy Book,’ etc., through a spectrum of twelve colors) more than once. I've read  'The Thousand Nights and a Night,' both abridged and in the complete Burton translation, the Grimm Brothers collection, Hans Anderson and many lesser-known folklore collections from cultures as diverse as Gypsies and Polynesians. I’ve read modern retellings of the old tales, from Disney to Tanith Lee and read the articles of folklorists such as Terri Windling, Jane Yolen and.Jack Zipes.
Based on all this reading, I could enumerate countless examples (but will spare you) of fairy tales all leading to a happy ending in which the happy ending is thanks to the poor but good-hearted (simpleton, youngest son, shepherd, wood-cutter, etc.) winning the hand in marriage of the beautiful princess -- or the beautiful, good-hearted (goose girl, orphan, youngest daughter of a peasant or merchant) winning the love and hand in marriage of a handsome prince.
The sheer prevalence of this trope tells me that there is a deep-seated longing in human hearts for an ideal match – for a mate combining physical attraction with social success (position, wealth and power). In days of old, fairy tales expressed and offered vicarious fulfillment for this longing – just as romance novels do today.
Fairy tales are the age-old root of modern romance. Fairy tales address a deep-seated human longing that still exists today. Fairy tales offered blatant, unapologetic wish-fulfillment in a world where life was harder than we can even imagine who live in a world with modern plumbing, electronics and health care.
But, in the evolution of fairy tales, a time came when fantasy and romance grew apart.
Romance eschewed magic for more realistic settings, with rational modern day men and women for heroes and heroines. Romance grew in its comprehension of what constitutes a happy ending. It taught us that there's more to a hero than a princedom. That actual individuals are involved in marriages and their individual personalities and feelings offer challenges as mysterious as any found in a fairy tale quest.
Romance moved away from the realm of the fantastic and vice-versa. And while her followers might do so, Jane Austen did not write of zombies or eldritch monsters. If Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker did, well 'Frankenstein' and 'Dracula' were not romances. During the Age of Reason and for long since, Fantasy set aside Romance, pulled on its Grown Up Pants, embraced the machine age and gave birth to Science Fiction.
Both genres have grown and matured through the time they spent apart, but they have been coming back together in recent decades.  At first, when romance and the fantastic met in modern times, romantic fantasy sneaks back in its horror-tinged vampire fangs and howls at the moon. Coolly logical SF often dismisses the happiness of two little people as not amounting to a hill of beans in this world with its larger, world-spanning concerns. Yet, story-telling has room for more than our limited genre-expectations can imagine, and all the old fairy tales are with us still, reminders of a natural affinity between romance and far-flung fantasies of magic and adventure.
Increasingly, modern writers such as myself seek to bring the best of both worlds together again. I've been pleased with reviews telling me that the romance in my stories doesn't get in the way of readers coming from the world of science fiction, and that the science fiction elements don't prevent romance readers from finding the fulfillment of a satisfying love story.
I'd like to ask your readers today to tell me about their favorite fairy tales as children, and whether they can still find something meaningful in the tale.

Naomi Stone
Latest release: 'Spirited' from Champagne Books,
Amelia Swenson's plans for the weekend didn't include a sexy djinni or saving the world from demons, but plans change.
NaomiStone0RWA (on Twitter)

13 comments:

Jannine Gallant said...

What an interesting post! In thinking back to my daughters' younger days (mine are way too long ago!), we watched endless rounds of Disney princess movies. Their favorite was The Little Mermaid, definitely a blend of fantasy and romance. Best of luck with your new release!

skylarker said...

Thanks! The Disney version of Anderson's 'Little Mermaid' is certainly more romantic than the original, and probably a better choice for a young girl. :)

~ Naomi Stone

Jody Vitek said...

A very fun post indeed. To pick one fairy tale is hard an unimaginable. I love Disney's fairy tale movies but sometimes they've had a hard time selling me on the newer movies. Princess and the Frog was one of those, but I loved it and now own it. Wishing you great success on your release!

skylarker said...

Thanks, Jody! I'm not as familiar with the Disney version of 'The Princess and the Frog' as I am with some of the older ones.

Have you read the version where it's not a kiss, but the princess throwing the frog against a wall in the attempt to kill him that turns him back into a prince?

Jody Vitek said...

No, but what an interesting concept. LOL

Alison Henderson said...

It's lovely to have you visiting us today, Laramie! I'm a huge fan of fairy tales (I'm even familiar with the frog-throwing version of the Frog Prince story).

skylarker said...

I'm delighted to be a guest here today, Alison! Thanks for commenting.

It's interesting to see some of the odd variations there are to fairy tales that many people know only through the Disney versions. How many people know that the Grimm's Brothers version of Rapunzel was pregnant by the time the witch in her story cast down the prince?

~ Naomi Stone

Margo Hoornstra said...

First of all, welcome and thanks for an interesting post. My favorites would have to be the princess movies, Cinderella, Tangled and the like. Guess that's Disney, huh? If you really, really pay attention to them, though, you will see some fabulous storytelling.

Barbara Edwards said...

Thanks for sharing. I've also read the older versions of these tales and love them. Very different from modern writing.

skylarker said...

Hi, Margo! I was very impressed with story-telling in 'Tangled' especially. LOVE the way a skillet became a minor character and every bit character became important.

~ Naomi

skylarker said...

Thanks for commenting, Barbara! The older versions of the stories are still fascinating, and continue as inspirations for all sorts of modern variations.

I also love the modern stories that turn the old ones on their heads, reverse gender roles, or explore implications of the underlying assumptions about societal roles... so much room to explore!

~ Naomi

Nan Dixon said...

Great Post -- Naomi,

This made me think, and the stories that stuck with me were actually Kipling's Jungle books. Brave Rikki Tikki Tavi and Mowgli and Bagherra. (My grandfather was in the British Cavalry and served in India in WWI and he fell in love with the country.)
These tales showed friendships and families formed in non-traditional settings. (Mowgli is adopted by the wolves. Rikki Tikki Tavi the mongoose saves a family from a pair of cobras.) They are lovely and rich stories.

skylarker said...

Hi, Nan!

Yes, I loved 'The Jungle Book' and the whole idea of living with the wolves and having adventures with Bagheera and Baloo. Rikki Tikki Tavi made me want a pet mongoose for my own. :)

~ Naomi Stone