Today, February 26th, is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day!
I love fairy tales – the magic, history, characters, themes and (depending on which version you read) that element of darkness which surrounds the story.
And the marvellous thing about fairy tales is that they are still going strong. Their ability to regenerate, to be stretched, and twisted and modernised and yet still be recognisable as the traditional tale, is testament to their timeless themes.
Playing with fairy tales is tremendous fun because the rich material is so fabulous to work with. This month’s WRITING MAGAZINE features an article I’ve written called ‘Once Upon A Time Forever’, which explores the popularity of fairy tales in more depth. And in next month’s issue, I’m looking at how you can create your own story based on fairy tales.
The first fairy-tale-inspired book that I wrote was Gruff”s Guide to Fairy Tale Land, brilliantly illustrated by Benji Davies. Co-written by Billy Goat Gruff, this book is a survival guide to Fairy Tale Land for all those young (or not so young) travellers who would love to enter this magical realm. I know I’d be at the front of the queue.
One of my favourite questions when I visit schools is to ask the children which fairy tale characters they would and would not like to meet. My favourite spread in the book for demonstrating this is the one with the Fairy Godmother and the Wicked Fairy, complete with picture and character profile. And although many children would prefer to meet the Fairy Godmother (I suspect this may have something to do with the wish-granting and potential life-time supply of sweets), quite a few would like to meet the Wicked Fairy.
Why? Why are we so fascinated with the creatures of darkness? Perhaps meeting a dodgy character is a test of our own strength – can we rise to the challenge and overcome the threat? – a threat that in some way, shape or form will always be present in life. Or perhaps it’s because the Wicked Fairy might come in handy next time there’s an argument with a sibling over the last biscuit.
When I was five years old we used to play ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in the school playground. All the girls wanted to be Dorothy, except for me. I always wanted to play the Wicked Witch (please don’t judge me here!) because I remember thinking she was just so interesting to play. And I always had the chance to send my monkeys flying across the playground. ‘Baddies’ are intriguing. I wonder where along their journey in life did they chose to make unwise decisions and why?
Tomorrow I have been invited into a school who have been looking at fairy tales as their topic. I’m very excited that they have chosen to focus on ‘characters’ and have been using ‘Gruff’s Guide to Fairy Tale Land’ as a key text. It promises to be a brilliant morning and I’m delighted that fairy tales are alive and well and still being explored in schools. After all, there’s so much we can learn from them.
So happy Tell a Fairy Tale Day! And if you choose to read or tell a tale today, I hope for a few precious moments you are transported to a marvellous and magical place.
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