Scary Fairy Tales

When you live with small people you get to read a lot of great books – but the ones you choose at 7:30 at night when the 500 creative ways with toothpaste activity has been accomplished, you’ve explained that there is no way the dog is allowed inside and that no, the kennel won’t fit a small person - you find yourself reaching for the short ones – not the best ones.

These are the stories where you can skip two pages and the small person doesn’t notice, which should suggest a lack of compelling narrative in itself. The junk food of kid lit; for girls there’s a heavy dependence on vapid fairy stuff, cute friends that spend an unseemly amount of time making berry delicious stuff and way too many princesses.

image of scary fairyThe fairy books in themselves have got to come up for scrutiny under the fair trading act and whoever is publishing them sent to prison for pecuniary gain from the peddling of addictive substances to minors.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of reading their trillionth fairy book here is a plot summary; fairy person gets locked in tricky spot by evil spell. Bored/unhappy/ slightly marginalised small person uncovers imprisoned fairy and is asked to save the fairy dominion from some evil being when suddenly…… and then the book ends. You’ve paid $19:95 for half a story and now you have a very tired small person extracting a promise from you (in a way that can best be described as ‘emotional water boarding’) to buy ‘Rainbow Fairy goes to San Francisco’ or whatever it is so that you don’t have a complete melt down on your hands just when you thought you had an hour or two to yourself. Brilliant.

I can’t quite believe that the small person loves all this fluff as much as she does and am inwardly appalled as I read Barbie and her Skyfairy Friends Fly again (same plot as above – exchange flying Barbies in bathing suits and you’ve got the idea) that I’ve bought into it at all.

I mourn the Disneyfication of the old stories. Winnie the Pooh has lost his slightly sketchy randomness and now looks like he lives on cheeseburgers instead of honey and even the witches are no longer scary. Where have all the decent witches gone? They used to be scary and cantankerous and about as far removed from the Earth Mother archetype with all her nurturing responsibilities as you could get. These new feeble Disney versions bake cakes and mend butterflies wings. Come on! They’ve lost all their bollocks! A decent nasty cunning witch is there to tell girls that being female is not all about physical beauty – which could only be a good counter to the popular cultural myth that a girl’s only value lies in her looks. She’s the ultimate female anti-hero and the shadow side to the good princess – the wake up call and the ‘eyes of the snake’ when all of society conspires with girls to own only their ‘heart of a lamb’.

In a slightly deranged attempt to wage war on Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake I bought kids’ books on Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keefe, thinking they might tell stories of resilience and resourcefulness rather than the importance of matching bathing suits. They remain pristine in the bookshelf.

‘Barbie’s Fairy Princess Day of Unending Niceness’ however is still part of the routine night time punishment.

Sometimes you have to know when to give up. Which I almost had until I offered to take the small person for a bush walk and found her preparing herself by shovelling handfuls of gravel into her pockets. When asked why, she replied ‘Well, if you lose me I’ll just drop these, like in the story and find my way back out.’

While it may be disturbing that my girl had considered it a possibility that I might set her free in the forest as some form of training exercise – I took it as a good sign. A princess would wait for someone to come and save her. A witch would find her own way out. Sometimes – they just make you so damn proud.

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