Pied Pipers

I love children’s fairytales though the traditional ones have a longer history than as merely bedtime stories read aloud by parents to wide-eyed children fantasising about magic and witches. In their way they were morality tales. In the original story of Sleeping Beauty the prince raped the sleeping princess; Hansel and Gretel is about the child abuse of step-mothers and cannibalism, and many original tales (some of which can be found in collections of Grimm) have awfully racist things happening to people of ethnicity on the roads and byways of Europe.

It is only as Europe softened that these stories were either dropped, or changed so that magical worlds filled with good and evil became the ‘norm’ until we reached some beautiful new stories such the Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde.

The fairytale as a short land of wonder seems to have gone out of fashion with modern writers. Publishing houses enjoy the long books of magic but they don’t go for many ‘short stories’ that even adults can enjoy. Yet there is a space here for magic and wonder, a place that enlivens the ancient tales with modern nuances. To put laughter in places, and dragons in their place.

Instead of emperors we could talk of Presidents, instead of step-mothers we could write about same sex marriages and IVF; the little people have not gone anywhere, they are waiting in every house in the world to be brought to life and share an evening with the larger folk.

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