As you probably guessed already, today’s post in A to Z Challenge won’t be related to one particular title, but rather to a genre that just might be the most popular one in the world: fairy tales. Whether written down or spoken, they accompany us since childhood, since we’re able to understand the words, and are a worldwide phenomenon: every culture, every tribe has their tales.
The family on my mother’s side was a reading one, but it couldn’t have been different in a family of teachers (and people related to teaching). They’ve read me a lot and they encouraged me to read on my own (I’ve learned to read fluently when I was about 3 or 4), and the fairy tales seemed a natural choice for someone of my age.
I devoured them all, moving and sometimes dark stories by Hans Christian Andersen (you can imagine how dumbfounded I was when someone asked me in a genuine surprise “The Little Mermaid was not created by Disney?” – and I didn’t even mention that in the original tale she does not marry the prince), tales compiled by brothers Grimm, sometimes cruel and as dark as Andersen’s stories, but more likely to have some sort of a happy(-ish) ending. But also Polish tales and legends, mixed with stories from all over the world. When I was a child, one of the publishers ran a series of thin booklets that presented fairy tales from various nations, so from the very beginning I was exposed to various cultures and mindsets.
Later, I started reading about mythologies, starting with the Greek/Roman one, but quickly moving on to Egyptian, Sumerian, Indian, Chinese… I even read the Arabian Nights when I was still slightly too young for it (the version I had wasn’t censored, so it contained nudity, sex, and cruelty).
And even when I moved onto more serious reads, I came back to those tales, as they not only filled my childhood with wondrous creatures and adventures, but also let my imagination grow and stretch its boundaries. And even though I’ve turned 35 this year, I’m still hungry for those dark fairy tales, and that includes more mature retellings or modern playing with the topic, like in “The Book of Lost Things” by John Connolly or the short stories in Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher saga (compiled in “The Last Wish” and “The Sword of Destiny”).
But I like the old, original tales too, and before I moved over to States, I’ve bought two huge volumes of Anderesen’s and Grimm’s tales. They’re with my friend now as their daughters enter the right age to get to know them (and it turned out to be cheaper to buy the books again than to ship them overseas), but I’m definitely going to get them again. And I also have my eyes on a very nice edition of the Arabian Nights (as I donated my Polish edition to the library).
Because I might be old and cranky, but I can’t say no to a good fairy tale.
And you? Are you still enchanted by them or are fairy tales nothing more but a pleasant memory from your childhood?
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.