And they all lived happily ever after


Do you believe in fairies? Or, to be more specific, do you believe in fairy stories and/or archetypes?

Enough of the questions already. No, I don’t believe in fairies although my husband told me that once, when he was a child, a little man in green walked across the the landing outside his bedroom door. Yes, I believe in fairy stories or archetypes, purely because when I’m writing and it’s working, I’ll think Oh, of course, this is …. Cinderella…Sleeping Beauty and suddenly it all makes sense.

But the fairy story I ponder the most, and the one that fascinates me, is Beauty and the Beast. One of my favorite writers, Angela Carter, was intrigued enough by it to write several versions in her marvellous collection The Bloody Chamber. Cocteau made an amazing movie of it too. Beauty is a true heroine–no, she’s not some sort of kickasss type, but she’s her own person, which is both her strength and her weakness. If she’d asked her father to bring her home a length of silk or jewels, and not a white rose, she wouldn’t have started off the chain of events at the Beast’s castle. And she makes the decision to return to the Beast and brings about his transformation, her own heroic journey when she truly comes into her own.

I read a lot of illustrated versions aloud to my daughter when she was little, but I think this one by Marianna and Mercer Mayer was my favorite. This was long before I started writing myself. There was one illustration I found particularly captivating–Beauty, dressed in silk, sits at the window of a circular tower, surrounded by books, and with a bird, released from its cage, perched on her hand. She has a dreamy, contemplative expression on her face as though escaping into some inner world, the world of her imagination; she’s caged by the Beast, but she’s found a freedom beyond the stone walls of the tower. Now I see her as an allegory of a writer, invited into a fantastic world and bringing to it her own feelings and experience, and maybe that’s why that illustration in particular had such an appeal for me.

So what’s your favorite fairy story? Why? And do you think it influences what you like to read and write?

Janet

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