I went to the movies and saw Snow White and the Huntsman the other day. It was the perfect combination of fantastical special effects and very scary acting from Charlize Theron. It seems like re-worked fairy tales are all the rage at the moment. From the other Snow White movie to the TV series Once Upon A Time to books like Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth (a retelling of Rapunzel). There’s even going to be a Sleeping Beauty movie told from the perspective of the evil Queen, played by Angelina Jolie (Maleficent). As well as a reworking of Hansel and Gretel as witch hunters (coming out in 2013 starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton).
Perhaps fairy tales never go out of style. They are always there waiting to be retold. In our shaky economic times, it’s nice to escape into worlds of pure fantasy.
When it comes to my favourite fairy tales, growing up I always liked the original tellings that were a little on the dark side. The one that still breaks my heart is The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. I always thought it was tragic that the Little Mermaid gave up the sea and her voice for a pair of legs so she could be near the prince she loved. And every step she took felt like stabbing knives. Then the Prince ends up marrying someone else. Her only chance of becoming a mermaid again is if she uses the sea witch’s knife to kill the prince. But she can’t and tosses herself into the sea instead. No wonder Disney dramatically changed the animated version …
There were also many fairy tale movies that I loved when I was growing up. In fact, I still love them:
• Labyrinth – A very young Jennifer Connelly wishes that her annoying baby brother would be taken away by the Goblin King, played by a very creepy, big-haired David Bowie. It is just a comment made in the heat of the moment, but the Goblin King hears her and takes her brother away. To get her brother back she must set off into the treacherous Labyrinth that surrounds the Goblin King’s castle before time runs out. Along the way she meets lots of colourful characters from Jim Henson’s puppet workshop. I’m not ashamed to admit that I still know all the words to all the songs.
• The Princess Bride –This film is based on the book written by William Goldman. It has all the fairy tale elements you could hope for: a princess called Buttercup, an evil prince, a giant, a swash-buckling pirate hero, sword-play, romance, magic and lots of classic one-liners from the likes of Billy Crystal.
• Ever After – Drew Barrymore stars in this retelling of the Cinderella story. I put this DVD on from time to time when I want to watch a light, non-taxing film.
• Ladyhawke – A classic film starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Two lovers have been cursed by a powerful Bishop. The man is a wolf by night while his love is in human form. And she is a hawk by day while he is a man. They seem doomed until a young thief played by Matthew Broderick agrees to help them lift the curse.
• Enchanted – I thought this was a clever reworking. Amy Adams plays Princess Giselle who is transported from her cartoon fairy tale world into the harsh streets of real world New York. Hilarity ensues – especially the scene where she gets rats and pigeons to help her clean her rescuer’s apartment.
To wrap up this homage to fairy tales, go and visit the blog of Emeline Morin. I stumbled upon her blog this week. It is devoted to fairy tales and their reworkings. I particularly like the beautiful artwork in this post.
What’s your favourite fairy tale?