Who doesn’t like fairy tales? As children we loved listening to fairy tales where the world seemed like a perfect place. Cocooned by the safe and secure environment around us (or maybe I’m speaking of the times when I was a kid), we believed in such a world. Until adolescence struck and the phrase ‘happily ever after’ sounded more like a myth.
Recently there was a video about how every fairy tale had a fixed prototype in its plot. The damsel in distress, the princess in jeopardy, who had to be rescued by the handsome, courageous prince was the recurring theme in most of these fairy tales. When I read Cinderella or Snow White to my daughter I don't really think about the damage that I’m causing inadvertently. But the video made me think, why did Cinderella require a prince? Was she too weak and docile to fight her own battles?
Carthick's Unfairy Tales brings a new twist and a complete new perspective in the old fairy tales. The stories are retold from a fresh point of view which sheds a disparate light on these tales, a view that we would have missed on seeing while reading it innumerable times before. Here’s a short review of each story in the collection.
- · Of Mice and Horses- This tale is narrated by a rat who is worried by his fellow mouse living in a delusion that he is a royal horse. It was difficult to guess which fairy tale this story is based on until midway. The twist in the ending is apt and remains true to the nature of book showing how nothing is fair in fairy tales.
- · The Frog Who Would Be King - This is my favorite one in the book and tells a story of a princess who is tricked into kissing a frog and then has to save herself from being married to an obnoxious prince. I could feel myself cheering for the princess and wondered why couldn’t there be more such female models in fairytales.
- · No Country for Wild Beasts- This story is narrated by a baby bear who is angry at a girl who invaded their home and disrupted their lives. The story is shorter when compared to others but I liked the way the original story was used to depict how humans take things for granted and muddle with nature and animal habitats.
- · The Beans of Avarice- This story depicts the attempts of a magician to get hold of magical secrets from the kingdom in skies using a simpleton boy’s help. I found the story to be humorous because it depicts the tale from the villain’s perspective.
- · A Tale of One City- This is a slightly dark story that is narrated by a town. What I liked about it is the ending which perhaps mirrors the desperate times of America’s political situation of today.
- · What the HobGoblin Did – Another interesting tale of human greed and cruelty which feels like a consistent theme throughout the seven tales in this collection.
- · The Hunger Diaries – This is another grim story narrated by Hunger, the Ravager and his attempts to claim two children, Hansel and Gretel and present them to his brother Death and how the children outwitted them.
Throughout the retelling I loved how the author imbues fresh perspectives and new twists in the tales which makes you forget that you are reading a retelling of the ancient fairy tales. The stories illustrate the satire and subtle humor of the author and the narration never makes you realize that you are reading someone who is trying his first attempt at publication. What makes the stories more interesting is the unusual point of views as each tale is narrated by a character who is an integral part of the fairy tale but may have been ignored in the original version.
It takes a lot of imagination (and a risky venture if I may say so) to take an old story and put a new spin over it AND engage the readers. But kudos to Carthick for doing this and he makes it look effortless (although we know it to be far from truth). I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and I'd rate the book 4 stars.