On meddling with fairytales

Aaand we have a desktop in our Budapest appartment! Yes!! Sorry about the silence, everyone, but it is hard to write a post on an iPhone. But here I am, sitting at a desktop in Budapest. Yay!

I’ve zoomed through a few countries, and a lot of picturesque country side, and I have been contemplating fairytales. It’s hard not to when you are looking out a train window at forests dipped with snow. But a few other things have prompted my fairytale thoughts :

Seeing ‘The Nutcracker’ at the Opera House in Prague. I have an immense fondness for ‘The Nutcracker’, having performed in it numerous times as a child, one year even as Clara. So I was horrified when watching the Prague Ballet’s version, which involved splicing it with ‘A Christmas Carol’. It might not have been so bad – the first part was okay, I guess, but I realised that it was not going to get any better when the Scrooge character’s bedroom was invaded by an army of ghosts and ghouls (not mice and toy soilders!) who are led by the devil (that’s right, THE DEVIL) and kidnap Scrooge and take him to hell. Hmmm. And they scaped the sugar plum fairy! There are several hundred things that appalled me (not just when it came to the story… the choreography was pretty average too) but I wont drag on about it. Suffice to say, it got me pondering about altering or changing classic stories.

A few days later Ben and I took the train from Prague to Vienna. I had bought my first Terry Pratchett novel, ‘Witches Abroad’. Someone had recommended this particular title to me, but I couldn’t remember who, or why. But I bought it and started reading it and was laughing out loud on the train, which I guess is probably not preferable to your fellow travellers. But I saw exactly why someone (I still cant remember who!) recommended it to me. It was about a fairy godmother who was instructed NOT to let Cinderella marry a prince. There was lots of fairytales sprinkled throughout the novel, and I thought it was clever, and witty, and brilliant. But it got me thinking – why is it okay (in my mind) to meddle with Cinderella but not the Nutcracker? Is it just because I think that Terry Pratchett had meddled with the story in a good way, and the Nutcracker had been meddled with poorly? How can you decide whether meddling is good or bad? While on that train trip, I recalled a fairytale story that I had wanted to rewrite, and came up with all these new ways to do this, but then I got to thinking – am I doing precisely what I condemned the Prague Ballet for doing? Should we meddle with classic stories?

I had a few snowy/fairytale-y photos to show you, but I can’t work out how to upload them. Coming soon.



  1. I think the “good job” versus “bad job” thing would sway me. If a classic is twisted & the twist is *brilliant* (or even just mildly clever, or gently funny, or otherwise triggers a positive response) then by all means *go* for it. I had to cringe in sympathetic horror at your description of the Nutcracker/Christmas Carol mash-up, though – that does sound a bit too surreal and “off”. But, on the other hand, I did see & really, really, REALLY like the Matthew Bourne slightly twisted takes on The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. Those worked, in my opinion. And the choreo was interesting – lots of contemporary ballet kinks which fit the reworkings. Pretty darned good overall, though, because it was creative and added something to the predictable old framework, without denigrating the original – just gently sat it off to the side – “Here’s a warm blanket, Granny, and a nice martini – now watch THIS!” 😉

    Just as Robin McKinley’s retelling of Beauty & The Beast in Beauty works, and so many of those other YA fairytale take-offs. (Didn’t like Wicked – the book, that is – I thought the musical was clever in parts, though.I liked the *idea*, but not how it was handled, so that’s more of a “didn’t care for the writer’s style thing” versus “don’t meddle with a classic”.)

    So by all means, re-think those fairytales! There’s room for all – *if* they’re done well! (And what a tough judgement call that is, lol!)

    I hope you are enjoying Prague – I must admit to a small stirring of envy – that is one of my wish-to-visit cities. And that Terry Pratchett sounds interesting. That’s an author I’ve not yet been able to really get into, but I suspect I might not be starting with the right one. “Witches Abroad” sounds like fun!

  2. Oops – I see you were just visiting Prague – the apartment is in Budapest. Well, enjoy EVERYTHING, you lucky person! 🙂 Pictures would be lovely, when you find the time.

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