Tuesday, 13 July 2010

"'Once upon a time' is timeless" Entry I

I've got a set of books all published by Simon Pulse, but written by various authors, with versions of popular fairytales revamped. They're great - they've been written in ways I'd not thought of before, and even though they're tales one grows up with, they're recognisable but different enough to make you not quite know what's happening next.

The majority of the books are set in a sort of medieval-Renaissance-y world, but where magic thrives. There are kings and queens and castles, but of this set I own so far, Snow is the only one with definite country landmarks, though Beauty Sleep and Before Midnight have French phrases in it occasionally, indicating a European-style land.

Narrated by Aurore herself, we learn that what has been told of her story has not always been entirely correct - there are no fairies in her world, (it's too magical for them) and she was not cursed by a bad fairy. She was however cursed to prick her finger and die, which was then softened by a lady-in-waiting of her mother to merely sleeping for 100 years. As her 16th birthday passes and nothing happens, great imbalances of nature occur, forcing Aurore to take matters into her own hands, seeking adventure and a way to save her kingdom, perferably without having to prick her finger. There are false herrings, new worlds and there is a strange time lapse in the book that makes it not only an interesting adaptation of the ancient fairytale, but also an enjoyable one that keeps you guessing (or at least go "oohh....") until the final 'aw' moment of the last chapter.
Here Cameron Dokey has decided to revisit the French roots of the book, restoring Cinderella to Cendrillon. Her father, Etienne de Brabant, rejects her after the unfortunate events of her birth, resulting in her wishing for a mother,  and sisters to love her. Whilst there are elements of the classical tale, it too has a warmer character, mixed with court intrigue and a conspiracy that unfolds at the ball. The book also restores Button, as Raoul, though the happy ending does not come from where you expect it. There too is magic, but only of a limited kind - there are pumpkins but not quite in the same fairy-godmother design. Unfortunately there are no talking mice. =P

Inspired by friends of Cameron Dokey that have alopecia, Rapunzel tells the tale of how the fairytale we all know of came about - although the Rapunzel in this book is bald. The start of the tale is quite as we know it, though the sympathy is very much for the sorceress. She is not however put into a tower. That comes later, and in a pleasant twist of storytelling. The Rupunzel from the start of this story, and the girl that becomes Rupunzel at the end are intrinsically linked by fate, and by the love of the sorceress who was being punished for a wrong many many years before. There is a tower, and there is a prince. But there is also a separate storyline which weaves into the original fairytale successfully, reshaping the necessity to have long golden hair to be a beautiful person.

The Little Mermaid, but still completely different. Not written by Cameron Dokey, this author still manages to change and expand the story. Fortunately though, it's a happier ending than the original =P If you wanted a sad ending, I guess I still felt a bit sad that Pearl, the main character, didn't end up with the person I'd hoped she might for a good 3/4s of the book. Although the conspiracy storyline felt a little bumbled, it did not spoil the otherwise enjoyable read. I think it's probably better than the Disney version.
There is a theme of kindred spirits and true love throughout this book, as Pearl, who does not remember her life before the age of 4, when she was found by a fisherman and his wife, tries to find her true home - on land and at sea.

Snow White, but lacking the 7 dwarves. It is set in the scientifically budding London, back in the days when poor houses existed, freak shows, and women were good for one thing: marrying equal or above their station, and having babies to inherit land or to marry off. Snow, or Jessica as we learn her real name to be, is not a Princess, just a noble's daughter. And she was not always treated like a lowly skivvy by her step-mother. The mirror doesn't talk - that's just Disney's innovation, anyway. The people she lives with in London when she runs away from her rural Wales estate are not dwarves, but they do have to live a secretive lifestyle. I thought their link to Snow was pretty obvious, personally, but it seemed to take a while for the characters to put two and two together, particularly the child-hood friend of Snow, who was forced to help with the step-mother's crazed experiments. I rather enjoyed it. True, Snow was a bit more helpless than she could have been, but then she was also restricted by societies laws, so I suppose allowances can be made. =P

I have received a few more of the stories in this set of publications, and will probably comment on them in the future.

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