Fabulous fairy tales

A lady knight drawn for my friend J's birthday

A fairy-tale-ish lady knight I drew for my friend J's birthday

Fairy tales are some of my favorite stories, and I feel like a fairy tale sensibility persists through much of my work.

This fall I have been immersed in fairy tales. In early September, I got the chance to host BroadUniverse’s BroadPod episode fairy tales for Grown Ups. Then I got lost in the Ghost World sequence books, Ghost Drum, Ghost Song and Ghost Dance. (I absolutely adore these three books; they are truly new fairy tales, set in a world that draws from the old traditions and weaves them into a rich new tale. And like the fairy tales of old, things are not simple or pat, nor do they have Disney-happy-endings necessarily, even though they’re techically children’s fantasy. Like my favorite fairy tales, The Ghost World sequence books have something for young or old readers, and don’t shy from difficult or complex themes.)

And then I picked up My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, which is a fascinating contrast to The Ghost World sequence books. I’m not sure I’d call all of the stories in this anthology fairy tales; but it is definitely a very interesting collection of fairy-tale-inspired short fiction.

After reading the anthology, and while writing a fairy tale-inspired story of my own, I started thinking about what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale. Is it magic? (Maybe? Or a sense of magic?) A certain atmosphere? A happy ending? (I’d say not necessarily?) A certain kind of language? A world where things function by certain curious rules? What makes something a fairy tale versus a fantasy story? Repetition? The power of belief or words?

What do you think?

(Tangentally: fairy tale or fairytale? I prefer the latter, and I can find both in the dictionary, but some sites seem to insist on two words…)

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