Posted by Frances Gow
When I was a young girl, my parents bought me a sweatshirt with the words ‘Born Beautiful’ adorned across the front in rainbow coloured abandon. The sentiment was heartfelt and intended to build my confidence, so I wore it with pride and consequently exposed myself to ridicule from my peers. In effect, this bold gesture had the complete opposite result and made me want to hide my ugliness away from the world; shelter the naivety that couldn’t cope with the cruelty of children.
There is something about fiction that scratches beneath the surface of the superficiality of the media’s portrayal of modern life, something about the inner light shining through, the untapped beauty that resides in us all. Only the power of storytelling allows us to reach for that light. The enduring quality of classic Fairy Tales continue to inspire writers and entrance readers throughout time. Based on myth, legends and folklore, they gave rise to the fantasy genre and survive in many different forms. One such example that has gained phenomenal popularity of late is Beauty and the Beast. Not always obvious to the reader, who is nevertheless swept along by the classic plot structures and themes; think Twilight and Fifty Shades.
Some critics argue that it is laziness that makes writers return to these classic stories, but the Thirty-six Dramatic Situations, by Georges Polti categorises every possible dramatic situation that occurs in books, plays, films into a finite thirty-six scenarios. Of course, you could argue that any number of different plots and characters emerge as a result of the situations and the overlap and merging of more than one, yet time and again we see the recycling of plots in new guises. How many times in the last few years have you watched a film that is a remake? What percentage of TV drama, film and plays are original scripts compared to adaptations?
Then we have writers who subvert classic tales in order to make a point or draw our attention to issues of inequality or injustice. Taking Beauty and the Beast as an example, Angela Carter wrote a few of her own versions, including The Courtship of Mr Lyon and The Tiger’s Bride, which used plot reversals to highlight feminist themes. These two stories are in fact part of a collection of Fairy Tales re-told by Carter in her book The Bloody Chamber, which includes other versions classic tales, such as Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard and Puss in Boots.
When you put your mind to it, I bet you can think of any number of stories that carry the themes of classic Fairy Tales, whether or not their writers intended it. My personal favourites that ring true to Beauty and the Beast are Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the fantastic vampire tale from Robin McKinley, Sunshine. Not necessarily obvious examples, but going back to the little girl who was stung by the cruelty of her peers, what Beauty and Beast is really about is looking beyond what is in front of you. It is about courage in the face of adversity.
Posted on June 24, 2014, in Authors, Books, Short stories, Words, Writing and tagged Authors, Beauty and the Beast, Books, Characters, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Man in the Ivory Tower, Wells Street Journal, Words, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.