I've enjoyed reading Cassie's (and friends') thorough summaries and reflective opinions of 52 adaptations on 12 fairy tales in twelve months. I also heartily disagree with their philosophy of fairy tales.
From what I've read so far, the reviewers from Tales Old as Time approach fairy tales from a very different angle. Cassie writes, in her wrap-up of the Snow White stories, that
Snow White is one of those fairy tale[sic] with not a lot to recommend it, and if Walt Disney hadn't sunk his teeth into it, it probably wouldn't be remembered much at all these days. The evidence of this is, I believe, in the way we saw the story retold this month. More than any other fairy tale we've looked at, this month's novels seem to stray far from the original plot line.
Here's where we misunderstand each other about the nature of fairy tales. Snow White is one of the most striking and influential fairy tales, one of the most universal (I'd say second only to Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast), and, if numerous adaptations of the tale and fascination with it--in art, photography, pop culture, food, fashion--wasn't enough proof of that, one only need look at the bones of the story.
Consider: a motherless child, either through maternal death or maternal neglect, approaches female maturity. Her jealous mother/stepmother, obsessed with keeping her own youth and keeping her claim to the most beautiful in the kingdom, sends the child to her death. But the child is spared, many times over: first by a huntsman, then dwarfs, then a prince's hunting caravan. She marries the prince and becomes queen of her own kingdom. The child is now a woman come into her own.
|W.C. Drupsteen, Snowdrop|
Now, the objects in the story infuse this simple narrative with a chord that is so in harmony with our human natures we have been telling it over and over again for centuries: snow, a magic mirror, a heart in a box, otherworldly caretakers, a poisonous apple.
Cassie writes, "there's just not that much to this story, and there's so much about it that is problematic."
But that's a fairy tale. If it took place in 12th century France, for instance, or in modern Turkey, it wouldn't be "once upon a time." If we knew how and why the mirror talked to the wicked queen about her rivals in beauty, it wouldn't be insidious If Snow White was ready to be kissed by a prince the moment she set out from the castle, she wouldn't have had to endure all the trials of deception and the pains of growing up.
If all the questions were answered, there would be no mystery, and it wouldn't be magic.
Exploring what about these questions grasps us so, and the beautiful potential in the lack of answers, is to me a chief function of fairy tales. They have been used in society to rebel against the status quo, reinforce social restrictions, or communicate profound religious and philosophical truths.
Except, they've done all this--and more--without having to say it. That's what makes them so powerful.