Have you noticed how popular fairy tales are today? Not only do we have Grimm, Once Upon a Time, and Beauty and the Beast on television, all of them dealing directly with modern interpretations of old fables and fairy tales, but Snow White and the Huntsman was so big a hit that even with the controversy surrounding a certain actress’s indiscretions, they’re planning a second one.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (starring Jeremy Renner) will be out in the next few months, and earlier this year we had Mirror, Mirror, yet another Snow White tale, out in theaters. There’s also Supernatural on TV, where the grimmest of the old fairy tales generally turn out to be true.
But what is it about fairy tales that makes them so popular today? The cynical part of me wants to say that it’s because the stories aren’t owned by anyone, which makes them some of the cheapest intellectual property around. While that may be part of it, though, I think it’s more than that.
Fairy tales are the first spooky tales I ever remember hearing. Stories that scare me a little tend to stay with me. And according to the Brothers Grimm, some of them are pretty violent. In the original version of Cinderella, for instance, one of the evil stepsisters cuts off her toes so her foot will fit in the glass (or rather, fur) slipper. I suppose all that means they translate pretty well for contemporary audiences.
Most of all, though, in fairy tales the good guys win. The bad guys are punished, usually with some pretty awesome poetic justice. And we know who the heroes and evildoers are. Snow White might not realize right away that she needs to look out for her stepmother, but the reader or the audience knows it. And that’s kind of comforting, I think.
Do you like fairy tales? What’s your favorite screen translation of a fairy tale? Do you think the messages still apply, or are they too simplified for life today?