Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tales As Old As Time

Magnet # 177: Carmen Key's Beast and Beauty

Material:  Plastic

Purchased By:  Me

Tell a Fairy Tale Day is coming up on February 26, so this might be a good time to start picking out the right story if you'd like to join in. And given how long these stories have been told and how many civilizations they span, there are so many to choose from, the possibilities are almost endless.

Fairy tales are an ancient tradition dating all the way back to at least Ancient Egypt. As these stories were all told orally and passed down through generations before being recorded, it's hard to tell just how old they are. It's almost amazing that nobody thought to write them down and sell them until the 1800's, when the Brothers Grimm began to do so. The pair focused mainly on German fairy tales, but once news of their success spread, others began to follow in their footsteps, collecting tales from varying countries such as Ireland, Russia, and England. One of their most noteworthy followers was the Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson, who was renowned in his native country for his beloved tales, although quite often they didn't have happy endings.

For centuries, fairy tales had been intended for both adults and children, and considering their unusual details and sometimes shocking endings, I think that they might have better been left entirely to adults. Twists and turns like these definitely made for grimm fairy tales - you might want to skip this part if you're easily disturbed. For example, Cinderella was originally said to have possibly killed her first stepmother to have her father marry another woman. And when the time came for her stepsisters to try on the slipper, prompted by their horrible mother, one cut off her heel to fit it, the other her big toe - then pigeons peck out their eyes, leaving them blind beggars. As for Show White, the wicked Queen originally wanted to eat her liver and lungs for dinner, and instead of simply falling off a cliff at the story's end, she was forced to dance in red hot iron shoes until she fell down, dead. And the poor Little Mermaid gives up everything to suffer walking on feet that hurt like knives for a prince that marries another woman, and then she turns into seafoam at the end of her story. I guess at least she goes to heaven in a later version. Finally, Sleeping Beauty was not, in fact, awakened by true love's kiss in her original tale. Instead, the one of the twins the prince had impregnated her with while she was sleeping managed to wake her up. He later takes them to his castle where his mother, an ogre, tries to eat them before being cooked alive herself. And then they live happily ever after. Yes, some may criticize Disney for altering these age-old fairy tales, but I think in some cases, it was a good idea. Kids certainly don't need to see this stuff onscreen, and speaking as an adult (more or less), I'll pass on these gruesome details in my animated fairy tales.

Be careful which version of a fairy tale you pick if you choose to tell a fairy tale this Friday. As far as I can find, Beauty and the Beast, which is featured on this magnet, is a fairly safe choice (well, he may have become a beast because he seduced an orphan girl).  This lovely watercolor image was done by the talented Carmen Keys, a talented artist who lives in California.  She's painted some lovely pictures of fairies, angels, mermaids, and illustrations like this one.  I love her whimsical, innocent style and I think it's perfectly suited to her images.  If you'd like to see more of her art, you can stop by her website at  And don't forget to select a favorite fairy tale to tell this Friday - if you don't have a little one to read to in person, you can always call one, or perhaps an older relative.  And if you're feeling really ambitious, there are plenty of people in hospitals or retirement communities who'd probably enjoy hearing your tale.  So pick one out, share it with someone special, and brighten their day.


  1. I have to agree with you that Disney did a service to the world by making movies that were much less gruesome than the original tales. But what about one of the all time favorite fairy tales Cinderella?

  2. Well...I guess they could have left in the part where the stepsisters cut off parts of their feet - is that what you mean?