Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City, to take back the child you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me.–Labyrinth
Ah, but such tales do have power over us. Fairy tales, legends, and mythology, magical stories of goblin kings and fantastical creatures, princesses, quests, faraway castles, evil queens—they cast a spell on us even today.
I’m not speaking about Disney fairy tales, but the “original” stories that were often… Grimm. Those violent, darkly erotic, bloody tales of things that go bump in the night. They encompass our fear of the unknown, darkness closing in, risk to our immortal souls, the possible victory of darkness over light forever. Pulse racing, heart hammering, spine chilling tales, I still can’t get enough.
Here be dragons.
These tales both haunt and fascinate me. What if Jareth the Goblin King had succeeded in wooing Sarah? Just how close did Lily come to killing the unicorn in Legend? What if Sam and Frodo hadn’t made it up the side of the mountain to cast the One Ring into the fire?
I love many of the modern Disney movies, but I wonder if they’ve done a disservice to the fairy tale. The gruesome or painful ends of so many of my favorite tales have been forgotten. The “bump in the night” thrill has been lost. The pain, grief, and sacrifice—a huge part of the human condition—has been prettied up into “they lived happily ever after.”
But if you read the original fairy tales, you find the truth. Not every princess found her prince. In fact, sometimes a great price was paid for that love, and the love was still lost. This theme haunts me, permeating everything I write, and I can trace it back to one main influencing work. The original “Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen.
For love, she gave up her voice. For love, she walked on two feet, even while pain like knives stabbed her viciously with each step. And in the end, her prince chose another woman, and she was doomed to 300 years of service to mankind, trying to earn her immortal soul. Oh, what a lovely agonizing tail… er… tale.
In comments, tell me an unhappy or brutal ending to a fairy tale story that haunts or delights you to be entered to win a free download of my romantic fantasy novella, Survive My Fire; a White Dragon mug; and your choice of a fairy tale DVD (may I suggest Labyrinth, Legend, Pan’s Labyrinth, MirrorMask, just to name a few; to be ordered after the winner is selected in case of a non-USA winner).