Once Upon A Time… These four words in themselves set the precedence for when each fairy story is set – rarely are they of a fixed period in time; scarcely ever do they refer to a specific moment. This is part of the beauty of the fairytale – it may have happened centuries ago or perhaps just yesterday, catching you unawares.
Fairytales, you see, make the seemingly impossible, possible.
As mentioned in Part I, the origin of the fairytale dates back as long ago as 1300BC, when tales were passed orally from generation to generation or through the medium of physical or dramatic theatre rather than by the written word. Originally, each story was as much for the adults in society as they were for children. It was only in the 19th and 20th century that fairy stories became more of a teaching tool for the young with authors such as Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm leading the way in Europe. Prior to this, Aesop’s Fables were the first fairy tales to be made famous in the Western World, cultivating the beginning of myth and legend that would be passed down throughout the ages.
Centuries ago, as Denny Bradbury draws upon in her soon to be released novel Borvo, there was little or no understanding of science and its effects as is known now. Instead, the mysteries of the natural world were explained as being caused by the supernatural, by magic and enchantment, with the real and the unreal blurring to create something mystical and often fearful. Denny writes of the time of Alfred the Great, of a period when there was much conflict between paganism and Christianity, when a young herbalist helps the King on a journey where the healing power of nature, often prevalent in fairytales, is viewed as witchcraft.
Fairytales are stories, often fairy-less ones; fables filled with darkness and light. Some talk of superstition and the power of evil, yet at the same time they show the strength and honesty of beauty and love, all bound together in the complexities of human nature. Cinderella’s father loves her unreservedly yet leaves her to suffer her fate at the hands of her step-family; those who behave decently are rewarded, those who’s greed and devilish nature lead them to commit foul deeds will receive their comeuppance.
Nature plays a large part in fairytales – animals talk, and nature protects just as easily as it harms as is demonstrated in Hansel & Gretel when the unsuspecting birds eat the trail of bread. Denny Bradbury feels much affinity with one aspect of nature – water – and it plays a part in many aspects of her work, as is discussed here, be it the Dorset coast in The Reunion, the lake in her short story Mirror Lake in Denagerie of Poems, or the brook her pagan healer spends time at in Borvo.
Fairytales explore the spiritual and the mystical, combining a fantastical story with the ordinariness of human nature. They speak of humble, less fortunate people outwitting the rich, whilst drawing on the bonds of family, friendship and faith. They use colours to represent different emotions – black witches for evil, snow white for purity and red for love, passion and danger.
Finally, we must not forget that there is never a Happy Ever After for those with bad intentions – just like life today. That’s the joy of fairytales – they are timeless.
To read Part I of this study of Fairytales, please click here.
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