Diane Zahler is the author of several fairy tale retellings, including her newest, Princess of the Wild Swans. I love fairy tales, and I also enjoy the new twists Diane spins in her books. She was generous enough to whip up a guest post, explaining why she likes fairy tales.
Why I Like Fairy Tales by Diane Zahler
Thanks for having me on your blog, Julie! You wanted to know why I liked fairy tales – why I’ve chosen to retell these familiar stories. Well, a couple of months ago, I was searching for a document in my attic, bushwhacking through piles of mouse-nibbled clothing and heaps of discarded toys and electronics. I never found what I was looking for, but I did find two artifacts from my childhood. One was a poem I wrote in the fifth grade, and the other was a story – with illustrations – that I composed with my best friend a year later. Both were fairy tales. I’d forgotten about them completely. Seeing them again made me realize that the fairy tale trail was a route I’d been traveling for much of my life.
Why fairy tales? I think the stories tap into some of our deepest fears and longings. There’s the fear of abandonment – consider the fairy tale characters who have lost parents, and all those evil stepmothers! The fear of growing up — think of Sleeping Beauty, who as she’s about to become a woman falls asleep for a hundred years. The fear of the unknown – vengeful witches, ferocious wolves, man-eating giants, endless forests full of danger. So readers recognize their own anxieties when they read the stories.
But in most fairy tales, the main characters triumph. They complete their quests, use their wits, find love and fulfillment, live happily ever after. And readers see their own desires for happiness and success in the stories’ endings.
The original written tales are usually only a few pages long. Their characters are one-dimensional, their settings are generic (a forest, a castle). There’s a lot of room for a writer to invent details. Creating characters who can change and grow and discover their own power is enormously fun. Plus there’s all the crazy magic a writer can put into a fairy tale. Princes turned into swans, an evil Faerie land beneath a lake, a horrific eel-monster, witches and half-witches – and that’s just in Princess of the Wild Swans! There’s really no limit when it comes to inventing magical creatures or enchanted places in a fairy tale.
I’ve loved fairy tales since before I was old enough to read. So for me, the stories are a perfect springboard for creating novels that are both unique and steeped in the magic of the original tales.
Many thanks to Diane for sharing her love of fairy tales with us.
You can order Princess of the Wild Swans from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below. It is available in both print and digital format.