Tunes for a Monday Morning
Deep in the Forest, a guest post by Valerianna Claff

Into the Woods, 13: Once Upon a Time, Re-imagining Fairy Tales

Illustration from East of the Sun, West of the Moon, by Kay Nielson

" 'Once upon a time,' the stories would particular time, fictional time, fairy-story time. This is a doorway; if you're lucky, you go through it as a child, aurally, before you can read, and if you are very lucky, you become a free citizen of an ancient republic and can come and go as you please. These stories are deeply embedded in my imagination. As I grew up and became a writer, I found myself going back and using them, retelling them ever since, working partly on the principle that a tale which has been around for centuries is highly likely to be a better story than one I just made up yesterday; and partly on the deep sense that they can tell more truth, more economically, than slices of contemporary realism. The stories are so tough and shrewd formally that I can use them for anything I want -- feminist revisioning, psychological exploration, malicious humour, magical realism, nature writing. They are generous, true, and enchanted."  - Sara Maitland

Detail from an illustration by Kay Nielsen

"Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life."  - Johann C. Friedrich von Schiller

A detail from Kay Nielsen's ''Deliverance of the Three Princesses''

"Do people choose the art that inspires them — do they think it over, decide they might prefer the fabulous to the real? For me, it was those early readings of fairy tales that made me who I was as a reader and, later on, as a storyteller."  - Alice Hoffman

"For most of human history, 'literature,' both fiction and poetry, has been narrated, not written -- heard, not read. So fairy tales, folk tales, stories from the oral tradition, are all of them the most vital connection we have with the imaginations of the ordinary men and women whose labor created our world."  - Angela Carter

Illustration 2 by Kay Nielsen

The illustrations above are by the great Kay Nielsen (1886-1957). To learn more about his enchanted and tragic life in Denmark and California, go here.For further reading on the authors quoted in the post, follow the links above.