The Dark Side of Fairy Tales

Often when I’m talking to people about my work in fairy tales, they get very excited about the idea of ‘the dark side’ of fairy tales. I’m always a little bemused. Personally, I love the sparkly side, but, then again, I do love that early Cinderellas were quite capable of murder and that Finette threatens to knock Rich-Craft out with a hammer. Maybe I do like the dark side, after all? Providing there’s enough sparkle to balance it.

But today, I just had to share with you this clip of Breaking Bad‘s Mike Ehrmantraut reading fairy tales (discovered via Hello Giggles). It’s wonderful. And very very dark.

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You didn’t know about magical lobsters?

There are days when I really love my research. There’s a brilliant essay in Women Writers in Pre-Revolutionary France: Strategies of Emancipation. It’s Kathryn Hoffmann’s “Matriarchal Desires and Labyrinths of the Marvelous: Fairy Tales by Old Regime Women.” She had me at “The childless queen in La Biche au bois [The Hind in the Woods] complains that she is unhappy, and at the moment of her complaint, a magical lobster appears” (283).

Magical lobster

Magical lobster

I wish a magical lobster would appear whenever I was sad!

Hoffman’s essay captures the spirit and the humour of writers like d’Aulnoy. After reading her article, I settled down with my collection of tales to re-read them anew. There’s something inspiring about her descriptions and her insights into how desire is constructed in the tales. Her writing is absolutely beautiful too. She concludes, “Drawing from the myths of old, adding new elements of their own imagination, they traced new paths of fantasy, palimpsests of female desire written over and among the tracings of the patriarchs” (295). Brilliant!