{Guest Post} Fairy Tales with Author Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

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Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
on the right with Jane Rubino
 Photography courtesy
 of the authors
Caitlen Rubino-Bradway is the author of the hilarious middle-grade novel ORDINARY MAGIC and the co-author of LADY VERNON AND HER DAUGHTER: A Novel of Jane Austen's Lady Susan, which she wrote with her mother. Caitlen lives and writes in New York City.

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This is Caitlen's second guest post with ABS, and I always love chatting with her.  The woman is hilarious--and, um, so is her writing!

Fairy Tales with Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

Since I’ve become a grown-up, I’ve realized that I’m starting to regard fairy tales differently.  Not all of them.  Just certain ones. I’ve found, looking at them again with an adult perspective, I have a lot more trouble buying them than I did as a kid.  It’s their…I’m going to go with ‘lack of basic common sense.’  I’m fine with the parade of anthropomorphized, talking animals, but seriously, Snow White — you know that a psychopath with a talent for disguises and poisons is out to kill you.  How many times do the dwarves have to tell you not to open the door?

Take Sleeping Beauty, for instance.  It occurs to me the only reason that story turns out the way it does is because the Beauty King and Queen are the worst parents ever.  Okay, maybe not ‘ever,’ but every choice they make is the wrong one.  It not only never occurs to them to buy, or make, or even borrow another golden plate so that they can invite all of the Official Fairies to the birthday banquet, which is what leads to all of that cursing trouble, but they apparently deal with their daughter’s curse by keeping her completely ignorant of both the curse itself and what exactly a spinning wheel is.  This is baffling to me.  I mean, as a reader I understand why this has to happen, but as a fully-fledged grown-up it drives me up the wall.  In fact, I’d like to think the real lesson of Sleeping Beauty is that parents should be honest with their children.  Seriously, Your Majesties.  This whole thing could’ve been avoided if you just sat your daughter down and explained: 1) that an evil fairy cursed her, 2) what exactly the terms of the curse were, 3) what a spinning wheel was and how it worked and, especially, 4) what a spindle looked like.

On a side note, it makes me appreciate the charming and funny THE WIDE-AWAKE PRINCESS so much more.  It’s a middle grade fantasy by E.D. Baker where the heroine’s older sister has the Sleeping Beauty Curse, but her family actually does inform her of what’s going on and takes steps to prevent it, which means the villain has to be a little crafty in achieving her goals.
[BONUS! My review of THE WIDE-AWAKE PRINCESS.  I agree with Caitlen...I ADORE this book! Please read it!]

But the worst fairy tale for me, as a grown up, is Rumpelstiltskin, because while Sleeping Beauty does eventually wake up, along with everybody else in the castle, I’m not sure I buy Rumpelstiltskin’s happy-ever-after as much.  I’ve even gotten into lengthy and repeated fights with the Little Girl I sit for over it.  She went through a fairy tale kick where she wanted to hear Rumpel, the Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, The Three Spinners, and Mother Hubbard over and over again, which I absolutely loved, but which lead to this realization.  The Little Girl sees nothing wrong with it, and when I was a kid, neither did I.  I completely accepted that Rumpelstiltskin was the bad guy, and that the miller’s daughter got her just rewards in marrying the king, but as an adult…  Let’s just say that as someone who now has to hold down a job and pay for rent and worry about taxes, I’m a little more forgiving of Rump’s behavior.  We all got to get paid, right?  Okay, the ‘first born child’ thing is both extreme and creepy, but the first two nights he simply asked for jewelry.  And let’s not forget why Betsy (in my head the miller’s daughter is a Betsy) agrees to hand over her first kid.  It’s because, for the third night in a row, the king had locked her in a tower and demanded she spin on pain of death.  He was going to kill her — and, in some versions I’ve read, her father, too.  Not the most romantic of gestures, even if he is a king, which is probably why I’ve also seen a number of modern interpretations add a kind and much more reasonable prince for Betsy to marry.  I supposed having the King as a father-in-law is a step up from husband, but I still didn’t love it. 

©Illustrator Lane Brown
Which is why, when I told Rumpelstiltskin, Betsy refuses to marry the King, and instead goes to the police and has the King arrested on charges of kidnapping, imprisonment, and threatening to kill her, which the police are only too happy to do because, look, if a guy is going to get all life-or-death over some straw, odds are he’s got a lot worse skeletons in his closet.  There ends up being a very long investigation, because it takes quite a bit to dig up everything that’s buried in that dungeon, especially after they discover that second room — the one with all the hooks — but it’s a very short trial, and the argument over who gets to swing the axe ends up taking twice as long as it did to deliberate over the verdict. Afterwards they decide they’re done with kings and instead set up a council of elected officials — all men, of course, but it’s Fairy Tale Times, what can you do? — and it isn’t perfect but it is a lot better.  Betsy gets around the whole first-born-child thing by deciding never to have kids, and instead opens a legal office to fight for the rights of those unlawfully imprisoned by royalty everywhere and raising Welsh corgis on the side, both for fun and to pay for her dad to get the dementia treatment he so clearly needs.  Rumpelstiltskin checks in now and again about the children thing, but he doesn’t mind too much, and eventually the checking in turns into cards, and letters, and in time they’re meeting up for brunch every weekend at that bakery down the road.  At his birthday brunch one year, Betsy gives him a corgi, and they never really say it but they both agree that this covers the first-born clause.  Especially after it turns out the corgi has absolutely excellent confirmation, and Rumpelstiltskin gets really into showing dogs, which leads to that one crazy weekend when they traveled to the kingdom far, far away for the Far, Far Away Kennel Club Competition —

— and usually this is around the time that the Little Girl will tell me to stop and demand that I tell it the right way, which inevitably leds to a heated debate over whether or not there is a right way to tell a story that has six million different versions, and usually ends with me pointing out that I have a Masters in English Literature, whereas she’s still in First Grade, which means that if she tries to throw down with me about storytelling, I am Always Going To Win.  (Though we have negotiated to re-open the argument if she ever chooses to get a PhD.)

Childish arguments notwithstanding, I rather like my version, and not just because I am an Official Writer Person.  Everyone should have their own version of fairy tales, I think, so we can all take away from them what we think is most important.  For me, for right now, that’s just a little common sense.
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

My review of ORDINARY MAGIC!
A Guest Post on World Building with Author Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
An Interview with Bloomsbury Art Director Donna MarkCover Designer of ORDINARY MAGIC!


In Abby’s world, magic isn’t anything special: it’s a part of everyday life. So when Abby learns that she has zero magical abilities, she’s branded an “Ord”—ordinary, bad luck, and quite possibly a danger to society. 

The outlook for kids like Abby isn’t bright. Many are cast out by their families, while others are sold to treasure hunters (ordinary kids are impervious to spells and enchantments). Luckily for Abby, her family enrolls her in a school that teaches ordinary kids how to get around in a magical world. But with treasure-hunting kidnappers and carnivorous goblins lurking around every corner, Abby’s biggest problem may not be learning how to be ordinary—it’s whether or not she’s going to survive the school year!


  1. Ordinary Magic was already on my to-read list, but now I really want to read it. And Wide Awake Princess is super cute!

  2. I wish Caitlen had been my babysitter! What a fun way to tell the Rumplestiltskin story. I loved that! I can't wait to read these two books!



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