{Guest Post} The Evolution of Fairy Tales with author Random Jordan

Today's guest post with author Random Jordan was supposed to go live during Fairy Tale Fortnight, but we goofed and missed it!

Check out The Book Rat today for another guest post from author Random Jordan!

Random Jordan is a self-proclaimed folklorist and frequent writer of all fashion of fiction with a particular focus of weaving LGBT themes into faerie tales, like their most recent series, Beyond Ever After, following Red Riding Hood twenty years after her encounter with the Big Bad Wolf.

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The Evolution of Fairy Tales 
by Random Jordan

These days you are hard pressed to throw out the words ‘fairy tale’ without Disney being mentioned at some point. Mostly, this occurred because Disney had taken over as the major provider of fairy tales in the last couple decades, with Pixar and similar companies adding a few as well. And as much as we may occasionally be frustrated with Disney’s interpretations of Snow White or praise their interpretation of Rapunzel, the truth is, there isn’t a single Disney fairy tale that wasn’t altered (if not multiple times) over the course of that tale’s existence.

What am I talking about? The evolution of the fairy tales we all have come to love and know. From Cinderella to Red Riding Hood and beyond, many of our tales didn’t always start off as the tales we knew. In fact many of them had entirely different names and came from different cultures. So to bring us back to the days of what fairy tales used to be, let’s look at the history of a few of them!

Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad… 

Of course I have to start with Red Riding Hood, and it’s not just because of my love of the tale, but also because it is actually one of the oldest and easily traceable tales that is continually redone. The most famous version is probably the one from the Brother’s Grimm, but the tale was originally told throughout France from as early as the 10th Century and possibly even earlier thanks to similarities to tales from China (One of which was called The False Grandmother).

The reason for its existence that young in France was largely due to many werewolf trials that were going on in France around those times. This meant that the villain was often a werewolf and not just a wolf, but some versions of the tale would mention a fox (like the oriental one who believed foxes were shapeshifters) and others had ogres instead. The biggest variation that vanished when Perrault first published Little Red Riding Hood was the absence of the cannibalism that Red Riding Hood unwittingly participated in, by drinking and eating her own grandmother.

By the time Perrault got a hold of the tale, he decided to go in a different direction with it, keeping the famous ‘what big ears you have’ and similar dialogue between the ‘wolf’ and Red, but instead of the ‘happy’ ending in the previous versions, this one resulted in Red being eaten by the wolf… the end. It was discovered by Andrew Lang at first that the tale had been mistold with Perrault, and actually was mentioned that the red hood she wore repelled the wolf away in the story. This was probably largely because of the oral tradition that tale had been passed around as before, leaving many variations of it.

When we finally get to the Grimm Brothers, we discover they heavily reinvent the story to the point of almost all the dark themes (including anyone being eaten) had been removed and we are finally left with a tale that results in Red Riding Hood being saved by a huntsman and then later on using her knowledge to trap and kill another wolf. Many people don’t know, but because Walt Disney loved the tale so much as the Grimms interpreted it, he made an animated short of the tale, that follows the Grimm version rather well.

Today, we get more feminist interpretations of Red Riding Hood, or ones devoted to the sexual themes often thought of in the tale, like with Angela Carter’s short in The Bloody Chamber. 

Cinder and Ashes 

Another tale that had ran through the orient/China and Perrault is Cinderella, which has probably become the most well-known tale across the world and throughout various cultures. Her name and nicknames may have changed frequently throughout history, but the story has almost always kept to a similar design, a nice girl is mistreated by wicked people who also call her a name associated with ashes, fire, or dust, and is helped by a supernatural force that is sometimes a representation of her mother till she is married off wealthy and away from the wicked people.

There are so many interpretations of this tale that I could never discuss them all, so since we already largely know about the Disney version we will look at the older ones, starting with the three stories that are most speculated as the oldest versions of Cinderella. The first is Rhodopis, which comes from Egypt and was recorded first at the turn of BC to AD, it was supposedly based on a real person this happened to though there is no real evidence to back that up. It had a focus on the famous shoes, though it was not a glass slipper.

Under similar context, the tale to come from China, called Yeh-hshien, focuses on a magical fish helping a young girl, and a golden shoe ends up being used to bring the prince to the girl, instead of glass.

By the time Perrault took over the tale, he incorporated the element of a fairy godmother and this story is largely where Disney had taken the tale from (minus the dancing and singing birds and mice). Perrault’s version is probably the most largely known version across the world, having been translated various times and thanks to Disney using most all the same elements, including the pumpkin carriage and glass slipper.

Before long, the Grimm Brothers got ahold of the tale, and gave her the name of the Ash Girl (Asheputtel or Aschenputtel). This version surprisingly is not as well known, as it brings entirely different elements forward, with the focus on a tree the girl planted on her mother’s grave that helps her with magic instead of a godmother. The tale surprisingly brings dark elements into the story, when there wasn’t ones before, by ending with the step sisters having their eyes pecked out.

More recently you can find massively different interpretations of the tale, like one, ASH by Malinda Lo, which focuses on Cinderella falling for a woman connected to the prince, and needing to deal with getting out of her relation with the prince.

Persinette and Rapunzel 

With a quick touch to one of the more recent Disney princesses to surface, we can see Rapunzel only having a minor history compared to others, with her first appearance somewhere around the 1600s with an incredibly different villain that was an ogress rather than a witch. Years later, Persinette appeared in Italy, with a much darker variation where it is a fairy that takes Persinette from her family and raises her. The fairy isn’t defeated like in other versions, but instead lets go of her wrath and lets them be before both the lover and Persinette die.

Eventually, once again the Grimm brothers took hold of this tale and ripped away most of the sexual references made between her and her lover, and changed the fairy villain into a sorceress (or eventually witch). This is also the earliest appearance of the name Rapunzel, and largely has created the most known version of this story today, which was later used as the base for the Disney movie, though with a slight change to the ending in the Disney version, where the lover (blinded by the witch) and Rapunzel were cast into the desert to wander until they found each other again.

The End? 

Regardless of which version of the tale you might enjoy best, it is clear that fairy tales will continually be revised and retold with different names and different endings, and maybe even a nod to some of the old tales. As for why? Maybe it is just because these tales manage to ring well with us. After all, many of us today have grown up with these tales in our childhood and when something has you young like that, it tends to stick with you.
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Random Jordan
Release Date: Oct. 18, 2012
Publisher: Random Jordan

Gnidori has not always been a bounty hunter; in fact her first job was as a simple delivery girl wearing her trademark hooded red cloak. However, after her choice surrender of her former position as a Faerie Godmother, she was left with a young girl she had very nearly married to Prince Charming, and an entirely new life filled with simple quietness. That is, after she sealed away her magical talents. Why was her magic sealed away? Well, as she would put it: nothing is ever simple when magic is involved. 

Years with her magic stripped from her, and Gnidori is drawn into a plot spurred on by Prince Charming once more. She finds herself seeking the Big Bad Wolf, who has returned from death and comes to realize there is more to what is going on than she was told. Before long she encounters a tower fuming yellow smoke and a baby fox born from a human heart. 

But that's only the beginning. Can Gnidori survive pirates, faeries, dragons, mirror spirits, time spells, gnomes; and even the most sinister of all: Bluebeard's Tower? And all without access to her magic?... or maybe she does have it? 

Beyond Ever After is a series following the chronicles of Red Riding Hood with countless other Faerie and Folktale characters long after or even before their happily ever after. This is not a faerie tale retelling; it asks the great question: What happens beyond the happily ever after?