Lately I have been thinking a lot about what fairy stories mean to me and what they might mean to my 3 1/2 year old girl as she grows. I remember when she first learned to use the word ‘once’ and the particular magic of that word (although ‘please’ is also pretty nice as magic words go). And then yesterday she told me this story:
Once upon a time there was a princess who got ate by a shark. And then a good mermaid saved her and the bad mermaid didn’t get burned in the fire. The end.
And then I picked up AS Byatt’s wonderful The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye and read this from ‘The Story of the Eldest Princess’:
‘You are a born storyteller,’ said the old lady. ‘You had the sense to see you were caught in a story, and the sense to see that you could change it to another one. And the special wisdom to recognise that you are under a curse — which is also a blessing — which makes the story more interesting to you than the things that make it up. There are young women who would never have listened to the creatures’ tales about the Woodman, but insisted on finding out for themselves. And maybe they would have been wise and they would have been foolish: that is their story. But you listened to the Cockroach and stepped aside and came here, where we collect stories and spin stories and mend what we can and investigate what we can’t, and live quietly without striving to change the world. We have no story of our own here, we are free, as old women are free, who don’t have to worry about princes or kingdoms, but dance alone and take an interest in the creatures.’
And I thought, I think we’ll be okay. Maybe not happily ever after, but definitely okay. Happy Easter to you and all the creatures!