There is a definite melancholic feel to today's booklet, two of the three tales have unhappy endings; only Rapunzel and the King's son are permitted a 'happily ever after' although even this comes after years of traumatic separation. In her afterword AS Byatt calls Andersen 'an emotional terrorist' and recalls that her 'first experience of a bad ending, of pain and loss, was Andersen's Little Mermaid, who has her tongue cut out and her tail sliced into legs so that she feels she is "walking on knives" – and yet cannot gain her prince. In the Grimms's bounded and wonderful world she would have gained her prince.'
Byatt also starts with the interesting question 'How do we read a tale?' and her examination of the abstract in fairy tales and the difference between the ones in which we remain outsiders, and those like Andersen's which make us feel, is a fascinating, thought-provoking read. She notes,
'As I grow older, the fact of the existence of the world's huge compendium of changing and unchangeable tales seems to me more, not less, mysterious. How can they so steadily resemble each other, wherever they come from? How can they be so abstract and so concrete?'
The fantastic illustrations in today's booklet, by Emily Forgot, aren't represented half as well online - where several have been cropped or even omitted - as they are on paper so if you can get hold of the paper booklet, today is one you really don't want to miss!
Tomorrow's booklet is 'Quests and riddles' and we have Rumpelstiltskin, The Sleeping Prince, The Boy Who Set Out to Learn Fear and The Hare and the Lion to look forward to.
The illustration above is by Emily Forgot and features in The Little Mermaid.