John Patrick Pazdziora, whose wonderful fairy tale 'Ragabone' we published in Issue 5 of New Fairy Tales will be giving a paper entitled ‘ ‘‘You Know How Happy Kings Are”: The Anti-Fairytales of James Thurber’. And I am very excited to have been asked to give a reading of my fiction and to talk a little bit about New Fairy Tales. I'll be reading my anti-tale 'Raven', which was published online at Cabinet des Fées, and a new story 'Feather Girls' which is an anti-tale inspired by the swan maiden tale collected by Joseph Jacobs.
At the moment, the anti-tale is an under-researched concept, despite its being a popular form in terms of genre publishing. The symposium's organisers, Catriona McAra and David Calvin, have this to say about it:
The organisers can be contacted with any enquiries at: firstname.lastname@example.org. And I would really encourage anyone with an interest in fairy tales, who can get there, to come along and participate. It would be lovely to meet you (and for people who live too far away, I'll report back here after the event).
The anti-fairy tale has long existed as a shadow of the traditional fairy tale genre. First categorized as the 'antimärchen' in Andre Jolles' seminal Einfache Formen (c.1930), the anti-tale was found to be contemporaneous with even the oldest known examples of fairy tale collections. Rarely an outward opposition to the traditional form itself, the anti-tale takes aspects of the fairy tale genre and re-imagines, subverts, inverts, deconstructs or satirizes elements of them to present an alternate narrative interpretation, outcome or morality. Red Riding Hood may elope with the wolf. Or Bluebeard's wife is not interested in his secret chamber. Snow White's stepmother gives her own account of events and Cinderella does not exactly find the prince charming.
The anti-fairy tale takes many forms. Some revisit and deconstruct familiar narratives (as above) or formulate new stories, characters and ever-afters, relying on and subverting familiar archetypes and plot devices. Following Jolles' seminal, respected text, the subgenre of the anti-tale has become dominant, as writers such as Angela Carter, Neil Gaiman and Phillip Pullman, artists such as Kiki Smith, Anna Gaskell and Kara Walker, and filmmakers such as Matthew Bright and Jane Campion have produced a diverse collage of anti-tales.