This week has been ‘Fairy Tale Week’ for me. Please do not draw conclusions just yet. I say this not because something magical or unbelievable happened. I call it ‘Fairy Tale Week’ because both my daughters kept me busy with Fairy Tales. As you can see from my posts (other than the ones on film songs) it is online schooling and my children that have become the source of inspiration for writing as there is nothing much presently happening on other fronts.
First, it was writing a Fairy Tale with a twist (also called a ‘fractured’ fairy tale) – a group assignment given to my eight year old daughter. She is the kind that loves attention and being in command. The group chose her as their ‘leader’. She loved every moment of the attention she got. She goaded me to make a WhatsApp group for the assignment and got me to schedule a Zoom meeting with her group members. There were animated discussions in the group and each child sequentially had to write her bit.
They had to rewrite Cinderella’s story. I am sure Cinderella must be turning in her grave hearing her vicissitudes (if one were to believe for a moment that she was actually alive at some point in time !). After compiling all the parts, the onerous task of making sense of it and embellishing it with audiovisual effects was mine. In this story, one of the step sisters is shown to be kind and also doubles up as the fairy godmother.
Instead of a ball, there is a competition where beauty and brains are both tested, which of course, Cinderella wins hands down. This Cinderella rides a horse herself and reaches the venue of the competition. The glass slipper part is done away with. Thus, the entire plot is turned on its head! But the story ends on the conventional note of ‘and they lived happily ever after ‘.
The second highlight of the week that makes me call it the ‘Fairy Tale’ week has more food for thought. My daughters – eleven and eight years old – are extremely fond of Sofia the First – an animated Fairy Tale series which was earlier being aired on Disney Junior. However, of late this show has vanished from Disney Junior. Since all the four seasons were available online, they were regularly watching the episodes, one per day. For the uninitiated, the theme song (reproduced below) sums up the story of Sofia the First and what one could expect in the series.
I was a girl in the village doing alright Then I became a princess overnight Now I gotta figure out how to do it right So much to learn and see Up in the castle with my new family In a school that's just for royalty A whole enchanted world is waiting for me I'm so excited to be (Sofia the First) I'm finding out what being royal's all about (Sofia the First) Making my way it's an adventure everyday (Sofia) It's gonna be my time (Sofia) To show them all that I'm Sofia the First!
As is evident from the theme song, it is the story of a little village girl who suddenly has royalty and greatness thrust upon her as her mother marries the king. A simple and sweet girl that Sofia is, she learns the ropes (of royalty !) but preserves her innocence and helpful nature. All her adventures come with a moral which is not very overt but still makes an impact.
My girls chose to watch the “Forever Royal” episode which apparently is the last episode of season four. After the one hour long episode ended, the girls were crestfallen and restless. They then said that they had learnt from Sofia that one must help one’s loved ones, even if it means pledging one’s own life. They revealed that Sofia had died in the episode but had saved her family from danger. However, tears continued to flow. Both of them were really upset. The tragic ending was not something they had anticipated. They were both fidgety and insomniac the whole night. The younger one kept muttering in her sleep. One could clearly see that they were quite disturbed.
When I asked the younger one why she was so disconcerted, she said, “All Fairy Tales begin with Once Upon a Time.. and end with they lived happily ever after. How can the season’s finale end on this note?” They were just not able to believe that Sofia died in the episode. They made me check if there was a season five where Sofia returns. To their dismay, they found out that though a Season five was to be launched, the project was abandoned. Then they asked me to again check whether they had actually seen the whole episode. The episode was an hour long and it was reconfirmed that they had indeed seen the whole. Then they asked me to check if there was some written version of the same episode. I did check and this time I found out that the ending was indeed happy and that Sofia did return to live another day. They had watched till – Inside the Amulet, Sofia is nearly brought to her knees in defeat by Vor. It was the part after this that the truncated episode did not have, where Sofia fights back and emerges victorious.
.………. Cedric gives Sofia her amulet back. Minimus and Skye are happy that Sofia is unscathed. Amber admits that what Sofia did was the noblest thing she’d ever seen, and she admits she thought she was going to lose her sister. Sofia says that will never happen and that Amber will make a great queen as “Amber the First”, which Amber likes the sound of. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather close the special, and the series, with the logo saying “The End”.
When they read the ending of the episode, they did a jig as though they had themselves survived the ordeal. This set me thinking. The first experience of writing the ‘fractured’ fairy tale of Cinderella and the second of witnessing the inability of children to stomach a tragic ending began to merge. It made me reflect on the fact that we feed our children tales which are far from reality. Come to think of it, there are never perfect endings in life. Life is full of near misses and unfulfilled dreams. I feel it is high time we had more ‘realistic fiction‘ for children. Don’t you feel it is actually time to rewrite all fairy tales to make them a little more down to earth and believable, so that children are more tuned to reality? By doing so, failures and unanticipated endings, be it in real life or in the world of fiction, will perhaps be accepted by them with greater poise.