My next book, The Cake, the Wolf and the Witch is about three very modern children, but it is also populated by characters from well known fairy tales. My exceedingly reluctant hero, Max is unhappy enough about his dad’s wedding but he’s unhappier still when he gets whirled away in a wooden wedding cake to the Land of Ever After, which seems to be a very very long way from the hotel Max thought he was in. He’s even more disconcerted when he meets a very lifelike, talking wolf and very soon he can’t move for fairy tale characters, all of whom are frightened because their happy endings have started going horribly wrong. They want him to go on a terrifying quest but all Max wants is to get back to the hotel.
Once I knew I wanted to write about characters from fairy tales, they came into my head without a fight, sliding in from doors propped permanently open somewhere in my brain. And that got me thinking just how much the old tales are a part of us all. We have a shared understanding when we think of these stories, their dynamics, their morals, their endings – either happy or sad. They’ve helped build us into the people we are.
BUT is my Cinderella your Cinderella? Is my gingerbread man your gingerbread man? When you picture a character from an old story are you picturing an illustration from a particular old favourite book of tales? I thought I’d show you mine. This copy of Hans Anderson stories was owned by my mother before me and was printed in 1938. I think I loved it even more because it had been my mum’s book first.
I spent ages staring and staring at the pictures by Edmund du Lac, particularly this one of the Princess and the Pea – I think I probably wanted to be that Princess.
Or if not her, Gerda or the Robber Girl from The Snow Queen
I grew up and life went on. The book got moved from house to house and put into lofts where it eventually became popular with some mice.
But I still have it. And even if I didn’t, I think I’d still remember the illustrations.
I’d love it if you’d share your first fairy tales with me. Why not comment here, or send me and the rest of the world a tweet? @Maudiesmith