Slaying Genre: Let Old Tales Inspire New
One of the things I love about Neil Gaiman's writing is the way in which he can take an old tale, an archetype, a known setting, and spin it into something new and beautiful and relevant.
His newest storybook, Hansel and Gretel is a wonderful example. When I received this in the mail from my favorite online indie bookseller, I could hardly wait to bust open the packaging and see how Gaiman would alter the familiar tale. Yet I discovered few changes. Hansel is a not a cyborg (or in a more Gaiman-esque vein, not a trickster god). Gretel is no warrior queen. Everything that happens in the original version (just released in a fabulous collection with all the other original stories gathered by the Brothers Grimm), happens in this tale.
The changes here are much more subtle. A word or phrase is added for emphasis. The setting is introduced as a place of fear and conflict, a representation of primal terror. Strikingly, characters in this tale are said to be closer to the forest than we are now, underscoring their alliance, perhaps, to the darker possibilities of humanity. For me, this shift in focus to the darkness of the forest (underscored by the lovely illustrations by Lorenzo Mattotti), uncovered a new world, a deeper connection to the tale.
Every story, whether told once or many times, is about the possibilities the writer is able to find and explore within it. With sure and sensual prose, and an eye toward carving out the subtleties of language and meaning, we can, much like Gaimain, reimagine and tell tales that will continue to be meaningful.
Interested in finding new ways to tell stories? Take KL's 10 Weeks, 10 Stories course at Grub Street HQ, or the shorter, but no less inspiring 6 Weeks, 6 Stories course in Salem, both starting on January 12! Sign up before these popular classes fill up!
KL Pereira's chapbook, Impossible Wolves was published by Deathless Press is 2013. Her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are forthcoming or appear in The Drum Literary Magazine, Shimmer Zine, Lightning Cake, The Golden Key, Innsmouth Free Press, Innsmouth Magazine, Mythic Delirium, Jabberwocky, The Medulla Review, Bitch Magazine and other publications. Pereira’s work on fairy tales, sexuality, Wonder Woman, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are featured on Studio 360 and other radio programs, cited in numerous publications, and assigned in courses all over the United States and Canada. Find Pereira online on klpereira.com and @kl_pereira.See other articles by KL Pereira