By Ania Vesenny
According to Italo Calvino, fairy tales are a great example of quickness in literature. It is no surprise, then, that Vestal Review’s newest issue is devoted to fairy tales.
When I was a child, I spent hours a day reading Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen. Despite the often overwhelming sadness and tragedy that infused Andersen’s fairy tales, I re-read them, year after year, with the same delight.
As I read fairy tales to my children, instead of the joy, I often experience annoyance. How cloying these old stories have become! Disney’s “Little Mermaid” is not the same tragic, but hauntingly beautiful and gentle story written by H. C. Andersen almost two hundred years ago. Though I cried when I read the original, I was enriched by those tears. Do centuries-old fairy tales have to be rewritten to have neatly-wrapped happy endings? I search for old editions and avoid anything abridged.
I have to remind myself, though, that the storytellers of the past routinely altered the endings so that the tales remained relevant to their listeners. The modern versions, with their syrupy simplifications, do reflect significant themes in our society. When it comes to literature, we tend to guard young children from strong emotions.
This issue of Vestal Review, however, returns to the tradition of fairy tales being told mostly for the benefit of adults. In addition to alternate endings, you will witness your favorite characters in modern context of obsession and celebrity adulation: characters previously silent are given voices, and details or experiences formerly obscured are brought to the forefront.
It was a particular pleasure to read for this issue. I love fairy tales, after all. I hope that you, too, will enjoy these stories.
Birds by Aimee Bender
Cinderella’s Two-Minute Tell-All by Jason Nemec
Mermaid by A. A. Balaskovits
Growth Rings by Maia Harrison
Surface Tension by Maia Harrison
Talking to Strangers by Cynthia Larsen
And the Rain Kept Falling by Steven Nordhauser
All the Hansels and All the Gretels by Stephen Ornes