Tales, Then and Now: More Folktales as Literary Fictions for Young Adults

By Anna E. Altmann; Gail De Vos | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Folktales for Today's Readers:
Tried, Tested, and New

In spite of a great deal of evidence to the contrary, most adults and teenagers think of folktales as children's stories. Certainly we usually encounter them first in childhood, most often in picture books: The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Bean Stalk, Cinderella. But the extraordinarily durable threads of folktales run through our daily adult lives as well. An internationally respected Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, is wooing readers with a banner advertisement on the front page that reads: "Cinderella had a fairy godmother./globeandmail.com/Your competitive edge." A variation on this ad points out that "The third pig had bricks" as his "competitive edge." Then there are the television ads for the Ford Windstar. One shows the three little pigs hustling into the vehicle and slamming the doors on the big bad wolf. Another has Grandma pulling up in her Ford in the nick of time to save Little Red Riding Hood. One of the widely syndicated "Bizarro" cartoons (January 14,2000) showed "GOLDILOCKS & THE SURVIVING MEMBER OF THE ORIGINAL 3 BEARS RENUNION TOUR," and another, published just before Christmas 1999, showed Hansel and Gretel's gingerbread house behind a chainlink fence with a big sign in front of it: "CONDEMNED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. Coming Summer 2000, BRAN MUFFIN TOWNHOMES."

Folktales are common currency in today's adult world, not only in the allusive or parodic snippets I've just cited from mass media, but in films, television programs, poems, novels, short stories, stage musicals, operas, and ballet. We're in the middle of a folktale boom, and the new versions come in all shapes and in all types of media. In the year 2000, for example, at one end of the range was the most beautiful book of traditional tales I have ever seen, Fairy Tales, written by Berlie Doherty and illustrated by Jane Ray. The stories are well-crafted retellings of a selection of folktales from a number of sources. The illustrations by Jane Ray are extraordinarily lovely and make the book worth buying no matter how many collections you already own. At the other end of the range is the live-action television mini-series The 10th Kingdom, which was broadcast on NBC during prime

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