November 11th, 2012
A long, long time ago, when the Belladonna girls were just tiny little wannabe princesses, separated by years and borders, they fell in love with the same anime. They watched it over and over again, utterly mesmerized by the characters, the dresses, and the magical music on the screen… The anime in question was an adaption of The Swan Lake – and we were both rooting for the bad princess: Odile (thinking the nice one, Odette, a bit of a whining bore).
The prince and the whining bore
(Movie: Ai no Mizuumi, 1981)
Years passed by, suddenly we were adults and the movie The Black Swan hit the silver screen. Once again we were mesmerized, by the characters, the dresses and the music – still rooting for the bad half of the princess (and thinking the nice one a bit of a bore).
We have always loved fairytales, no less now than when we were kids. Though the way we read them may have changed and the versions of the tales that we choose are not necessarily Disney’s, the adoration of the genre is the same. The wonderful thing about fairytales is that they are meant to be retold, they are adaptable and can be applied to all times and generations. The themes explored in the stories are universal, though the conclusions may vary depending on when and by whom it is told. The Belladonna girls have loved watching all the new versions and retellings that has popped up over the last decade, both as books and on the screen. Though some of it has been…not so good, it’s still interesting to see how the old stories are told in our time.
The Black Swan is a great example of how an old tale is retold and given the patina of our century (psychology, repressed emotions, shadow-self) along with the more eternal themes (wicked twin) the characters aren’t as black and white as Disney would like for us to think, and many retelling projects have aimed to explore and explain the evil ones’ behavior. The result is that we, as adult, still enjoy the stories, though perhaps on another level than we did when we were kids.
Nathalie Portman as the Black Swan (Odile)
(Movie: Black Swan, 2010)
… And fairytales weren’t really meant for children either. As most of us know by now, fairytales were originally not about sparkly unicorns and cotton candy (though the early unicorn was indeed a vicious and deadly beast). In an early version of the story Sleeping Beauty was taken for dead and raped by the king in the forest, later she gives birth to two children which she smuggles into the castle, roast and feed to the king (who said that the fairytale princesses of old were powerless girls with frilly dresses?). In another early fairytale Red Riding Hood takes her clothes off and burns them before entering the bed with the wolf in grandma’s clothing. Why does she do that? A sacrificial act? A rite of passage, with red symbolizing the female blood and all? The reason Odile caught our imagination when we were young is probably because she had power and sass, and sexual allure – she wasn’t about to sit put and let destiny unfold – and she would do whatever it took to get what wanted, morals (and mortals) be damned… In many ways she was a healthier role model for young girls than kind and obedient Odette.
The Wicked Queen (Charlize Theron) in the latest Snow White adaption
(Movie: Snow White and the Huntsman, 2012)
Empowering the princesses have been all the rage the past couple of decades, suddenly even Disney’s girls are clever and ambitious – but can they be dark too? What really goes on beneath that mane of golden/copper/raven hair and the star-studded tiaras? Under those silken skirts? Let’s face it… without wicked there is no story, only a happily ever after, and that would indeed make for a very dull tale…
We want to put together an anthology that explores darkness in fairytales. We want the wild forests, the old castles and tales told in cold winter nights. And we want princesses. With princesses we do not necessarily mean of royal blood, but one or more of the characters should fit the traditional role somehow. The darkness in question can come from within, but it doesn’t have to do that either, it can be a threat from outside; a curse or other forced circumstances – the possibilities are endless…
We hope to gather stories that bring something new to the genre or put a whole new spin on something we already love. We want a mixture of retellings and all new fairytales – we also hope to see some cultural variation, it doesn’t all have to be Grimm.
Finally: A pinch of gothic is never wrong… Give us those juicy black apples!
Witchy sisters gathering firewood
(Movie: Sleepy Hollow, 1999)