Monday, October 8, 2012

Fairy Tale Drawn from the News

So, I'm in the process of working on several posts which will be up soon: part 2 of my recap for KidLitCon, my first ever author interview (!), an illustrator spotlight, a recap of my KidLitCon talk on illustration, and a virtual tour of sorts through an awesome rare books room!

But tonight, I was finishing up work on a writing project for my fairy tale class, and our assignment was to write a 1-2pp fairy tale drawn from the news, a magazine article, etc.  This is drawn from the ideas we've been reading about in Louise Von Franz's book on the Interpretation of Fairy Tales.  In the book she discusses some possible places of origin for fairy tales, and one is from something she calls "local saga", by which she means that she believes some fairy tales may have come from some sort of local news that stuck with the popular imagination and over the years stayed in local and broader memory and became generalized enough to become a fairy tale.  So pretty much a true story that got heightened and amplified until it became a fairy tale.

So as I was searching to see what to write about I found this image as I was flipping through several Times magazines:

It was just such a powerful image, one that I couldn't help being stopped by and I decided I wanted to write a fairy tale somehow surrounding this image and the recent protests and unrest in Russia. I drew as well on my interest in the history and culture of Soviet Russia and the following is the tale that emerged, I hope it makes some sort of sense:

A White Rose in a Land of Red
Once upon a time, in a land of white nights and midnight suns, an evil spark of red had succeeded in slowly overtaking the land, spilling over in a pool of burning fire. A mighty ruler dictated from the center of the land and on a whim he could have thousands killed. The people lived in fear. During these dark times, color faded from the face of every man, woman and child, darkness under their eyes, only red trying to work its way in.  Terror sounded in the steps of the huddled masses waiting in line for whatever was being offered, shivering in the cold.  The smell of hunger filled the chilled winds leaving any in its path filled with longing for things they couldn’t have.
And this cold state of fear and numbness continued for years and years.  In the public world, where they could be seen by the workers of the leader, all lived in a constant state of watching and feeling as though they were being watched.  And for many years this all-seeing gaze trespassed into the homes of families across the land.  Trust was breached even within the safe hold of the family and no one felt safe, child turned on mother, wife on husband.
But not far from the seat of power, a weak and seemingly insignificant child made a silent prayer, in and of itself an act of rebellion against the great leader.  As a symbol of her prayer, as a remembrance of her wish, she planted a white rose into a crack in the concrete in a long forgotten alley.  She left it there that day, hoping it would somehow survive, but deep down knowing that there was no hope for it against the bloody redness that had so infected this land.
Though she would not let herself hope that anything would change, she continued to trudge down the hard streets, past sunken faces and broken windows, to see if her flower had survived the week.  And as the weeks passed and it managed to survive, it planted within her soul a seed of hope, one that their leader had tried so hard to snuff out, but that within this small person had found a way to come alive.
After almost a year, the flower still stood as strong as it had on its first day, and on the first of the year, the little girl returned to give a small prayer of thanks, and as she opened her eyes and crossed herself, a tear fell to the stone and their another white rose bloomed.  Now the young girl decided that she would take this flower with her and pass it on to someone, to someone on the brink of insanity, to someone who needed a glimmer of hope to keep their lives from completely shattering into the red coldness.
And as the years passed, this young weak girl continued to grow and each year more roses bloomed in that forgotten corner of the city, turning a corner of red propaganda into a garden of white.  Slowly, their land started to change, but slower than the time when the red spark had pooled over and conquered.  Even after the great wall fell and with it the leader’s power, fear remained entrenched in the red heart of every man, woman and child. 
But now the young girl was a woman, and each night, during the white summer nights, she would go to doorsteps and leave a white rose.  Each found rose would plant a similar seed of hope in its beholder, slowly painting over the red veil of the evil that covered their hearts.  And her white rose became a symbol of protest, a symbol of hope, passed on from person to person, and soon the people started to come alive again with the hope that one day this white rose will lead them all to a happily ever after.


  1. Lovely fairy tale. I liked how the heroine silently but diligently carried on her act of rebellion, and symbolised so wonderfully through a rose - a symbol of love, and white of purity. Was it difficult to write?
    I am studying fairy tales at present, and find them fascinating. I'm reading a book by Maria Tatar on fairy tales - you might find it good if you've not read it before. I must look up the book you mentioned too.

    1. Thanks so much! It was a bit hard, in that I was trying to keep in mind things we've learned so far about how fairy tales are structured, and also just trying to make a story out of news, especially when I couldn't really find any individual stories, but it was an interesting process and once I got going it wasn't too bad, just the initial start was a bit difficult.

      I know, they are, aren't they!? Which one of Maria Tatar's books are you reading? We're using her annotated Grimm's for class and I have a Norton book of hers on Classic Fairy Tales, but I just love her work, I really want to read more of it. And the book I mentioned is really interested, we have to finish up the rest of it for next week, and it's a Jungian approach to interpreting fairy tales, and it's very fascinating, I think I'm going to like it better than when we get to Freudian analysis of fairy tales...

      Oh, by the way, you probably already know of this, but in case you don't you should check out Maria Tatar's blog:

      Hope your classes are going well!!