I grew up with a huge love for fairy tales and magic of every sort , with spells and witches and magical lands , from the Grimm brothers to Disney’s visual and musical delights…until I had a daughter of my own. Then I cringed , each time a mermaid wanted to give up her entire existence and voice for a prince, each time they looked for their “one true love” to complete their Happily ever after. That is why Spellbound, a fairy tale remix by Nalini Sorenson , perfectly signed “Be your own Happily ever after” is a refreshing , delightful read!
Our story begins with Weyona , the most horrible terrible witch with the most ugly nose right down to the repulsive color-changing pimple finds Prince Fredrick, an uninvited guest, right in the middle of her garden. A bone-chilling, toe-curling laugh and “Zubringer- Ribbit” later , Frederick, our butterfly loving prince is now Your Frogginess, a slimy grimy bug gobbler. Worse still , no one can hear him except the evil Weyona. With nothing more than a flyer to cling on to for hope, Freddy bears Weyona’s teasing and and taunts, dreaming of Weyona’s wand, sparkling to a shine with oat penguin oil, zapping him back to human self. But nothing ever happens… until a most beautiful girl , who was everything Weyona was not, makes her appearance.
Will she be his knight in shining armour? Will our Froggy prince get the “kiss”? Will they fall in love and end up together? Well – it is a fairy tale remix – simmered in a modern, feminist cauldron of possibilities – so think again – this is a tale brewed with hope , humour and love in “equal” portions.
Perfect for kids aged 6-9 , this book is a refreshing and hilarious read in the fairy tale genre. The gorgeous illustrations elevate the book’s fun quotient to another level (from the butterflies on the chapter names to all the way down to a little froggie on the page numbers) and the author’s meticulously detailed descriptions are sure to have you guffawing!
Some fun discussions for kids-
…Weyona’s colour changing pimple changes according to her moods! How cool would it be if we could have a colour change indicator that told others about our moods. How could it help when we are angry or sad?
…Sibling rivalry is a part of many fairy tales. Why are we jealous of our own family? Think about how competition with another , as much as it is sought after in this world of testing and ranks is a rather negative idea. How can you excel just by focusing on your own talents?
…Think of career ideas for all your favourite Disney Princesses – Can Belle be an inventor like her Dad – Can she build something like Iron man and escape from the Beast? Can Ariel can be an archeologist , a historian – someone who pieces together lives from collected pieces? Change the stories according to their personalities and dreams.
History of Fairy Tales , before the Grimm brothers
Did you know , contrary to what is often thought, fairytales were invented by the blue blood of a coterie of 17th century French female writers known as the conteuses, or storytellers? The originator of the term “fairytale”, Baroness Marie Catherine d’Aulnoy intentionally used exaggeration, parody and references to other stories to unsettle the customs and conventions that constrained women’s freedom and agency. And into her magical worlds, she inserted critiques of the patriarchy – her kings, fathers and rulers were ineffective, passive, unreasonable! (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/nov/11/the-first-fairytales-were-feminist-critiques-of-patriarchy-we-need-to-revive-their-legacy)
Until of course, the Grimm brothers changed these novellas for adults to short tales then they got doctored into children’s stories …and then Disney!
The Power of Fairy Tales
Today, the times require acute awareness of consent, rape, courage and independence and gender equality . Yet , when we label Sleeping beauty as a story of a kiss without consent, we miss the danger of othering – leaving out someone from a party , of alienating someone; When we label Beauty and the Beast as a tale of captivity, we miss the looking beyond appearances.
The fairy tale genre ‘s “real ‘enchantment’ emanates from these dramatic , fantastical conflicts whose resolutions allow us to glean the possibility of standing vindicated against all odds
In Neil Gaiman’s words – “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
Fractured fairy tales lend themselves to fabulous opportunities to present competing perspectives , to add historical, cultural or contemporary relevance, and provide an avenue for imagination, fun and critical thinking.
Nalini Sorenson’s fabulous remix shows kids exactly this, how to take this genre beyond gender issues, move it in step with the times, enjoy the magic of fantasy and completely be ‘spellbound’