Reading Romance

The Truth About Fairytales

There are a lot of comparisons made between fairytales and romance novels. Girl meets boy – servant meets a handsome prince – lowly secretary is whisked off by the CEO…

You want a mistaken identity romance? Cinderella.

You want a secret baby romance? Rapunzel.

You want marriage first, love comes later? Beauty and the Beast. Sort of.

The thing is, when these comparisons are made, quite often they’re meant as an insult. Which just tells me that the person making the comparison doesn’t know the truth about fairytales.

Because there’s a lot more to the stories we grew up on than just girl meets boy, falls madly in love and is set up for life. These stories started life as folk tales, told between the people of Europe, an oral tradition expanded and rewritten by every generation. When they were first written down by those seeking to preserve them, it was an academic endeavour. These tales spoke of the human condition, of the morality and dangers of the world. They were bawdy, gory and entertaining. They were different with every telling, reworking themes and ideas for each new audience. They had relevance, pathos, morals and meaning.

Today, our fairytales have lost a lot of their variations, and even more of their objectionable content. They’ve become sanitized, repetitive, and the meaning they had has become muddled.

But fairytales – the real ones, at least – are a theme I keep coming back to in my writing. And I am by no means alone; writers have been reworking folk tales for decades. They are a goldmine of inspiration for any writer. Which is why, over the next few weeks, I hope to look at some of the original tales, and their meanings – as well as some of the more modern interpretations of them. I want to consider the fairytale tropes, and what they have to offer the romance genre. Look out for my posts here on Tuesdays, and I hope you find the subject as interesting as I do!