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fairy tales

This month's Watershed Writers' Block challenge is the re-imagining of a fairy tale. I have long been fascinated by fairy tales, the dark undertones of the comparatively light-hearted modern versions hinting at their dark, psychological origins. Fairy tales were once terrifying and corrupt in nature, battering superstitious sensibilities with brutal morals and savage, fluid intensity. Each embodied both the worst and best of human nature, exploring and pushing the psyche in ways that spoke to us of greater, wider, less understood things, of a world that had layers unseen, of a richer and darker mythos than the one we currently inhabit.

What once was supernatural is now natural, what was once inhuman has become human. We no longer focus on what is around us, manipulating us, tainting us with malign intent, but on what is understandable and deplorable, that which now inhabits living breathing flesh. The darkness has been humanised, made safe, the tales sanitised to simplistic levels, their brooding majesty and complexity replaced by moralistic platitudes and half-hearted conviction.

Our fear of the 'other' has been made familiar by the known. Darkness no longer inhabits the nights but finds itself diminished in the shape and forms of those around us. We no longer fear without but fear within. Our terrors have been replaced by the simple tawdriness of human action.

Fairy tales had a purpose; they teach us, humble us, remind us we are small things in a world inexplicable. They provide us opportunity to recognise and confront our demons, to learn, to understand, and yet be left only a little wiser at fable's end.

In effect all our monsters have been humanised and lessened. They no longer inspire fear and disquiet, they entertain and serve only to be defeated. What fears and darkness can they embody when they are so triviliased, when darkness and evil is made familiar and incarnate in those around us, when evil is no longer recognisably external but is intrinsically internal?

Regardless, our fairy tales are insipid and underwhelming in their current forms. Where once they embodied everything vile and malignant that could be imagined, they now are petty in the face of a a modern reality. And somehow we are lesser for it.

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