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Simplia wasn’t the only one messing with archetypes. Someone way back in the 17th century gave Hercules boxer shorts and a cheesy grin.

Simplia talked to herself a lot. Now and then Sagacia paid attention to what her friend said. Not that it ever made much sense. At first.

“Whut?” She shook her head as if dislodging something unpleasant from her ear.

Simplia nodded at the circle of Magical Friends holding forth around a small table near the Fairy Tale Lobby’s hearth. “It appears Evolving in Evanston is in charge of a bandwagon, and they’re all jumping on it.”

Indeed, Evolving in Evanston’s endorsement for revising fairy tales to bring them in line with an enlightened contemporary world view had been received enthusiastically.

Bill Mayhew took a long pull on his sarsaparilla and declared, “I think it is ok as long as you don’t misrepresent as coming from some particular culture. I do it, for the sake of humor, but only to an audience that has heard the original.”

Gene Helmick-Richardson concurred. “The old tales became ‘old tales’ because they were retold. Once written down they became “classics” that Disney expropriated and copyrighted. As a storyteller I feel it is not my duty to preserve some piece of patriarchal propaganda just because it is “old,” “traditional,” or “classic.” Bear-baiting was traditional in Grimm’s day but we have, I hope, outgrown that barbarism. Why should I be restricted to barbaric tales told by people who enjoyed bear-baiting as a spectator sport?

…I have no qualms about changing a story, adapting a story, or even creating a story “inspired by” traditional stereotypes.

Actively told tales are constantly evolving to reflect the culture in which they are embedded. If you don’t think tales should change with the times, then your stories will soon be so culturally obtuse or linguistically incomprehensible that they will no longer be entertaining.

Dianne Hackworth proudly admitted, “I do with Jack and The King’s Girl. Simply could not be a party to giving away the daughter in marriage as a prize. Instead, the prize is land, which Jack doesn’t want! But in the end, the daughter accepts Jack’s proposal so they can really live happily ever after.”

Kristin Pedemonti said, “I’ve done it in working with teachers and students, however I first tell the original and we discuss why we are changing it; the msg in the tale I share is about bullying. The original ending perpetuates the cycle, the new ending breaks the cycle. And yes, one must be sure to honor the story and not misrepresent the story.”

Priscilla Howe explained her rationale: “When I wanted to tell Rapunzel for summer reading programs, i.e. the stroller crowd, …(h)ere’s my ending: the prince climbs up the hair, meets the old hag and slides back down the braid. Rapunzel follows and the two pull the braid hard out of the hag’s hands. They go off and maybe, just maybe, find Rapunzel’s real parents. Everybody–{long pause] except the old woman–lives happily ever after.

…(I)n Kansas, adults seem to be afraid of witches, so I make her into an old woman. …In this area, I don’t tell stories about witches or devils (as if kids would be influenced to become one?).

I felt guilty changing it, but it’s in service of the story and of the audience. Yeah, I could have found another story to tell, but this one is so satisfying for the listeners–and for me.

It’s important to make sure that there is story justice. If I let the old woman live happily ever after, the audience would worry that she’d come back for Rapunzel.

Sagacia listened to them all, then turned to her friend and said, “I see what you mean. Not a dissenting voice among this crowd. But what’s that got to do with a many-headed mythological monster and night crawlers?”

“Maybe nothing,” said Simplia. “Maybe I’m stretching a metaphor to the breaking point. I was just thinking, though, that talking about opening a can of worms is less extreme, less deadly, more palatable to modern sensibilities than the thought of whacking off one of the carniverous heads of a creature whose bloody stump shoots forth nine more hideous heads. So maybe in my new version of Hercules I’ll have him celebrate the completion of his second labor with a fishing trip!”

Sagacia regarded her friend with a full-fledged stink-eye. “This is the FAIRY TALE Lobby,” she reminded her. “And fairy tale or myth, before you start making free with archetypes, you better listen a little closer to the conversation. Not everyone here thinks our writer from Evanston is necessarily evolving.”

Image info: Circle of Toussaint Dubreuil
Portrait of Henry IV as Hercules slaying the Lernaean Hydra. Painted ca. 1600. (Thank you, Wikipedia)