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Achilles on Corfu, before he had an uzi.

“So, you think changing the ending of a traditional fairy tale could be considered de-volving? not evolving?” Simplia asked, blinking. “Going backwards?”

They had gone to the kitchen to refill the the snickerdoodle plate and the teapot and were just stepping back into the Fairy Tale Lobby.

“Maybe,” Sagacia said, then, backing into the open door, she admonished,“Sh-h!” She let Simplia pass through first with the hot teapot.

It was Mario Rups who was speaking.

“Tales, like languages, change over time to meet the needs and expectations of the society they survive into,” he explained. “If Homer hadn’t become pretty well fossilized by being committed to writing in the 6th century BCE (date according to Homeric scholar Gregory Nagy, anyway), who knows what they’d be like by now? Achilles with a blunderbuss … now there’s a mental image for you. Professional tellers do have to be aware of the various permutations, and among themselves they might wish to hew more closely to tradition, but I (as a member of a lay audience) see no dishonesty in the teller’s helping a story evolve as long as (s)he stays true to the core and meaning of it.”

“Fairy tales are, after all, part of an oral heritage that changed from generation to generation, teller to teller.” Randel McGee affirmed.

“Your quest to be ‘in service of the story and of the audience’ is a noble and good goal; not only in the crafting, but in the telling, too,” Mark Goldman said.

“And…” Mario hastened to add, “This does not necessarily mean updating a tale to modern times. Part of the charm of fairy tales lies in their being once upon a time. Achilles with an uzi goes just a tad too far. It can be done, but more as the particular style of the storyteller, not as part of a general evolution, in my opinion.”

“Sometimes I tell the traditional end, stop with ‘this is the traditonal ending of this story; this is what I heard,’” Uschi Erlewein said. Then, striking a pose, she added, “‘Though I imagine….’” She spread her arms and smiled, “…and then I tell MY ending.” She bowed gracefully.

“Many of the old tales already have multiple endings,” Cathy Jo Smith declared. “Cinderella’s stepsisters may be maimed (heel or toes cut off), they may be killed horribly or they may just have to live with their former servant as their princess/queen, depending on the telling. A new version (as long as you don’t portray it as traditional) is acceptable; call it a modern adaptation, though.”

“I once heard that when you change the ending, you change the story,” said Maria Alejandra Gomez de la Torre. “I, for one, am always tempted to change the ending, especially when I feel like it should have a happier ending – but then it would be like betraying the author who wanted the story to end the way it did.”

“If it is a folktale,” Robin Bady intercepted, “…well, then it has already changed many times.”

“Change is the only constant!” Erica Taraporevala said. “So I am okay with changing, especially where there is a subtext of dishonesty or giving away of women as prizes, or a dishonouring of a particular sex, colour, race, caste (in India) that goes unchallenged in the story. And I practice mindfulness before I do that.”

“I’m not sure I always practice mindfulness,” sighed Mary Grace Ketner.

Eric Wolf nodded. “I can’t help it! the new ending just pops out.”

Mary Grace continued. “I mean, I thought I was very traditional about fairy tales. I thought I didn’t change their endings, but when I compare my sources with the way I tell it now, well, I’ve often changed it without planning to or even knowing I did so. They don’t feel changed, though. They just feel tightened, more satisfying, you know, better. More true to life as I understand it–in the sense of Fairy Tale truth, that is: happily ever after. I am always seeking the ending that will bring about happiness to me and to people in my own day and time.”

“Happiness?” thought Sagacia. “That’s kind of shallow.” But all she said aloud was, “Another snickerdoodle, anyone?”

On the sunny window ledge, Murzik flicked his ear and opened one eye. He studied Sagacia for a long time. Contented. That’s what he was. He closed his eye. Not the same thing as happy, he supposed.