Tuesday, 30 March 2010

And the moral of the tale is...er

An article about fairy tales appeared in the Guardian the other Saturday with the writer, Bidisha, commenting on how marvellous it is that they’re being re-written as subversive stories. Here's the link:


I can’t say I entirely agreed with her and I posted a comment that, with your forbearance, I shall repeat here:

Bidisha falls into the trap that a lot of political minded people do of assuming that stories are actually about something else, a Dan Brown style code to be deciphered by the wise. But sometimes a cigar is just a smoke and a story is not necessarily a fable and it is, I think, the stories that just are stories that survive to following generations. ‘Eric or Little by Little’ anyone? Popular enough in its day, now pretty much forgotten as opposed to 'Wind in the Willows' or 'The Railway Children' which don't really say anything beyond how cool it is to live near a river or a railway.

Eric, or Little by Little by Frederick W Farrar, for those who do not share my interest in the history of children's books, is in the words of the author ‘…the history of a boy who, in spite of the inherent nobleness of his disposition, falls into all folly and wickedness, until he has learnt to seek help from above.’ I have not read it and although that precis makes it sound rather fun, I gather that it is not.

Anyway, to return to the morals or otherwise of stories. It is, of course, not as simple as I make out above but forgive me, I was writing for Guardian readers and they can be simple souls, bless. C S Lewis’ Narnia books are an obvious exception by my overarching rule and Charles Dickens wrote Nicolas Nickleby partly to expose the dodgy boarding schools of his day. But I still hold that it is possible to read too much into a story in many cases and that in our utilitarian age we sometimes try too hard to identify something that simply isn’t there and forget that the story can be its own sole reason.

That was weird. Blogger decided, for reasons best know to itself, to translate the title and labels into Hindi without so much as a by your leave. Odd that.

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