Saturday, May 7, 2011

How can they tell the same story over and over?

The other day some friends of mine wanted to watch Disney's Beauty and the Beast. It's common knowledge that I'm a fan and at one point one friend asked, "I assume you've read the book?"
Me: Which one?
Friend: I assume this was based on a book.
Me: Well, it was based on a fairy tale. There are tons of different book versions.
Friend: Wait, what do you mean? How can they tell the same story over and over?

I wasn't-and still am-not quite sure what she meant by this question; whether she was talking about copyrights or thinking in terms of it getting boring after multiple retellings. At first it was so far away from anything I would have asked I had no idea how to answer it. I tried to explain that the stories were familiar themes to borrow from, and that different authors each bring their own interpretation to the tales to keep them fresh, but I don't think I did a good job because the friend seemed just as confused afterwards as she did before.

It baffled my mind that anyone was so unaware of the nature of fairy tales and the fact that there are many versions, and seemingly couldn't see the purpose of revisiting these tales. Sometimes I get so immersed in the fairy tale world I don't realize the presuppositions and misperceptions most people have about the tales.

Do you have experiences with friends/aquaintances who cannot understand your interest in fairy tales, or the basic nature of fairy tales?


  1. I so totally get this! I recently finished a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and several people have asked me 'isn't that, like, DONE already?' or 'Didn't that movie Beastly just come out?' I tell them that my story is totally different, beyond the fact that there is a 'Beast' character and a 'Beauty' character. Those who questioned me to begin with still didn't see any difference. They consider it the 'same story' no matter how it's told. Tragic, in my opinion, to have such a narrow vision within your own mind.

  2. This is an ongoing frustration for me. I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on, and that included Andrew Lang collections, illustrated Perrault translations, and big, mildewy books of folktales. I've never NOT known how fairy tales evolve. But, somehow, there seem to be people who don't know this --and it baffles me!

    (I'm equally flabbergasted when people learn that I'm an animator and then ask if it takes more than one person to make a movie. How can you be this ignorant with so many BOOKS and resources in the world?!)

    As a teenager, I was playing with a BATB narrative (a lifelong obsession) and asked a number of classmates to recount the story as they recalled it... I remember with absolute clarity a girl looking at me blankly and saying "Well, there was a beauty...and a Beast...and then a teapot started to sing." *facepalm*

  3. Honestly, I am the opposite. I too grew up reading all the fairy tales and myths I could find, but my peers at school were unlike me in every way. Fairy tales--and even reading in general--was something that I was teased and bullied about, and even after I left that school, I never found anyone whose interest was as deep as mine. Now I take it for granted that I know far more about fairy tales than most other people, and have been pleasantly surprised to recently discover this online community of fairy tale lovers.