What's the big deal about fairy tales? In recent years the onslaught of princesses, wicked witches and big bad wolves in pop culture has overwhelmed TV and book markets, stacking up other-worldly entertainment to audiences of all ages. With serial television offerings like "Once Upon A Time," "Grimm," and "Sleepy Hollow," joining countless film releases to make these age-old stories the next big thing, those of us who've been reading fairy tales for years are left wondering, why now?
New York Times columnist Terrance Rafferty says these stories are anything but timeless. "Thanks to videogames, computer graphics and the general awfulness of everyday life, fantasies of all kinds have had a resurgence in the past few years." Renowned fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes disagrees, "Fairy tales, since the beginning of time and perhaps earlier, have been a means to conquer the terrors of mankind through metaphor." Or perhaps, as was the Brothers' Grimm famous mission, fairy tales are rather a way to foster a common identity, in time of nationalistic uncertainty? There's no denying, America is a scary place these days. Can fairy tales offer more than a pleasant escape from the humdrum of our everyday lives? Or is it something more?
For Bend poets Judith Montgomery and Suzanne Berns, fairy tales began to inform their work as children, and have been a persistent influence. In an upcoming presentation as part of the Deschutes Public Library's Second Sunday program, Montgomery and Berns will go beyond the simple fantasy of fairy tale, and explore the complex and often dark underpinnings of old tales.
Burns, who recently published "Siblings," a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, says, "I became enchanted when I found an illicit copy of the Grimm's Fairy tales, filled with all the mystery and gore a pre-teen could hope for."
For Montgomery, Greek and Roman mythology opened the door.
"Tales of minotaurs and wicked or maybe not-so-wicked, only misunderstood, witches offer delicious possibilities for exploring the 'other side' of any given story," she says.
Both authors agree that by cracking open the traditional fairy tale, one can explore new worlds, both interior and exterior.
"Plus, it's just fun to break the everyday open into the wonder-full," Montgomery says.
No matter what draws you to the genre, fairy tales may well be a coded message from our past, with important information that future generations can learn from. Come sift through the dark and delicious side of fairy tales.
Second Sunday with Judith Montgomery and Suzanne Berns
2 pm. Sun., Dec. 14
Downtown Bend Library, 601 NW Wall St.
Free, followed by open mic.