Fairy tales are hard to top

Red Riding Hood lends itself to performance, and I have acted every part in the story, except for the title character (that’s reserved for my daughters), dozens of times. None of them were on the stage, of course, but all of them in my living room. And, while I think I can handle both the uprightness of the woodcutter and the loathsomeness of the wolf, I do perform a good grandma.

Of course, grandma’s job is to lie quietly until the wolf walks in, when she yells, “help!” and runs out of the room. I can get behind any part requiring me to lie quietly. Sometimes they do have to prompt me to wake up when the wolf enters the room though.

Thank goodness we don’t go for the Grimm Brothers version where the grandma gets swallowed whole. I’m not sure how we could work that out; besides the fact that it’s just too plain weird, we can’t take the brutality. In a lot of our productions, the wolf doesn’t even want to eat Little Red, just the goodies she’s carrying. Those fairy tales are tough if you are trying to raise your children prudently.

They sure have lasting value though. Just take a look at Hollywood; they can’t help themselves for mining every fairy tale they can. My wife and I recently watched “Into the Woods,” a Hollywood flick based on the 1980s musical based on a variety of fairy tales. If you haven’t noticed, that’s layers upon layers of sentimentality just for one movie. If it were to wish any more for a bygone era, Superman would have to be a character. Wait, I guess Superman still is a character in a bunch of the movies coming out now. The moral of these movies: sentimentality will never end.

I used to tell my children fairy tales before they went to sleep. They are good stories to go to sleep to. The characters are all miserable until just plain dumb luck (or a little magic) comes along and makes everything better. You just can’t forget that everything is all better, or all your dreams will be filled with wolves and wicked stepmothers.

But, unfortunately, my kids have all grown tired of fairy tales, or at least my inability to recite the movies from memory. This makes it tough for me, because what they want instead is for me to “make up a story.” Just try making up a story off the top of your head, with no revisions, rewrites or direction. It won’t take you long to see why all these fairy tales, which I presume started out as bedtime stories spoken off the top of someone’s head, are so weird. Their favorite story, by far, took up several nights, and involved nine hippos, a crocodile selling milk, a baboon, a tiger, a monkey, a squirrel, a polar bear, 100 flamingoes, 100 baby flamingoes, and Santa Claus. I’m working on the screenplay now.

Thanks for reading!

Read more in this week's print edition.Subscribe Today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *