I remember sitting on my grandmother’s knee while she read fairy tales to me. We owned a hardcover edition with lovely illustrations called Hilda Boswell’s Treasury of Fairy Tales. My favourite stories were Hansel and Gretel – because of its magical elements, and The Wild Swans - a lesser known story with a courageous heroine. [The princess takes a vow of silence while she weaves shirts of stinging nettles (with her bare hands) to restore her twelve brothers from swans to Princes]. I imagine everyone has their own favourites.
In 1812, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm first published ‘Children’s and Household Tales’ a collection of stories that had been handed down by word of mouth, that later became known as the 'Brothers Grimm' anthology. These stories are a strong influence in modern children’s literature (and adults literature too), and it’s amazing to think they are still so popular, hundreds of years after they were first told.
To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the publication the Goethe-Institut New Zealand, in collaboration with the NZ Listener and the International Institute of Modern Letters (Victoria University of Wellington) invited New Zealanders to write their own Grimm fairy tale for modern Aotearoa.
There were more than 300 entries, and each day a new story was posted on the Goethe-Institut’s blog. I enjoyed reading these stories and what struck me was just how different they were from each other.
The winning story was The Cry Baby by Renata Hopkins. The two runners-up were Little Red Riding Hood Does Over the Big Bad Wolf by Wendy O’Malley and Evil Fairy Tales by Alice and Pagan Tawhai. Judge, Kate de Goldi, said ‘what an amazing range of approaches, narrative perspectives and subject matter’.
Imagine my surprise and delight when I found out my story, Michael and the Magic Tree, had been selected as one of twelve to appear in the published collection.
Es War Einmal ... Grimm Fairy Tales for Aotearoa New Zealand was launched in Wellington on 28 September.
Here’s the contents page. Having read all of the stories again, I feel quite honoured my story is included.