From that last story before bed to now, fairy tales have played a big part in many of our lives, creating a space for us to dream and a reason to wonder. They might look a little different now, but they certainly have not lost their place in storytelling across cultures. As they have always done, fables, myths and fairy tales – even broken ones – allow us a frame through which to transcend what exists only in front of us, to find new ways of seeing through old parables. They present modern day issues through metaphor and help us find solutions to some of the biggest struggles we face as individuals and as a nation, including immigration, addiction, marginalization and more.
Take some time to dream by checking out this round-up of modern day fairy tales from Canadian authors and publishers.
After a young girl's mother dies in childbirth, she is left to be raised by her grandmother. But her mother's presence is far from gone--continuing to haunt her as she grows up. Poetry, myth, metaphor and imagination help tell this coming-of-age story, exploring what it means to be a female with nothing and finding power in her own lineage.
Spirited Away by Tom Dawe, illustrated by Veselina Tomova (Running the Goat)
For fellow art-buffs: its' woodcut illustrations alone would have been enough to earn this title a place on our list. But this is far from all this collection of stories has to offer. Spirited Away steals us out of our dreamy castles and into the dark forests where fairy lore finds its edge. These are not the stories of those who are so fortunately enchanted, but of those who fall victim to the wiles of fairy trickery – lured by strange lights, mysterious song and late night funeral processions. We recommend keeping the lights on when you curl up with this one.
If you enjoy the outlandish escapades of a good Tom Robbin's novel, you'll appreciate this modern day story of immigration that throws classic nursery rhymes into a new place on the Canadian landscape. Follow the correspondence of Mother Goose as she tries to convince her fellow nursery rhyme characters to uproot and join her in migration to the Prairies. The trouble is, not all of them are on the same page.
Inspired by Hans Christen Andersen's The Snow Queen, The Grimoire of Kensington Market is literally something out of a fairy tale. But this version goes deeper, and at its heart, uses fantasy to tackle the issue of addiction and the growing opioid crisis in Canada. The story follows Maggie in her role as proprietor of a bookstore that marks the crossroads into the world where all fairy tales reside. Having beat addiction to the terrible drug Elysium that plagues Toronto's streets once before, she'll do anything to save her brother from being consumed from it too – even if it means travelling to strange and dangerous worlds.
Little Beast by Julie Demers, translated by Rhonda Mullins (Coach House Books)
Things get a little hairy when a little girl in a small village in rural Quebec suddenly grows a big beard and finds herself an outcast, both within her town and within her own family. After being locked up by her mother to keep her safe from the townspeople, she escapes one cold, dark, winter evening in search of a new home within a surreal and dreamlike wilderness. Through the eyes of a child, Little Beast shows us just how hypocritical we, as adults, can be.
What if your imaginary friend from childhood never really left you? Kat Sandler tells the darkly funny tale of Mustard, an imaginary best friend that stays with his 'person,' Thai, right into his troubled teenage years. But (didn't you know?!) there are rules for imaginary friendships and Mustard soon finds himself facing some serious trouble for breaking them. This play uses imagination to blur the lines of reality and show us the inherent magic of growing up.
This debut collection from Ruth Daniell explores hurt and healing through the voices of some of the most well-known female fairy tale characters – rom Rapunzel to the Princess and the Pea. Together, their voices tell the story of a young woman who is forced reassess her storybook ideas of romantic love after being raped by her first boyfriend. Lyrical in its language and featuring a beautiful art-nouveau inspired cover design – this collection is a quiet magic that will unfold into bloom on your bookshelf.
These ain't your mamma's bedtime stories.
Belly Full of Rocks breaks the tradition of some of our fairy-tale greats to tell their alternative stories through poetry. Throw everything you thought you knew about these childhood familiars out the window! Perry repaints these characters in a dark and humorous light as they struggle to pull their ruffed-up selves together. In the end, you might be surprised at how much you have in common with a rebel Red Riding Hood and a battered big bad wolf.
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