The Evil That Men Do: Modern Fairy Tales for Grownups
Fairy tales of old are not what we think of today, with sickeningly sweet happy endings, ruthless villains, and fair maidens. Many were originally dark stories told to entertain or scare adults. In the original Cinderella, for instance, the stepsister cuts off her toes to fit in the glass slipper, and in The Little Mermaid, she does not meet the sea witch’s demands and returns as foam to the sea. Like those stories, Sanders has created fairy tales that are not feel-good stories, but dark tales of woe that expound on the original stories and attempt to address missing components while staying true to the plot. The difference is that his stories are set in today’s fast-paced, cruel world, using themes or situations found throughout the news, from pedophiles (Hansel and Gretel) to baby trafficking (Rumpelstiltskin) to commercial surrogacy (Rapunzel), to create fairy tales for a new age.
In Sanders’ tales, the prince is more likely to be an affianced man thought to be a terrorist, like in Sleeping Beauty, or the witch a doctor whose talents are questioned, like in Snow White. In The Three Little Pigs, three brothers take on the wolf, a foreigner who thought he could take over a town. Little Red Riding Hood features a not-so-nice young lady who befriends an older woman. Jack finds himself in the middle of an international plot to save the giant, in Jack and the Beanstalk. These stories do not show the best side of humanity and are as dark as fairy tales were originally intended to be. Readers who enjoy fractured fairy tales will enjoy unraveling the puzzle that is each story to determine who is the villain and who is the hero. Unexpected endings are standard fare for this eight-course meal, and the vocabulary more suitable for an intellectual crowd.