I read fairy tales to push my creativity into overdrive. Most of them are oddly written, with themes we usually don’t explore in modern times.
Unlike the sanitized, Disney interpretations, they are dark and deep. Power, corruption and conventions are major themes throughout most of the tales.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, consider reading one of the obscure fairy tales below.
The Goose Girl by The Brothers Grimm
As a child, I was fascinated by the problem posed in this story. The main character, a princess, loses everything because she refuses to break her promise.
This story is one that is hard to understand unless you think about the lesson it was trying to teach. The titular girl’s character is what saves her.
She is too good.
And that always fascinated me. Also, she has a talking horse.
Then with many harsh words the chambermaid ordered the princess to take off her own royal clothing and put on the chambermaid’s shabby clothes. And in the end the princess had to swear under the open heaven that she would not say one word of this to anyone at the royal court. If she had not taken this oath, she would have been killed on the spot. Falada saw everything, and remembered it well.
Blue Beard by Charles Perrault
The more tales you read, the more you’ll realize that many stories were meant to prepare children for adult life. Thus, themes about young women adapting to forced marriages frequently present in stories. From Beauty and the Beast to Little Red Riding Hood, beastly males dominate young women’s lives.
Blue Beard follows this trend with a twist.
Neither of them would have him, and they sent him backwards and forwards from one to the other, not being able to bear the thoughts of marrying a man who had a blue beard. Adding to their disgust and aversion was the fact that he already had been married to several wives, and nobody knew what had become of them.
Mother Holle by The Brothers Grimm
Serena of Gossip Girl may have been the “golden girl” but, the original lives in this story. Two step sisters are contrasted for the content of their character by Mother Holle. Unlike other witchy figures, Mother Holle is both fair and benevolent.
Interestingly, the girls are sucked into her world. Usually, fairy tales feature magical beings that jump into our universe.
The girl went back to the well not knowing what to do, and at last in her distress she jumped into the water after the spindle.
She remembered nothing more until she awoke and found herself in a beautiful meadow, full of sunshine, and with countless flowers blooming in every direction.
The Magic Fishbone by Charles Dickens
Perhaps the most nonsensical story on this list, it will remind you of listening to a tale from a child. That is perhaps the best part of this writing. It captures the mind of a young person in a way that few adults can replicate.
It’s supposedly told by a child. So, the story follows a random and senseless narrative. This makes the moral even sweeter at the end.
The King was beginning, “Might I ask the reason—?” when the Fairy became absolutely furious.
“Will you be good, sir?” she exclaimed, stamping her foot on the ground. “The reason for this, and the reason for that, indeed! You are always wanting the reason. No reason. There! Hoity toity me! I am sick of your grown-up reasons.”
The Six Swans by The Brother’s Grimm
Although the better known fairy tales feature men saving women, this story’s protagonist is a diligent sister. She saves her brothers, and the whole kingdom with her patience.
Intriguing power dynamics play a role in the making and unmaking of the core curse. At the time, women wielded strength through marriage and children. This story focuses on the use and abuse of that privilege.
The King in his anguish of mind consented, and the old woman led him to her little house where her daughter was sitting by the fire. She received the King as if she were expecting him, and he saw that she was certainly very beautiful; but she did not please him, and he could not look at her without a secret feeling of horror. As soon as he had lifted the maiden on to his horse the old woman showed him the way, and the King reached his palace, where the wedding was celebrated.
What Are Your Favorites?
I’d love to hear about your favorite tales and fables. Let me know what stories you love to read.