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Monday, April 17, 2017

Bryce Fegan: A Guest Post On Fairytales

As a brief break from the A to Z Challenge, I thought it might be interesting to give you a guest post by Bryce Fegan, whose picture storybook The Grumpface will be available in the next couple of weeks. Bryce is an Aussie writer living in Canberra, and thought the post by fellow Canberra-dweller Gillian Polack was fascinating, though, of course, unconnected with children's fiction. He is sharing his thoughts about the importance of fairytales and explaining how this entered his book. Enjoy!

Where did all the Happily-Ever-After’s Go?
Books have long been portals into worlds otherwise inaccessible to us. They take us to places of incredible depth and wonder, and make us long for the adventures and meaning our protagonists inevitably find. Books often describe worlds that not even major films can fully capture. In books we are free to experience these worlds at our own pace. We are free to dwell in moments of inspiration, wonder or emotion. We are free to let our imaginations soar – constructing scenes that have meaning to our own experiences and our own desires. These small, rectangular objects are precious, because in the complex and changing world around us, they not only offer us refuge but they allow us to escape into another dreamer’s imagination. It is here that hope abounds. Hope for a better world, a more exciting world, a world of meaning. It is here that we are confronted with the strange reality – that despite the acceptance we have for the world around us, we all yet have a deeper hope that there might be something more. 
What makes fairy tales so powerful, is that they generally distil this deeper hope into the simplest of narratives. They don’t try to be outstandingly clever or to produce tear-inducing twists. They are safe and accessible stories. Stories that have an undefinable magic to them. Stories that feel cosy and warm, while describing scenes that are otherwise dark and cold. They are stories that are constructed so simply, they can be understood by young children, yet so deep, they somehow maintain their pull on us, well into adulthood.
Fairy tales tend to capture our hopes in broad and relatable terms. They often echo our natural desire that good always wins over evil, that success comes with hard work, and that the fantastical exists in even the most mundane places. They reach into our deepest yearnings, and whisper to us through the dark – that magic may yet exist, that our true destiny may yet be revealed, and that our life may yet have an incredible purpose. It is the ability of a fairy tale to play so masterfully upon these hopes that makes them so timeless. 
Unfortunately, by and large, the magic of fairy tales have been eroded by our modern reality. Replaced by narratives that prefer to reflect on ‘issues of the day’, or the harsh realities of life. Even the emerging trend of ‘modern fairy tales’ or ‘fairy tales with a twist’ tend to reflect the idea that our evolved societies are required to update the simplicity and relevance of these narratives to reflect our more mundane, daily struggles. Certainly there is nothing wrong with these modern styles of books – many are written very well and are indeed quite relevant. Yet I would argue that many of these modern retellings borrow only the surface-elements of a fairy tale, while leaving behind the very thing that has made our traditional favourites so transgenerational.
I have already touched on some of the broad hopes that are injected into every memorable fairy tale. However many fairy tales will also include additional concepts that contribute to their uniqueness. The most obvious, is that they tend to be made up of morally consistent characters. These morals will inevitably dictate their destiny. So naturally, the honest, pure-of-heart and caring characters will always win. The evil, selfish and greedy will always be stronger, but without a change of heart, will always lose. The greatest fairy tales throughout history are often those with characters that exist in relative obscurity, only to rise (against all odds) to the heights of mastery or true-purpose. And this, is perhaps the most important hope that fairy tales play upon. Put another way, fairy tales provide us with the hope that happily-ever-afters really are possible.
The Grumpface
I decided to write The Grumpface after looking through a number of modern fairy tales and feeling as though they were missing something crucial. It took some contemplation but it appeared to me that these modern tales had traded that deeper hope we tend to see in Andersen, Perrault and Grimm, in order to appeal to the sensibilities of our time. Some were fantastic books in their own right, yet none of them contained that deeper magic (to borrow from C.S. Lewis). I yearned for new titles with the familiar enchantments of those older tales, and having been one of those people who has written fiction their whole life, I turned my attention to filling this void.
The Grumpface is a fairy tale that (at the very least, attempts) to hark back to those familiar stories we grew up with. It is about a clumsy young inventor’s quest for love, and the challenges he must face to find it. But it is also a tale of bravery, absurdity and happiness, and the power of these qualities over negativity and sheer grumpiness.
Our tale begins in a small village that sits beside a dark forest. Dan, the hero of our story, is an optimistic, young inventor who suffers the unfortunate trait of being clumsy. Working day and night on his inventions, he hopes that his efforts might gain the attention of Bella, a flower girl whom he secretly admires.
When it comes to his attention that Bella has no more roses to sell, he decides to brave the dark forest in order to find her one. The only problem is that the forest is inhabited by a grumpy creature known as the Grumpface, and this creature is not known for his kindness to lost travellers.
It doesn’t take long before our poor hero is confronted by the Grumpface who quickly challenges the young inventor to three tasks. If he is able to pass even a single challenge, he will be freed, if not, he will remain forever in the forest.
It is my hope that this tale is enjoyed by children and adults alike. After all, most good fairy tales are. I have also tried my best to inject that magic and wonder that these tales are known for. Yet if there is one thing I hope The Grumpface does more than anything else, it is that it reconnects those who read it with that deeper hope. 
The Grumpface will be available in Kindle, ePub, Hardcover and Paperback from most online bookstores from May 1.

About the Author
BCR Fegan is an Australian author who has written a number of fairy tales and fantasies for children and young adults. He is inspired by stories that resonate deeply with our desire for adventure, yearning for magic and search for meaning.


Tamara Narayan said...

That sounds like fun with both new and familiar fairy tale elements.

N is for Operation Northwoods

Sue Bursztynski said...

Yes, it does. Nice cover, too!