Sunday 2 September 2012

Once Upon a Time we Pondered; Why do we use Fairy Tales in our Work?

Once Upon a Time we pondered; Why do we use Fairy Tales in our Work?

This is the third install met of our Fairy Tale blogs, inspired by recently discussions about, what fairy tale are, over at the SCWBI (Society of Children’s book Writers and Illustrators) British Isles Facebook page. This made us think a bit more about what fairy tales mean to us, so we posed three questions which we have answer in the series of blog posts; 

1)What do we think fairy tales are?
2) What is our favourite fairy tale and why?
3)Why do we use fairy tales in our own work?

 The first blog; Once upon a time, we wondered, what is a fairy tale?  can be found over on Emma Graham's Blog; press here. 

The second post; Once Upon A Time we Thought, What is our Favourite Fairy Tale? Was posted on this blog last week press here.

Why I use Fairy Tales in my Writing by Donna Vann writing as D.V. Hawkes

I’ve written historical adventures, picture books set in the real world and a contemporary teen novel. But from now on, I’d like to write what I would classify very loosely as fairy tales – stories in which the magical appears, not for its own sake but in order to take the heroine out of her ordinary world and give her a new stage on which to learn courage and compassion and come home changed.

In the book I’m currently writing, characters live in reality but the numinous can break through at any moment. Hovering just out of sight is a world of wonder and marvels. Why does the mountain near the castle hum day and night? Why does Meg see stories when she hums along with it, or when she touches someone? Gifts from that unseen world are bestowed on my heroine, who will have to make brave choices in order to use them well in this one.

Why I use Fairy Tales in my Writing by Sally Poyton 

In the year 2012, after thousands of years of stories been told and written, it is a hard task for any of us to come up with something completely original. So unless you have lived your entire life living under a rock, anything you write will be influenced by something you have watched, read or heard. To tackle this I try to use lots of influences to come up with different ways of looking at things, trying to bring a fresh perspective, but referring and/or commenting on what has been before.

 The best books I’ve ever read are layered, their stories constructed on foundations of what has been laid before; fairy tales, mythology, history, science… the list goes on.  They make for a rich manuscripts, their worlds seem real, and tangible.. J K Rowling and Terry Pratchett are good examples - so much so, there are now books on the Science and Folklore that’s found in discworld.

I use fairy tales in my work; firstly I love them, and secondly because they have a perennial appeal, adapting to culture as it changes. Ultimately I use them because they are about the things that matter. Love, life, death, survival. They don’t shy away from the dark matters; seclusion from society, cannibalism, incest, murder, and yet they have a universal appeal to people of all cultures and ages.
Through Mortal Eyes
is my YA Fairy Tale Themed Fantasy 

Why I use Fairy Tales in my Illustration by Emma Graham

As an illustrator I have always been fascinated how different illustrators interpret the fairy tales. I was brought up in a very art filled environment. Books, music, painting. Both my Nana and my Mother were artists and my Father a photographer. My parents collected old books, mainly children’s books, which I still have and treasure. Illustrators such as Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen, W Heath Robinson, Harry Clarke, and of course Arthur Rackham filled my bookshelves and bedroom walls. These fantastic illustrators works somehow infused into my passion for books and were the foundation of my passion to illustrate.

I love to read and draw, my great inspiration is from the old stories, whether you class them as fairy tales, fantasies or fables. They are full of colour, crazy mystical beings and enchanted worlds, perfect for an illustrator to create from and stories I will always go back to over and over again and always get new ideas.

Little Mermaid by Emma

But I do wonder what ‘modern’ stories will one day become the fairy tales of the future? But that is another question!

Hi there!

Thanks for checking out the blog. We really hope that you enjoyed the Fairy Tale series.  Please do leave a comment and tell us whether Fairy Tale influence you and if so how they inspire you work.


  1. It is my belief (and I'm only an old story teller) that 'fairy tales' are the fossilised remains of bardic/Celtic tales, the originals lost because such tales relied upon a lost oral tradition to be passed on. Give any child a fossil in the hand and you instantly conjure an alternative world where imagination answers impossible questions. Where the monster under the bed is explained and made safely real. Why is it that every child loves dinosaurs? Exactly the same answer explains the fascination of 'fairy tales'.

  2. Hi Stuart, Thanks for reading and commenting. I love your theory about fairy tales and equating them to fossils.

    Thanks Sally