This beautifully-written twisted retelling of The Little Mermaid was absolutely glorious, probably my favourite fairy tale retelling (unless we’re still calling the Throne of Glass series a Cinderella retelling) and the first modern mermaid book I have actually read all the way through. If you’re a mermaid wannabe like myself and having trouble picking up quality fin-fiction (ha!), you need to give this one a try. Continue reading
Category Archives: Tess Talks Fairy Tales
This was everything I wanted, and expected from Sarah J Maas, and even more. Despite some tropey flaws that kinda made me cringe just a tad, I was enthralled by A Court of Thorns and Roses. Obviously, as a massive Maas fan, I couldn’t help but compare it to her awesome Throne of Glass series. Verdict: completely different, but in some ways, better.
In the year I’ve been running the Tess Talks Fairy Tales series on this blog, I realize I haven’t really talked about Grimm’s all that much, which is an oversight that must be corrected immediately. Luckily, my Christmas present to myself was Jack Zipes’ new translation of Grimm’s, featuring previously unpublished material. I had inadvertently stumbled upon a cornucopia of WTFery. I am likely to cover a lot of these stories in the months to come, but for now I’m going to tell you the story of The Twelve Brothers…
The tale of Great Claus and Little Claus is quite mild, as fucked-up fairy tales go, but still memorable and highly enjoyable. I’m currently reading through the ultimate and phenomenal Hans Christian Anderson collection (note: not actual book title), and it’s definitely my favourite so far. Are you sitting comfortably?
Most Memorable and/or Fucked-Up Fairy Tales: The Tale of the Silver Saucer and the Transparent Apple
The Tale of the Silver Saucer and the Transparent Apple is a Russian tale and was one of my favourite stories growing up. Naturally it was one of the most nonsensical and messed up fairy tales I have ever read.
‘Tis the story of a young merchant’s daughter called Maroosia, but her family called her ‘Little Stupid’ because self-esteem is something that needs to be pummelled out of kids at an early age.
One day the merchant goes off to market, but before he leaves he asks his daughters what presents they want him to bring back. The eldest daughter wants a necklace, the second eldest wants a new dress and Little Stupid wants a silver saucer and a transparent apple.
The merchant chuckles, probably wondering why he didn’t just put the name ‘Little Stupid’ on her birth certificate so future suitors could be forewarned, and heads off to market. True to his word, he comes back with a necklace, dress, silver saucer and a transparent apple.
Without so much as a “thanks, dad!” the two older daughters snatch their presents from the merchant and run off to try them on, “preening themselves like herons, now on one leg and now on the other, to see how they looked“. Little Stupid, because she’s so good and the hero of this story, makes her old dad a cuppa tea and doesn’t ask about her gift. But he asks her alright – he tells her he found her items, but hasn’t got a clue why she wants them. Little Stupid tells him, deadpan, that she will spin the apple in the saucer. Daddy dear laughs in her face, tells her that they don’t call her ‘Little Stupid’ for nothing (!) and fucks off to go and contemplate his excellent parenting skills, or something.
But Little Stupid, oblivious, sits herself down beside the stove and began spinning the apple in the saucer like a spinning top.
“Spin, spin, apple in the silver saucer.” This is what she said. “Spin so that I may see the world. Let me have a peep at the little father Tsar on his high trone. Let me see the rivers and the ships and the great towns far away.”
And by the Gods, as she looks into the little glass whirlpool in the silver saucer she could see all of these things. The great Tsar of Russia, ships on the sea, the wonders of Moscow, the great river Volga…
NOT SO STUPID NOW, IS SHE? BOO YEAH!
Her family came a-looking over her shoulder and could see all the things Little Stupid could see. Instead of yelling “OMG SORCERY!!!!!” and freaking out a little bit, the sisters start bargaining with her.
“Little Stupid,” says the first, “if you will give me your silver saucer and your transparent apple, I will give you my fine new necklace”
“Little Stupid,” says the second, “I will give you my new dress with gold braid if you will give me your transparent apple and your silver saucer.”
But Little Stupid tells them that she could never give her precious gifts away and goes on spinning the apple in the saucer.
So her sisters decide to murder her.
They take Little Stupid down to the woods to go berry picking. Little Stupid, berry picker extraordinaire, picks berries so fast and so furiously she soon has a full basket. She straightens up her aching back and then sees her sisters in front of her…holding a fucking axe.
At this point she plays up to her name and asks them if they were planning on cutting berries with the axe.
The sisters give her one last shot; if Little Stupid doesn’t give them her silver saucer and transparent apple, they will kill her. But Little Stupid left her silver saucer and transparent apple with her dad at home, and begs the sisters not to kill her for she doesn’t have them on her. The sisters, who might as well have just cackled evilly at this point, decide that she is lying and swiftly murder the fuck out of her.
Way to play happy families, girls.
With their sister now dead, they search her body and the surrounding woods for the silver saucer and transparent apple but can’t find them anywhere. Shit guy, she was telling the truth…But all they can do is bury poor, innocent Little Stupid.
The sisters think of a story to explain the death of Little Stupid to their father. As they walk home they rub their eyes to make tears come and make their eyes and noses red. Because, you know, real tears and remorse for killing a sibling are concepts that elude such highly advanced humans. The girls wail to their father oh woe is us, our sister has been eaten by wolves!
The family have a good cry for a few minutes before the sisters ask if they can have Little Stupid’s silver saucer and transparent apple. But dad says no; he shall keep them forever to remember his daughter by.
I am genuinely surprised the sisters didn’t plot to kill dad, too. It’s out of character, for sure.
Time passes, and one day a young shepherd boy moseys on into the woods and stumbles upon Little Stupid’s grave which is adorned by a birch tree, beautiful flowers and a reed. Shepherd boy decides to deface the little garden and carve a whistle-pipe out of the reed. But when he’s finished and starts to play the pipe, it actually starts to sing:
“Play, play, whistle-pipe. Bring happiness to my dear father and little mother. I was killed – yes, my life was taken from me in the deep forest for the sake of a silver saucer, for the sake of a transparent apple.”
Now, there are two correct responses when this kind of shit ever happens to you: the first is to scream bloody murder and cry “SORCERY!” then promptly shit your pants. The second is to find a way to make yourself rich through your enchanted/haunted reed pipe. Which is sort of what shepherd boy tries to do. Actually no it’s not; he just takes it to the village (presumably to seek reassurance that he’s not just hearing things) and gathers a flurry of villagers to the gravesite to investigate. One of those villagers is Little Stupid’s dear old dad.
They dig and they dig and find Little Stupid, lying perfectly and beautifully just as if she’s sleeping. No horrific axe wounds to the midriff or anything; she hasn’t even decomposed. You know because she’s pure and good and that disgusting shit doesn’t happen to good people.
The reed starts to sing again, totally spilling the beans on what really went down in the woods on that fateful day. The reed pipe sings about the two sisters who murdered Little Stupid and oh boy did they get grounded! And, also, sent to prison.
But the reed pipe was not done; with the pesky sisters nice and locked up, the reed pipe sings of a way for Little Stupid to be brought back to life: by fetching water from the well of the Tsar. No reason or anything; reed pipe has spoken.
So daddy dearest saddles up and heads off to the palace, and meanwhile shepherd boy, quite the budding necrophiliac, decides to “keep watch” by the grave.
With remarkable ease, daddy gets an audience with the goddamn Tsar of Russia who listens to his story. To his credit, he doesn’t immediately have him locked up as a madman. He figures he won’t really miss a little cup of water from his well, so he chucks some daddy’s way and says “yeah yeah mate, bring your daughter back here when you raise her from the dead and I’ll make her my queen. Haha! (crazy bastard)”.
That’s not what happened, but it’s how I imagine it to have happened because it’s slighly more realistic (though making proper sense of a fairy tale is really quite a redundant and foolish undertaking. I shouldn’t have bothered. As you were).
So daddy raises his perfectly un-decomposed daughter from the dead by sprinkling water on her perfect face and she wakes up just as lovely as she’s ever been. They trot off to see the old Tsar to thank him for his water and prove the story was true. And to witness the sisters’ execution, too.
Then Little Stupid goes and proves just how fucking pure she really is. She offers the Tsar her silver saucer and transparent apple in return for her sisters’ freedom. Because they may have murdered her so that they could nick her stuff, but she’s back now, no harm done, forgive and forget and all that jazz.
The Tsar, rather pleased with her blind kind-heartedness, decides to take her as his wife. Oh, not without my family, she says, I couldn’t live without my sisters by my side.
Can’t live with them either, can you Little Stupid? Literally.
And they all live happily ever after.
Except shepherd boy, who would have quite liked to tap that.
And the moral of the story is, if your siblings ever murder you because you didn’t give them your Gameboy or what have you, just remember to forgive them upon your resurrection. Forgiveness is good and pure, and if you have this quality you will not decompose when you die. Amen.