Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fairytale Reflections (16) Leslie Wilson at SMoST

Fairytale Reflections (16) Leslie Wilson was this past Friday's post at SMoST. Leslie Wilson writes realistic fiction, not the usual fantasy, but finds inspiration in fairy tales all the same. Her tale of choice was a little surprising, one that is not often discussed at SurLaLune but still annotated and featured on the main site, so this was a refreshing piece to read.  The tale? The Bremen Town Musicians. (Bet you already guessed that with the Arthur Rackham illustration above.)

This post was as wonderful as the rest despite the less popular tale because it addresses that. Katherine Langrish's intro is great, here's an excerpt:

And I think her post is important ( as well as very moving) because it reminds us that the perceived gulf between fantasy and realism in fiction is more mirage than fact. All fiction is invention. Back in the 16th century, Sir Philip Sidney wrote his ‘Apologie for Poetrie’ as a defence of invention, to persuade those people who felt, uneasily, that it was somehow wrong and childish to concern themselves with something ‘untrue’. Sidney wrote:

‘I think truly, that of all writers under the sun the poet is the least liar… for the poet, he nothing affirms, and therefore never lieth. For the poet never maketh any circles about your imagination, to conjure you to believe for true what he writes.

… None so simple would say that Aesop lied in his tales of the beasts; for whoso thinks that Aesop writ it for actually true were well worthy to have his name catalogued among the beasts he writeth of. What child is there that, coming to a play, and seeing Thebes written in great letters upon an old door, doth believe that it is Thebes?’

Here's an excerpt from Wilson's piece, but do click through to read it all:

That tradition is deeply rooted in folklore, and so am I. Like Susan Price, I spent years and years of my childhood reading folktales from all over the world. But it was when I was doing my degree in German that I read the whole way through the three-volume 1900 jubilee edition of Grimm that I was lucky enough to be given in childhood – and, like Susan Price, found my mind going clicketty-clack, categorising the stories, seeing that certain basic plots came up over and over again, with variations – and once a motif from the Nibelungenlied, the medieval Lay of the Nibelungs, in The Two Brothers: the sword put between a man masquerading as his twin brother and his sister-in-law when they have to sleep together. Siegfried puts a sword between himself and Brünhilde when he beds her in the guise of his brother-in-law-to be, Gunther. Maybe the Nibelungenlied draws from popular folklore, maybe the folk story has picked up part of the epic. In any case, it was deeply important to me to read the collection then, one of those things that one knows one has to do, even if one doesn’t know why. What it taught me is what others have said before me: there are only a limited amount of plots. The other realisation was also important: that stories are interdependent and feed each other. When – many years later - I started to write Kummersdorf, I quickly realised the influence, in my story, of The Bremen Town Musicians.

Books by Leslie Wilson:

Last Train from Kummersdorf Saving Rafael Mountain of Immoderate Desires

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