I have loved fairy tales since I was a little girl. Fairy tales are a child’s world of imagination and pleasure, but they also provide a source of inspiration and role models. Almost all kids know the basic plot of several folk tales. Plethora of prints retell them. Cartoons reenact them. Movies reimagine them. A child can learn the comforting, time-treasured stories well and quickly. There is an access point for everyone.
And yet, they can be troubling and grim. Many fairy tales deal with characters in their familial roles or gender stereotypes—mother, father, child, princess, prince, orphan, stepsister, witch—but we know very little else about any of these characters. The stories themselves are often symbolic and defy rational analysis. Many fairy tales are based on the concept of achieving married status, royal status, or plain wealth. Many female characters in fairy tales have nothing to commend them but their delicate looks or are weak and vulnerable and only succeed when a man intervenes. Many fairy tales include cruelty and depraved violence.
In contrast, I am taking a fresh take on Estonian classic folk tales for modern kids and retell Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald’s “Old Estonian Fairy Tales”. I will create a picture book that retells these classic stories with strong characters and modern morals, and conveys the same sense of comfort and wonder that a good fairy tale provides, minus the thieving and evil stepparents. These illustrated stories will present characters in a reasoned narration as free autonomous spirits with a unique personality and quirks.
I will start with a folk tale about The Water-Lily, the Gold Spinners. It tells about three stolen princesses who were kept in a cottage hidden among the bushes hard at work from morning to night spinning golden flax into thread. As they did not want to spin gold flax for ever, the youngest of them was turned into a yellow water-lily floating on the surface of the water.