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This will be a journey, let me tell you! We’ll go on this together, right?!
To break any ice, I have this to offer. It’s a post about books that look like they’d be for kids, but aren’t.
Now that we’ve cleared any awkwardness that might have been, let’s dive into some classics! Memory lane…and if you haven’t read any of these:
Let’s start with a classic: Beauty and the Beast
Taken from The Culture Trip, Beauty and the Beast (1991, 2017):
In the original, Belle is the daughter of a bankrupt merchant, as opposed to an eccentric inventor, the silverware in the Beast’s impressive castle neither sings nor dances and, most importantly, it is the machinations of Belle’s two wicked sisters that result in the Beast’s demise, and not the comically villainous Gaston, who is merely a Disney embellishment. Furthermore, though de Beaumont’s narrative does end happily, with Belle’s love breaking the curse placed on the Beast, many versions deny this happy ending for the ill-fated couple, instead choosing to close the story with Belle grieving over the Beast’s prone form.
To continue on some of the depth from the original, from HuffPo:
Then, the merchant receives a welcome surprise: One of his ships, thought to be lost at sea, has come safely to harbor with its full cargo. His children think their fortune will surely be restored. When he sets out for the city to deal with his freight, he takes with him requests from his sons and daughters for expensive clothes and other gifts. Only Beauty is hesitant to ask for a gift, and finally asks that he bring her a single red rose.
Continuing, from HuffPo:
Like so many fairy tales, “Beauty and the Beast” has evolved considerably during its journey from oral tradition to the page to the screen. Moreover, there is not only one literary version ― but dozens. Today, Disney-fied fairy tales are most familiar to the masses in their animated forms; the originals, when revisited, can seem comparatively brutal and dark.
Unlike Disney’s “Cinderella” and “Snow White,” however, “Beauty and the Beast” hardly sugarcoats the violence of the original. It’s literally a romance between a captive woman and the monster she at first believes might physically attack her.
Going back to The Culture Trip source:
Furthermore, though de Beaumont’s narrative does end happily, with Belle’s love breaking the curse placed on the Beast, many versions deny this happy ending for the ill-fated couple, instead choosing to close the story with Belle grieving over the Beast’s prone form.
Reading into Belle’s story, it sounds like the flip from the story we see of Cinderella. Sure, the modern tale has Belle as an only child (so there’s that “new” flip), but Belle in the original story had siblings, and instead of being the “red-headed step child” sort of character, she’s the gifted, beautiful one.
Now let’s go onto Red Riding Hood (2011, 2014 children’s twist, 1983 reprint):
Going back to my The Culture Trip source/inspo for this post:
One version hints at the wolf and the grandmother being one and the same person, another hints at Red Riding Hood ‘graciously’ allowing the wolf to eat her grandmother before she kills the wolf, so as to be able to seize her grandmother’s property.
Keep in mind this:
it is difficult to work out which is the ‘earliest’ version. Though the most expurgated versions simply use the wolf as an allegory to warn against talking to strangers, several darker accounts reveal a violent and destructive layer beneath the initial veneer.
If you don’t think the “generic”/kid version is weird enough, when you think about it, consider this plot twist from Ranker.com:
Little Red Riding Hood’s full story is pretty dark. Unlike the modern version, where a naive and trusting girl who can’t tell the difference between a wolf and her grandmother escapes in the end, in most older versions, Red is eaten alive. And that’s only the beginning of the horrible things that happen in “Little Red Riding Hood.”
Also, look at this snipet:
The versions circulating in 17th-century France, when Charles Perrault first wrote down the story in his collection called Mother Goose Tales, featured a cannibalistic granddaughter and a pedophile wolf who tells Red to strip down before she climbs in his bed. No wonder the fairy tale was changed – it’s for children, after all!
The history is intense, and changes so much over time. I learned so much, just from this one article alone! I never found interest in most “kid” versions of these fairy tales, when I was a kid. Yes, I was that weirdo…it made me into the interesting adult that I am today though! I never even cared for Red Riding Hood either. But now I’m kind of intrigued! I may add some audio books or threads on her, in the future.
Look here, at some darker things, about the twist of Red Riding Hood being about coming of age:
Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm claimed that the red hood was a symbol of menstruation, turning the tale into a morality lesson for young girls who might “stray from the path,” putting their honor at risk. The wolf, in Fromm’s version, becomes a seducer of young girls.
Sin is also a possibility, as a tale from this story:
Red was a color associated with sin when Perrault first wrote the fairy tale in the 1690s. And many folklorists point out that the red color was often a symbol that a girl had come of age, linking it to menstruation. When the wolf tricks Little Red Riding Hood and eats her up, the message is clear: beware of predators who want to take advantage of young girls. And there’s a twisted part of the earliest French versions that really drives the point home.
I’m keeping this one simple, as there’s so much just in this source I found. I feel like I’d just copy and paste everything from them, and that’s not right.
Now, I’m going to dive into my FAVORITE kids story now. I don’t know why I went to this story, and I don’t know why I did it out of nowhere, when I tried out the Audiable subscription (if anyone can help me find the “get 2 credits a month” subscription, I would love you forever…I just need the link…it’s not the $15/a month one…)
LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Like I said, I don’t know why I, as an adult, became recently interested/obsessed with Alice in Wonderland, but here I am.
So Alice in Wonderland (2010, 2016 twist, Alice through the Looking Glass, Alice [Which is what made me fall down the rabbit hole]) is my jam. I’m currently listening to the next book after Alice, which will be finished shortly, let’s be real.
Did you know that there’s an actual syndrome? I HAD to ask my dad about it…I’ll update with what he had to say.
Anyway, back to what we need to get to: the mature version of this story. Here’s what the BBC has to say:
With the waning of Victorian prudery and the birth of psychoanalytical theory, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandseemed a good deal less innocent
The book began life humbly, as entertainment for 10-year-old Alice Liddell and her sisters as they boated on the Thames with one Charles Dodgson. It proved such a hit that Alice persuaded Dodgson to transcribe it, which he duly did – using the nom de plume Lewis Carroll. Alice was the daughter of the dean of Christ Church, the Oxford college where Dodgson taught mathematics, and she wasn’t the only young girl he befriended.
With the waning of Victorian prudery and the birth of psychoanalytical theory, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland seemed a good deal less innocent. Re-examining the text, critics found plenty of gynaecological imagery, from the rabbit hole itself to the curtain that she must push aside
Continuing, the BBC article says:
More nuanced readings have viewed Alice’s journey as being less about sex per se and more about a girl’s progress through childhood and puberty into adulthood. Our heroine feels uncomfortable in her body, which undergoes a series of extreme changes; her sense of her self becomes destabilised, leaving her uncertain of her own identity; she butts heads with authority and strives to understand seemingly arbitrary rules, the games that people around her play, and even death.
Do you think it might be about drugs and getting high? Think about this:
There is no concrete evidence that Carroll ever experimented with mind-altering drugs
Famed literary scholar William Empson got especially carried away, declaring that Alice is “a father in getting down the hole, a foetus at the bottom, and can only be born by becoming a mother and producing her own amniotic fluid”.
That’s all just from one article. I know, it’s bad to do so much from one artice, but this one provides so much thought. And yes, I’m going deeper with Alice, as I have an enjoyment favor towards her, but this is a decent article. I pulled maybe 12-15% of what the article shared.
Take a look at this piece from Diply:
Point 4 states this
It has been documented that Dodgson didn’t view Queen Victoria favorably. The Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland is obviously bombastic and somewhat evil.
Yet, the Queen found this book amusing…so what did she see, and I have to question all of it.
What are some of your childhood favorites? Do you have kids? What are their favorites? Do you know the twists or origins to your childhood favorites?