After my last article about Heroes of the Feywild, it occurred to me that, while I’ve said a lot about my love of faerie tales in earlier articles, there’s so much more I can say. Is it a bit ironic that your Gay Gamer Geek loves Faerie Tales? Maybe a tad, but it’s no less true for all that.
You already know so many things I love that touch on Faerie Tales, from the Changeling RPG to the comic series Fables to Disney movies, because I’ve talked about them in these articles. I challenged myself to find five more ways to enjoy Faerie Tales that I haven’t covered in depth before, and the results of that challenge await you now.
And we’ll begin as all Faerie Tales should…
Once Upon a Time (The Card Game)
If you’ve never had the chance to play this delightful card game, then I recommend you hunt down a copy right away. I actually pulled it out for the first time on Christmas, and my guests had a blast.
The cards in the game come in two flavors. Every player gets a hand of normal cards based on how many people are playing, plus one Happily Ever After card. Normal cards have elements on them that are common in Faerie Tales, such as characters (Prince, Princess, Frog), items (Ring, Wand), conditions (Cursed, This Animal Can Talk, Darkness), places (Cave, Chapel, Castle), and so on. Each Happily Ever After card has a specific ending, such as “And they were blind for the rest of their days because of their wickedness.” Or “And the two were wed at last.”
As the game progresses, people play cards from their hand, telling a story. The object is to tell a Faerie Tale, using all of the cards in your hand and finishing with your Happily Ever After card. The challenge is that all the other players want to, too. If the storyteller mentions an element that you have in your hand of cards (such as when the storyteller mentions that the King and Queen have a son…and you have a card that says Prince), then you can play that card and take control of the story. When the game is finished, hopefully you’ll all have told a great Faerie Tale together.
Needless to say, there are card expansions. One set allows you to add your own cards, and there’s also a “Dark Tales” expansion which adds more horrific elements to your tales.
With so many Faerie Tale oriented RPG options out there, I wanted to make sure I put out a really interesting choice. I decided to go with Grimm, a very fun, scary concept.
In Grimm, you play a kid, trapped in the lands of Grimm, a world that was created in part when the Grimm Brothers collected their stories. In a way, those stories captured and hid the Grimm Lands, locking them away from “real life.” The trouble is, something dark and malign rots at the heart of the Grimm Lands, and kids from the real world find themselves dragged into a dangerous place that tries very hard to destroy them. The kids have one very powerful weapon on their side, however: imagination.
I really like the idea of playing archetypal kids, like the Jock, the Princess, the Outcast, and so on. I’m also fascinated by Estrangement, a terrible fate that can befall our heroes. When a child from the real world becomes Estranged, they can no longer return to the real world, so no hope remains for them. In Grimm, there’s no guarantee of a Happily Ever After.
Terry Windling’s Fairy Tale Series
Way back, when I talked about my love of Urban Fantasy, I mentioned this series of books, but I didn’t really discuss it too much. Now that I’m talking about Faerie Tales, I really want to mention it again.
This series features top notch fantasy authors taking classic faerie tales and reworking them in interesting new ways. I haven’t read all of the books in this series, but I’ve started collecting them again, and I want to eventually read them all. I have read Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, which takes the Scottish ballad of a man rescued from the Faerie Queen by his true love and transports it to a college in Minnesota. I’ve also read Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose, which ties Sleeping Beauty to events in the Holocaust, and Jack the Giant-Killer by Charles DeLint, in which a young woman from Ottowa, Jacky Rowan, stumbles into the realm of Faery and becomes a hero by pure luck.
Other great authors in this series include Steven Brust, Kara Dalkey, Patricia C. Wrede, Tanith Lee, and Gregory Frost. I look forward to picking up the rest of the books and enjoying them all.
Into the Woods
As I was pondering other genres to bring up in this article, I laughed out loud at one point as this particular piece jumped to mind. How apropos is it that your Gay Gamer Geek gets to tell you about a piece of musical theatre?
Stephen Sondheim, he of Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, and Pacific Overtures, wrote the music and lyrics of an entire musical about faerie tales. It was one of the first musicals I saw with my Dad at the North Shore Music Theatre, and I’m very fond if it…and not just because of the fairly anatomically correct Big Bad Wolf costume (I *am* a furry, after all.)
This musical combines the familiar tales of Rapunzel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk with a new story about a Baker & His Wife who desperately want to have a child. By the end of Act 1, we seem to have reached the climax of all of these stories and are set for a Happily Ever After. Act 2, however, explores what happens later: Cinderella and Rapuznel’s Princes begin to stray, the Giant’s Wife has come looking for revenge for Jack killing her husband, the Baker is having second thoughts about being a father, and so on. All of the characters have to figure out what they’ve learned and what ending is right for them, even if it isn’t the Happily Ever After they originally dreamed of.
This musical doesn’t have a single song that you’ll find haunting you for days afterwards (Sondheim’s musicals rarely seem to, with the exception of Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music). But the lessons it has to teach might be something you still think about years later. I know I still do.
Once Upon a Time (the TV Show)
We’re beginning and ending this list with a Once Upon a Time. In this case, it’s the TV Show Once Upon a Time from ABC.
This show focuses on the town of Storybrooke, Maine, which is the focal point of a curse levied by the Evil Queen (from Snow White). The people of the town are all faerie tale characters who have no memory of their old lives and who are constantly denied their Happily Ever Afters. The only person who escaped this fate is Emma, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, who was sent to the “real world” when she was an infant and who grew up in the foster system. On her birthday, a boy named Henry shows up at her apartment, claiming to be the baby that she gave up for adoption 10 years earlier. She takes him home to Storybrooke and learns about his belief in the faerie tales in their lost states. Her presence begins stirring up sparks, especially with Regina, the town mayor, Henry’s adopted mother, and the only person in town who remembers the Faerie Tale world…because she’s the Evil Queen herself!
I enjoy this series a lot. It seems intelligent and takes some risks, but it keeps delivering fun storytelling as well. I really want to see where things are going and enjoy trying to figure out who all the characters were when they were Faerie Tales. I do have a few concerns. I’m afraid the show is in danger of being a Gilligan’s Island, where the story can never truly move forward. I know it’s an ABC show, but the little Disney touches (such as Sleeping Beauty’s witch being actually referred to as Maleficent) leave me a bit cold, because they seem to pick and choose when to be Disney-ish. And while I think that Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin is a fantastic and intriguing character, I don’t need him to be the root of everything nasty. There are so many great faerie tales out there, and I’m afraid it’s only going to concentrate on a tiny handful of very well-known ones and their characters. The synopses for the next few episodes seems to indicate more legends being brought in, including some very Disney-fied ones (Beauty and the Beast…and Beauty is referred to as Bell) and some that Disney hasn’t touched, like Hansel and Gretel. So we’ll see.
Do you have a favorite way of enjoying faerie tales, outside of picking up a book of Grimm? Have I missed out an important piece? Let us all know.