Once upon a time there was a household of bibliophiles with an insatiable appetite for reading. Book stores and libraries filled them with delight. A new book release would set their hearts racing. They would venture off on a quest for this treasure, and when the stars aligned they would find it beckoning like a brilliant gold coin on the library or bookstore shelf. They had a passion for all books large and small: mysteries, adventures, comedy, non-fiction, and the fairest of them all, fairy tales.
These book lovers, who happen to live in my house, are presently revisiting fairy tales geared toward their ages; one beloved collection is a contemporary Usborne take on the time honoured stories, while the other book is a humorous and slightly gory version of Grimm’s fairy tales.
What is fascinating about fairy tales is their timeless appeal. These stories are often a child’s first literary introduction to good and evil involving a hero or heroine, a villain, magic, and often a happily ever after ending where love triumphs. One author explains that the lasting appeal of fairy tales is their power to help children deal with inner conflicts that they face in the course of growing up (The Witch Must Die by Sheldon Cashadan).
While fairy tales are perennial favourites and have never gone out of style, they are experiencing a huge revitalization and a modern twist, thanks largely to the television show Once Upon A Time. Unless you have been in a deep Rip Van Winkle-like sleep, you are probably aware that this hit show films on our doorstep. A growing international fan base is visiting “Storybrooke” from far and wide to see the location first hand, attesting to the spell this story has cast upon its audience.
The first season of Once Upon A Time was recently released on DVD. Judging by how quickly it sold out, viewers must be anxiously awaiting year two. Last season I watched the show weekly and I have also had the opportunity to view the DVD. I recommend that Stevestonites watch the footage of the story behind Storybrooke. You will see familiar businesses and faces, which makes you feel proud to call Steveston home.
A bonus feature on the DVD spotlights Once Upon A Time’s actors, writers and producers discussing early memories of fairy tales. What I found striking is each of them has strong recollections of their attraction to this world of magic, adventure, suspense, love and hope. In addition, many of the actors discuss how fairy tales left them spellbound as children, and share some insights into how they developed their Once Upon A Time character. A highlight was hearing one of my personal favourites, Robert Carlyle, discuss how he brought Rumpelstiltskin to life.
The writers have the wonderful job of creating “back stories” for iconic fairy tale characters. They cleverly weave dual plots which unfold in separate realities, between our world (modern day Storybrooke) and fairy tale land. This results in many interesting twists, turns and surprises.
The actors cite finding and losing true love, and ultimately hope, as the common themes in many of the stories. There is a belief that a happy ending can be attained, despite Once Upon A Time’s obstacles including a dragon, the Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin, curses and magic spells. Actor Lee Arenberg (who plays Grumpy/Leroy) says you have to be able to cry if you are on this show. I confess, as a viewer I pulled out hankies several times last season; please don’t remind me of the heart wrenching episode featuring Nova the fairy and Grumpy.
Welcome back to Steveston, Once Upon A Time. Thank you for bringing the magic of fairy tales to life each week. And, thank you for creating a show where imagination is living happily ever after in Steveston village.