Last Friday Katherine shared Fairytale Reflections (27) Joanne Harris at SMoST. Here in the U.S. Harris is best known for her novel, Chocolat, which inspired the film of the same name. She also wrote Runemarks which was a fantasy for young readers that was well reviewed, too. (The paperback is bargain priced on Amazon right now if you are interested in it. It is a completely different cover from the original release.) Katherine discusses it Runemarks in her introduction and it makes a great introduction to Harris's guest post about the Pied Piper of Hamelin, that tale which resonates with so many children and adults.
Here are the first few paragraphs. Click through to read the entire entry, especially if you are enthralled by that tale yourself:
Raised as I was on the darkest, grimmest of Grimm’s fairy tales, I’ve always been very much aware of the dual nature of the world depicted in folklore and story. For every happy ending, there is an equally tragic one; children left to die in the woods; lovers parted forever; villains with their eyes pecked out by crows, or burnt alive; or hanged. Fairytale is a world away from the comfortable assurances of the Disney franchise – and surely that was the purpose of those original fairy tales, devised as they were for an audience comprising mostly of adults; often very poor; people whose lives were cruel and harsh, and who would never – even in fiction - have accepted to believe in a world in which the shadows did not at least occasionally rival the light.
My favourite of these ambiguous tales was always the Pied Piper. It’s interesting that this very well-known story has never been softened and sweetened in the way in which, for instance, The Little Mermaid, or Sleeping Beauty, or Cinderella have been adapted to suit our more sensitive times and cultures. Perhaps because the main character is such a sinister figure, nameless, appearing from nowhere, then vanishing into nowhere again, leaving nothing but unanswered questions and a story that lingers uncomfortably without a happy ending. But the ambiguity and the unanswered questions are part of my fondness for this tale, which seems to me to sum up perfectly our uncomfortable relationship with the world of magic and story, a relationship that combines longing and fear in fairly equal proportions.