Today I went looking for fairy tales in my teaching box because I’m writing this the week before the Canberra science fiction convention (Conflux) and it’s being published the day after and the name of this Conflux is Grimm13.
The trouble is that, for me, almost everything in my box has a fairy tale link. One item could get you kidnapped by fairies while another could win you a question. For me, our notion of fairy tales is very closely connection to our memory of history, so my historic items (which are many and varied) are also potentially the stuff of fairy tales. We dream about both of them in different ways, but we use much the same material. To give an example, I was making a particular type of German gingerbread because Katrin Kania gave me the right spices for it. I used a local fruit that has a short season and an amazing peel and this gave me the special Australian flavour. How is this linked to fairytales? This gingerbread could be a wall of the witch’s cottage in Hansel and Gretel if the cottage were in Australia. The only Hansel and Gretel near me, however, is a café that sells chocolate and dried fruit.
Today I can’t help thinking that fairy tales are the dreams that come out of popular history. Linked to our past, they’re wildly imaginary. My path became clear to me. I needed something like the stones that Hansel used to find his way back home the first time his father ‘lost’ them in the forest. I also need something to remind myself and all of you of that dreamlike quality of fairy tales and that they can be joyous or tragic or terrifying… but seldom real.
I have the perfect objects in this bag.
Let me pull them out for you.
From one direction you can find the path to fairy tale land. I’m still not certain where the other one leads. Possibly New Zealand.