Like many mothers, my mom told me fairytales when I was a child. But as a public school administrator (her title was Cultural Coordinator) she had access to a wide breadth of media, including films and ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of picture books.
Two items in this treasure trove of fairytale lore stick with me.
One was a 16mm short film adaptation of the fairytale ‘Puss In Boots.’ This film, which my mother rescued from a discard pile of educational materials, was simply beautiful. It was black and white stop motion animation. The puppets’ clothing was ornate and rococco, and the sets were meticulously crafted. The black and white photography was luminously elegant—there is a touch of Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast in the aesthetic. We broke out ‘Puss in Boots’ during birthday parties. It mesmerized me.
The second item was a picture book, an original fairytale about a knight battling a cowardly dragon. The dragon was aided by a kindly fairy godmother, who was a bit of a literal genie in her wish-granting. The knight is a bully, and both the fairy and the dragon figure out a way to beat the knight. Eventually, the dragon and the fairy princess fall in love and live happily ever after. The thing that was notable about the story—aside from it’s humorous trope reversals—was that the fairy godmother was a jive-talking black woman with a huge Afro—imagine a cross between Whoopi Goldberg (at her peak) and Moms Mabley. That book, which I don’t know the name of, was the bomb.
What sparked this memory is that I am current in the process of writing four different fairytales. Thanks, Mom, for the inspiration!