Wolves may lurk in every guise

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“Fairy tales are stories of spells, journeys, tests, riddles, dangers and (usually) happy endings. They speak to our innermost hopes, dreams, and fears. Endlessly adapted and re-imagined in literature, film, television, performance and other media, fairy tales continue to have a profound influence on our culture.”

My fellow Toronto bibliophiles are already well aware of the incredible exhibits the Toronto Reference Library brings to the city. The current exhibit, Once Upon A Time: Fairy Tales from the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, is no exception.

The exhibit explores classic fairy tales through books, toys, games and art. Highlights for me included the editions of Grimm’s fairy tales from the early 1900s and all the different Little Red Riding Hood items, including a toothpick holder from around 1945 and the lovely editions of the book from Paris and Barcelona. I actually learned that in Charles Perrault’s original Little Red Riding Hood from 1697, there is no happy ending. She’s simply eaten. In the Grimm’s version (1812) she was rescued by a passing huntsman.

The exhibit has plenty of other items on display from a range of fairy tales, but for some reason I was stuck on Little Red Riding Hood for awhile. It occurred to me that I’ve never actually read Perrault’s original, and I’m not entirely certain that I’ve ever read the Grimm’s more cleaned up take on it either. I promptly ordered a copy of Perrault’s Fairy Tales and put my copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales on my bedside table. You can easily read the tale online, but I’ll take any excuse to buy a book of fairy tales.

Once that was done, I started thinking about all the adaptations of Little Red Riding Hood that I’ve seen. Wikipedia has a pretty impressive list of them here, and Goodreads has a list devoted to modern retellings of the story here. It’s amazing to see all the ways we’ve interpreted this tale, everything from slasher films to short stories. I suppose you could be a cynic about it and say that it’s because no one is capable of coming up with original ideas anymore. But I prefer to think of it like this: a good story is a good story, and how you choose to tell it doesn’t really matter. People will connect with the idea if it’s strong enough.

If you’re interested in checking out the Once Upon a Time exhibit at the Toronto Reference Library, it runs until January 15, 2017.

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