Fairytales were not necessarily for children in the old days either and nowadays numerous retellings make them adult fantasies again. Juri Nummelin has put together 13 short stories or fairytales by different Finnish authors with quite different styles. One thing is sure though, these tales are grim enough to please the original Grimm brothers too.

Fairytales for adults

Author: Edited by Juri Nummelin
Publisher: Kustannus Jalava 2017
Category: Fiction
Original language: Finnish
Rating: 4/5

There are a few tales I’d like to highlight, because they rose above the others. Markus Harju has retold the Rumpelstiltskin’s tale from the perspective of Rumpelstiltskin himself and by peeling off all the magic elements. How did the story go, when it all was just an awful scheme and Rumpelstiltskin happened to got caught in the middle of it? Harju shows how easily we forget that there are always two sides to a story, two perspectives and how differently events can be interpreted depending on who’s looking.

Shimo Suntila  has created a whole new plot, using fairy magic folklore, to tell about the two very different realities that being a girl or a boy can mean to a person. Sari is a girl, who meets a fairy, who gives her a ring with which she can instantly turn herself into a boy. She grows to depend on that ability to survive in her social life and tough surroundings. But then comes the moment, when she has to be who she really is.

Johanna Sinisalo’s  Hantta and Kertsi is a modern world version of Hansel and Gretel, the fairytale of two siblings who were left to die by their parents. In Sinisalo’s version the mother of the two children wants to change her dreary life into an easier one with her new boyfriend and without the responsibility of taking care of children. Although, in this family of addicted parents, Hantta and Kertsi have learned to take care of themselves. So, when they escape from their murderous mother just to end up in the hands of an child abuser, they know what to do. Hantta and Kertsi have the time of their life until the welfare society gets the hang of them and gives them a more ordinary life at foster parents. The scariest element of this fairytale is of course that it could be true. There are way too many children forced to deal with similar things as Hantta and Kertsi in our world.

Perhaps this is the real lesson of all these retellings. When we read the original old fairytales, we’re so distanced from the way of life as it was centuries ago, it seems fantasy to us. But, for the people of the time, it was probably very close to reality. And the horrors of the real world are always worse than any imaginary monster can ever be.