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Monday, August 27, 2007

A Pastiche of Modern Fairy Tales [1]

Read part two here.

Following current reports of Greece's devastating forest fires, it seems that once more truth has outdone fiction. Thousands of acres of forest in the Peloponnese, the Attica basin around Athens and Evia are in flames with thousands of residents and tourists forced to flee burning homes, hotels and even beachside resorts. Among many tragic stories to emerge, one that shocks is that of a mother who burned to death with her four children. They died clutching each other.

And it got me to thinking: What is life, but a pastiche of our own modern fairy tales?

By definition a pastiche can be a creative piece openly imitating previous works, or a collection of odds and ends; a hodgepodge. The definition of fairy tale is an otherworld story told to amuse children. Sometimes it is also used to denote an interesting but highly implausible fabrication; often told as an excuse. However, as fictional narrative it usually gives a moral message through the particulars of a course of events. More specifically, the fairy tales we grew up with were less about the fairies and more about ourselves. While studying at university I'd always ask new friends what their favourite fairy tales were, because it would tell me so much about them. For example under close introspection as an analysis of human character, what is the story of Little Red Riding Hood about but really the deepest, darkest parts of our sexuality?

At the end of our days, will this fantastic tale of life made up of a pasticcio of incongruous parts be one we can tell our children in good conscience? Will we be able to make them smile? Will we be able to impart to them moral messages that will make them proud of us? Or will it just end up sounding like a sorry excuse for living?

So shouldn't we at least try to make sure that the fairy tale we'll read to our children of our life is a good one?

A favourite film of mine, recently deceased Ingmar Bergman's richly observed Wild Strawberries, was the story of an elderly academic forced to review his life. When we look back at our lives, will we like what we see? If we were to write up our fairy tale so far, and analyse what we have done, and where we are going, what would we find?

And more generally, what if we wanted to write up our world's current story? Getting back to the devastation in Greece, one theory is that the fires could have been started as a way of getting around Greek law which forbids development on areas designated as forest land. It blows my mind to think that there could be any possibility developers would destroy so much beauty for money.

More than a fairy tale, it's an absolute Greek tragedy.

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