CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 6 . . . . November 16, 2001.
And indeed in "Sleeping Beauty," one of the retellings in Three Tales of Enchantment, the fourth book of the "Once-Upon-A-Time" series, the King and Queen do pay dearly. An evil fairy casts a curse on the Princess and proclaims that "On your fifteenth birthday, you will prick your finger on a spindle and die!'" Luckily, the last "good" fairy softens the terrible curse; the Princess will not die but rather sleep for one hundred years and be awakened by the kiss of a king's son. Although every spinning wheel and spindle in the kingdom is destroyed, the wicked fairy returns in disguise on the Princess's fifteenth birthday and ensures that the Princess pricks her finger. Consequently, the Princess and the entire kingdom sink into an enchanted sleep that lasts one hundred years. When a handsome prince rides by the hedge concealing the castle and hears the tale, he is determined to see the Princess for himself. His kiss breaks the spell, the Prince and Princess get married, and everyone lives happily ever after - - of course.
In the second tale of enchantment, "The Little Mermaid," Helmer veers from the Hans Christian Andersen's version, and rather than having to kill the Prince in order to survive, the Little Mermaid needs to collect only "a few drops" of his blood. The Little Mermaid's encounter with the Sea Witch is limited, and Helmer subdues the evilness of the Sea Witch. The Beast, in "Beauty and the Beast," the third tale of enchantment in the book, is also less frightening than in most well-known versions of the story. Readers never see the Beast's face, only the back of his head and a blurry image in a mirror.
As noted in my review of the second book in the series, one of the purposes of the "Once-Upon-A-Time" series is to collect stories with similar topics, characters or motifs. The retellings in Helmer's fourth book are not parodied, fractured or novel renditions of the well-known versions of the stories. The tales are inoffensive but offer nothing original or distinct. Further, there are no source notes or documentation to provide readers with information about the original tales or about Helmer's reasons for writing her versions as she did.
The title page, front matter, and table of contents have illustrations of the main female character in each tale. Consistent with the layout of the second book, the fourth book also has significant items placed at the top of each page in each story. Charko's style of illustration, rendered in watercolour, is appropriate for the book. The colourful illustrations provide magical settings for each tale. A minor criticism of the illustrations is the depiction of Beauty. Although said to be the "fairest by far," Charko has not created a "beauty" (see the Queen in "Sleeping Beauty" for a "beauty").
Pantaleo is an Assistant Professor of Language Arts at the Faculty of
Education, the University of Victoria.
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