Today’s google doodle is Charles Perrault. Well done Charles, you’ve made it! Fairy tale fascination is nothing new, children watch the Disney versions over and over, but as I grew older I realised there was something else to them, something…untamed.
A Jim Henson television programme from the late 80s told me that yes, there was something to that theory. Based on folk tales from the past they were often more unpleasant than the Disney versions – don’t let yourself be led astray, or such and such will happen.
Jim Henson’s Storyteller, Sapsorrow, an early version of Cinderella where she has to marry her father
That’s the gist of many of them: dark predictions if you don’t heed your guardian’s warnings. Little Red Riding Hood was much more The Company of Wolves than a story about a little girl avoiding a scary animal. In truth she was on the brink of sexuality and told not to talk to strangers on the way to her grandma’s lest they be an evil seducer.
But that’s not all they are. The listener no doubt felt a thrill of fear and disgust and the teller would delight in their reaction. They’re projections of worst case scenarios told safely indoors, the Urban Legends of their time. I got the same excitement and revulsion when I first discovered the Snopes website and saw society’s basest worries right there on the screen. There’s no PC filters here, everybody fits a stereotype and everyone wants to secretly maim you or put gerbils up you (neither sounds good).
Just like the Prince’s mother from Charles Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty plans to eat his daughter, stories are whispered of meth taking baby-sitters mistaking children for meatloaf and putting them in ovens. A still earlier version of Sleeping Beauty has the Prince impregnating the Princess IN HER SLEEP, while other versions have the mother-in-law not only eating her son’s first daughter but secretly, apparently for a laugh, feeding her to the King. All of which sound a little like the tales passed between lips of scary foreigners and drug addicts.
So next time you listen to a biased and poorly researched story told to you by the bloke in the office who heard it from Fred just imagine: One day there might be a cartoon version where they get married at the end.
Pip pip, what what and other meaningless phrases. Here are a few full length episodes of ‘documentaries’ from my distant memories. It seems to me that the 90s developed an obsession with the odd in all it’s forms, from Fortean Times to sun, moon and star decorations (which of course I had as wallpaper). Perhaps my memory is biased because I lapped it up like a crazy cat, but here are my favourites IN FULL!
Sacred Weeds. There were four episodes in this series: Blue Lily, Henbane, Salvia Divinorum and Fly Agaric Mushroom. They were fascinating for a couple of reasons; firstly for the study on natural drugs, secondly for the stubbornness of the scientists who very rarely if at all change their minds and thirdly for the sheer oddness of suited men and women questioning people tripping their tootsies off. Here’s the Henbane episode, thought to have been taken by witches:
For an added treat here’s Salvia Divinorum
BBC Weird Night. Back in 1994 the BBC had a ‘weird night’ which became legendary in my mind, partly because there’s almost no information on it and the programmes were never shown again. It will always have a special place in my mind as a defining moment of weirdness setting me on a particular path with my fiction. I personally don’t believe in the paranormal anymore, but it’s still a fun watch if only to bask in 90s tastic weirdness. Also of note, follow the link above to see which films, including David Lynch, were shown after the programmes.
Fortean Review of the Year (1994)
The next was WSH, The Myth of the Urban Myth. Urban myths are fascinatingly grotesque, and this show weaves drama with genuine experts discussing them from all angles:
Weird Thoughts. Continuing Weird Night, here’s a gathering of ‘experts’ in the bowels of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum discussing the meaning of weird. I love this because the London museum was the destination of mine and Bill’s second date:
This is slightly cheating as this programme was first broadcast in 2002, but the image of a kitty cat drug orgy was burned onto my retinas. Here’s Weird Nature, Peculiar Potions:
Have a peek at this website of spooky stories all operating under the premise that Calgary (a place in Canada, I believe? Hopefully I’m not wrong) has a hidden underbelly of weirdness which you can only see by performing certain tasks (keys). It’s good for ideas, and quite inventive. Ooh!