Community Weeks in Creative Writing had settled down, leaving us with memories from Kirby Cove and writing poetry among the flowers in the Botanical Gardens. Fatima, our artist in residence, came into Creative Writing ready to open the door to the world of fairy tales. She began class by reading a prose poem about dragons living among humans. I felt as though I were in the world she was describing, where dragons eat discarded sandwiches in the street or mistake a child for a seal pup, eat it, and feel guilty.
On the first day, Fatima asked us what our favorite fairy tales were. We went around in a circle, telling each other our favorite tales: Narnia, Tinkerbell, Repunzel, La Llorona, Aladdin, and many others. More and more kept popping up into my mind as each person shared the fairy tales that they had grown up with. I found it surprising how the topic could spark up so much conversation. Fairy tales, for most of us, were a part of our childhood that we got to share with each other.
On the second day, Fatima told us, in her soft Australian accent, about the history of fairy tales, how The Grimm Brothers collected tales from common people during the eighteen hundreds. They adapted and revised stories until the little gifts of hazelnuts, fallen from a sacred tree in an earlier version of Cinderella, transformed into gifts of glass slippers and ball gowns in modern versions.
On the third day, Fatima told us about the fae, the creatures and beings of fairy tales, such as fairies, ogres, and weird little guys like Rumplestiltskin. Rumpelstiltskin is a little man, who has the ability to spin gold from straw. He helps a woman spin gold from straw, in order to save her from the death penalty. In return, Rumpelstiltskin asks for the woman’s firstborn child. She agrees to give away her child, but when she has the baby a few years later, she begs to keep it. We participated in a mock trial, debating the case of Rumplestiltskin. The trial decided whether or not Rumplestiltskin or the woman should have custody of the baby.
During the mock trial, Fatima’s position was God. She was articulate and serious about the case, instructing the lawyers and judges throughout the whole mock trial. Fatima talked about Rumplestiltskin and the rest of the characters in the fairy tale as if their world was real and she had spoken to them minutes before the mock trial had started. Her attitude towards the mock trial drew me into the activity; it was as if the characters we were defending were alive somewhere, just not in the courtroom that Creative Writing had become. It felt as though there was a real baby that a weird little guy was trying to take, and the baby’s life was put in our hands. Believing in fairy tales and the magical beings in stories conjured up something in me; I felt the excitement of the magic from my childhood, a feeling I had forgotten. For a moment, as we all debated about the case, I had stepped into the world of the fae and believed that these magical creatures were real.