I remember having my mother read fairytales to me when I was really small. Apart from giving me blissful childhood memories, I think those stories kindled my imagination and made me more open minded about possibilities. My favourites were ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and the stories by Hans Christian Anderson, like ‘The Snow Queen’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’ because they were of all kinds- happy, funny or achingly sad.
As much as I love fairytales, I never liked the animated Disney movies. I wonder why anyone would want to watch countless retellings of stale old stories that everyone and their grandmother has known from childhood. (To be fair to them, I did enjoy ‘Brave’ and ‘Up’.)
A couple of years ago, I heard of the Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki and his inventive anime movies. They have interesting characters without the silly stereotypes often found in Disney. Since then, I’ve seen some amazing films like ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Princess Mononoke’, ‘Ponyo’ and so on. But if I were asked to pick my favourite fairy tale, it’d be a tie between these two-
Whispers of the Heart
The perfect coming of age story, it’s about a dreamy bookish girl named Shizuku, who notices that a boy named Seiji has been reading all the books she borrows from the library. As they become friends, Seiji’s ambition to become a violin maker inspires Shizuku to realize her own dream of writing a fairy tale. There’s a beautiful scene where Seiji plays his violin as Shizuku sings these modified lyrics to ‘Country Road.’
If I had seen that movie when I was younger, I might even have taken up literature instead of science.
This is the story of Sophie, a shy young girl who falls for a vain, self – absorbed wizard named Howl. A jealous witch puts a curse on Sophie, turning her into an old woman. So Sophie runs away from home and takes up a job as the housekeeper in Howl’s castle. She changes the lives of everyone around her with her compassion and even helps Howl find his heart, which he had apparently lost many years ago. (She doesn’t do this by dancing with him in a low- cut gown like Belle in ‘Beauty and the Beast’). Sophie’s appearance keeps changing throughout the movie; she looks young when she’s excited or angry and old when she’s placid or tired. I simply love the scene where Sophie and Howl first meet, and they walk on air- that’s probably what falling in love feels like.
The story has a beautiful message- that we needn’t fear the inevitable loss of beauty and onset of old age. You are as young and beautiful as you feel.
If you haven’t come across a fairytale that makes your heart sing, it’s not too late to start looking. Remember, fairytales are not just for children.