Introduction: “Once upon a time…” – Bree O’Mara.
When I was a youngster my parents both read
from a tome full of fables while I was a-bed.
Each night they’d begin -in prose or in rhyme with
the line: “Once upon a proverbial time…”
Now what followed were tales of horror and dread
which would fill me with fear as I lay in my bed,
Of monsters and wolves, and of witches and wizards
who ate people’s livers and tore out their gizzards.
There oft was a damsel in urgent distress,
(the rescue of whom was a certain success).
And lots of princesses, both lovely and blonde,
and princes, transformed from the frogs in the pond.
The heroes were often enslaved or imprisoned
by witches all shrivelled and ugly and wizened
and kept in high towers or dungeons beneath
by malevolent villains with razor-sharp teeth.
The aim of these tales was to send me to sleep
without the assistance of tablets or sheep,
But instead I would lie there, quite frozen with fright,
wide-awake with an army of bears for the night.
(Now grown-up, my teddies are lace ones instead,
in the hope of enticing some chap to my bed!)
but back then every villain my dad brought to life
was under my mattress and armed with a knife!
But back to the stories that shaped my neurosis
and set off a premature bout of psychosis:
Just think, if you will, of a five-year-old’s dread
of a monster who’d grab you and cut off your head!
Though justice was swift (and unspeakably awful)
for those who were deemed to be truly unlawful,
the baddies would never repent of their crime:
they’d be dead long before they could do any time!
See, latter-day nasties don’t share the same fate:
now they’re lawyers and salesmen, (and some, heads of state!)
But heinous they were, in those legends of yore,
and they lived in my nightmares and under the floor…
Such stories of mayhem and murder most foul!
Of envy, abduction, and wolves on the prowl.
But to me, from these tales of horror and strife
came my earliest maxims and lessons for life.
From all of those fables recounted back then
I discerned the same lessons re women and men
and I learnt very early the simple equation
that life is a breeze if you’re blonde and Caucasian.
At four I deduced the quite obvious ploy
that the prettiest girl gets the dandiest boy.
And if I was to live like the girls in those books
then I’d better take care of my figure and looks.
I also surmised life was grossly unfair
because all of the fairies had lovely blonde hair.
See, I just couldn’t grasp (and not much has changed since),
why my long, titian tresses weren’t fit for a prince.
But by five I was certain my hair was a curse
and that freckles would only make everything worse.
And I knew that all ladies refined and well-bred
should be savvy to hidden legumes in their bed.
I was wise to the fact that to be deemed a winner
one had to be sweeter and kinder and thinner.
I knew that I had to be gentle and fair.
But I knew in my heart that I hadn’t a prayer…
My only hope lay with the toad or the frog
and the notion that either -when given a snog would
become, in an instant, a prince kind and true,
so at sixteen that’s just what I set out to do.
I kissed lots of toads of the horniest sort,
but none became princes or kings, as they ought.
And that’s when I knew I’d been royally conned
by the stories of which I’d grown terribly fond.
So without much ado and before it’s too late,
I thought I would set all the storybooks straight.
Thus what follows are some of those fables of old
in the manner, I think, that they should have been told.
No sentiment silly or notions naïve,
I’ll not have you, reader, misled nor believe
that ’tis only young beauties, all coy and heartrending,
who’ll bag them a prince and a storybook ending.
You’ll find no fey heroes on magical steeds,
’cos I know in my heart that what every girl needs
is a fairy who’ll grant us just three simple wishes:
A guy. With a job. Who’ll take care of the dishes.
There’s nary a damsel too good to be true
and implausible princes, I swear, will be few.
And, should you have doubts, I’ll dispel any notions
of what to expect from enchantments and potions.
No hero of mine owns a magical wand,
No lovers mutate from those frogs in the pond.
No slippers of glass (they’re so bad for your feet!)
But I think, dearest reader, you’re in for a treat.
So relax and unwind and now let me regale
what really took place in the plot of each tale.
No saccharin endings, no slayings too gory,
I’ll give you a modern account of each story.
So fill up a tumbler with tonic and gin.
Curl up on your sofa, and let us begin.
We’ll start with a tale so beloved of old,
though it’s not like the one that I’m sure you were told…