January CSFF Blog Tour Day 2: The Wolf of Tebron, by C.S. Lakin

Let’s talk about fairy tales.

In my review of C.S. Lakin’s The Wolf of Tebron, I quibble about the author applying that label to her story. No fairies, no fairy tale, right? Besides that, it’s not written for kids, and it takes on some fairly heavy philosophical issues. There’s quite a bit of magic in the air, though, and our hero does such things as traveling to the houses of the Sun and Moon, who are people in his world. Of course, you can find those plot elements in many works we would classify as fantasy or mythology. What makes The Wolf of Tebron a fairy tale?

Whaddya mean, 'no fairies?'

As usual, when I’m confronted with a sticky question on a deadline, I zapped over to Wikipedia for an overview of fairy tales. Wikipedia is always to be approached with caution as source material, but this was a pretty good article, with references, and did a nice job hitting the highlights. Some things I learned:

1. Fairy tales are as old as humanity, with an oral tradition stretching back long before the first known written examples from Ancient Egypt, circa 1300 BC.

2. Fairy tales are a sub-genre of folktales–stories that spring up spontaneously within a culture, explain natural phenomena, and teach moral concepts. Unlike other kinds of folktales, fairy tales aren’t grounded in some historical truth (as are legends) and usually don’t explicitly teach a moral concept (as do fables). Fairy tales happen at an arbitrary time and place (“Once upon a time, in the land of faraway…”), involve magic and/or magical characters integral to the story, and most often have a happy ending.

Sorry, Ariel, you don't get to be "part of his world."

3. You probably noticed a lot of ‘usuallys’ and ‘oftens’ in paragraph 2. There is violent disagreement about nearly everything in any definition of fairy tales. They may include fairies, or not. They may involve a quest, or not. They may include talking animals, or not. You can find lots of counter-examples even to the canonical characteristics. For example, the original version of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid had a profoundly unhappy ending, though he eventually rewrote it to a more hopeful outcome that still falls far short of Disney revisionism. A definition provided by Stith Thompson in his book, The Folktale, cited in the Wikipedia article, seemed the most helpful to me: “…a tale of some length involving a succession of motifs or episodes. It moves in an unreal world without definite locality or definite creatures and is filled with the marvelous.” This fits The Wolf of Tebron pretty well, I think.

Feel free to weigh in with your opinions, favorite examples, and alternate definitions of the fairy tale. One of the most troubling examples I’ve found is C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, subtitled, “A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-ups.” It does feature both magic and fairies. Well, there’s one fairy–and she smokes a cigar.

Other stops on the CSFF Blog Tour:

Noah Arsenault
Amy Bissell
Red Bissell
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Shannon McDermott
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
John W. Otte
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Phyllis Wheeler

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4 thoughts on “January CSFF Blog Tour Day 2: The Wolf of Tebron, by C.S. Lakin

  1. Fred, you stole my topic! Hahah. 😆 Only in part. I’m still trying to decide if I think Wolf is a fairy tale. It doesn’t read the same to me as the ones in my copy of Grimm. So I’m still searching for the right niche. I think I’ve found it, but I could be wrong.

    Becky

    1. I think it qualifies as a fairy tale, but the definitions are so nebulous they’re functionally useless. I mean, look at all the different ways we use the term in conversation:

      “I’m so happy she got her fairy tale ending.”
      “Bavaria is dotted with fairy tale castles.”
      “Global warming is a fairy tale.”

      In literature, it almost boils down to “I know a fairy tale when I see one,” which, I suppose, might be good enough. I’m wondering if this is a result of the modern neglect of fairy tales, to the point that we hardly recognize them any more, or, at best, treat them like an eccentric piece of antique furniture. “Oh, isn’t it charming how they made things in the olden days.” Disney “updates” them, and DreamWorks satirizes them, but in their original form, they probably pack more truth about human nature into a smaller word count than almost any other sort of literature.

      I’ve always liked C.S. Lewis’ comment that, when he grew old enough not to care what other people thought about his reading choices, he returned to fairy tales.

  2. Interesting thoughts Fred. I looked at the marketing aspect of it being a fairy tale (a fairy tale allegory, at that!). I wonder if that is the best way to get people to jump into trying Tebron out.

    I’d be interested on your feedback on what I wrote. Disclaimer, I have a cold, so I’m not sure if the mucous is interfering with synaptic function or not…

    I always look forward to your posts, BTW!

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