Fierce Fairytales (& Other Stories to Stir Your Soul) is Nikita Gill’s innovative modern reimagining of the old fairy-tale traditions and stereotypes. Comprising 101 short stories, poems, and mixtures between the two, the collection describes itself as feminist fairy-tales. Yet I find that each chronicle provides a glimpse into a much more varied world that conscientiously considers not only gender roles, both for men and women, but also mental health, abuse and relationships; even simple existence itself.
I (like everyone else I’m sure) love stories that look at fundamental emotions and translate them into thrilling narratives as archaic and raw as the epics of classical Greek myths. Fairy tales are the same: simple yet powerful, they speak the basic truth so that our spines tingle in recognition of what we know in our souls to be real.
Gill’s book recreates this sense of truth whilst underpinning it with new perspectives. Some of her stories are clever adaptations of recognisable tales, others are general musings and yet more are entirely new narratives. I personally like the narratives where many of the familiar fairy-tales of childhood are shown in an entirely new perspective. It’s a wonderful ‘oh’ moment when you realise that what you had always taken for granted can perhaps be very different in a certain context; for example, my favourite is when you discover why exactly Captain Hook hates Peter Pan.
But her original stories are equally enlightening. Issues that are often shamefully hidden away in society, when they shouldn’t be, are given a voice and clear insight; for example, the battle against depression or the dangers of vicious internet-users.
Gill’s beautiful execution of vocabulary makes the anthology particularly readable. She uses articulate metaphors when describing emotions and effects to convey her message. I had never thought of many of the ideas presented in the book before, whilst others I had conceived but thought ineffable. Fierce Fairytales linguistically bridges the gap between the most painful states of life and the highest forms of existence, really speaking to you, the real you, so that you suddenly think about things in a new light and stop to examine what life really means. The cherry on the cake is the hand-drawn illustrations provided by Gill herself, bringing an added beauty to the already exquisite phrasing of the text.
There are some recurring themes; the words ‘fire’ and ‘magic’ are used somewhat often, as is the construct of villainy or darkness being forced into otherwise good people. Having said that, the idea of good and bad intermingling is one of the reformative perspectives that make this anthology so thought-provoking… and, after all, what fairy-tale is without magic?
Fierce Fairytales brings a much-needed twist for this turbulent modern age; my generation has a strongly fatalistic sense of humour and I personally feel that there is a growing awareness about the restrictions that society places on us (and everyone else). This set of stories and poems calls out the negative influences of our time and replaces it with the hopeful panoramic view of a utopian world of maybe’s and what if’s.