“Fairie Tale” by Janice Elliott (England)

If many modern and postmodern fictions are about the process of writing stories, Janice Elliott’s “Fairy Tale” is about that process being at once motivated and overwhelmed by the writer’s own desire—a desire she obviously shares with us, her readers—to hear stories. And the story she, and we, really want to hear is not just any story, but our story, the story in which we are hero/heroine, the story in which our dreams come true.

In other words, we want to hear a fairy tale. But if we start out to tell ourselves one (and who else is likely to undertake the task?), we find we have a more demanding audience than we expected—our sophisticated, critical, feet-planted-firmly-on-the ground selves. Unlike children, adults are not content to hear their own names glorified with the title of princess or knight. They want the best of both worlds—the dream career and the knight in shining armour: the perfect house, congenial neighbours, an understanding mate, and a secret lover, a felicitous forest, and children who fall asleep at convenient times. In adult fairy tales, a person can enjoy both the status of “good woman”/”good man” and “boundless ecstasy” beside a bubbling brook. But, like that other fairy-tale character, the old woman in the vinegar bottle who wants to be God, the importunate adult wants safeness that entropy can beseige even perfection. Therefore, like Elliott, the adult must create a fairy tale whose plot is forever deferred by innumerable ironic asides and by countless new beginnings. In adult fairy tales there can be no “happily ever after” because the tale itself never ends, but, like Finnegan, begins again—and again—and again.