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  • Writer's pictureChantal Gadoury

Once Upon a Time . . . Made New: Retelling A Unknown Classic

“Allerlierauh” is one among the unknown and unfamiliar fairy tales in the Grimm Brother’s collection. Charles Perrault wrote his own unique version of the story entitled, “Donkeyskin.” I’ve been entranced with this story since I was a child – completely enraptured by the details of the magical gowns the princess requests and wears to the ball. But there was something about her story that stuck with me throughout my life. When I had the opportunity, I knew it was her story that I wanted to write.

When I approached writing my own version of the story, I wanted to stay true to the fairy tale. But I also felt it to be really important to delve deeper into the characters; to explore them and bring their stories to life. With many hours of research into the tale, and different elements of the “historical romance” genre, the finished result is what is now my novel. I thought it would be interesting to show the differences from the original fairy tale to my own! I hope this shows the journey of exploring characters and developing a richer “setting.”

Allerleirauh vs. Princess Aurelia

Originally, the Princess in the fairy tale doesn’t have much character development. She’s a young girl who is sough after her father. I really wanted to explore what that would mean to someone; to have to face the difficulty of an abusive father, and growing from that. So many young people in this world, past and present – have faced different degrees of emotional, physically and mental abuse. Surely, this character in the story would be so much more than a frightened Princess, fun away to another kingdom, only to fall in love again with another man? Aurelia was the answer to that question for me. I wanted to keep the “Princess” element to her – kind, beautiful, gentle . . . but I also wanted her to be brave, determined and prone to make mistakes, just like normal people do. I didn’t want her to be perfect. Mostly – I wanted her to be relatable to others. Whether that relatablilty was through the abuse she endured, her actions, her words, or her heart.

The Prince vs. Prince Klaus

I think it’s fair to say that many “Princes” in stories, whether through the Grimm Brothers, Charles Perrault, or even Disney, don’t get to have their stories explored very much. As I was writing this story, I really wanted to stay away from the ambiguous “Prince” from Snow White, who – (no offense) – was really, really flat. There was nothing to him in the film. I wanted Klaus to be more than original Prince too! In the original story, the Prince (or new King) falls in love with a mysterious girl, who dresses in beautiful gowns at his royal balls. But in-between, he treats the poor scullery maid differently. I always felt the Prince treated her differently due to her appearance. And the topic of “appearance” is such a crucial part of the fairy tale. The King (her father) loves her based on her golden hair and her likeness to her mother. I didn’t want the Prince to have an attraction towards her for her fancy gowns. So I approached my novel with the idea of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” The Prince (Eric) takes the mermaid into his palace as a friend – a guest. This allows them time to get to know each other and fall in love – as equals. I felt it was important for Klaus to look at Aurelia as an equal too, despite his royal status.

The King vs. The King

In the original fairy tale(s), the King is either described as ‘insane’ and that is the reason why he decides he must marry his daughter, or he feels obligated to do so because of his promise. He either promises his dying wife that he will only marry someone as beautiful as her, or someone with her golden hair. In my novel, I approached the notion that the King was mentally ill, and very overwhelmed by his promise to marry someone with the same golden hair as his dead wife. He also sexually abuses his daughter, giving her more of a reason to ask for her impossible gifts and escape from her home. Because a King reflects his people in “Allerleirauh” – seen both through her father, and Klaus – his own corrupt thoughts begin to infiltrate the rest of the courtiers, making it almost seemingly more impossible to leave her home.

The Cook vs. Lord Crestwood / Myriah / Adelais

There are many new ‘supporting’ characters that I created for this retelling. In the original story, Allerleirauh works for a ‘cook’ in the kitchens, and is often “thrown under the bus” because of him, and her soup. In this version, due to Aurelia being a guest at Klaus’s palace, the cook was easy to cut out and replace by a maid. I always pictured the little blind maid from Pocahontas II when I first began the outline for Myriah, and slowly … she and Adelias became something more. Lord Crestwood was inspired by Lucien from “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” by Sarah J. Maas. I liked that Tamlin had a ‘right-hand-man’ and tried his best to look out for his master. I knew that Lord Crestwood would do the same. My hope was that these new characters would help to develop the setting of Tränen and Saarland der Licht, and work to tell the story better of “Allerleirauh.”

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