Children’s Fairy Tales as Reimagined by Russian Novelists

Sleeping Beauty

Once upon a time gentle king Stiva had a steamy affair with a former governess. And so his daughter, Aurora Karenina, was born. Three magical fairies showed up, bestowing gifts upon the baby: the gift of beauty, the gift of song, and the gift of soul-crushing guilt. Just as the celebrations were in full swing, evil queen Melania appeared and cursed Aurora. She wickedly declared that, before Aurora was to turn sixteen, she would prick her finger on a proverbial spinning wheel, which really was a thinly-veiled metaphor for unbearable “otherness”. Only a kiss born out of true love would reverse the curse. Sixteen utterly depressing years passed in the kingdom of St. Petersburg. As prophesied, on her sixteenth’s birthday, Aurora pricker her finger on a metaphor, and was suddenly gripped by an overwhelming coldness toward all humanity. Also: crippling inner despair. Dreamy count Vronsky showed up in the 11th hour and placed a loving kiss on Aurora’s lips, but it was too late, and Aurora threw herself under a moving horse carriage. She died a slow and painful death. The end.

Little Red Riding Hood

Once upon a time there was a girl, Little Red Army Riding Hood, who really didn’t care much for people, as she saw herself as entirely separated from humanity as a whole. And so it irked her when, one day, she was asked to bring her sick grandmother some food. Her mother told her: “Don’t stray from the path!” But because the little gi

rl saw herself as a sort of “superwoman,” functioning outside of the moral codes which govern the rest of society, she strayed, thinking: “Fuck it, I can stray if I want to.” Soon after, Little Red Army Riding Hood came across a wolf, who asked her where she was going. Knowing that there was no “mind” or “soul” outside of the physical world, Little Red Army Riding Hood told him, and merrily continued her journey. When she arrived at her grandmother’s house, the wolf had beaten her to it: he had devoured poor granny, and was now pretending to be her. As Little Red Army Riding hood was nihilistic and self-involved, constantly resisting the idea that she was just as mediocre as everybody else, she believed him, even though “grandma’s” ears were suddenly humongous, hairy and wolf-like. The wolf ate her whole, and Little Red Army Riding Hood was doomed to spend the rest of eternity inside his bowels, pondering the epic meaninglessness of literally everything. The end.

Hansel and Gretel

Once upon a time there was a great famine in the country. So as to have two less mouths to feed, the woodcutter sent his two kids, Hansel and Gretel, into the woods. The woodcutter felt no remorse about this, since the ideal man does not bring good into the world; instead, his own goodness is manipulated, leading to the death and destruction of both himself and all those around him. Everyone knew this. So as not to get lost, Hansel and Gretel left a path of crumbs behind, but these were eaten by birds because everything is pointless, corrupted and decayed. Eventually, they stumbled across a mysterious house made of sweets; a witch lived inside. She was entirely isolated from society and morally bankrupt, and so thought that snacking on human flesh was a normal thing to do. She prepared an oven to bake the kids in, but Hansel and Gretel outsmarted her, and threw the witch in first. She died a horrible death but was cool with it, because she wasn't a complete idiot and understood that the anxiety of trying to avoid punishment was far worse than actual punishment. Although Hansel and Gretel had initially tried to justify the murder on utilitarian grounds, they soon found themselves crippled by guilt, as they had just burned a woman alive. They were perpetually depressed and in need of very strong selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The end.

Jack and the Beanstalk

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Jack. Jack and his mother lived on a farm; a place of extreme poverty, a trap that seemed impossible to escape from. Any attempt to find meaning in life, both religious and secular, had always ended in disappointment. Both Jack and his mother knew that, while free will may appear like a blessing, it is actually a curse, as it places a crippling burden on humanity to reject all comforts in favor of uncertainties and hardships. Though Jack had grown very fond of his mother over the years, he had never managed to cultivate an attachment going beyond the superficial. He had attributed this lack of fondness to what he himself referred to as, “the vast emptiness of a man’s heart.” His mother, it turned out, felt the same. When their only cow stopped producing milk – their sole source of income – Jack’s mother sent him to sell the cow on the market. On the way there, Jack met a bean dealer who told him that he would trade his cow for a couple of magic beans. Jack, eager to get rid of the cow, agreed. Not being able to face the dark void of despair facing him at home, Jack impaled himself on a sharp tree branch, the beans falling from his limp hand. As magic does not exist, the beans never grew into a supernatural beanstalk. Instead, they decomposed, much like Jack’s lifeless body. The end.

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