Of all the iterations of this classic fable, very few actually deal with the fact that the poor girl, Beauty, is forced into servitude to the Beast by of all people, her own father. Most retellings focus on the Beast as a tragic hero, who needs the love of a good, kind, pure soul to break the evil witch’s dastardly spell, and turn him into the handsome prince he was, once upon a time.
That’s all very well and good. It is after all the version that we in civilized society prefer. When you really think about it though, this is just as much if not more, the tragic tale of a young girl who is forced by her father to become the captive of a terrifying monster.
In the original tale, our poor Beauty has no choice in the matter. Her father offers up his daughter to the beast…
If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. Claire Davon gives peas a chance in her revamped version of The Princess and the Pea.
Your bio lets us know that you’re passionate about writing, and this passion comes through in your enthusiasm for story — no matter the genre! Why is this so? How many different genres have you dabbled in and is there one you prefer more than the other?
I think of myself as a genre writer, but what that basically means is that I love writing in fantasy, romance, science fiction and horror. I don’t know that I prefer one over the other although all of my novellas and full length novels to date have been some form of romance, whether contemporary, time travel or paranormal. A lot of times the muse comes out of whatever I am thinking about at the time or where a call for submission takes me. Sometimes I write a story and find a call that fits and sometimes a call inspires me to write a story. For instance, when I saw the call for After the Happily Ever After I started thinking about the different fairy/folk tales in their original forms and where that would lead when the original tale was done. Pea Soup grew out of that.
Fanfiction is increasingly being the way that people are exposed to fiction and inspired to join the ranks of writers. Tell us how your journey down the writing path took form, and is it still evolving?
A lot of what I did for fan fiction “back in the day” came out of my desire to see the tale continue and/or being unhappy with the way a storyline ended. For instance I used to watch soap operas and if a character that I liked was written off then I would design my own story about what happened next. And if the female character happened to resemble me, well… I think that fan fiction is a great way to explore your creative side since it’s a universe someone else already created for you that the writer gets to play in. I felt very passionately about these characters and did not want to let them go. It was also wish fulfillment for me, and a desire for a certain outcome. Some of those original stories are ones that I am revisiting in a completely changed form (while keeping the spirit of the initial story) to be my own. These days I want to create my own universe rather than play in someone else’s.
You’ve chosen to tackle the Princess and the Pea in this anthology. And you’ve given the princess an interesting spin as a former barmaid turned aspiring royal. Tell us how this came about, and are there any interesting jobs you’ve held before you reached the place you are now? Do tell.
I’m one of those people who gravitates toward the unusual, so when I saw this anthology call I wanted to explore a fairy tale that wasn’t one of the main ones such as Cinderella or Little Red Riding Hood. There wasn’t any one thing that made me select this fairy tale other than it being one that I didn’t think a lot of people would choose. When Hecelin/Giselle sprang to mind I knew that this was the fairy tale that needed a continuation/a bit of a retelling. Further to question #2 above, when you think about it these continuations are their own form of fan fiction, albeit for much loved tales that have been around for hundreds of years rather than writing about the Cassadines from General Hospital in the 1980s (who, me?).
Do you have a particular fairy tale that speaks to you? Which is it?
There isn’t one in particular per se, what interests me is to dig back into the origins and/or the first versions of these tales and see how they changed over time. Especially when the first tellings were decidedly more gruesome than today’s versions. I went looking for such a version when I investigated The Princess and the Pea but that tale was a bit newer than others and didn’t have some of the gore associated with early Grimm versions (cutting Little Red Riding Hood out of the wolf’s stomach…brutal!). It’s the chronology of the telling of a tale that fascinates me rather than one in particular.
While you’re busy conquering so many genres in the writing field, is there anything special you’re working on, that you’re hoping to share soon? Future projects on the line?
Why yes, yes there is! On the novel front the second book in my Elementals’ Challenge series, titled Air Attack, is being released by Samhain Publishing in late March. This paranormal romance series is near and dear to my heart and I am most excited for my readers to experience the continuation of this series. I am also going to be self-publishing a fantasy/paranormal romance novella that I hope will also be the start of a series sometime later this year. As always I am writing short stories in all those genres I love so much and am subbing them far and wide. A reprint fantasy short story is being turned into a podcast but I don’t yet know the release on that.
Claire Davon has written on and off for most of her life, starting with fan fiction when she was very young. She writes across a wide range of genres, and does not consider any of it off limits. If a story calls to her, she will write it. She currently lives in Los Angeles and spends her free time writing novels and short stories, as well as doing animal rescue and enjoying the sunshine. Claire’s website is www.clairedavon.com.
If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. Sati Chock turns our attention to all that is ugly and beautiful with her rendition of Beauty and the Beast.
Sati, your bio reveals that you have traveled to far flung places across the globe before landing in Honolulu. I was fortunate enough to visit Maui as a child and remember clearly stumbling upon the locals performing traditional dances for the tourists. It left quite an impression! Do you feel the local flavour of the places your pass through, or live in, find their way into your artistic endeavours?
Good question. Sometimes I do, yes. But the stories that truly haunt me, that I can’t let go of, are the ones born in a landscape that I am quite familiar with, such as my childhood in Massachusetts, or in Hawaii (where I have now lived for 20 years).
You work at an art museum. The collection of artefacts for the viewing public is such a fascinating, specialized field. In your work at the museum, is there an object or an art piece you look forward to seeing every day?
This is a hard question to answer because there are many. Having worked at the museum for nearly 16 years, a number of the works now feel like old friends! If I had to choose only one, though, it would be our 11th- century Chinese wooden sculpture of Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion, or mercy. It is one of our most popular works, and this enlightened lady is far ahead of her time because she transcends gender– historically she has been depicted variously as either male or female.
I began working at the museum only a few weeks after 9/11, and it was such a sad, unsettled time. I was far from my East Coast family & friends, and worried about them. I often visited Guanyin during breaks to absorb some of that serene energy. I suspect I will be visiting her a lot in 2017, too. 😉
Having experienced a melange of cultures, did you happen to pick up any interesting folklore, folk tales, or fairy tales in your travels?
Certainly. Ghost stories and other supernatural tales have always interested me, and they are told everywhere in the world. In much of the United States, though, there is generally a fair bit of skepticism that accompanies the telling. People say things like: “I don’t really believe in ghost stories, but…” Perhaps with a little laugh or an eye-roll. In other areas of the world, there is more acceptance. In some places, it isn’t even a question. It is understood that our ancestors might come back to visit, and that we should probably take care of them in the afterlife, just in case. This sort of thinking has various origins, including ancestor worship and Buddhism, and has permeated the social fabric of many countries.
For example, in China, ghosts are usually vengeful. So there are things that are done to appease them–such as the Hungry Ghost Festival, which is celebrated in other parts of Asia, too-Singapore and Malaysia, to name a couple of places. Other Asian countries with strong beliefs in ghosts include Thailand, Japan, and Tibet.
While living in Japan I became fascinated with female ghosts. They are hard core–tough and seriously scary, considered capable of all kinds of terrifying things (remember The Ring??) in their quest for revenge. There is one lass with vampire-like tendencies called the yuki-onna, or snow woman, who is believed to freeze men to death during sexual intercourse. Other ghosts are known to devour children, remove testicles, or cause natural disasters, among other things. Not the sorts of creatures you want to bump into in the middle of the night!
This doesn’t really qualify as a folk tale, but you can’t talk about female Japanese ghosts without mentioning the Tale of Genji, (c. 1008), considered by many to be the world’s first novel, and written by a woman–Lady Murasaki Shikibu. One of the major themes of this complex work is revenge, and female ghosts and instances of spirit possession recur throughout the pages of the story.
You chose to tell the story of Beauty and the Beast, a beloved tale with roots in the story of Cupid and Psyche. However, one could say we encounter beasts all the time in our daily lives, whether it’s someone who we clash with at work or in the home. Have you any experiences with real life “beasts”?
I’m afraid that we have all experienced beasts in our real lives. But here is the bright side: this is often how we come up with good stories! They make excellent material, don’t they?
As someone with an interest — a Masters — in Japanese literature and working in a museum — how does writing pull you in a way these other interests do not?
Well, my first passion is reading. But I have a young child and work full time. So my biggest challenge is taking time away from reading–and, yes, family–so that I can create something of my own. But although (to me) reading is like breathing, unless I am occasionally writing as well, I do not feel balanced. We escape when we read, and we escape when we write. But the escape when we write allows us to explore our psyches and work out issues in a way that we cannot when reading someone else’s story. I mean, we might identify strongly with a tale and feel tremendous empathy. But it is a different experience. It doesn’t provide the same cathartic release that writing does.
An excerpt from Sati’s story, “Eye of the Beholder”:
Father has done something so, so foolish. He didn’t want to tell me, but I coaxed it out of him in the special way that only I can. He purloined a rose from a beastly lord for me and was caught. Now, either he must stay, or I must go as payment for his crime. Of course, I will go. I’d never do otherwise. But I confess that I am horrified at being handed over to a husband sight unseen, even if he does live in a castle.
At least we won’t starve.
Sati Benes Chock was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, but grew up in New England. She attended Wheaton College (Massachusetts) and taught English in Tokyo before getting her MA in Japanese Literature at the University of Hawaii. She currently lives with her family in Honolulu, where she works at an art museum. Her short fiction has been published in a number of online and print publications, including Amsterdam Scriptum, Hawaii Pacific Review, Hiss Quarterly, Flash Me Magazine, Thereby Hangs a Tale, and Mouth Full of Bullets.
If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. KT Wagner pushes new boundaries in the Cinderella mythos using the bizarro genre.
From your bio, it sounds like you spend a lot of time in dedication to your craft, attending programs and running groups. I find many writers to be a mix of the introspective and extroverted. Are you one or the other, and how do these qualities come into play with your writing life?
I am definitely an introvert, but can convincingly display extrovert traits as long as I don’t have to keep it up for too long. I need time alone to recharge, and then I’m ready to be around people again.
It’s important for writers to have their own communities and networks. Writers require support and feedback. We also need to get out a bit and socialize with people who share our passion for writing (I expect we’ve all had the experience of enthusing about an experimental technique or something, then noticing the eyes of non-writers glaze over). There wasn’t much available in my area, so I organized what I needed. Six years ago, I helped found a local writing group (https://www.facebook.com/goldenearswriters/) and we put on workshops and readings ten months a year. I also run a “just write” meet-up group once a week, and this November I’ll hold the third annual Ghost Story Writing Retreat at a lodge in the British Columbia wilderness.
How did your journey as a writer begin? Did you always know, or was it a winding road that led you here?
I wrote non-fiction for several decades. I’ve always been interested in politics and justice, even as a child, and my first published piece was a letter to the editor of a national newspaper in my early teens. I expressed my views about the province of Quebec separating from the rest of Canada. I also wrote for school newspapers. As an adult, I continued to write columns and articles about political topics, mainly the need for public education reform until about six years ago when I turned my attention to writing speculative fiction.
You’ve got this clever take on Cinderella, using the bizarro genre — a very dynamic way to re-envision the classic tale. Tell us how the idea of bringing the characters to life as insects came about, because I love it!
I love writing bizarro!! An online Litreactor.com workshop with Rose O’Keefe of Eraserhead Press introduced me to writing the genre.
Growing up, my sister kept milkweed and Monarch butterfly caterpillars in ventilated jars. We watched them pupate and then emerge from the chrysalis before setting them free again. That memory from summers at my grandparent’s cottage sparked the story 3-D Monarch.
Do you have a favorite fairy tale? And what drew you to the Cinderella tale in particular?
I find many (most) traditional fairy tales are misogynistic, which is irritating, but at the same time fascinating in what they show us about the history of culture and attitudes. Two stand out: The Brothers Grimm retelling of The Juniper Tree for the visceral horror, and Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen because Gerda, the main character, is a rarely seen (in fairy tales) strong, heroic, competent female.
Cinderella is a malleable tale for retelling with its universal themes, and many layers and characters to explore. I’m currently working on a space opera novella, loosely based on the Cinderella story.
KT Wagner loves reading and writing speculative fiction. Occasionally she ventures out of her writers’ cave to spend an hour or two blinking against the daylight, or reacquainting herself with family and friends. Several of her short stories are published and she is working on a sci-fi horror novel. She puts pen to paper in Maple Ridge, B.C., organizes Golden Ears Writers, and attended SFU’s Southbank program in 2013 and The Writers’ Studio (TWS) in 2015. KT can be found online at www.northernlightsgothic.com and @KT_Wagner, and facebook.
If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. Our next interview presents Matthew Brockmeyer who delves into the story of a very curious nightingale.
One of the most amazing features of this anthology is that each contributor has something wildly unique to bring to the table. You seem to be living in the archetypal fairy tale setting — in an off-grid cabin with your family in the woods of North California. Could you share with us how your journey took you there, all while running a nursery and an herbal products business — and how your writing flourished from this?
I suppose I am living in a fairy tale setting, though that never really occurred to me until now. I better keep my eyes open for the big bad wolf! My journey? Well, I always wanted to be a horror writer, but I’ve also always been a bit of an anarchist and was easily sucked into weird subcultures like punk rock that distracted me from the focus and dedication writing demands. After travelling around, exploring the world and touring with the Grateful Dead, I ended up studying literature at the University of Oregon, where I was in a creative-writing fellowship with award winning novelist Chang-Rae Lee. After graduating, I planned on getting an MFA in creative writing, but, as fate would have it, got pulled into the back-to-the-land scene of permaculture design, biodynamics and organic farming. I met my wife, and we purchased forty isolated acres of heavily forested, hilly land on an old hippie commune called Shit Fuck Piss (no joke!). We were seeking an alternative lifestyle, closer to nature. We homesteaded, raising milking goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, growing our own vegetables and before I knew it we had two children and over a decade had slipped by. Then the writing bug hit again. Hard. I’d say my writing flourished because I had the time and space to read deeply and contemplate humanity’s existence. In the past three years, I have completed a novel and started another, written a collection of short stories, and been published multiple times.
You have two children. I find the raising of family is often an overlooked component of artistic life, but fairy tales have often been able to tackle family matters in both their dark and light aspects. With all your obligations, how has the rearing of children affected your writing for better or worse? What have they taught you about life?
The rearing of children has been invaluable to my writing. It has added depth and maturity to my understanding of the human condition beyond measure. Nearly all of my stories involve a family’s struggle to exist. My children have taught me so much about life I don’t know where to begin. They have taught me patience (lol), understanding, the nature of innocence, a deep and all permeating love that is hard to describe. The protectiveness of a mama bear, the need to impart wisdom like a father fox. The preciousness and fragility of life. My wife and I actually struggled for many years to have children and had many heartbreaking, failed attempts. My family is absolutely the most important thing in my life and I suppose I owe all my inspiration to them.
You chose a lesser known Hans Christian Anderson story called “The Nightingale”. I’m intrigued by the style and setting of your story, especially because it takes place in a brothel. Tell us a little more about the concept behind your take on “The Nightingale” and how you landed on this modern idea to present it.
I am a bit of a history buff, and find myself drawn to the turn of the twentieth century. It was a time when the clash of modernity with old-time ways was most prevalent. Horses and cars fighting it out in the streets, machines beginning to take over the labors of humans. In the original story of “The Nightingale” the Empress forsakes her flesh and blood bird for a mechanical creation encrusted with jewels. I found this to be the perfect metaphor for that time period, and decided to have my Empress shun her loyal pianist for a player piano. I had done a little research into how the entire Old Town of Eureka, California had been a red-light district and it just seemed the perfect setting. So full of intrigue and drama. I’ve always been a big John Steinbeck fan, and East of Eden, I suppose, had some influence on my decision to use a brothel as the setting. As for the concept, I’d never written a story in the epistolary style and thought I’d give it a try. An interview conducted by the historical society just seemed like a good fit.
Do you have a preferred genre that you normally write in, and is this story a departure from that, or how does it dovetail into your interests?
Horror is my genre of choice. Ever since I was a child I’ve been obsessed with horror. I find it a medium that is easily used to explore our existential nature, absurdity, and the human condition in general. It’s also a lot of fun. A roller coaster ride. But I try and put a literary touch to it. I actually don’t read that much horror, though I did as a kid, sticking these days mostly to literary fiction. I hope that brings a level of maturity to my writing (I can hope, lol) and keeps my work original. I’d like to think this story exemplifies that prerogative.
Even though I realize I’m supposed to be promoting After Happily Ever After, I can’t resist asking on purely selfish reasons, more about your herbal business — partly because I’m hoping there will be an opportunity to order something for a nice cup of tea or maybe for an enchantment to beautify myself for the mirror, mirror on the wall!
Ha ha. My wife is a certified herbalist. Her business is called Blainey’s Botanicals. She distills essential oils and hydrosol from lavender, lemon balm, roses, mint, plum blossoms, etc. and makes lotions, tinctures, salves, and all sorts of potions and teas. We mainly sell locally, to neighborhood health-food stores and at farmer’s markets. But if you give me your address we can send you some samples and if you’d like to order more I’m sure she can accommodate you!
Matthew Brockmeyer explores the dark caves and caverns of the human mind using words as his flashlight. His work has appeared in Cultured Vultures, Alephi, Timeless Tales Magazine, Dark Fire Fiction, Pulp Metal Magazine, and the anthology 100 Voices, among others. He resides in an off-grid cabin, deep in the hills of Humboldt County, California with his wife and two children. Find more of his work at http://www.matthewbrockmeyer.com.
If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. Rohit Sawant takes the chilling tale of Bluebeard past its limits and muses on familial legacy.
How did you begin your journey on the path of fiction writer?
It’s a herky-jerky route, really. It wasn’t something I’d planned growing up, but I certainly was drawn towards it. I can only recall two instances of writing something through my childhood. The first was after watching an episode of Tom and Jerry where a narrator spoke in this sweeping cadence about Johann, the waltzing mouse. I wrote the story down from memory, adding some stuff here and there. I titled it “Yohan,” though. The first time I wrote something original was when I was eight or nine. I’d watched Alfred Hitchcock Presents with my cousins. I don’t remember what the episode was about, only that I liked it a lot. Sometime later I wrote a laughable little whodunit called “The Missing Brick.”
I’d read just a handful of novels in school and, while I enjoyed them, it wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I really fell in love with reading. I was watching Johnny Depp’s ‘Secret Window’ one afternoon and saw that it was based on a story by Stephen King. When I read “Secret Window, Secret Garden” it was like I found home. It had as much to do with the voice as the content. After that I started reading books he recommended while gulping more of his work, and that led to a natural segue to wanting to write.
You managed the feat of having not one but two stories accepted into the After Happily Ever After Anthology — “While You Were Sleeping”, a version of Sleeping Beauty, and “The Man Who Married Bluebeard’s Daughter” based on the less known Bluebeard tale. Tell us about the creative process that gave birth to these tales.
Just weeks before I came across the submission call for AHEA, I’d read an eBook I found on archive.org (a place I love to hound for books along with gutenberg.org) about retellings of French fairy tales by a Cornish writer, Arthur Quiller-Couch. It only had four stories with The Sleeping Beauty and Bluebeard being the first two. So it was just a case of picking up what was on the top of my head and shooting it full of what-ifs. I say pick but I didn’t consciously choose them over the other two (which were Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast). Soon as I began musing about retellings they were the ones that whispered back. I only had a rough idea about where I was going with the stories and figured things out as I went along.
As for having two stories in the anthology, it speaks as to how gracious the editors, Alisha Costanzo and Anthony S. Buoni, are. I was thrilled that they’d even consider a second story, you know, and to have it be a part of the book is just amazing. I couldn’t be more ecstatic.
I was surprised to see you list such classic luminaries as Sherwood Anderson, Emily Brontë, and Charles Dickens as influences, among others — a rare thing to see these days with so much popular fiction published in recent decades. What inspires you/draws you to their works?
I love people stories, and it doesn’t get any better than Winesberg, Ohio. If that book were a painting, it’d be one of those abstract pieces of art which people break down staring at. What I find myself returning for when I pick it up for a reread is that naked, three-AM-look at humanity. There’s a lot you can learn from it, especially if you mean to write genre fiction, like horror or sci-fi, where, given the unrealistic situational elements, it’s all the more important to engage the reader emotionally. I also love the small town setting, and how nothing is as it seems. And gosh, I could list a bunch of things that draw me to Dickens. Wonderful story-telling, fascinating characters, his sense of humor, sagely insights, romances (hey, I’m a sucker for a good love story as much as anyone). But most of all, I like his way of hitting a sweet-spot between entertaining and informing. How he often took relatable characters and put them in socially uncomfortable situations and in company of seedy individuals. The people he wrote about were the opposite of the top-hatted-gentlemen and ball-gowned-ladies who come to mind when you think about the Victorian era. This deviation from conventional portrayal is also one of the reasons I’m fond of Wuthering Heights. Catherine Earnshaw is as unladylike as a Victorian girl can be. The thing I really love about it though is how the main characters are not only flawed but downright loathsome, and yet you can’t not empathize with them. Because while they victimize others, they are as much victims themselves, and being built the way they are they deal with it the only way they can by sustaining cycles of cruelty and abuse. What sets Emily Brontë apart is how unapologetic she is in her telling of it all. I could go on, man. For me it was one of those books you click with before you even turn the first page. I read it every July, Emily’s birthday month.
You have a creative background in animation, graphics, art, film, among other pursuits. It’s rare to see someone with so much creative dynamism, with so much on your plate, can you tell us how you keep your creativity fresh? Inquiring artists would like to know.
I guess it’s a matter of being self-aware and actively challenging yourself to try different things. Also, reading widely and out of my comfort zone, absorbing other media, be it music, art, movies, even the kind with ratings like 2.3 on IMDb. The more you pack your head with a hodgepodge of things, the more likely they are to rub against each other and fire up metaphors. I enjoy writing in moleskine notebooks with a pencil from time to time.
Sleeping Beauty is a relatively popular tale in modern culture, in no small part due to the love of Disney films, but the Bluebeard tale is a darkly violent tale among the Grimm’s canon that is often overlooked. What drove you to tell this one in particular?
I had read about the Bluebeard story in other works of fiction but hadn’t read the actual fairy tale, until I stumbled upon the Quiller-Couch retellings. And being a fan of horror, it instantly turned my dials. What’s interesting about the Quiller-Couch version is that it’s an orientalized retelling accompanied by these beautiful illustrations (I’ll share the images) by an artist named Edmund Dulac. Both those things stayed with me, and that was the imagery I went with when I wrote my piece. It came about with the idea that what if Bluebeard’s surviving wife had a daughter who carried whatever strain in her genes that…well, made his beard blue. I was fascinated by the idea of how having blue hair would basically make her feel like a freak. But it also made me wonder if blue hair was all she inherited, and what that would mean for her spouse, trust issues and all. That seemed like a fun idea to pass playing with.
Rohit Sawant’s short fiction has been featured in a Lovecraftian anthology titled Kill Those Damn Cats. He lives in Mumbai, India. He loves to sketch, and his favorite Batman is Kevin Conroy. You can reach him at rohit-sawant.tumblr.com
“While You Were Sleeping” by Rohit Sawant
“Lately, I’ve been finding myself thinking about…it a lot. And it frightens me.”
Maybe the curse won’t happen, he wanted to say; he wanted to say other things as well. Instead, he held out his palm. She took it.
“It’ll be all right, Dawn. I’ll save you.”
“You are aware that you have to be a prince to pull that off.” She half-teased.
He flushed with embarrassment. How ludicrous it sounded now that he voiced it. Like something read in storybooks.
“Why a prince?” Indignation pricked him, the helpless sort only those with rough hands know. Their conversation reached a place where neither of them made eye contact.
“Tradition, I suppose? But don’t worry. I doubt any of it shall transpire. I mean, it hasn’t until now. Right?”
When I began to look at the way different cultures told fairy tales, I came to the task with a fair amount of bias. I was fully expecting to find that ingenuity was cherished in western tales, and obedience favoured in the east, but that was not the case. Fairy tales from all cultures have many omnipresent themes. It is a lovely reminder that we are not so different.
Cleverness and wit are aspects rewarded in new and old fairy tales from all cultures. The Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel outsmart the witch. Sinbad—of One Thousand and One Nights—escapes an island by strapping meat to his back and commandeering birds to freedom. The Boy Who Had an Eating Match with a Troll is an aptly named Norwegian fairy tale where a boy saves his family’s woodland by staging an eating contest with a troll, cutting a hole in his bowl…