The Whole Time I Was Writing This, Jay Brannan’s “Ever After Happily” Was Running Through My Head

When I was very young, my mother used to read to me, like most mothers do with their children. And, like most children, I really looked forward to story time. I would crawl up into the old rocking chair with my mom, dragging a book with me and yammering away about how much I wanted her to read it to me.

Even when I was a wee thing, I talked too much. Everybody used to comment on it. When asked why I talked so much, I used to respond, “I have all these words in my mouth, and they’ve gotta come out!”

But that is neither here nor there.

One day, when I hauled myself up onto my momma’s lap, I proclaimed that I would be reading to her today. She gave me that indulgent, motherly smile, then told me to go ahead.

I immediately launched into the tale of the three little pigs. My mother gaped at me, and I grinned like only a three-year-old can, still reading along. Page after page. I was almost finished with the story when my mom couldn’t hold back her giggles any longer.

See, what I had done was memorize the entire story. I didn’t actually know how to read- I just knew the story by heart. I even knew where to turn the pages. Mostly. When I kept “reading” without getting the page turn exactly right, my mother wised up to my antics.

After that, she taught me to read. Properly.

Those were my first books. My first stories. Not Dr. Seuss books (like my brother learned on), but fairy tales. Jack and the Beanstalk. The Three Little Pigs. Sleeping Beauty. Hansel and Gretel.

Nearly all children are exposed to fairy tales at a young age. And that’s why these stories came into being- as a way to teach children about morality. Fairy tales and fables contain lessons to be learned. They are the easiest way to teach kids about right and wrong.

Most people eventually outgrow fairy stories. They don’t think of them again until they are grown, with children of their own.

I am not most people.

For me, those initial fairy tales were a gateway into the world of folklore and mythology. My passion for these types of stories is something very few people actually know about me. Because it’s not just an appreciation for them, but a hunger for these stories. Folk tales and myths tell so much about the culture they were created in. They speak of what was important, of their values. They speak of the region and the hardships faced by the people. You can learn a lot about people just by reading their stories.

Over the years, I’ve read a lot of folk tales, fairy stories, myths, and legends during my never-ending quest to read all such tales housed in the libraries around me.

In ceramics in high school, my first piece of pottery was in the style of a Grecian urn, with a pictographic representation of the stories of Medusa and Arachne on either side (I’ve always been a sucker for Athena). I tried my first pomegranate because of Persephone’s story. I grew my hair out long as a kid because of the story of Rapunzel (though after my brother dragged me off the couch by it, I realized that someone climbing your hair would be an awful experience). I started dabbling in origami because of the Japanese legend of the thousand paper cranes.

They’ve always been with me, these stories. One of my most treasured possessions is my collection of Grimm’s fairy tales. Another is the book I have containing stories from One Thousand and One Nights.

I don’t tell people about my little… obsession (preoccupation? interest? passion?) because most people think folk tales are childish. Nobody has ever really understood my love of them. Oh sure, they can deal with me reading poetry and short stories… but they don’t understand that it was fairy tales and myths that led to me this point. That The Odyssey and Beowulf really got me into poetry. That those folk tales taught me to appreciate the power and craftsmanship of short works.

But I’m telling you, galleons. Whether you think me childish or not, I’m telling you. This is something I love.

I do not, however, love Disney movies. Don’t immediately equate a love of folk tales with a love of those overly romanticized, happy-ending-filled monstrosities that Disney churns out. They are almost wholly responsible for making the concept of the fairy tale synonymous with love and everything working out in the end.

If you read these stories, you know that is often not the case.

Anyway, I bring all this up because I just found a book I want to own. Badly. I tried tapping my Russian sources once before (without going into too much detail as to the whats and whys of my quest) to hear some Slavic folklore. But they are not Russian. They didn’t grow up with these stories. And they aren’t interested enough in folk stories to have bothered learning about them.

Which is fine. To each their own. But I am interested. And the stories of Eastern Europe aren’t ones I’ve come across with any regularity. And after reading about the Likho in Bad Machinery the other day, I decided to cast around for a decent book of (translated) Russian/Slavic folk tales.

And I found one. And I really want it.

So… that’s exciting.

You’re getting a slice of my past/me today instead of something intelligent (like I’d planned) because I’m fucking exhausted. Again. I’m busting my ass refinishing a sun room for my mother. I’ve had to strip it, sand it, caulk and re-mud the drywall, and spackle. Today, I finally got to paint. I finished the bulk of it- tomorrow I’ll be working the trim and accents, then scrubbing the blinds and vacuuming and putting together her new furniture.

Manual labor, how I adore thee.

Actually, I really do like manual labor. It keeps my hands busy, which leaves my mind free to wander. Which is always a good time. Also, it gives me an excuse to crank my music loud and shake my ass a lot. Which is also a good time.

***

As a completely unrelated side note, I’ve been re-watching season one of True Blood. It’s pretty much the ultimate guilty pleasure- just scene after scene of gratuitous blood, violence, and sex (between some seriously pretty people). But what do you expect from a show about vampires (Stephanie Meyer’s bullshit aside)?

Anyway, while watching the title sequence, I was struck for the first time by how reminiscent it is of the title sequence for Dexter. The latter of which is arguably the greatest title sequence I’ve seen for a television program. I’d have to say that True Blood‘s runs a close second. Which makes sense, seeing as it was made by the same folks.

Also, the theme song’s great (even for a country track):

Vampires… legends… fairy tales…

Maybe this last bit wasn’t as much of a side note as I thought.

2 responses to “The Whole Time I Was Writing This, Jay Brannan’s “Ever After Happily” Was Running Through My Head

  1. Wow, there’s so much I want to get down in one little comment. First and foremost: I adore Jay Brannan and that song is brilliant.

    Hello, my name is Cynthia. And I’m addicted to children’s literature. Fairytales, adapted myths, and fables included. I’ve turned myself into a lit-junkie this summer, moreso than any other year.

    There’s nothing childish about it, no matter what anyone tells you. I think the weight of influence these stories have had on your life is extraordinary. The collection of Russian stories? I cannot thank you enough for posting the link as I immediately added it to my Wishlist on Amazon and will likely purchase it with my next order for school. So far, I only own German, Dutch, and French fairy tales. I’d love nothing more than to branch out. Any recommendations for other cultures? I’m deeply interested.

    As for your off-topic reference to title sequences… I cannot think of a title sequence sexier than Dexter’s (especially when he pulls his t-shirt over his face… good lord.) I’ve always enjoyed the opening to Freaks and Geeks. With “Bad Reputation” blasting in the background, I mean, that’s high school for you. Perfect.

  2. The Chinese have some spectacular folk tales. Also, if you are into comics at all, the series “Fables” deals with fairy tales and their denizens. It’s a more mature look at these characters and definitely worth checking out.

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