I’ve loved fairy-tales from as far back as I can remember. Even before I could read, I always begged to be told fairy-tales, and the first book I remember reading for myself in English (I’m of French origin, so my first reading was in French), as a six year old, was a beautifully illustrated Little Golden Book which was a collection of three fairy-tales: Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Toads and Diamonds.
Ever after, I’ve read voraciously in the fairy-tale tradition, clicking instinctively with those thrilling tales of enchanted realms and talking animals and dark spells and love at first sight and scary moments, too. Fairy-tale is less grand than myth, and less ‘serious’ than legend, but it is more romantic than both. More human. And yet more magical. It speaks of our dreams, but it’s also full of robust, earthy wisdom.
Like everyone who loves fairy tales, I have my favourites. There are quite a lot of these, but three in particular stand out, and when I look closer, I see that they share common elements: a thrilling atmosphere of romance, mystery, magic, secrets and dread, and a spirited, courageous heroine who must go through a great ordeal to achieve happiness.
So here they are, my top favourites:
Beauty and the Beast, written by the French writer Madame Leprince de Beaumont in the eighteenth century, which was immediately so popular it spawned a whole new rash of versions by other writers and cultural traditions around the world and inspired classic novels too, like Jane Eyre.
Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans, which combined courage and terror in equal measure and has also inspired some wonderful novels, including, recently Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest.
And Cinderella, most especially in the German version collected by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, which is known as Aschenputtel. I love that version of Cinderella above all, because in it the Cinderella character is much more active than she is in many others, and so the magic that happens is more satisfying and more touching too than just a fairy godmother turning up with a wand. It was that story of course that was my primary inspiration for Moonlight and Ashes, and while I was writing it, I was plunged into a world as dizzyingly enchanting as it was emotionally intense.
Sophie. thank you for sharing your love of fairy tales with the Booktopia Blog’s readers
Recently Booktopia asked Sophie Masson to tell us about her new book:
Moonlight and Ashes is something a bit different, a fairy-tale thriller for young adults, with a romantic twist and a spice of dark political conspiracy! Inspired by the Grimm version of Cinderella, Aschenputtel, it’s set in an alternative world, the Faustine Empire (based in part on the late 19th century Austro-Hungarian Empire), where magic is a reality but forbidden to be practised by anyone except the secretive and dangerous order of Mancers, who are part sorcerer, part secret police.
The main setting is Ashberg (based on Prague), a lovely provincial city in the far reaches of the Empire, where my heroine and narrator, Selena, lives. She’s the Cinderella figure: the neglected and oppressed first daughter of a wealthy nobleman who after the death of her mother, and her father’s remarriage, has been reduced to being a servant. But she’s no passive victim, and when her mother comes to her in a dream and gives her the magic of the hazel tree, she is determined to use it. But though her life starts to change, she must be very careful, and not only because magic is forbidden, for she has a very dangerous secret, an enigma which she must understand if she is to save the man she loves, and her friends, before it is too late. It’s a real roller-coaster of a story, and I loved writing it, but it kept me awake at night too! read full interview