In the review of Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer’s Between the Lines, Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy faulted authors who disorient the themes of fairy tales
I am beginning to get tired with the too many modifications or twists made to traditional fairy tales, especially by the movie industry. I saw Maleficent some years back and noticed the convoluted conflict they added to the traditional fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty and I must admit that it is a good one, but I also saw Happily N’ever After and I do not like it. I just reached the terminal line of Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer’s Between the Lines and I must point out that I am a bit disappointed with the story. Writers ought to let the world of fairly tales be and stop distorting it, or forcing reality into it; it is not called fairy tale for nothing!
In the novel, Between the Lines, we meet Delilah who happens to be a young girl of fifteen frustrated with school but who is fascinated with reading fairy tales (deemed to be improper for a girl her age). She takes to a particular fairy tale and falls in love in the protagonist (Prince Oliver) due to certain similar traits in her life and his.
Prince Oliver in the folktale comes into the world as his father is being killed by a fire breathing dragon created by the father’s rival and villain (Rapscullio). Oliver is gifted with wisdom, loyalty, and life, but no courage or bravery. Oliver grows up being kept away from learning the act of fencing while yearning for adventure. As he turns sixteen, he finds that he must go rescue a damsel in distress. Lacking the skills of a swordsman and bravery, he would apply his wisdom to scale through all hurdles and rescue Seraphima whom he marries at the end.
But this is not the main story; the main story is that Prince Oliver no longer wants his part in the fairy tale! He has had to live through one too many “once-upon-a-times” and “happily-ever-afters” that he begins to ponder if there is a world outside the one he lives in the fairy tale. Finally, he is able to make contact with the outside world (the world of the reader) and confides in Delilah (an avid and dedicated reader of the fairy tale) about his frustration with the monotonousness of his playing the role of a prince in the fairy tale and how he wants out. Delilah, having fallen in love with the prince, scales through several hurdles trying to get her prince charming out of the book, including being thought to battling with mental issues by her mother (whenever she notices her talking to a book), journeying to the fairy tale world, and running away from home to find the author of the book.
Being a young adult novel, the novel is good, but it is not interesting. Notwithstanding the length, it lacks the intrigues that should push a reader to continue turning its pages; I got so frustrated with the too many unsuccessful attempts made by Oliver at leaving his fairy tale world. Turning the fairy tale into an intergalactic battle in the end is for me many shades of wrong also.
More so, the hero in the fairy tale is always expected to be imbued with bravery (more like a knight in shiny armour) but here he is reduced to a disoriented weakling in this novel. Such traits as courage, nobleness, loyalty, and wisdom exists in our fairy tale because we want to see them reflected in ourselves and our children. Fairy tale heroes and heroine are seemingly perfect because we seek our perfection (albeit unattainable) in them. Certainly, Oliver is not the kind of hero I would want my kids reading about.
Giving the characters in a fairy tale a life of their own which is different from the one in the fairy tale also seems damaging. I know what Alice, Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty, Peter Pan, and Sleeping Beauty are, and I want them to stay the same when next I walk into the world of fairy tales with my children. I do not like anyone portraying them to me as frustrated characters who no more want to live “happily ever after”.
Finally, the world of the fairy tale may not be real just like Santa Claus, but it was our world as children and is that of our children till they grow to become teens. Keep horrible reality from them till the appropriate time to acquaint them with it. Let our fairy tales remain as we know them and let the characters stay true to their roles I beg of thee.
Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy holds a degree in English language and literary studies. He is a short story writer, copy editor, book reviewer, literary critic, poet, and essayist. He teaches English as a Foreign Language in Hargeisa, Somaliland.