Keeping Ancient Stories Alive
Fairy tale legends Little Red Riding Hood and the Gingerbread Man inspired the first two stories in the Sky Private Eye picture book series. Here we explore the origins of these icons and the importance of reimagining fairy tales.
Fairy tales have been around for thousands of years, their origins are notoriously difficult to trace. Beginning life as folk tales they followed ancient oral tradition, told and retold over the generations.
The Brothers Grimm published folklore in the nineteenth century; finally giving the world the most comprehensive written record of the many tales we know and love today. With elements of magic, strong characters embodying good versus evil and lessons for young children to learn, fairy tales are timeless.
The Sky Private Eye picture book series from Five Quills, written by Jane Clarke and illustrated by Loretta Schauer, is set in a fairy tale world. The books give a modern twist to well-known tales with an exciting new detective, Sky Private Eye. Sky uses magic, wit and her faithful dog Snuffle to piece together fairy tale mysteries.
Daniela Schneider, Five Quills founder and publisher, explains,
“the reason I chose fairy tales for this series is because my first memory of being read to as a child was listening to my mother read the Brothers Grimm in German. In my opinion fairy tales remain the perfect introduction to literature for young children”.
The first Sky Private Eye picture book features Little Red Riding Hood. The original Little Red tale is believed to have started life around two thousand years ago as The Wolf and the Kids, in the Middle East. This is thought to have spread to Europe where it became the Little Red Riding Hood we know, and also to East Asia where other versions such as The Tiger Grandmother emerged. All adaptations include an animal pretending to be something else. The message is consistent, be aware of strangers; they may not be what they seem.
Little Red Riding Hood in Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Missing Grandma is a little savvier than earlier incarnations, heading straight for help from detective Sky Private Eye when she fears the worst has happened to her Grandma. The big bad wolf is not so bad either; he has the potential to be tamed.
The second Sky Private Eye picture book features a Gingerbread Boy as inspired by the Gingerbread Man fairy tale. The most common telling of this story was seen in print in America in the late nineteenth century. It started life as The Runaway or Fleeing Pancake in Norway and Germany, printed around fifty years earlier. Less widespread versions include an American Johnny Cake, English pudding, Irish cake and Scottish bannock as the protagonists. All of these tales include a baked good that pops out of the oven or pan, then runs or rolls away escaping a series of pursuers before being eaten by a character they thought they could trust.
In Sky Private Eye and the Case of the Runaway Biscuit, the Gingerbread Boy has his sights set on competing in the Fairytale Olympics, but a hungry fox is in pursuit. Thankfully Sky’s magic cupcakes redirect Foxy Loxy’s intentions. Reimagining fairy tales keep these ancient stories alive.
Look out for the next instalment from Sky Private Eye, in Spring 2018, when a prince needs Sky’s help to hunt down the owner of a sparkly slipper.
“Fairy tales spark the imagination,” Daniela concludes, “I hope our Sky Private Eye stories will encourage parents to go and look for the original tales and read them to their children as well”.
Edited by Janey Robinson