As the world moves into the 2020s, it needs to revise its fairy tales. Here, then, are some updated versions, suitable for narrating around campfires, forest fires, and by the shores of rapidly rising oceans.
As the world moves into the 2020s, it needs to revise its fairy tales. The old ones spoke to an earlier generation, but new times face new challenges. Here, then, are some updated versions, suitable for narrating around campfires, forest fires, and by the shores of rapidly rising oceans.
Cinderella and the Surveillance Cameras
When Cinderella rushed home from the ball after leaving behind her glass slipper, she was in despair. Had she lost her one chance at finding true love and escaping from the inequality trap?
Her fairy godmother was of no use: all she did now was mutter about ungratefulness and the activism of the young. Cinderella sighed, and was about to download a new dating app when suddenly, there was a loud knock on the door. Lo and behold, it was the prince.
“How did you find me so soon?” gasped a delighted Cinderella.
The prince preened. “Simple,” he said. “I checked the close-circuit camera footage from the ballroom and then, with facial recognition technology that was linked to your identity card, it was a matter of minutes to discover your location.”
They fell into each other’s arms as the fairy godmother discreetly deleted her browsing history.
Red Riding Hood and the Diminishing Forest Cover
“Goodness,” said Red Riding Hood, “what big teeth you have.”
The wolf in grandmother’s clothing grinned and was about to reply, when there was the sound of a huge crash. A woodsman had jumped in through the window, brandishing a large axe. “Stop right there,” commanded Red Riding Hood. “Don’t you dare wave that axe around!”
The woodsman looked baffled. “But, I’m here to save you,” he pouted, as the wolf cowered under the sheets.
“Save me?” said Red Riding Hood indignantly. “It’s because you’ve reduced the forest cover by chopping down trees that this poor creature has to mingle with us humans in the first place.” The wolf smiled weakly and nodded.
“I hope you’ve learned your lesson,” Red Riding Hood continued, wagging a forefinger. “Now go away. Plant some seeds or something.” She turned back to the wolf and patted it on the head, as the woodsman lay down his axe and tiptoed away.
Snow White and the Seven Immigrants
The wicked stepmother snapped her fingers in triumph. She had come up with the perfect plan, one that was so much better than a poisoned apple. Bursting into the cottage where the seven dwarves were shielding Snow White, she yelled, “Show me your papers!”
“Papers?” asked the dwarves, puzzled.
“Yes, papers,” the stepmother demanded. “How long have you lived here? Where were your parents born? We have new rules now, you know. Hurry up, or you’ll be sent off to the detention camps.”
Just as the dwarves were turning to each other in dismay, the door slammed open and a handsome prince stepped in.
Tossing back his lustrous hair, he said, “Halt! I’ve just signed an edict that’s revised the policies. All of you can stay.” The dwarves sighed in relief, and Snow White gazed at the prince adoringly.
As for the stepmother, she spent the rest of her days asking the magic mirror which citizen was the most legal of them all, and not receiving a single word in response.
Jack the Inequality Killer
His heart pounding, Jack hurried away from the giant’s palace and quickly climbed down the beanstalk. What he had seen there had shocked him. So much gold in the hands of one family? It was profoundly unjust.
He raised his axe to chop down the beanstalk when another idea struck him. Making his way to the town square, he addressed the crowd. “Listen to me. All of us work hard all day long, milking cows, sowing seeds, harvesting crops,” he began. “Meanwhile up there, that fellow sits on his inherited millions and looks down upon us all. Is that fair?”
“No!” roared the crowd and began to take up arms. “Stop!” said Jack. “I have a much better plan.”
And so they passed a law that introduced a fair rate of wealth tax. It was explained to the giant that he would have to give up a larger proportion of his treasure, which would be used to create parks, pave roads, and improve health and sanitation services.
The giant himself soon moved into a cosy dwelling next to Jack, and they often had meals of baked beans together.
Sleeping Beauty Wakes up to an Environmental Crisis
When the prince’s kiss finally awoke Sleeping Beauty from her century-long slumber, she was delighted. Hand in hand, she and the prince skipped out of the castle entrance. Looking around, she took a deep breath, and immediately started to cough.
“The air,” she gasped. “What’s happened to it?”
“Pollution,” said the prince, looking glum. “Don’t worry, I have an extra mask that you can wear.”
Sleeping Beauty walked a few steps further and stopped again. “There used to be a sparkling river right here,” she said in dismay, pointing to a small channel choked with plastic bags.
“So I’ve been told,” said the prince moodily.
Sleeping Beauty stamped her foot. “What did your generation do while all this was happening?” she asked. The prince chewed his lower lip uneasily.
Without waiting for a reply, Sleeping Beauty strode off, leaving him staring after her. Soon, she formed an activist group that resolved to try and save what remained of the planet.
Sanjay Sipahimalani is a Mumbai-based writer and reviewer.
Read his columns here.