Fairy tales grew out of the oral folklore tradition, with the oldest known written examples appearing in ancient Egypt around 1300 BC. Throughout history, every culture has passed down their own fairy tales, which served as cautionary stories and moral warnings, with common elements like plot, characters and motif appearing across different cultures.

This might be due to the fact that the stories are often derived from universal human experiences such as choosing the right path while walking through the woods or dreaming of a better life.

It wasn’t until the literary fairy tales of the 19th century that the intended audience became children and much of the violence and sexual content was removed from the stories. When the Brothers Grimm published the first volumes of the foundation of the genre, they were criticized for their inclusion of sexual content and certain character choices, only to have their popularity jump when they reworked the tales in later editions to be more child-friendly.

Today, I present to you the versions your parents never told you:

Little Red Riding Hood

First published by French folklorist Charles Perrault in his seminal 1697 work Histoires ou contes du temps passé, Little Red Riding Hood warns against taking the advice of strangers and grandmothers with menacing-looking teeth. It has often been interpreted as a metaphor for sexual maturity, with the titular red cloak symbolizing menstruation and the Big Bad Wolf serving as a stand-in for the smooth-talking lothario hell bent on taking the young girl’s virginity.

A French phase of the time period, ‘elle avoit vu le loup’ (she’d seen the wolf) is even slang for a girl losing her virginity. The sexual overtones are much more implicit in early versions of the tale that featured plucky young Red unafraid of using her sexuality to her own benefit by stripping for the wolf and fleeing while he is distracted.

The most significant change to the story made by Perrault and echoed by the Brothers Grimm just over a century later was the ending, where the brave Woodsman bursts in to save the day, or at least hack a surprisingly still whole Red Riding Hood from the wolf’s stomach. Even back then it was fashionable to tack a ‘happily ever after’ ending on to stories, as original versions ended the story with the girl’s death.

Finally, Perrault and Grimm spared countless generations of children from horrific nightmares when they left this juicy detail out of their versions: the wolf feeds the oblivious Little Red the flesh of her dead grandmother before devouring her for dessert.

Sleeping Beauty

Of all the Disney princesses, Sleeping Beauty is certainly the most boring. Not only does she spend the majority of her story asleep, but she also plays into that whole ‘damsel-in-distress being recused by a man’ stereotype when it is the kiss of a prince that wakes her from her titular slumber.

In his retelling of the story, Perrault borrowed aspects from Sun, Moon and Talia (Sole, Luna, e Talia), an Italian fairy tale written by Giambattista Basile about fifty years earlier. What Perrault and Disney both left out of their versions was that it was a traveling king who happened upon the sleeping beauty one day and could not resist the urge to help himself to her powerless loins. This comatose copulation resulted in twins, one of which suckled on their sleeping mother’s finger, dislodging the splinter of flax that has caused her slumber in the first place.


Another story first published by Perrault, the name Cinderella has become synonymous with the rags-to-riches journey of its heroine. Cinderella’s transformation is brought to life by her fairy godmother, a character added to the tale by Perrault. Previous versions have the young girl praying on the grave of her dead mother.

One of the most famous images from the Cinderella story is the glass slipper. There is some disagreement amongst fairy tale scholars about whether or not Perrault’s translation of the word is apt, as the tale was passed down through the oral tradition and the French words for glass and fur are strikingly similar, verre and vair. Ah I see, now it makes more sense… of course the prince would be looking for the fur slipper with the perfect fit.

One gory detail passed over by Perrault but resuscitated by the Brothers Grimm also involved the iconic glass slipper. In an effort to cram their greedy fat feet into that tiny, perfect shoe, Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters hacked off pieces of their heels and toes, nearly fooling the prince. In true Germanic Brothers Grimm fashion, the stepsisters got what was coming to them as a pack of birds came along and pecked out their eyes.

If something here piques your interest, local burlesque troupe Glam Gam Productions, of which I am a proud member, is presenting our demented and ridiculous take on fairy tales and kids’ stories with The Little Beau Peep Show. It takes place Friday March 23rd-Sunday March 25th at the historical Café Cleopatre (1230 St-Laurent), right in the heart of Montreal’s former red light district. For more information, visit glamgam.com or look us up on Facebook.

Here’s a sneak peek of what you can expect at the show:



In less than 48 hours, the long weekend will be raring to go, like your overly impatient father circa 1994, who just wants to get the road trip started and doesn’t care that you left behind your favourite teddy bear. So tape your fragmented freedom back together, because you’ve got at least three days to enjoy the fact that Monday morning is a foggy blur at the other end of the Canal. You have all day Friday to sleep in, rest up and re-fuel on Redbull because you’ll definitely want to be at Cabaret Playhouse Friday night to party with Four Minutes To Midnight, as they celebrate the launch of their eleventh issue.

Four Minutes To Midnight’s eleventh issue is a dual publication, featuring  Happy Hour, the final collection of work by American Poet F.A. Nettelbeck (1950-2011), illustrated by Sophie Jodoin; and  Fugue XI, an epic typographic cut-up poem edited by John W. Stuart, Kevin Lo, Hillary Rexe and Sara McCulloch.

The launch gets underway this Friday, April 22 at Cabaret Playhouse (5656 Ave. du Parc) at 9 pm. Spoken word artists  Moe Clark and Vincent Tinguely will kick things off by reading a selection of Nettelbeck’s poems, as well as performing their own work. Once the crowd is buzzing with the power of poetry, Montreal rock trios  Nightwood and  The Lindbergh Line will electrify the room with riveting riffs and blood-pumping vigor.

Founded in 2004 by Kevin Yuen-Kit Lo and John Stuart, Four Minutes To Midnight is a Montreal-based literary arts zine that publishes a spectrum of works bridging poetics and politics. Now, if overwhelmed with ambition, one could probably build a cloud grazing tower constructed solely out of Montreal-based zines, but Four Minutes To Midnight undoubtedly stands apart from the rest with its art-strewn pages, innovative typography, creative graphic design, experimental format and social awareness.  The press release states: “Based in the firm belief that the personal is political, the zine explores the possibility for small stories, ‘bad’ poetry, vast dreams and private pains as a means of advancing social change.”

Four Minutes to Midnight also acts as a platform firmly rooted in Montreal’s community arts scene. Come out Friday and celebrate the life and poetry of F.A. Nettelbeck, while supporting the local independent art and publishing community.


Cover is $8 at the door, or $15 with a copy of the issue.

“I’m pretty burned out on meat poetry or street poetry or poetry of the down-and-out, whatever you want to call it, because so much of it is bullshit; bogus motherfuckers who never shed blood… but Happy Hour is the real thing. Stark precision. It’s stripped down, bare bones authentic.”

“if Jesus wouldn’t do it /there must be something to it”

I’m still confused. Sunday evening at Le Bain was great for many reasons: Noah Richler’s dry wit,
Nicolas Dickner’s personable humour, free cider, and thoughtful conversation. But it’s still unclear—is the writing life a dream or a delusion? Surely it’s something many of us romanticize— hazy evenings with only a bottle of wine and a notebook, conjuring up introspective prose with effortless grace. Of course, this dream-like fantasy is a damned delusion, or at least a rare occurrence. Does writing only become
a dream job when writers reach “success,” or is the idea of success another delusion, dependant on individual definition and in constant flux? The evening’s conversation didn’t resolve any questions, but it certainly asked some pertinent ones. And really, how can anyone expect to reach a conclusion about the state of writing in today’s society, when the state of writing is rapidly changing with the almost daily advances in technology? But I won a free book and drank some hot cider, so I’m confused, but not altogether discontent.

The Writing Life: Dream or Delusion took place at the Le Bain St-Michel last Sunday, to a small crowd of about 30 or so onlookers. It was the third  in a series of Sunday evening literary salons that Le Bain has begun to host, and this one featured award-winning Canadian authors Noah Richler and Nicolas Dickner, with Marianne Ackerman, author and publisher of the online arts magazine  Rover, acting as the moderator.

It was a great opportunity to be involved in a conversation with two of Canada’s critically acclaimed authors, for which I only had to donate a measly sum to partake. Noah Richler writes “The Writing Life” column for Rover, and is the author of This Is My Country, What’s Yours?, a literary atlas of Canada which won British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Nonfiction in 2007. Noah Dickner’s first novel Nikolski was originally published in French in 2005, winning the 2005 Governor General’s Award and the 2006 Prix Anne-Hébert award. In 2008, Nikolski won the Governor General’s Award for its French-to-English translation, and last year Nicolas won CBC’s Canada Reads, escalating his career and broadcasting
his name to a wider audience. Nicolas also writes for the online magazine  Voir.

Events like this probably don’t happen often enough, but then, looking around the theatre at the small gathering of people, most of whom seemed to be relatives or supporters of the authors, I wondered—where’s the youth? There was only a handful, maybe seven young adults in their early twenties who came out. Maybe it was a matter of advertising; I admittedly only found out about the evening through a friend, and had no idea Le Bain was holding a series of literary salons. Or maybe the small crowd spoke volumes about the very reason we were there: to discuss the shifting dynamics of writing in today’s society.

Each author discussed their own books and talked about the current state of writing, fiction vs nonfiction, what success means to them, how to make a living while still writing what you want, plus a slew of interesting digressions and conversational banter. When Marianne asked how they measured success, Nicolas responded with “if it helps me to keep on writing my books full time, then that’s success.”

Corresponding with “success” was the issue of money, and being able to make a living and have a “good life” while still writing what you want to write. Nicolas pointed out that the definition of a good life is a subjective one. He said he doesn’t have an expensive car, but even if he could afford it, wouldn’t want one. So, to him a “good life” doesn’t include excessive materialism, which is probably for the better since being a writer doesn’t often result in extravagance.

Noah says he gets up and writes something every day to justify calling himself a writer. Then half joking, half not, he says the longer you have a career as a writer, the more unemployable you become anywhere else.

The conversation took an interesting turn when they began talking about novels and why people are so eager to read nonfiction over fiction. Noah surmises that it’s because the “novel inherently requires redemption at the end” and people just aren’t interested in a load of redemption. Both Noah and Nicolas agree that there’s a misconception that novels are false and nonfiction is true, and because people crave a connection with reality, novel sales have plummeted. But Nicolas points out that nonfiction is a kind of fiction of its own. This seems like a reasonable statement since creative nonfiction uses literary devices just like any other piece of writing, exposing it to hyperboles, twists in the truth and elaborate metaphors.

Noah thinks it’s a good time to be a writer because of the endless avenues of expression available, although in a somewhat contradictory statement admits that most writers (and by this he most likely means authors) have taken a huge hit at the moment. Marianne jumped in at one point to mention the dysfunctional relationship that she feels she currently has with her readers. She says she doesn’t think that most of her readers know about her last book, and wonders at the best way to reach them.

The discussion ended with such questions left unanswered. It seems the only thing that is certain is the concurrence that everything is changing; how long this paradox will continue is another mystery.

Authors note: Before everyone trotted off to continue chatting over cider, the as-promised book draws were made and I was lucky enough to win a copy of Nicolas’s novel Nikolski. Guilty as charged, it’s been awhile since I’ve read fiction, but so far I can’t put the book down. Worth checking out!

Photos by Chris Zacchia