THE PRINCE AND THE STORYTELLERS is an article by me about fairytales, written in the form of a fairytale. It’s just been published in PAPERCUTS, the bi-annual literary journal published by Desi Writers Lounge. Here are the opening paragraphs:
There was once a thoughtful and progressive Prince who craved good stories. He announced a competition: the first tale-spinner who could tell a complete story without needing to stop for explanations or revisions would be installed in the palace as Narrator Laureate.
Bards and fabulists soon began to stream in from across the land to entertain the Prince. They were subjected to various elimination rounds until ultimately a small group of finalists was brought before the Prince.
“All right,” said the first teller, “my story is called ‘Little Red Riding Hood’–”
“Sorry,” said the Prince, “I’ve heard that one before. It’s about a piece of clothing, isn’t it?”
“Well … no,” said the teller, “it’s the name of a little girl who wears a red cape that covers her head and shoulders–”
“Then why mention ‘Riding’?” asked the Prince. “Who was riding what? And why didn’t the girl have her own name?”
“Point taken, your Majesty,” said the man. “I’ll start afresh. My story is now called ‘Little Red Dupatta’. It’s about a girl called Manali who lives with her parents near a great forest. Her grandmother, however, lives alone deep within the forest–”
The Prince stopped him. “Right: She’s supposed to deliver food to her grandmother but meets a talking wolf along the way. The wolf runs ahead of her, swallows the grandmother whole and is about to eat the girl too but just then a friendly woodsman appears out of nowhere and kills the wolf–” He shakes his head. “In my view, it’s deeply implausible. I mean, the grandmother returns to life completely unharmed by gastric juices! What are we supposed to learn from this? That girls can behave irresponsibly and grandmothers can live alone in forests so long as there are Woodsmen who can be relied upon to pop up exactly when required!” He shook his head. “Sorry, doesn’t work for me. Next please!” … (to read the rest of it, please click HERE or go back to the top of this page and click on the title)