Fairy tale bonanza

Fairy tales are not my first choice of reading matter, although I’m sure they were a huge influence on my mind as a child. So when I was sent a copy of South of the sun: Australian fairy tales for the 21st century, I didn’t suspect that I would soon be riveted by this magical book.

I am now halfway through the volume and still reading! Here, some of our best storytellers and illustrators engage with this genre in ways that are entertaining, funny, and relevant to our times. These are stories for adults and are about a lot more than fairies. Myths, legends and allegories are reimagined with a 21st-century spin and strong female characters, set in Australia. The stories unfold in the bush, between the dark towers of Docklands, or at the Botanical Gardens.

Favourite authors Carmel Bird and Cate Kennedy give an assured start to the book and lesser known ones take up the baton. Delightful tales by K.Z. Barton and Gabi Brown, involving a homeless man and a Melbourne tram, lead on to a hilarious new take on ‘Jack and the beanstalk’ by Lindy Mitchell-Nilsson, with sparkling dialogue and enough bureaucratic red tape to stand in the way of any good Aussie giant-killer.

Other stories hark back to ancient myths and cultures. Louisa John-Krol’s ‘Pomelina the Pomegranate Fairy’ is a luscious, lyrical tale, originating on the Silk Road in Persia and transferred to Bendigo. It is one of several tales here that took root at the Australian Fairy Tale Society, who published this anthology. The book itself is silky to the touch, edited with care, and illustrated magnificently.

I am now converted to the fairy tale in its modern, adult incarnation. What an excellent, light-hearted way to capture the essence of Australian life, to depict our trees and plants and creatures, to celebrate and satirise our society! I must read on…