Once Upon a Lesbian, Or: On the Reclaiming of Fairy Tales

Tonight, I’m thinking about fairy tales.

I grew up devouring fairy tale tomes, reading every version of classic and not-so-classic and not-so-heard-of fairy tales until my little brain was steeped in princesses and gems and frogs and gleaming palaces. But even from a little girl, I knew I wasn’t like the other girls: I was, in fact, different, and over time, it began to hurt that there were no princesses or heroines or witches or strong women in these tales that were at all like me. Because all of the love interests were princes or brave tailors, and not a single love interest was a woman.

It might seem like a little thing, but if you’re gay, you understand it, and if you’re not gay, you’ve seen it. It’s a straight, straight, straight, straight, straight, straight world out there, and for all of the queer boys and girls, growing up and searching for a familiar face in the old stories…there weren’t any. There aren’t any.

If fairy tales ever taught me anything (and they’ve taught me many, many things), one of the most important is this: if the world is not the way you’d like, try to change it.

My story is a quest story, and–I suppose–a little like a fairy tale itself. Along the way, I made friends with a few dragons (I’m not the slaying type), and fell in love with and married a beautiful princess. I continued to study the fairy tales and immersed my life in them. I even went so far as to ink them on my skin forever, but something was still not right.

They were still not my stories.

I’ve spoken before about how reclaiming archetypes is one of the most subversive and empowering things a queer person can do. And, once, my wife and I had retold our favorite fairy tales the way we’d always wanted them to be retold. I wondered…could we do it again? Could we do it on a bigger scale? Could we tell the stories the way we’d always hoped for, wished for, wanted? So we set out into the world, and we did exactly what our hearts had been asking us to do all along.

We began the Sappho’s Fables series: fairy tales retold as lesbian.

From the very beginning, we worked our hearts out. We knew the exact stories we’d always wanted, and we knew we couldn’t be the only people in the world who’d wished for courageous women finding each other and–through their own courage and tenacity–saving themselves (and, perhaps, the world). We took our favorite aspects of some of the most well known fairy tales, the heroines that had always haunted our hearts and thoughts, and we set out to retell their stories.

Now, we’ve done three stories, have a volume of the retold novellas out, and we’re well into the ambitious project. The response has been at once fierce and passionate and supportive: people have wanted these stories, have waited for these stories, and the Sappho’s Fables series, thus far, has been overwhelmingly supported by the community, by queer folk, by straight folk.

I’m thinking about fairy tales tonight, because I often think about fairy tales. Telling these stories, creating these worlds, is my full time job, and one that I take very seriously, and am very grateful for. It’s almost my birthday, and every year around this time, I get a little navel-gazey and thoughtful, and I think about the years that have gone before me, of the other birthdays I’ve had, of the old fairy tale books I was lovingly given by my grandmother and my mother and my aunts, of the stories that touched my lives, of the heroines who invaded my heart and never, ever left it. I’m thinking about the stories I’d wished I had that I can’t mourn for, anymore. Because I’m finally writing them.

And that’s the most daunting thought, I suppose. I can no longer mourn the childhood of lesbian-less stories, because my wife and I are writing them. But we aren’t the only ones. There are so many good people, so many brilliant authors, who are telling their stories the best they know how, pouring their hearts out onto the pages, changing the world that they so desperately had wished for, growing up. Making it anew.

Reclaiming it.

When we have kids (may heaven help the world: they’ll probably be little hellions ;D), I’m proud to say that they’ll have fairy tales about girls who love girls, they’ll have stories where heroines save themselves, they’ll have novels that feature women like their mothers, and the invisibility so insipid before will be eradicated.

So I’m thinking about fairy tales, tonight, and a world that supports lesbian ones.

That, in and of itself, is one of the best happily ever afters I’ve ever known. ❤


About elorabishop

Author of fantasy, fairy tale, science-fiction and paranormal lesbian romances.
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3 Responses to Once Upon a Lesbian, Or: On the Reclaiming of Fairy Tales

  1. Can’t wait to read Sappho’s Fables! A great post–it is indeed crucial to ‘queer’ and reclaim archetypes and important cultural figures. Thanks for doing this important work!

  2. Pingback: Link Round Up: June 19-26 « The Lesbrary

  3. Puck says:

    That is heartwarming and hopeful. I can’t wait to read them. 🙂

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