Before Red Boots there were Red Shoes

No, I don’t mean the showtime series.

Today I’m thinking about one of my influences for In the Red. I’ve loved fairy tales since I was a little girl. I was immersed in all sorts of versions from a very young age. While I tend to lean towards Grimm, Eastern European, and Russian tales, I’ve also been affected by Hans Christian Andersen.

Meaning his stories really depressed or scared me growing up.

I think it was because I didn’t know what to do with them, y’know? As a kid I could deal with happily ever after, but what do you do with toys that commit suicide together, little girls that end up dead out of lack of a good home, pine trees with high expectations that are treated like dirt, mermaids that give up everything for a momentary crush and end up dying because of it?

And yet, as I got older, I couldn’t get those images out of my head. They made me uncomfortable, but they also made me think. Maybe I had to grow into the emotions those stories described. Maybe I had to go through my own pain of growing up to appreciate the subtle nature of them. I don’t necessary love his tales, but I have a healthy respect for them. I’m drawn to them. I find his characters endearing. Among those stories, there is one that i discovered when I was older (thankfully) and was the equivalent of a sledgehammer across the back of the neck.

If you’ve read The Red Shoes, you know that not only is it a little more steeped in morality than some of his other stories, but it’s pretty dark. It’s really dark. Not only does everything happen to a young girl, but the “happy” ending comes from redemption of the soul and not the sort of happily ever after we’d hope for her. It’s a very vivid story of falling to temptation in various forms, of going with what you think will treat you well, then gravitating to something pretty that you like, and having it all blow up in your face because you’re in a place where you don’t belong and own things that you can’t handle.

I really loved the themes of that story (and the Jungian interpretation by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes), and I really wanted to work with some of those themes. But there was no way I could feel good about keeping the lead as a little girl. There’s only so many dark places I’m willing to go. And I’ve always wanted to write in the world of rock, and the themes mesh pretty well. I can only hope that I captured the discomfort I felt while reading an Andersen story, and still keep something of a redemptive ending. I suppose time will tell.


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