Skip to main content

Teenage fiction: Magic for a modern age

Beauty By Robin McKinley David Fickling Books pound;10.99

Poison By Chris Wooding Scholastic Press pound;12.99

The Folk Keeper By Franny Billingsley Bloomsbury Children's Books pound;5.99

Tithe: a modern faerie tale By Holly Black Simon amp; Schuster pound;7.99

In these days of gutter-realism teen fiction and horror-fantasy sword sagas, what is the place for the traditional fairytale?

In The Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim tried to unearth reasons for the power and longevity of fairytales. Rather as Freud had for myth, Bettelheim concluded that fairytales persisted because they served a twin purpose: they dealt with unresolved primal conflicts and they pointed out lessons for adult life.

The tale of Beauty and the Beast , for instance, touched on the irrepressible potency of sexuality and its taming into conjugality; on a more practical level, it offered sage advice on such knotty points as keeping promises, looking after family interests and treating even the most startling acquaintances with respect and good manners.

Not everyone agreed with Bettelheim, then or now. Magical beings who are capricious yet attractive, like but unlike humanity, are appealing to authors and readers, perhaps, because they allow us to explore hived-off human attributes; because they bring in new plot possibilities, defying laws of probability; or simply because they are great characters.

Such possibilities are delightfully explored in a new crop of fairytales for today, while the best of them also resonate with the beat of deeper meanings.

Read the reviews in this week's TES

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you