A Tale with Teeth (Part 1): Putting the Bite Back into Fairy Stories
It was the last straw – again. There I was, blithely corralling kids’ books, when I came across a sheep in wolves’ clothing: yet another work in which an author has her wicked way with fairy tales. Enough’s enough, I thought, rough-housing the offending object into a corner; if I encounter another novel that neuters those venerable yarns, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll…
Do what? Scream like a girlie-man? Beat my hairy breast? Never! Such things are beneath me, as you well know. Instead, I thought, I’ll do my own bit of bastardising, so as to put the acid on these con-artists and the sting back where it belongs – in the tales, of course.
To my amazement and alarm, I got a chance to put my pen where my mouth is within hours. While ferrying Boy Wonder to a friend’s, I happened to put my daughter to sleep in the car. Rather than try and shoehorn the little dear out of her cosy capsule, I opted to ride it out – to sit behind the wheel and write.
It’s the fruit of this wee spree that I now want to share. Entitled ‘A Tale with Teeth’, the story goes something like this…
Once upon a time there was a wolf – a very sad wolf. His teeth were falling out, you see, and that’s enough to make any beast blue. One day the wolf woke up feeling so low that he just had to see a doctor.
‘Doc,’ he said, ‘I’m losing my teeth.’
‘Hmmm,’ said the doctor, fiddling with her phone. ‘I’d better run some tests.’
Tucking his tail under his furry flanks, the wolf sat and waited.
At last the doctor let out a shriek.
‘What is it?’ cried the wolf. ‘Give it to me straight, doc – I can take it.’
‘It’s my blood pressure,’ groaned the doctor. ‘It’s way too high. I need a holiday.’
And with that she raced from the room, grabbing her golf clubs as she went.
As you can imagine, that didn’t make the wolf feel any better. Not one to give up easily, though, he went straight to the dentist’s.
‘Come back when you’ve made an appointment,’ snapped the girl at the counter. The wolf sighed and did as he was told.
‘What seems to be the problem,’ asked the dentist, as he strapped the wolf down.
‘It’s my teeth,’ said the wolf. ‘They seem to be falling out.’
‘And I suppose you think I’m going to stick my head into your mouth to have a look,’ said the dentist.
The wolf nodded, miserably.
‘Gladly,’ said the dentist, and stuck his head right in.
He emerged a little later, feeling around in his ear for something sharp.
‘You weren’t foxing,’ he said, holding up a tooth. ‘Your fangs are dropping like flies.’
The wolf gave a groan. ‘But why?’
‘Not sure,’ said the dentist. ‘And don’t think I’m going in there again to find out. Who eats garlic for breakfast, anyway?’
It took the wolf a few months to pay his bill. As soon as it was settled, he rushed off to see a therapist.
‘I’m sad,’ the wolf told her, once he’d got comfortable on the couch. ‘And my teeth are falling out.’
‘Don’t let a little thing like that get you down,’ said the therapist, smoothing her slacks. ‘Is there anything else that might be making you unhappy? Your parents, perhaps?’
The wolf thought hard.
‘Well,’ he said, finally, ‘there is one little thing that’s been troubling me.’
‘Go on,’ said the therapist, pen poised above her iPad.
‘It’s just that I used to feel so big and bad. Hardly a week went by without me nibbling on a kid or two, and scaring some half to death.’
‘So that’s it,’ said the therapist, turning on her phone. ‘Nothing to do with your family at all.’
The wolf craned around to look at her.
‘Do you know what that does to a carnivore’s self-esteem?’ he said.
‘Yes, yes,’ said the therapist, briskly. ‘It’s an open-and-shut case. You’ve lost your identity and the new you doesn’t need teeth.’
She cast an eye over the wolf’s lithe figure.
‘Just out of curiosity, what do you eat?’
‘Shakes, mostly,’ said the wolf. ‘It’s a complete diet, only minus the children.’
‘Might be worth a try,’ murmured the therapist. ‘My sister’s getting married next month, you know, and I’d like to be looking my best.’
‘You go grrrl,’ said the wolf, giving her knee a squeeze.
The therapist threw him a grateful smile.
‘It’s just that my mother had such enormous –’
‘Hams?’ said the wolf.
The wolf nodded, sympathetically.
‘Sure,’ he said, ‘but what about me?’
‘You? You’ve just got to find yourself again. Get back to being the real you. If, that is, you want to keep your canines.’
‘I get it,’ said the wolf. ‘I’m an open-and-shut case.’
The therapist looked at the clock.
‘Start now,’ she said. ‘Just open the door and shut it once you’re through.’
The wolf got up from the couch, feeling a little stiff, and padded out into the waiting room.
‘Hello,’ he said to a witch, her warty nose buried in a dog-eared Reader’s Digest. ‘Fancy meeting you here.’
Thank me later.