Incheon’s Chinatown has a strange mix of everything. Love stories painted on elaborate wall murals, grim memorials of war — cementing a 100 year political alliance, copious fields of wild flowers, and thankfully, a lot of room for escapism, in its ‘Fairy Tale Village‘. Although, this mural village exclusively targets kids, and is a treat for tots or lovestruck couples looking for some serious posing; it’s a great way for adults to lighten up and look at the bright side of life.
I’m not sure I ever believed in fairy tales. And yet, as a young kid, it’s not something that I could have escaped from reading. Looking back, I now believe, it’s a rite of passage. There’s a reason why we start reading tales of magic and illusion — early on. Maybe because, someday, when we get older, and when things get grey; those tales would remind us, in a parallel world, miles away from where we are, things could be perfectly fine.
If I had to read the Grimm brothers’ Fairy Tales, today, as an adult; I’d find them to be surprisingly dark. A Wiki link reveals, when they were released in 1812, the content was found to be unsuitable for children. And it’s not very surprising — if you’d give it another shot. The stories went through many changes in subsequent editions. The most noteworthy, of them all, is the wicked mother being changed to the stepmother, in the tales of ‘Snow White‘ and ‘Hansel and Gretel‘. Looking back, I’m not sure why nobody finds it unsettling that all stepmothers are portrayed to be inherently evil. In a time, when complex family dynamics are part of life; it’s probably not the right thing to be telling impressionable minds.
If I compare western fairy tales with regional folktales, some of which, I read as a kid; there seemed to be a greater emphasis on ‘doing the right thing‘. Happy endings didn’t matter. A wrong decision could end in an unhappy ending and you’d have to just accept it. It’s hard, but that’s life! There was no escaping the dark side of human nature. Greed, jealousy, temptation, and hate formed the underlying tones of these tales. The secret to being happy was making the right decision. And probably, that’s the most difficult thing to do in life.
More recently, a friend of mine introduced me to Bill Willingham’s Fables. Definitely a more modern take on the classics and not afraid to confront the dark side.
As we walked around these streets splattered with pink, kids laughing, and young couples walking with their selfie sticks; I felt like I was in a surreal world. I knew that, somewhere else, on the other side, there was an alternate reality. I’ve also seen that side. But, now it was okay to revel in bubblegum pops of colour and tales of mythical happiness. Even if it seemed like a temporary sugar rush, it brought a smile to my face. Escapism is not such a bad thing after all.