Modern day women can feel a pressure to detach themselves entirely from everything they admired about fairytales when they grow up; to feel that striving for a happy ever after is unrealistic and just a product of the world they were brought up in. Andrea Blythe’s ‘Twelve’ is an accessible, enjoyable read that brings to life the wonder, mystery and nostalgia of the fairytale genre that all of our first favourite stories were built on and helps us reimagine them with a new feminist slant. They show us a new happy ending in a world where women don’t compete but unapologetically achieve in being themselves, binding them as sisters by casting them as the protagonist in their own stories.
Each word of Blythe’s chapbook is an ode to the girls and women who read them, reinventing each of their childhood facets: the dancers, the bookworms, the scientists, the rebels, the cooks and more. She brings the darkness of the Brothers Grimm with the hope and life of feminist readings we strive for today. She gives each originally faceless sister of ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ personality, interests, hobbies, thoughts of their own.
For me, perhaps the most touching part was her author’s note. That passing from writer to reader of the process, the choices, the vulnerability and honesty that remarks how her chapbook came to be. She admits her own relationship with the story and how she wanted to use her piece to offer the Twelve Sisters choices, choices that fairytales are usually known to strip all women of.
Blythe writes that, “The trap is when one ending is presented as the only true and meaningful ending,” and it is the vast possibilities of the heroine’s journey that evokes choice and, from what her stories tell us, life. Her short piece urges you inexplicitly, yet oh so obviously, to appreciate the lives of the women you know, to understand the different life choices they make compared to you and to respect that their heroic role of the protagonist lies simply in these choices. That it’s okay if you choose marriage and kids, if you choose a career, if you choose love, science or books, or all of the above, but that you must do it remembering that you have the choice not to be trapped in one ‘ideal’ happy ending. You must respect the women around you for being able to make their choices and you should remember that each has their own heroic journey each and every day.
Twelve will be published on September 7th 2020 in paper form with a beautiful cover featuring artwork by Yana Germann.