Paranormals: Modern Day Cautionary Tales

Thursdays Bite

A Paranormal Themed Blog

The roots of paranormal stretch deep, far past the gothics of the sixties, past the rise of horror and mystery in the Victorian age all the way to our oldest tales. The ones we know think of as sweet, innocent and only for children. Well, mostly for children. For a long time authors of all genre’s have been twisting the old fairy tales into new dark tales. But the originals were created just as dark, sometimes even horrifying.

I love twisted fairy tales, and have for many years so when I looked for inspiration a few years ago, that is right where I went. The result’s are Little Red Riding Wolf and my novel, The Queen’s Huntsman.

Little Red Riding Wolf, my sensual novella, received an Honorable Mention in Passionate Ink’s Stroke of Midnight contest. Little Red is loosely based on an old French fairy tale called (amazingly enough) Little Red Riding Hood. You may have read it. But you might not have read the original written by a famous French author named Charles Perrault (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703). Not as famous as the Grimm brothers he is the author of not only Little Red Riding Hood, but romance’s greatest fairy tale, Cinderella. Unlike sweet Cinderella though, Little Red is a dark tale that Perrault ends with a sinister message.

Fairy tales were the original tales of horror in a time when most people couldn’t read and the only book available in many places was a bible written in Latin. Around the fire stories were told to entertain and to warn children of dark places and dangerous  people. As we know they’ve been watered down over the centuries and likely changed many times to suit the culture. Perrault’s story is a cautionary tale warning little girls not to trust strangers and ends with a lightly veiled warning about pedophiles.

These stories form the roots of romance and horror. Cinderella swept off her feet and out of poverty is first tortured by her evil step-mother and step-sisters. Snow White, sent off to be murdered by her step-mother, only avoids death by the tender feelings of the huntsman, but does he save her? No. He sends her off into the deep dark woods alone. These are the lighter fairy tales, the darker ones (like the Red Shoes) are rooted in death and madness.

Just as in the old world when fairy tales married fantasy and horror, paranormal is the marriage of magic and our modern world. Men live down the street and look normal, but turn into ravaging beasts at the full moon. Evil witch step-mothers from the past morph into modern day  witches and vampires who fight in city streets in a struggle for survival. Are we sending our own warnings?

Are paranormal stories tales of romance or warnings of where you might go if you stray into the dark? We live in one of the safest times in modern history. We don’t need to worry about walking down city streets, or do we? When we live in a time when women are expected to live alone in city apartments and need to get to work, to parties, to the grocery store on their own, are we to tell them its not safe? No, if we do that, no woman would walk alone and our world wouldn’t be the same. Instead we, just like our predecessors, tell our tales. We set up scary situations, thny warn under their happy endings, it’s not safe. Things lurk in the dark.

In paranormal we disguise our murderers as viscous vampires and wild wolves. We create heroes from fear and strong women to take them on. We may not be aware of our role as our society’s warning system, we may only think we are telling stories. But in truth we join a long tradition of using story telling to mask the truth, to sugar coat the threat. But we still do what our ancestors did for thousands of years, sending messages of caution to our readers. Beware the dark stranger. Lock your doors. Don’t venture out at night. Or the bogeyman might eat you.

Like this blog? Have some ideas for me? Leave a comment and let me know.


Filed under fairy tales, paranormal inspiration, roots of paranormal romance

6 responses to “Paranormals: Modern Day Cautionary Tales

  1. It’s funny that we think we live in a safe society. All one needs to do is watch the news once in a while, or read a true crime book, to know that we don’t; that monsters indeed exist even if they don’t change into bats or German Shepherds. Have we become so numb to reality that we’ve really forgotten that? Maybe that’s why the “Universal Monsters”, so to speak, have been watered down into the loveable/loving versions PNR is so replete with. I disagree that there’s warnings in PNR; in most of it, it’s telling us it’s okay to lie down with the wolves, we can change them and/or control them. Um…really? I’m not sure that’s a good message, as much as I love PNR myself. I personally prefer the “Universal Monsters”; at least there, you’re not inviting the monsters to eat you, you know?

    • I can see your point, vampires as lovers do seem to be something evil converted into the benign. However in all the paranormals there are predominantly evil monsters. The hero is usually the exception, not the rule. When we start talking about the hero as a bad monster turned good, then we start dealing with the idea of conversion the rake. The bad boy who the right girl turns into a good man. Or vice versa with the heroine. Overall we are in a safe time period. Crime is down and women can walk the streets alone (for the most part). I still think paranormals are our modern fairytales, complete with the evil undercurrent running through them and the HEA for the end. And as for the warnings, hidden like the nuts in a candy bar.

  2. Good morning, Jessica!
    What amazed me when I read The Little Match Girl as an adult, was how ravaging poverty was, and how rampant abuse was. We tend to think these are modern problems, that there were no pedophiles, no wife or child or drug abuse, and romanticize earlier eras. Funny, when we all grew up with tales of evil step-mothers. The Little Mermaid may be a tale of girl meets boy, but underneath it is a warning, to be careful what you wish for, but also a warning about witchcraft. I’d love to take a class on dissecting the classic fairytales.
    Maureen McGowan, a fellow member of Toronto Romance Writers and one of the authors behind Get Lost in a Story ( has a few fairy tale twists on the bookshelves: Cinderella, Ninja Warrior and Sleepy Beauty, Vampire Slayer.

    • Good morning Sherry!
      Do you think The Little Match Girl was also written as a commentary on poverty. I feel a thesis coming on.
      When I read novels from previous centuries the poverty is usually skipped over. We feel the plight of the stranded upper middle class in Jane Austin’s books, but we don’t truly see the poverty that existed, Maybe that’s because Jane was simply used to seeing it. I think most Americans don’t see it because its segregated to certain neighborhoods and cities. No child protection agencies in the middle ages and women were property. Funny how we love reading time travels that idolize those times. Some of my favorite books are Anne Perry’s stories because she doesn’t gloss over poverty or the lack of women’s rights, or the abuse. But she doesn’t write fairy tales!
      I’ll have to look up Maureen’s books. I haven’t read hers. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Interesting post, Jessica. Made me think of Anne Rice’s witch books which I loved. Have you read them? Didn’t like her vampire ones much at all, though. Would you say they all verge on the paranormal?
    And, of course, there are some TV show now which match your definition, although I can’t name them. Who has time to watch TV?
    Anyhow, enjoyed your explanation of the genre.

    • Thanks Elaine,
      I did read Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour. Very creepy book. Verging on paranormal? Hmm. I’d say closer to horror, and especially horror like The Turn of the Screw (one of my favorites).
      This brings up the question, what is paranormal and how is it different from horror or urban fantasy or other genres. I’d say its not very well defined. Hmm, maybe next weeks Bite?

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