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I went…and I feel like I’ve been wandering them for hours.

I’ll explain.

What do you give a mother whose birthday is on New Year’s Day? She already has the gift of an entire new year! Well, in keeping with the theme of her birth day, I give her time…time together. So this year, a couple days early, I took her to the movies. We agreed to see, “Into the Woods,” as we both like fairy tales, and it had an all-star cast. When we walked out two hours later, I really felt like I had been in some bizarre, backwards forest, with the same song playing far too long, and no moral to the complicated, convoluted tale.

I also considered watching the film my writerly task for the day…especially since it was not only based on various well-known fairy tales, but was a new spin on them (whether I liked it or not). There’s a belief that belongs to someone I can’t name and that I’m going to butcher: there are only four or five stories in the world. Period. They’ve just been retold over and over in different ways, since the beginning of storytelling. So it’s always interesting to see how someone takes an especially well-known story, like a fairy tale, and gives it new life; because that’s all any of us, as writers, are ever doing, according to that belief. Unfortunately, despite the talented cast, the re-spinning of these tales only unraveled them.

But…perhaps that was the point…since I won’t be satisfied until I can find one. I’m left with these parting words from the movie’s main (and, I think, only) song:

“Careful the tale you tell, that is the spell. Children will listen.”

(Or something thereabouts.)

This did stick with me, because I wholeheartedly agree, and love that about stories. They are spells…with power…and, as a weaver of them, you have to be careful. Just look at the power of the fairy tale through the ages…wise warnings, false promises, a little bit of both? Regardless, we’re stuck with them and their effects on our psyches, hopes, and fears. And I wonder, do the stories we write today matter as much? Or are there just too many now? I often feel that way when I walk into a bookstore, or see all the stories being published online. I worry we’re inundated…that those same four or five stories are being re-spun and retold so often they’re losing their potency. But then I think of the tales that have stuck with me through the years…from childhood fairy tales to grown-up favorite books…I remember them…even amongst all the new ones that come and go. Their spells worked because of who I am.

I’ll leave you now with the trailer for the film, for anyone who is curious, or wants to share in having the song stuck in their head for the rest of the evening…perhaps, forever, it’s that diabolical.

“Into the wooooooods!”

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