In Lampie, Annet Schaap demonstrated her magical talent for storytelling. This book shows that she is no one-hit wonder
Annet Schaap selected seven fairy tales as the basis for this dazzling collection of stories, The Girls. Two Perraults, five Brothers Grimm. But these are certainly not faithful adaptations. Schaap takes what she can use from the old stories and then follows her own path.
In Schaap’s retellings, Gretel’s brother Hansel becomes a sister, and Sleeping Beauty also gains a sister, who plays a crucial role in the tale. Nothing remains of the cardboard cut-outs from the fairy tales; Schaap’s characters are true to life. They may like to daydream about princes on horses ‘as white as their teeth’, but these are tough figures who do not allow themselves to be cowed by lazy kings or negligent fathers. These girls don’t need any princes to rescue them; with their desire for freedom and for recognition, they save themselves.
Not that this is a feminist pamphlet, though. Schaap’s imagination is boundless, her style is flawless. These are stories that draw you in and then leave you feeling a little melancholy. Because although they are based on fairy tales, which typically end with everyone living ‘happily ever after’, this book paradoxically reads like a plea not to believe in fairy tales. If the book makes one thing clear, it is that the heroes of fairy tales are vastly overrated. Princes on horses as white as their teeth? They don’t exist. As a girl, you’re better off settling for a frog or a sailor with a stubbly chin – they’ll be of more use to you.
In just a short period of time, Schaap has developed into one of the most original children’s writers in the Netherlands. This latest book is narrative art at the exceptionally high level of authors such as Paul Biegel and Benny Lindelauf. And yes, Lampie, too. Schaap’s woodcut-like black-and-white illustrations complete the book.