Cinderella had until midnight before things turned pumpkiny. Ariel only had three days to make Eric fall in love with her. Sleeping Beauty dozed for a hundred years prior to royalty’s wakeup. Fairy-tale time functions as its own character, motivating and antagonizing both heroes and villains alike. Cinderella ran. Ariel kissed. Ursula counted. Aurora napped. These characters’ happily-ever-afters (save for the sea witch, though she took tridents to another level entirely) are the byproduct of how time moves in their stories. Imagine if they had the power to travel through it…
While time travel motifs aren’t found in the standard Grimm/Andersen/de Beaumont/Perrault settings, they do appear in such works as the twelfth-century De nugis curialium (Trifles of Courtiers) and the Japanese Urashima Tarō (c. 720 AD). Johan Herman Wessel’s Anno 7603, written in 1781, revolves around a fairy who transports protagonists Leander and Julie 5,822 years forward in time.
Good for Haggis and Sarah Connor
There’s something fantastical about traveling decades, even centuries forward and backward, saving people and/or falling in love during the process (Kyle Reese, RIP). Many of today’s TV shows incorporate time travel as a basic premise, including Starz’s Outlander adapted from Scottsdale, AZ, author Diana Gabaldon’s novels. Heading into its second season, the series focuses on Claire Beecham of the 1940s and her journey to 1700s Scotland where she finds romance and conflict via Highlanders versus British Redcoats.
Not to be outdone by cable television, the video game BioShock Infinite relies on the portal-opening Elizabeth to help liberate the sky city of Columbia from the fanatical Zachary Hale Comstock, the portals giving her access to universes along the space-time continuum. Note to the equation-inclined: metaphysics + first-person shooter genre = 11 million copies sold and Cheat Code Central’s 7th Annual Cody Award for Best XBox Game of 2013.
Bibbity Bobbity Loop
Marty McFly. Now, you’re probably thinking, of course he travels through time, but where’s the fairy-tale connection? When we examine Back to the Future’s plot structure, we see that young Marty is playing the role of Fairy Godmother, his father the most awkward Cinderella in this or any other dimension. Marty’s very existence depends on his ability to transform George McFly into the kind of man his 1950s-era mother Lorraine finds appealing, a stalwart who will defend her from the Biffs of the world. Marty achieves success at his parents’ Enchantment Under the Sea high-school dance, his midnight (and only time-travel window) moved to 10:04 pm, his coach of choice, the DeLorean DMC-12.
“How to build a time machine,” yields about 124,000,000 results on Google, compared to the 186,000 hits dedicated to “the world of Biffs.”
This fairy-tale file brought to you by editorial assistant Trisha Smith and poetry editor Jon Riccio.