The Prince called for Rapunzel to let down her hair but her locks couldn’t reach sixteen storeys from her HDB flat. The Prince sighed, “Oh well, I’ll just have to take a loan from my father and wait 32 months before I can move into the unit next to her.”
This is one of a handful of fairy-tales that have undergone a rather radical re-telling in Singapore.
The Singaporean Fairytale project was put together by a group of final year undergrads to deal with a socio-political problem in the country. Earlier this year, the government released a white paper on Singapore demographics titled “A Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore“. One of the projections showed that, by 2020, given current growth rates, the workforce would start to shrink considerably and the post-WWII Baby Boomer generation will make up more than a quarter of the overall population.
The slowdown in population growth is attributed to young people focusing more on careers rather than starting families. And, as in the Western developed world, there are many underlying reasons for this mindset – the high cost of living, widening income gaps, elderly care costs, etc.
These modified versions of fairytales are meant to gently and humorously prod 21-30 year olds into starting families earlier. For example, on the page with the above story, there is an explanation that says:
30% of all new flats (author’s note: i.e. apartments) for first-timers will be reserved for young families.
The intentions are well-meant and they’re trying to approach a weighty, sensitive and contentious topic with story and humor. However, given some of the other ongoing cultural and political changes, this approach hasn’t had quite the desired effect.
One wants to applaud the universal realization of the power of stories to influence moral and existential life choices. And, yet, there’s something about how that power and influence is being used that doesn’t quite sit well.
Aside: Fairy-tales have long been adapted for grown-up re-tellings in books, movies, songs. Something about our long familiarity with them and the love we still have for them keeps us returning for more. And, no matter how many mutations-beyond-recognition they may go through, it seems that we cannot have enough.
So, here’s my book recommendation for the day: Philip Pullman’s new Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version. To whet your appetite, read this rather clever and humorous review of it from The Guardian today.
And, because I’m feeling like a generous Fairy Godmother today, here’s a link to a lovely and fun site called Fairy Tale Lobby (you didn’t know it existed, did you?)