SPELL, unlike FIRST BITE or GINGERBREAD HOUSE, is not the retelling of a famous tale. Unlike THE FAIRY GODMOTHER’S APPRENTICE, it’s not the beginning of a more famous tale, either. It is, for the most part, an original novel; its basis is a series of minor but much-beloved tales from our childhoods, which made this book in part a work of literary love.
It’s cobbled from folk tales which the folk index Aarne-Thompson classifies as 4.2.2, or tales about enchanted or supernatural people and those who either aid them or are aided by them – such as Beauty and the Beast, the most beloved, or the lesser-known story of the Red Calf.
A favorite example? Hans my Hedgehog (adapted for Jim Henson’s The Storyteller).
The tale of the Hedgehog in particular was an inspiration for SPELL, especially with the beautiful (if now cheesy by CG standards) imagery created by Henson’s version of the story. Henson’s Storyteller fits very well with The Dark Woods world, which is why I often watch and re-watch episodes during a book’s outlining or idea phase. There’s something about his method of storytelling which I find fascinating, along with a series of other gifted directors, writers, and illustrators of fairytale and fantasy works.
You can read more about the folk index here on Wikipedia, which also explains the historical and geographical connection which was identified between variations on folk themes. The enchanted relative tales are ripe with storytelling potential. The plight of sweethearts, husbands , and wives cast into other shapes or worlds – and the wonder of learning the truth behind a supernatural or magic being’s commonplace form.