Writers rework classic fairy tales to empower girls in ‘Now Upon a Time’ podcast

Writers rework classic fairy tales to empower girls in ‘Now Upon a Time’ podcast

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -The traditional “Once Upon a time” fairy tale is getting a new beginning, middle, and ending.

Some local writers from the Martin Agency have teamed up to create “Now Upon a Time." It’s a podcast of classic stories, reimagined with messages to empower young girls and redefine what it means to be a princess.

From the website: “It all started when a group of creative folks noticed that classic fairy tales hadn’t aged well. The plot lines were great, but the details needed an update. Stronger female characters and more modern relationships, for starters.”

“Now Upon a Time" is a podcast of classic stories, reimagined with messages to empower young girls and redefine what it means to be a princesses.
“Now Upon a Time" is a podcast of classic stories, reimagined with messages to empower young girls and redefine what it means to be a princesses. (Source: Now Upon a Time)

Neel Williams knows a thing or two about empowering young girls. He’s raising two - Adelaide and Dorothy. They read together a lot.

“We realized together that some of the princesses, especially, could use a little bit of updating,” said Williams. "You know so they were a little bit stronger. "

“And braver!” added his older daughter, 6-year-old Adelaide.

“And braver!” agreed Williams. "And were better role models for little girls."

Neel Williams knows a thing or two about empowering young girls. He’s raising two - and they read a lot together.
Neel Williams knows a thing or two about empowering young girls. He’s raising two - and they read a lot together. (Source: NBC12)

Take Sleeping Beauty, for example:

“Yeah, that’s one, because she falls asleep and then some random dude comes in and sort of kisses her and wakes her up. And then what happens?” said Williams to Adelaide.

“And then she falls in love and they marry the next day.” she said.

“That’s a little too quick, huh?” Neel said. “Yeah, they should date first."

You might say, it’s the fairest point. So Williams, along with some other writers at the Martin Agency rewrote the classics.

And the Williams family took on Snow White, who was renamed after her grandmother Sue - not her complexion.

“It was something that I actually had the power to do,” said Williams. "Which is rough sometimes to observe something out in the world and there’s not much you can do about it. So this was one where we could come together and reimagine these stories and it was actually a lot of fun to write! I didn’t put a lot of forethought into it, I just sort of jumped in and started writing. "

Williams said at several points, he modeled Sue after his own independently-thinking daughter, Adelaide. Listen to the Sue White story here:

Here’s an excerpt we asked Adelaide about: “The point is, Sue White did things her own way and people thought that was pretty cool."

“She wanted to wear what she liked," Adelaide pointed out. "She didn’t let anyone boss her around and say, ‘You have to wear this; you have to wear that. Here. This is nice! Wear it!’”

Page by page, Williams rewrote a classic story into one that would teach his daughters.

“Sue didn’t tweeze her eyebrows!” the story says. “She didn’t wear the latest fashions! Some days she didn’t even wash her hair. How on earth could Sue be the fairest of all? The real mirror started to explain that real beauty wasn’t about how you look on the outside. You are more than just how you look."

And that story goes on to show that no princess needs a prince to save her.

“He comes to the cottage and knows what happened to her and says, ‘Hey, would you like to go to a concert?’ And she says, ‘Sure, I’ll go, but I’m not dressing up and I’m riding my own horse,’” said Williams, pointing out the more appropriate take on modern dating.

“Don’t like marry," said Adelaide. "More date, and you have to get used to them.”

“And they both continued dating each other respectfully, through the end of the month. The end” finishes the podcast.

Now Upon a Time” has reimagined several stories, like Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel and the Little Mermaid. And, in case you were wondering, these stories were written for all children - Boys and girls.

A listening party for “Now Upon a Time” will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

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