Don’t get me wrong, I don’t make radical changes. I don’t say Juliet lived and Romeo became a bricklayer in Genoa. That would be wrong. Instead I make subtle changes. Innocuous comments that only the closest reader would spot. Oliver Twist had a pet parrot. Heathcliff’s favourite moor wasn’t Yorkshire it was Othello. The Great Gatsby invented the tea-break. Small changes with little impact. A simple hobby that harmed no one until one day last week I realised I was not the only one fiddling with the classics.
Last week, I saw the ballet ‘Swan Lake’. An everyday tale of a man falling in love with a swan cursed by a warlock. In the end *SPOILER ALERT* the swan dies. It’s ending is tragic, and beautiful, and, in the version I saw, it never happened! She lived! She didn’t die, she was reunited with the man and they all lived happily ever after.
What the actual f**K!
It was like watching Chinatown only for Jake, Evelyn and Noah to meet up at the end at the Ho Wong for a chinwag about child care, irrigation and the delights of Kung Pow Chicken. Or finding out the loveable pirate rogue Jack Sparrow was in fact a bad guy, agent of chaos, good guy, demi-god, villain, good guy again, and/or mental (or whatever did happen in those terrible Pirates of The Caribbean sequels)
But, it turns out that my anger was misplaced. Swan Lake has always had three endings: a happy one (she lives!), a sad one (she dies!) and a strange botched middle ground where everyone dies but they all have a party in heaven so it’s both happy (party!) and sad (dead!).
I didn’t know this. I just assumed the tragic ending was a given. But that got me thinking. Why stop at Swan Lake? Maybe we could introduce alternative endings to other literary classics. Let’s replace Watership Down with Watership Up – where the Black Rabbit of Death is swapped for Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s Roger Rabbit. Or, even better, Jessica Rabbit. Hubba hubba. Mixamatosis has never been so sexy!
It would be great. It would restore the pleasure of reading classic texts as if you were reading them for the very first time. It’s impossible now to read a book like Wuthering Heights without knowing what will happen next but with my new endings, the mystery is restored.
In Jayne Eyre, when it turns out the dashing Mr Rochester is in fact married, I’ll change him to being single. And gay. A brand new double twist!
In Great Expectations, when we find out Pip’s money is not coming from the loony-but-noble Miss Haversham but the evil and dastardly Magwitch, in my version he get it from two crazy old guys who bet they can take any bum off the street and make them a Wall St trader. Also Pip is black and looks like Eddie Murphy. And any resemblance to the plot of Trading Places is purely coincidental, okay…
Anne Frank’s Diary? Anne Frank’s Twitter Stream!
“I’m soooo bored. I think I’m going crazy….. with BIEBER FEVER! Follow me Justin, follow me!”
I’m on to a winner!
My only problem is that changing the ending of all those books will be hard work and I want to get started straight away. My solution, to keep the mystery alive, while I work on my actual series of alternative ending classics, is to sneak into bookshops and rip out the last 10 pages instead. That way no one knows what’ll happen next.