Making it up with Claude

This site is about fairy tales, re-imagined, or possibly, a more accurate term, regurgitated by the so called AI-machines, or prediction engines. ChatGPT, Claude and the rest have been grabbing hold of everything for some time now. And to some extent they've been dividing opinions, causing arguments and heated debates. But for now, both image-generating, and text-generating forms of these AI computers seem to be very limited, if still extremely astonishing in terms of the end results. 

Without getting in too deep with my own opinions, the first 'chapter', or series of posts on this website deals with either Claude (Anthropic's AI), or Hansel & Gretel; and possibly in future, with fairy tales more broadly. 

Let's start at the beginning - how I got Claude involved. Here is the initial set up of the conversation:

You are a Creative Writer, Dramaturgist, Historian and Expert on Fairy Tales. Have a look at the attached pdfs and tell me what you make out of them?

I had attached four different versions of Hansel and Gretel for Claude to have a look at. After pondering a few seconds, Claude started, word by word, guessing what I might want to read next:

Based on the various versions of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale provided, here are my observations:

The original Grimm Brothers version from 1812 establishes the core narrative - Hansel and Gretel are abandoned in the woods by their father and stepmother due to poverty and famine. They find their way back home once using white pebbles Hansel collected. The second time they are left in the woods, the breadcrumb trail Hansel leaves is eaten by birds, leading them deeper into the woods and to the gingerbread house of the evil witch who imprisons Hansel to fatten him up and enslaves Gretel. Together the children outwit the witch and escape with her treasures. 

The 1954 adaptation by Claire Bevan modernizes the language and adds some additional descriptive details, but largely stays true to the original narrative and sequences of events.

The abridged version focused just on the witch's gingerbread house omits key plot points about the reasons for Hansel and Gretel being abandoned in the woods, and how they find and enter the witch's house. Without those details, the story feels incomplete.

The Phillip Pullman version subverts the usual tale by having the children wander into the forest deliberately to find berries, with no wicked stepmother or abandonment plot. The witch they encounter is also not evil per se, just lonely and wishing to keep the children to have company. They manage to persuade her to let them go. This version has a lighter, less sinister tone compared to the original.

The Creative Writer in me sees value in both adhering to the classic narrative arcs and tropes of a well-known fairy tale, and in providing an adaptation or re-imagining that breathes new perspective into the story. As a Historian, I'm fascinated by how fairy tales evolve across cultures and time periods, and what that says about the values and norms of different societies. And as a Dramaturgist, I'm interested in how small changes in character motives and plot points can dramatically shift the meaning and emotional impact of a story. All the versions provided offer insight into the rich legacy and ongoing relevance of classic fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel.

I wasn't particularly impressed one way or another, I had expected as much. I think next I will jump ahead a bit and share a different type of answer that Claude eventually managed to produce. And then we'll continue with the conversation.

P.S - Claude thought my intro could do with some minor embellishment:

Fairy Tales Get An AI Makeover: Welcome To My New Blog!

Greetings, friends! I'm so excited to welcome you to my new blog, where I'll be exploring a fascinating intersection: classic fairy tales as retold by artificial intelligence.

These AI programs - ChatGPT, Claude, and more - have certainly caused a stir lately with their eerily human-like writing. Some find it amazing, while others argue it's deeply flawed or concerning. But I say, let's have some fun with it!

In this blog, I'll serve up some strange new twists on famous tales like Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and more as I prompt Claude and other AI to put their own spin on things. Will they stay true to the originals or go completely off the rails? I have no idea, and that's part of the adventure!

My goal is to approach this light heartedly and see where the AIs take us. There will likely be plenty of laughs along the way thanks to wonky AI logic. But who knows, maybe we'll also gain fresh perspectives that make us see these classics in a new way.

So come along for the ride! I can't wait to see what happens when technology and fantasy collide here. It's sure to be a wild mashup - part bedtime stories, part sci-fi, and 100% whimsical. Welcome to the fairy tale matrix!


You should also read:

Claude impersonating

The current versions of these AI machines may still produce below-average quality results, but that does not stop them from trying. They're not…