Why We Need to Move Beyond Traditional Fairy Tales
It’s time to write modern fairy tales.
In a viral Whatsapp post, a little girl questions her mother while her mother narrates a fairy tale. The first question that she asks is, “But, why was she waiting for a prince, mumma?!”
Here's the WhatsApp post that is going viral.
“And then the princess found herself locked in a tower surrounded by a stinky moat with crocodiles and a huge scary dragon guarding the door,” read the mother, with her eyes wide and voice deep.Then, she made a sad face and continued softly,"So, the poor princess waited and waited for her prince to come..."
“But, why was she waiting for the prince, mamma?!” asked the little girl, impatiently. The mother added, “To come and save her, silly.” The girl asked again, “But, mamma, why did she need a prince to save her?” The mother was at a loss for words: “Uhh... hmm...”
The little girl proudly proclaimed, “If it were me, instead of waiting for years and years for a prince, I would have tamed the dragon and flown out of the window. I would have rescued myself.” She discarded the book and walked away, exclaiming, “This princess is stupid.”
The mother whispered with a broad smile, “I guess it is time to rewrite the fairy tales.”
Well, it is definitely time for a modern retelling. For years, we have relied on a number of feel good stories that have given us stale notions of love and belonging. Let's start with Cinderella. A crying and moping stepdaughter of a cruel women, stuck at home, waiting for someone to take her to the ball because she’s not allowed to go.
Yet, defying her stepmother and with a little dose of magic, she escapes reality and has a gala time at the ball. But as all good things come to an end, she has to go before her ride turns into a pumpkin. Back to her miserable life, she lives a wasteful existence until her prince finds her with the help of a single shoe. And that’s pretty much it. Thanks to that one shoe, she can now live a happy life.
But let’s back up a little. So we are all supposed to believe that unless the prince stumbled upon the glass shoe, he wouldn’t have come to her rescue and she would have been a domestic slave for the rest of her life? Well, she did defy her stepmother once? Why couldn’t she do it again? What is essentially happening here is that Cinderella is only waiting for someone to rescue her from the clutches of her stepmother instead of living a life that she wants.
Wow! Do we really want a sad and lonely person to be an inspiration for young girls who’s only goal was to cater to the prince’s fantasy? Honestly, we need a modern Cinderella who is not weighed down by her burdens but someone who can assert her independence and go to the ball if and when she likes.
But wait! This gets better. Let's come to our second fairy tale, the good old Sleeping Beauty. A beautiful princess, placed under a sleeping curse lies in a deep slumber in her coffin until a kiss by a handsome prince revives her. To quote a line from the fairy tale, "The prince was enchanted by the beauty of the princess who lay there sleeping beautifully."
What the story essentially says is that if she’s beautiful and offers no resistance, it’s perfectly all right to kiss her. Who needs consent if she has a pretty face, right?
It's high time we move beyond beauty and other stereotypical notions and teach young children more important lessons about life. We need to say it loud and clear. No princess needs a prince to kiss her, not without her permission at least, to give herback her life.
But Snow White’s tale takes the cake. Essentially a corpse, she needs a true love’s kiss to awaken her. Of course, her true love turns out to be a prince she’s never met before. Kissed by a random stranger, she gets her life back and all’s right with the world.
But as romantic as that may sound, a question crops up. What’s so magical about necrophilia?
While an entire generation of children came to believe that girls are supposed to be delicate and boys are supposed to be valiant, it is definitely time that these stories got their long-awaited twist.
The Shrek franchise definitely brought a change in this direction. The protagonist, Princess Fiona, is actually an ogre. Of course, the movie starts with a traditional damsel-in-distress storyline with the beautiful princess trapped in a castle awaiting a heroic prince to rescue her.
But the story takes an unconventional turn where she is no longer a helpless victim as the series progresses but partakes in the numerous adventures. At times, she’s even better at fighting than her male counterpart, Shrek.
A massive shift in this direction was effected by the movie Brave. The young and rebellious Merida is very un-princess-like in her demeanour. Far from being the 'perfect princess', she engages in activities that were traditionally meant for men.
Like a normal girl trying to assert her independence, she does get into trouble. But instead of depending on her version of Prince Charming, she finds her way out on her own. All is well in the end with the movie proving that you can be your own heroine if you want.
In a different time, stories of dainty women and gallant men captured people’s imagination. But changing times call for new bedtime stories. It’s probably time that we move beyond traditional tales and rewrite them to suit the modern mind.
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