A dragon who just wants to find love. A fair maiden who doesn’t require a hero’s assistance. A wolf more misunderstood than big and bad. Cantankerous gingerbread men. A woman who has the option to have the prince, but choses a straight-laced widower instead—starting her own business to boot. An evil Rumplestiltskin. A princess who chooses to be ugly and in love instead of beautiful with a kingdom. A wicked witch who isn’t all that wicked. A lost princess who ends up in love with a wanted criminal.
These are the things that make up today’s fairy tales, and not everyone is pleased with the change.
One of my favorite books as a child was The True Story of The Three Little Pigs. The story was told from the point of the view of the wolf (who is now in prison, unjustly). The famous day of the alleged huffing-and-puffing he was trying to bake a cake for his ailing granny and realized he didn’t have a cup of sugar. He was recovering from a nasty cold and it surely wasn’t his fault that the pigs built such crummy houses. He had to sneeze right when he went to knock on the door. And yes, of course he ate the little pigs. Who was he to leave a free meal just lying there in the rubble?
With the resurgence of shows and movies like Once Upon a Time, two Snow White retellings in theatres this summer, Shrek, Ever After, Tangled, and the musical Wicked, the fairy tale outcomes we were taught in childhood have been tossed on their heads.
About a week ago I listened to a radio talk show that spent an hour denouncing the latest Snow White movie, Mirror, Mirror. The talk show host argued that fairy tales were crafted and meant to stand for allegories for the Christian god. The fair maiden in need stands for humanity. The hero who always wins is Christ, and the dragon and witch pair together to form the perfect picture of evil. She claimed that these new fairy tales are messing with our subconscious. They teach our kids it’s okay to befriend bad people. They tell us that we don’t need a hero, and maybe evil isn’t as bad as we think. The host said she was scandalized when Snow White picked up a weapon to fight the bad-guy herself. Snow turned to the prince and told him that he was foolish to think she was waiting on a man to save her. *gasp*
Um, can someone throw this talk show lady a life preserver? Because she’s drowning in a sea of ridiculousness.
First, anyone who claims this statement probably hasn’t read the real fairy tales, I’m talking about the originals written by the Brothers Grimm (truly grisly reads). In these stories some of our beloved characters end up with cut off limbs, some of the heroes are down-right cruel in dishing out justice, and some of the heroines end up alone (read the real little mermaid if you want a despair-filled story that ends miserably for the heroine – the stuff of nightmares). Clearly, our radio host is referring to the Disney-fied versions of the stories. And let’s be serious, I hardly think Disney was trying to add subtle Christian themes to their movies.
Second, such thinking takes away from the excellent lessons that can be learned from these fractured fairy tales. Why is it terrible to teach a child not to judge someone by their outward appearance? Just because a man looks like a prince it doesn’t mean he’ll treat you like one, sometimes the true gentleman who will cherish you is the loveable ogre. The princess in Tangled marries a criminal, how’s that for a story of redemption? Showing the side of the character who has always been dubbed “bad” teaches children that they should weight information before making snap decisions—that there is more than one side to every story. These are valuable life skills. Teaching young girls that their only goal in life shouldn’t just be to wait around for a man is good, and teaching them to stick up for themselves instead of being Wilting-Wilmas, even better.
What about you? How do you feel about people messing with the commonly-known versions of fairy tales? How do you feel about adaptations of stories that paint the story in a different light, making our beloved hero the villain and the villain misunderstood? Do these changes assault our morals? If you see value in them, what are some examples?
Much love -Jess