Fairy-tale girls and the women who love them
As a storyteller myself, I love the potential inherent in all fairy-tales. They are stories we have been telling each other for centuries and still haven’t finished telling. Even something like The Little Mermaid, which is much younger than her compatriots Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella can find new facets again and again. Her dissolving into the foam of the sea seems like such a neat ending, doesn’t it? She’s spent her entire life in the water, you’d think she’d be a good swimmer, right? What if she went off and spent the remaining 300 or so years she has among the humans? What if she got over having a broken heart like the rest of us have done since the dawn of time and went off to have adventures? Would she still be the same girl that chose not to kill the new life she’d gained in order to return to the old? Would she choose differently after a couple of centuries of loving and losing?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who wonders these things. Given the amount of fairy-tale based fiction I see coming every year, I am certain, I’m not. And from the amount of money Disney makes from remaking every fairy-tale they can get their hands on into pretty, safe, pre-packaged things every year, I’m pretty sure it’ll take the end of the world for me to be left alone with this particular proclivity.
The thing that I love most about fairy-tales though, is the women. Often, the literal reading of a fairy-tale has the women becoming victims or sweet and submissive maidens to be rescued. But these are the stories adults used to tell each other around fires or women used to tell each other while they worked. With a subtext of sex and a young woman’s burgeoning womanhood, anyone can probably imagine the tone Little Red Riding Hood’s “Why Grandmother, what big… arms you have!” took on when a group of washerwomen was cackling over the story to keep their minds occupied during the boring manual labor they shared. We see Snow White as the girl who desperately ran into the woods, not the woman who walked out of them having remade them in her image. You have to wonder, how much work went into making Snow White the safe and submissive heroine instead of someone who came back from the dead on three separate occasions.
Meanwhile, I think I have a story or two to write.