Eleven things I learned from fairy tales

I decided to go on a fairy tale binge recently, so I picked up the Red Fairy Book. Such a delightful bunch of stories! And some of them have an oddly deep look at human psychology. So, here’s what I learned:

  • Towers. Useful for locking up cursed/doomed/otherwise troublesome princesses. Very rarely do princes get locked in towers.
  • Evil is ugly. An ugly person is nearly always evil. Sometimes good can appear ugly, but never for very long.
  • Good is beautiful. A beautiful person is always good. Sometimes evil can appear beautiful, but never for very long. There’s an interesting dichotomy about clothes here, too. A suffering princess dressed in rags can be given beautiful clothes when her goodness wins the day. But it was always her inner moral goodness that made her beautiful in the first place.
  • Princesses. These girls have all the problems. They get cursed, they make bad choices, they get curious about that one locked door in the castle that Dad told them never to open … yeah. They always land in the moral problems.
  • fairytale-art-fairytale-painting
    Painted by Amanda Clark
  • Princes. These guys have a different set of problems. Their challenges are almost always physical. They have to slay trolls, overcome puzzles, outwit evil enchanters, and find how to sneak into the towers where the princesses are locked up. There was one very interesting story about a very good prince who was a hunchback who was locked in a tower. Over a series of adventures, he is healed and made to look as beautiful as he was on the inside. This was the one exception to the Evil is Ugly example I’ve found so far.
  • Trolls. These guys always have multiple heads. They also carry a flask of some kind that instantly heals you. So if you have to fight a troll and you’re grievously injured, just find his flask and rub some of his oil on you. Corollary: sometimes the flask grants super strength instead, when you need to lift a truly enormous sword in order to fight the troll.
  • Horses. Whenever they appear, they’re almost always magical. Often they talk or have amazing super powers of travel. If a horse says something to you, he’s always right. Do what he says.
  • Other animals. If an animal begs for you to spare its life and it’ll repay you later, DO IT. If they give weird advice, like pick an acorn from yonder tree and whack the trunk three times with a willow twig, DO IT. If they say not to share your food with the prince, DO IT.
  • Fairies. Fairies are basically angels. They come to test mortals and see how good they are. If the mortal passes the test, they’re rewarded with all kinds of gifts, curses lifted, ugliness removed, etc. If they fail, they have toads come out of their mouth for the rest of their life.
  • Witches. They can turn into things. Inanimate objects. Animals. They’re always evil and scheming, kind of the antithesis of a fairy. Bad fairies and witches are about the same.
  • Wicked stepmothers. The main antagonist of fairytales. These are women who marry a dude who had kids from his previous marriage. The stepmother proceeds to abuse her step-children to the point of actively trying to murder them. See: Graciosa and Percinet. (I think, in the metaphorical sense, Graciosa IS murdered at the end.)

So that’s what I learned from my fairy tale binge. I kind of want to write some fairy tale adapts now. šŸ˜€

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5 thoughts on “Eleven things I learned from fairy tales

  1. That is so good!!! I love fairy tales so it makes me just laugh at all of the things you found about fairy tales. I am getting ready to go to the library today. I always stand and look at those fairy books. They have all of the original first editions. I have to let your Dad read this. Great article. I wish I was as analytical as you. šŸ™‚

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  2. I love me some fairy tales. I haven’t read Andrew Lang yet. Do you have a favorite collection of those? (Blue, Green, Red, etc.)

    It amazes me how different writers/collectors flavor the stories. Madame d’Aulnoy based her fairy tales partly on her own life, and they enchant me. Charles Perrault, by contrast, preaches in a way that makes me put the book down.

    If you were going to adapt a fairy tale, which would you choose? How would you tell it?

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