Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Misfits: Fairy Tales' Misunderstood


So lately I’ve been kind of preoccupied with fairy tales. It’s almost as if I’m writing a series on them with some really cool, sexy name like Fairy Tales Unleashed. Or something like that. As I was saying, I’ve been reading a lot of fairy tales lately. You have your old favorites. Sleeping Beauty. Snow White. Beauty and the Beast. And then there are your lesser known tales. Brother and Sister. The Six Swans. The Bushy Bride. Seriously, I did not make that up. Reading these stories have brought back so many memories of my mother, sister and I sitting on the couch while she read The Boy Who Cried Wolf and Billy Goat Gruff to us. *sigh* Those were great times. Great stories. And some serious WTF moments. Listen, I know the great thing about fairy tales is the happily-ever-after but, man, some characters were stuck with really raw deals! I mean they were shafted! I know what you’re thinking. That’s crazy talk! Or get a grip! But follow me here for a moment…

The Six Swans. In this story the most obvious people wronged are the six brothers that were turned into swans by their evil stepmother. But the sister, who not only has to sew—sew?? For real??—six shirts for them is also struck mute and is unable to laugh for six years—the number of years she has to complete these shirts before the enchantment is permanent. Raw deal #1. Then a king sees her, is mesmerized by her beauty and marries her. All good, right? But no, another wicked stepmother steals all three babies she births and blames their disappearance on the sister/queen. Does king-y stand by his woman? Nooo. Instead she’s sentenced to burn at the stake. Shaft #2. Just as the match is ready to be set to kindle, the six swan brothers flock to her, she throws the shirts that she’s finally finished in the air and her brothers return to human. Yay! Except, here’s Shaft #3. She didn’t have time to finish the sleeve of the youngest brother’s shirt so he has to live life with one wing. *&^%$#!!!

Rumpelstiltskin. The princess was treated so wrong, right? Wrong! There was one character in this story crying out here. And that was Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpy—as we’re calling him because, hey, Rumpel-etc.-etc. is simply too much to type!—is used for his talents, lied to, cheated on and he’s the bad guy. Now the miller’s daughter is conscripted into doing the impossible—turning straw into gold—because of liar-dreams-of-grandeur father. She faced execution from the greedy king but Rumpy shows up and does the task for a small price. I mean really, what’s a ring and necklace compared to her life? Well when Rumpy requests her firstborn in exchange for the last ginormous pile of straw, the miller’s daughter agrees. I mean she never imagined the greedy-selfish-fill-my-coffers-with-gold-or-I’ll-decapitate-you king would offer his hand in marriage and she would actually have a baby. So of course that’s enough reason to renege! What did Rumpy do but hold up his end of the bargain? He didn’t throw his daughter to the wolves. The miller did that. He didn’t threaten an innocent woman with beheading over the idea of gold. No, the kind did that. And he didn’t go back on his word, not delivering on his end of the bargain. The queen did that. So what does Rumpy get for being a man of his word? One foot in hell. Literally. Now I know what you’re thinking. But he wanted her baby. Look, I have kids and let’s face it. After one week with the kid, he would’ve given it back!

Sleeping Beauty. Just purge the Disney version of this tale out of your mind. Sleeping Beauty had her happily-ever-after but she went through straight Not-Heaven before she got it! First because Queen Mom neglected to invite one pissed-off fairy, Sleeping Beauty ended up with a curse over her head that they didn’t tell her about! Forget the fact that due to mom’s mistake—drink more ginkgo, lady!—a lot of people lost their livelihood with the banishment of the spindle! If they had only told Sleeping Beauty about the curse she wouldn’t have went anywhere near that spinning wheel, not to mention the creepy old lady locked up in a room she knew nothing about! That’s sooo not a red flag. So she pricks her finger and falls into a coma-like sleep for one hundred years. One hundred years! Do you know how many balls, parties and fashions she missed in a century? So she awakens to a kiss from a prince with no gum in sight. Que music. They all lived happily-ever…*screech* Nope, that’s so not the end of this story. The prince secretly weds Sleeping Beauty and keeps her his little secret from his stepmother. In the meantime he continues to make booty calls and she has two children. Where do these princesses in these tales find these men? Well when his father kicks the bucket, he ascends to the throne—and surprise!—springs his ready-made family on the stepmother, who happens to be wicked (No! Didn’t see that coming!) and of ogress lineage. Talk about the mother-in-law from hell! Her husband leaves on some kingly duty and abandons his wife and children to the tender care of his stepmother. Tender as in tender meat, because that’s what she tries to turn them into. Succulent tender meat on her dinner table. Long story short, Sleeping Beauty has to face the voracious appetite of her Shrek-like mother-in-law, save her kids from becoming rack of lamb and elude a pit of vipers. King shows up just in time and stepmother ends up in her own viper pit. All this because Sleeping Beauty’s mother forgot a name…this whole thing could have been avoided if her mother had just made an invite list to that doggone christening!

Did I make a believer out of you yet? Do you see what I mean about raw deals? C'mon! Jump on my bandwagon!

5 comments:

Ashlyn Chase said...

Wonderful post, Naima!

I loved fairy tales as a kid, and Sleeping Beauty was my favorite. I wrote one erotic fractured fairy tale about Rapunzel and it's in a Ravenous Romance anthology. One of the worst cases of hair-pulling in history! And talk about getting the shaft. Her parents gave her to the evil witch for some lettuce!

Michelle Polaris said...

The deals are very raw and I would not like to be one of the characters of these stories. Although I must admit I like the darkness inherent in these original versions. But maybe it's my mood. So interesting nevertheless. Thank you for sharing.

Jina Bacarr said...

Excellent job, Naima, putting together a very real portrait of fairy tales.

Now we know where the "grim" in Grimm's fairy tales came from....

Casey Crow said...

Naima - Love this idea! My fav was Cinderella. I could quote the whole book as a child.

Callie Croix said...

What Jina said. Some of those fairy tales are downright gruesome, like Hansel and Gretel... *shudder*