I’ll never forget an argument my husband and I had about 10 years ago. It was about fairytales’ portrayal of what constitutes happiness and who fortune is bestowed upon.
He has some sense of humour, my husband does. He’s English, well, half. But that half certainly dominates.
So, he’d quip, “why would someone have to be the best looking, the strongest, or, in the other end – the poorest and the most miserable of all…why do they [ either versions] have to work super hard at becoming fortunate and happy?”.
I’d flip to no end, what with my Thespian upbringing by Russian film and literature from Zola to Goethe to Pasternak. so, I’d go, “because that’s how it goes. Fairytales teach us that good conquers evil”.
Then he’d say, “but why does it have to be evil at all? How about fairytales where they talk about an average person who didn’t feel like doing much, wasn’t good at anything in particular, and suddenly he wins the jackpot? What’s wrong with that?”
To that, we’d just burst laughing. We’d start twisting every fairytale that comes to mind and the burlesques we’d cook up would be absolutely hilarious! Try it out with your partner – it’s an amazing fun exercise for your relationship. And your jaws!
But seriously, I even thought my man’s idea was a brilliant business opportunity. Writing cheeky fairytales!
Take Cinderella, for example. We’d go for a lazier girl. Lazy, at least during her teenage years. She’d be doing tricks to her ugly step-sisters too, so she won’t be so naive and incapable of evil. She won’t be as pretty, either. So, there’d be more readers to sympathise with her. She’ll know how to read and write. But to avoid depicting her too normal, we could throw in a bad habit she’d have – like, biting her nails. When it comes to prince Charming, he’ll still be looking for her after that night at the dance ball, but Cinderella won’t be interested in him. Around her 21st birthday, in fact, Cinderella would suddenly decide she doesn’t want to get married at all. She’ll decide that she wants to become a doctor and join the Médecins Sans Frontières. So, she will dedicate the rest of her life working in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea to treat TB among kids. Of course, one fine day after a heavy surgery she’d have done on a 3-year-old boy, Cinderella will die. She’ll die by a coconut falling on her head while she’s resting under a coconut tree (obviously), just after that heavy surgery. Cinderella won’t even know whether she’s saved the boy, and maybe the readers will never find out either because of the lack of information about Bougainville province in the Western media. Meanwhile, the younger of her ugly step-sisters will marry prince Charming. They’ll live happily ever after.
The point is, that I would teach my kids not to expect romanticised scenarios, but not to deny their possibility, either.
Just because you’re miserable now, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be blessed for it later.
And vice versa, just because you’re enviously lucky, rich, and prosperous -without having done much – it doesn’t necessarily make you the evil queen, either.