Fairytale Ending

Dear J-

The other day we were discussing the fate of the children (not as a threat, but rather in wonderment at what might happen) and I rashly declared that figgy, being born under a lucky sign, would undoubtedly marry well and leave our life of middle-class daily exhaustion. I foresaw it as possibly meeting a literal prince and being swept away into fame and fortune, because, you know, all the royal marriages I know of have ended well. theVet rightfully and figuratively slapped my hands, telling me that was terrible, and that I should instead hope that she makes her own fortune in the world, so I hastily and smartly amended my wishes that she should instead discover a huge breakthrough, medical perhaps.

One of my favorite scenes in Shrek 2 is the transformation of the princesses from stereotypes to warriors. In one minute they’re draped on the furniture of the jail cells, hoping beyond hope that someone will break in and release them — rescue them, I mean. At the next, they’ve head-butted their way to escape and then, for good measure, launch a rescue mission of their own, set to Led Zeppelin. I know it’s supposed to show how ridiculous fairy tales are but it’s empowering in the same way that similar scenes from Mulan are for all their unfamiliarity (wait, Chinese girl who’s not some smoldering sexpot? princesses not waiting for rescue?), it’s unexpected and then you think: why is this so unexpected?

I’ve been reading a lot of young adult fiction lately and of course one of the primary criticisms is that unlike real life, these usually end in a reasonably happy ending (wait, have you heard this before, or is this something I’m making up?). To that I submit the many dark fates of fairy tales; although I’m sure you may not think the ending of, say, Hansel and Gretel is dark, let’s not forget that it ends in the death of two women (the witch, burned, and the stepmother as well). Hmm. Perhaps the lesson from fairy tales is avoid being a woman altogether, but that’s one trope I’m happy to skewer: don’t wait for a rescue, don’t wait in general; make the most of the time you have, and now.



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