Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fairy Tales

Once upon a time there was a young princess who met a young Prince. It was love at first sight and they fell deeply in love, got married and lived happily ever after.  Is there really any such thing?

Recently I began reading the book, Spinning Straw Into Gold: What Fairy Tales Reveal About the Transformations in a Women's Life by Joan Gould.  Great book and highly recommended to anyone who wants to delve deeper into the meaning of fairy tales.  It actually was one of the books I had been assigned to read when I took my course in fairy tales; the other book was by Diana Sexton so you can imagine the intensity of the course.  Because we had skipped around so much in the book, there was quite a bit of it that I hadn't read, but when I looked for the book shortly before Christmas, it was nowhere to be found.  So, you can imagine my glee when I discovered I could buy it for my Kindle, and since I got it, I have barely been able to put it down.  

Ah, the fairy tales of childhood...the princess who ate the bad apple and fell into a deep slumber and was finally awakened by the kiss of a handsome prince or the  young maiden forced into indentured service until her fairy godmother rushes in to save the day.  As an only child with no real role models when I was a little girl, all of these stories served as a base for what I wanted in live in a perfect make believe world.  Those afternoons spent immersed in a magical world filled with the daring prince and beautiful princess...with gnomes, pixies, elves, gave new meaning to awe and wonder.  But, let's face it,  while these wondrous tales may offer a lonely and pretty much unloved child a chance to dream, do they, in any way,  prepare us for real life.  Think about it.   How many times have you found yourself in some sort of predicament parallel to a fairy tale princess, but no fairy godmother or perfect prince rushed in to save you?

Don't get me wrong.  I still love to read my favorite fairy tales.  There is nothing like leaving the stresses of real life and entering into that world that meant so much to me as a child.  All the stories seemed to start the same and end the same.  There is always the heroine wronged in life, be it Cinderella and the wicked stepmother or Rapunzel stuck in the tower, but there was never any boredom in the repetition;  rather there was a sense of comfort in knowing that, in the end,  everything turns out wonderful.  And we dream about how it would be, but one day something wakes us up  and find out there is no such thing as happily ever after as we begin to face the harsh realities of life.  As Joan Gould says in Spinning Straw into Gold:

"The truth is that we have no idea why we wake up when we do.  Call it an inner migration from the Underworld to the Upperworld, brought about by some seasonal change in the light.  

At any age, it we get a taste of who we are, if we fall in love with life in whatever form we find it and choose to embrace it, we can fairly call that moment 'the Prince's kiss."

Keeping this post on the "I", it was in my early 20's that I discovered that the Prince wasn't really that charming after all. The Perfect Prince I had always dreamed about had turned into the drunkard, the addict, or the abuser only a few short months into the relationship...and when the relationship ended, someone else would come along, another Perfect Prince, only he, too, was not so perfect....but my journey continued for giving up was never an option.   As Jane Gould puts it so aptly:

"In the years we call 'ever after,' the Prince disappears or our lives, which seemed so ordinary that we took them for granted, are shot out from under us, and we have to start from ashes and wooden shoes all over again, at the never-ending task of inner transformation that will give us the strength to go on living."

Life is all about the journey...the ups and downs, the good and bad...and as we head off into a new direction, we believe that things are going to be wonderful and perfect, but many times they are not for life isn't about waiting around for Prince Charming to come along and sweep you off your feet or sitting around hoping that a Fairy Godmother will come along and make it different.  Real life is about seizing the moment, making things happen for ourselves, looking in the mirror and being proud of what we see. Life is filled with trials, tribulations, and mistakes. Rarely is it that anyone wants to admit or acknowledge them, but with age comes wisdom...

....and we begin to realize that it is those times that give us a chance at redemption for one day you realize as I did that, yes, there is a Prince Charming that will one day come along as he did for me,  but nothing will just be handed to you.  Happily ever after is really a misnomer for, into each life some rain must fall, and it is only through these stormy days that growth and transformation take place.  Real relationships take work if we want them to succeed.  Yes, the child within still craves for fairy tale  beginnings and  endings and the happily ever after romances, but, when you get right down to it, I wouldn't trade my real life Prince for anything in this world. I now know that my happiness is up to me.  Life is not a fairy tale...nor is it a dream.  Life is what you make of it.

We carry within us the wonders we seek without us.
--Thomas Browne--


  1. I think we've perhaps misunderstood something over the centuries. Could it be that the conventional fairy tale ending -- "and they lived happily ever after" -- was always meant to be stated ironically, with a laugh and a knowing wink? How could anyone who knows anything about life say that particular line with a straight face?

  2. Life is exactly what we make it. We can walk around with the "poor woes me" or we can look for that beautiful rainbow in the middle of the storms. The storms are what mold us into who we are. And I too wouldn't trade my life for the fairy tale life, I love my prince and I like him too.


  3. Loved the post.
    Yepper...learned the hard way there is NO Rose Garden and life is Not Greener on the other side of the fence.
    It was more like....from the frying pan into the fire and you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
    We all have to learn the hard way for ourselves. :0(

  4. As they say...Carpe` Diem! Seize the day!
    I'm happy for those storms in my life!

    Great Post Mary!

  5. Real life relationships absolutely take work. I can't tell you how frustrated it makes me when a couple is married only a year or so and divorces because the work just isn't worth it. I'm not talking about real deal breakers (abuse, alcoholism, infidelity). I'm talking pure laziness. If you want a deep and meaningful relationship, you're going to have growing pains.

  6. the book that helps me is Women who Run with the Wolves.. she has a perfect way of showing how faery tales relate to life..
    when I was a little girl, I too, escaped real life in the land of pixies, faeries, elves and gnomes :)

  7. I had not related faery tales to life...I always just figured they were stores written to entertain young people...