Friday, April 1, 2016

The Princess Life

PSA: April Fool's Day. Believe no one and nothing. You're welcome.

I so wanted the find an image of a glass slipper that wasn't 100% fugly. Failed. I mean, yes, there's amazing art out there on the interwebs, but I wasn't willing to pay the prices involved with using any of them. The free clip art things were abominations. So here we are.

With you guessing that my favorite fairy tale is Cinderella. You'd be right, to a point. It's not the Disnefied version I favor. It's the old version of the tale. The one that predates even the appearance of the fairy godmother. It's a darker story that's less about impressing gender roles and 'appropriate' comportment and more an 'us versus them' tale. In that older story, Cinderella's dead mother is buried near the house. A flowering bush (sometimes a rose, sometimes an apple tree) grows from her grave. When Cinderella sees a chance to escape servitude via the prince's ball, it is too her mother's grave she goes to ask for assistance. The bush flowers. Inside the flowers are the gifts she needs - the dress, the shoes. Not so much the coach, but let's not get hung up on details. Everything goes as it should until the prince comes bearing the slipper in hopes of finding his mystery girl. In this story, the step mother takes one of her daughters aside and whacks off her toes in order to get her foot into the slipper. Content, the prince rides away with the poor girl until a bird perches on his shoulder and sings a song about maybe he ought to notice the blood overrunning the shoe. He takes the girl home. Stepmom likewise mutilates her second daughter (slicing a bit off at the heel this time). Prince rides off with the new girl. The bird shows up again. Back they go and one imagines the prince MIGHT be getting a little miffed by this point. He searches the house, finds Cinderella and puts the shoe on her himself - am I the only one who hopes it got washed first? Sum result: HEA. Though, frankly, I don't see how. I can't help but feel like Cinderella could do a whole lot better than some dude who can't tell three women apart or bother to notice blood and pain when it rides beside him. But hey. Love is blind, right?

I confess I'm not crazy about the Western European fairytale tradition. It's short on strong women, instead espousing the sweet, child-like feminine ideal of the era in which most of them originated. That's what sends me back into the grimmer folktales that inspired the familiar fairytales. Cinderella started life as a story about the love between a mother and daughter - love that transcended death and that provided the inexperienced daughter with a template for manipulating her abusive step family. So while I love a Disney princess as much as the next gal, I do prefer my heroines with some shadows. And some serious guts.

Now. For chicks with guts, lets talk mythology. The women of the Mabinogion have got it going ON.

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