As a kid I was blessed to have gotten my hands on an ancient book of fairy tales, many ancient books actually, the original Nancy Drews, the Wizard of Oz. Some people don’t realize it, but these versions are different from what we see today. They have characters full of dimension, angst, suffering, sometimes a rare triumph and victory.
We have edited and sanitized these stories, bringing them more in line with the political correct attitudes of today. The modern versions of Nancy Drew are so flat and two-dimensional, so full of stupid and boring, she has been rendered nearly impotent, transformed into something so unappealing many girls have no interest in her at all anymore.
I remember reading many of these tales and being horrified, traumatized even. But is that not the sign of a really good piece of literature? Isn’t it somehow wonderful to finish a book feeling as if you had just walked through those adventures yourself and to now look up and realize your very perceptions of reality itself have changed?
When it comes to fairy tales, disneyfication happened, sanitizing those tales into something pleasant and charming, something people would find appealing to share with their children. We don’t want any trauma here, no uncomfortable feelings, and certainly not any complex moral issues that might cause one to think too critically or to question anything. Also, everyone must always get their prince or princess and live happily ever after in a palace….
I’ve been known to run around singing like a teapot a la Angela Lansbury or trilling to the forest creatures like Snow White, so it’s not as if enjoying these versions is bad or something. It’s simply that in the modern western world we now live a rather sanitized and insulated existence, walled off even from the nature of our own selves. Even love is now reduced to something akin to a Hallmark card, a somewhat flat and two dimensional thing involving receiving little commercialized tokens of affection and endless romance. It is no surprise we have so much divorce, so much unhappiness, so much frustration. Where’s my happily ever after, the trilling forest creatures, the palace I ordered??
In the Gift of the Magi, she sells her hair to buy him a chain for his watch, while he sells his watch to buy her some combs for her hair. Those somewhat comical stories of human foibles and sacrifice for love are all but forgotten today.
In the original Little Mermaid there is no fun loving Ariel. She gives up everything, her identity, her very life itself, just to taste what it is like to have a human soul, to suffer unrequited love. She sacrifices her very life just to know human suffering. She does not get her prince in the end, she sacrifices herself and finds God instead.
Cinderella isn’t really a story about true love and finding your prince, it’s a story about suffering and grief, about unfair circumstances and injustice and the cruelty of human beings. It’s about sexual competitiveness, power struggles, and the hierarchies of human nature. It’s a about preserving your soul and keeping your heart soft in the face of such challenges. It’s about the beauty to be found in suffering, graciousness, humility. “Cinderella,” the name itself, in all its different versions and translations, means one whose worth is not seen on the outside.
Beauty and the Beast is about sacrifice too, about letting go and learning how to love in the face of fear. Beauty must let go of all her preconceived notions, her fears and simply trust her heart, take a leap of faith. But the Beast must let go of Beauty herself and risk living under a curse for the rest of his life. There are lovely themes about freedom, sacrifice, and love, woven all throughout the original story.
These are such valuable and important life lessons to know, so I perceive the loss of these fairy tales as a kind of theft. We have been robbed of the truth about our own selves and deprived of the commonality of the human experience.
Pinocchio, he wants to be a real boy, but he is trapped in his own deceptions. Truth is something we as people tend to have a hard time with, always thinking we can improve the tale of ourselves, simply by retelling it in a fashion more to our liking.
John 1: 1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Gabrielle Guthrie blogs about faith,culture, politics, and humor with an emphasis on biology because biology is all about life and life abundant. Her popular blog my be found here https://insanitybytes2.wordpress.com
“So you see, there’s this thing called biology….”