Sanitized Truth And Fairy Tales by Gabrielle Guthrie

Gabrielle Guthrie

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….”

A Secret Club by Gabrielle Guthrie

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis

“I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis.”


Gabrielle Guthrie

Whenever I think of “truth illumined by literature,” it draws me back to childhood, to the wonder and delight to be found within the pages of a book, the awareness that you are not alone, that someone else in the world has seen the truth, too.

CS Lewis begins with the idea of orphaned children in a war, a metaphor for the truth and reality of our lives perhaps, us as bits of the world’s collateral damage seeking refuge in the countryside. They fall into the back of a wardrobe one day, into another kingdom, another place in time, but real, perhaps more real than the wardrobe itself.

It is hard to explain how fiction can speak to you in a language only you can understand, profound ideas and truths felt and processed more by the heart than by the brain. Narnia was like that for me, a land of talking beavers and eternal winter that made far more sense than the one we live in now. Aslan, our lion, so beautifully crafted, woven around such sophisticated theology,  but known and recognized immediately.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Aslan can be known but never known fully, never tamed and domesticated, so he fits into a box in which we are more comfortable. He eludes our efforts to make him smaller and safer or bigger and meaner. Aslan is Aslan, and he simply tears down what we think we know as fast as we erect it. Aslan will reveal himself as he chooses and not as we chose.

“He’s wild, you know.  Not like a tame lion.”

Aslan is much like another Lion, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and people will often try to define Him too, to make Him bigger or smaller, safer or meaner, contained and tamed. There are so many of us who have leaned into CS Lewis’s Aslan character, who have clung to him fiercely in hard times, who have refused to be deceived by cheap substitutes and poorly drawn imitations. You are not my Aslan. That is not what my Aslan said.

Aslan is not our Lord and Savior, but Aslan is our Lord and Savior felt in the heart of a man who knew him so well, who lovingly recreated him for a Goddaughter, and gave so many of us a priceless gift in the process; a way to understand who God is and what it all means and why we are here.

We are like a secret club, us Narnia survivors, grown up girls now who still believe in fairy tales, who return to those lessons when we need wisdom and discernment. We bump into one another now and then and wave, linked together by our fierce love for the One who inspired the character of Aslan. He is a real Lion who lives in our hearts and imagination; One who has survived the test of time, reason, and adulthood. He is the Lion we have learned to sense and to feel, to anticipate with wonder and delight eagerly.

“Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again” -CS Lewis

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….”