Fairy Tale Logic

My daughter has recently noticed that many of her friends have been watching Disney movies for some time, and so lately we have picked up both Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.  We’ve probably watched Sleeping Beauty six times in the past two weeks – or at lest we have watched *half* of it – she is no less sensitive now than she was nearly a year ago, so we fast forward through any “scary parts,” with the result that the story sometimes needs even more explanation than it would otherwise.   But fairy tales, even when intact, are inexplicable in parts, and when her questions come I wish I could put more spin on my answers without doing violence to the story.  I was relieved yesterday evening when, in the midst of another Sleeping Beauty Q&A, she made the breakthrough observation, “movies are different.”  Which led to a long (for a preschooler) conversation about how things happen in movies that don’t happen in real life.

But I have to admit, while the “movies are different” realization is a significant turning point, I was even more excited about a conversation we had earlier in the day.

“Mom, why does the bad witch take the prince and put him in her castle?”

“She doesn’t want Prince Phillip to kiss Sleeping Beauty and wake her up.”

“But why doesn’t she want the prince to kiss Sleeping Beauty? … I know! Because Sleeping Beauty can wake up herself!”

I know that there is a good chance (if her romantic attentions focus on the male gender) that there will be many years when she forgets the insight that she doesn’t need a man to “wake her up” – as if life begins with “love’s first kiss” and ends with waltzing in the clouds together.  And I don’t want to knock the importance of community, friendship, and even of finding one’s “soulmate” – certainly my life has been changed by having such a loving and supportive husband.  But too often girls find themselves coming to believe (quite early on) that their chief worth lies in who wants to kiss them.  With the result that many women are the products of their contortions to fit the ideals of the boys whose attentions they most wanted.  To the chagrin of their parents, who see natural talents squandered, and special qualities carefully hidden, and new shames cultivated.

So today I am grateful for my sweet and confident daughter, who can say unselfconsciously, “I like being Hannah!”

2 responses

  1. I really appreciated this post because I think Hannah’s epiphanies are similar to the ones my girls had at that age regarding the realization that there is evil in the world (i.e. a “bad” witch, etc.). Even short of the gender-role issues in fairy tales, she is, I think, also discovering that there is such a thing as evil, or certainly the absence of complete good. Could be fodder for your Sunday School class right now on sin. 🙂

    • It is true that Hannah’s most pressing questions have to do with motivation – and particularly with the Maleficent’s motivations. Which is another problem I’m having with Disney at the moment. Personifying evil seems risky to me.
      I can allow this within LOTR as falling within an apocalyptic sort of storytelling – where there are absolute good characters standing against absolute bad characters in a battle which turns the tide from a time where evil holds sway. (Though even then it can cause problems, not least in appearing to support a just war theology.)
      I wish there were more in the way of complicated stories about the absence of complete good than these botched apocalyptic romances. But even if I can find one, it probably won’t be as well merchandised as Disney. *sigh*

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