17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Friday, February 17, 2006

And they lived happily ever after....NOT!

Isn't it romantic? Sleeping beauty, Snow white, and Ariel all had their spells and lives changed after ONE kiss from their handsome prince. All their problems were solved, their deepest desires were satisfied, the orchestra crescendo, everyone cheers, and the ending scene is the second kiss... Then the credits start rolling.

But wait!! Where is my prince!!! I've never had a boyfriend come save me from my problems. Has your husband? From what I have experienced, read and seen about romance life, things are much more complicated and challenging. There are fun times, amazing times, but there is no crescendo, no 7 dwarfs following after us mounted on wild deer, no fairies changing the color of my dress and my father isn't floating on a giant wave to wish me well.

One day I was trying to take a 3 year old girl through the subway. Keeping her attention at the task of walking was difficult. So to keep her close to me I would tell her her favorite stories. I began to remember how misleading these myths can be. So I would try to end the stories something like this: "... After the Prince kissed Snow White she woke up and the dwarfs cheered. Then Snow white got her own castle and the Prince would come over to have long discussions with Snow White about philosophy, politics, music, books, favorite colors, their likes and dislikes, the weather, their childhoods, what their life goals were and many more wonderful topics. Sometimes he would made dinner for her and she would write poetry about him. Then after 1 year of dating and developing a great friendship they got engaged and then married."

Some how it doesn't seem as fun and simple as "and they lived happily ever after THE END!"

Fairytales are not all bad.
They have a great appeal for entertainment, they are quick and sweet. I think that stories of female royalty does instills a sense of worth and respect of women. In play it is fun to pretend that you are of a royal heritage (which is true, as daughters of our God). Usually these stories have a moral or riddle that is fun and or valuable.

The part that I have a problem with is when the prince part happens. In every story a prince "saves" the princess and they live happily ever after. I think this does ill to both sexes.
For men it can teach that their role in romance is to save the woman. When in reality this is impossible. Men are mortal and thus are subject to the weakness' of the flesh. They have moments of weakness. They can't know everything that you are thinking, feeling and wanting. They sometimes are forgetful, get sick or lose their job. They can't be everywhere we are protecting us.

Really we do need a savior, but we should have had him in our lives since the beginning. Christ is our savior, from all risk and fear.

For women fairytales says a man will save you. How many of us were subconsciously or consciously wanting to marry a man who would save us-- be it financially, socially, emotionally, sexually, etc. Also it teaches that you need to wait for your prince to come. And what are these fairytale women doing while they are waiting?... SLEEPING! BAH! Disgusting!
Or that if you kiss a frog he will/might turn into a their prince charming (that you can change someone to be what you want them to be). Uh... I never got any of my bad boy boyfriends to change.

Beyond the roles that these stories teach, these is also the ideologies they teach about love. This also spills over into all Hollywood films. What is love? What kind of love should I accept? What obligations do I have to those who "love" me? etc.

And what if our children do not find their prince or princess? Ever. Or not until much later in life? Where in a fairytale is there a strong, beautiful, intelligent man or woman who is single? Most single women (who are mortal) in these stories are spinsters (sounds pretty negative), or old hags. Some of the single characters are mystical like fairy god mothers, witches or wizards.

I guess the real way to remedy these myths is to make it clear to our children that they are just that - a story. And that it makes it ever more important to tell our children our true love stories and the love stories of the real people in their lives.
I think that all that Christ taught about love is just as valid in romantic love as it is the love we should have for everyone.
Love is kind, love is not puffed up, love is pacient, love is not selfish, love is not manipulative, love is long suffering, etc.

I personally will be teaching my children (if I have children) about strong men and women in history. Real people who made a difference in their lives. Like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Katie Stanton, Joan of Arc, Frederick Douglas, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, Joseph Smith, Emma Smith, and Johannes Gutenberg.

I realize it will take a great deal of energy to teach these stories, but I think it will be worth the time. I think that concepts and interest about our world begin at a young age, that all we learn later on in life is built and referenced on what we knew as children.


  • OHHHH~ happy nanny. I could see you speaking as I read this post. So much to learn about love. Don't know about the rest of the girls here, but my life is a fairytale and DH is my prince charming. HA!!! No, really, there are moments that feel like they are straight out of a movie, and those moments I tend to write about in my journal. Then there are the real moments, the ones that define your relationship... the rough moments. I can tell you if my life was as one dimentional as snow whites, I would rather die. I love that I don't know what mood my DH will be in from one moment to the next, I love that we have two children under two and it went against our carefully thought out plan of our lives. I love that I have been by his side every grueling moment of the loooong path to a career. I love my life. I LOVE MY HUSBAND! You will find someone to love in such a way that will be greater than any movie, and more wonderful than you could have imagined it. Your own fairytale...
    posted by Blogger Zinone at 2/17/2006 04:39:00 PM  

  • Everytime I retell a fairytale story to my daughter I wonder to myself: "What kind of story is this?! And what is it teaching to my daughter?!" But I continue to tell them because she loves them. She also requests the stories of "When Mommy and Daddy Got Married", "The Day Princess Was Born" and "When Daddy Broke His Leg". I love telling those stories a whole lot more because they are real. I would love to add more historical figures like those you mentioned into my repertoire.

    Sidenote: When I was a kid I remember having a series of books. Were they called Value Tales? I just remember them being about real people and each book taught a value and I think there was a tape with songs? RIng a bell anyone? I wonder if they make something like that still?

    Anyway, I figure the fairytales don't hurt too much at her young age. But if I continued to use them as an example of love, relationships, and the value of women when she is in her teenage and young adult life and she didn't have a feminist for a mother, she might have some problems.

    So for now, I will let her be a innocent. little, three year old girl who believes in fairy godmothers and princes that will save her from all evil (even though I hate those premises and what they convey). There will be plenty of time later to teach her what real life is all about.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 2/17/2006 05:12:00 PM  

  • One more thing, you might want to check out these two non-traditional "fairytales" (I am sure there are more). I love them and have read them both to my daughter. She really liked both of them too.

    The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

    The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane Auch

    If you want more ideas, FMH did a great post called Female Heroes For Our Children
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 2/17/2006 05:27:00 PM  

  • Happy Nanny - I can't help but read your post and think about all of the modern-day fairytales that I am currently addicted to as a grown-up. Chick Flicks!... not sure if I'm ashamed of this or not? :) And these movies hardly ever get into the real nitty-gritty of a relationship. But as a grown woman I guess I still like to escape into that fantasy world sometimes.

    That being said, I relate with Zinone in that I really do have moments where my marriage feels like a "fairytale", but perhaps even better because it's real and messy and hard and somehow when we get to the other side of all that mess we are strong and happy and laughing and better people for having eachother. Thank goodness. And I did have to kiss a few frogs to find my "prince"
    posted by Blogger Beth at 2/17/2006 05:49:00 PM  

  • One of my son's favorite books is The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, forget the author's name. It makes fun of fairytales.
    posted by Blogger Susan M at 2/17/2006 05:54:00 PM  

  • I think it was brilliant of you to point out the impact this has on the opposite sex as well. I have 2 very dear male friends who are savers and fixers. They have some internal need to save the women in their lives, and so they end up finding themselves with emotionally broken and inaccessible women. This has always ended in heartache for them and doesn't lend to finding someone that compliments them rather than completes them. One has thankfully realized that he is motivated by this need to save and is working on fulfilling himself before searching for someone else. The other I fear, may never realize it.
    I always tell Dh that he is perfect, and when he points out his imperfections I remind him that he is perfect for me, not necessarily for everyone else. So your frog might be my prince, makes one size fits all fairy tales seem obselete, no?
    posted by Blogger Mo Mommy at 2/17/2006 11:46:00 PM  

  • I know a family that seems to be plagued by the "fairytale life." They are so scared to say I DO for fear of missing out on that one person that makes them feel like all the movies say you should feel. After MUCH discussion and tears, both sons finally married (rather well actually) all while fearing (and putting their fiances through) the worst. I also think that these fairy tales and movies weave a deceptive lie about sex and romance. How many times have my romantic evenings ever turned out like that? You still have to wake up in the morining with the crazy hair and bad breath!
    posted by Blogger ksl at 2/18/2006 06:59:00 AM  

  • After I married my prince (btw--I did not recognize him as such. God had to hit me over the head a few times, and my DH is far better for me than any of the princes I hoped to marry), I was a little surprised that it didn't solve all my problems. That's super embarrassing to admit because at the time I was teaching women's studies classes where we deconstructed (fancy word for "point out the problems") fairy tales and other such cultural myths. But when your culture--and not just the Mormon culture, but our entire national (dare I say world?)culture--teaches that you can't be complete without a spouse, it's hard to fight that.

    I got married, and I still had stress at work, I still worried about money, I still thought I was fat, I still needed to work on my self-discipline, I still had to worry about my eternal salvation, etc., etc.

    I think we (society as a whole and individuals) tell the stories of meeting and marrying someone because those are the exciting moments in our lives. Much more so than daily happenings--the very definition of routine.

    But lots of exciting things happen in our lives, and privileging romance gives an inaccurate view of life and can be pretty dangerous (says the unabashed chick flick/lit lover!).

    I love the idea of broadening our story pool, as you suggest, happy nanny. Those romantic moments ARE lovely, but so are so many other moments in our lives!
    posted by Blogger newmom at 2/18/2006 08:31:00 AM  

  • HAh! Carrie, I totally remember those books. I don't know what they are called, but I remember the songs. I find myself singing them every once in awhile.

    "Attitude, attitude, it makes you do the things you do. Attitude, attitude it make you what you are.."

    There was a set of books. I think there was one about integrity, attitude, honesty. I tried to find them on the web, but I can't seem to find them. I think someone in the family might still have them.
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 2/18/2006 01:07:00 PM  

  • I LOVE fairy tales and chick flicks. I loved them as a little girl (I could quote almost all of Disney's Sleeping Beauty and Cinderalla, etc.--probably still can) and I still love them. But I think I love them because I know they are not real. I appreciate them for their unrealistic "fairy tale" quality--for their ability to take me away from real life and its more-than-common flatness and sometimes-too-often ugliness. I watch(ed)/read/hear(d) them now and as a young girl without ever believing that that was how my life would or should be. I played with Barbies incessantly with my older sister, and perhaps when I was really young, I imagined myself growing up to be tall and slender. But by the time I was no longer interested in them, I had realized that I come from a short family and that my "beauty" would be of a different kind.

    The other side is, as so many of you have pointed out, that real life really is more interesting and rewarding. I think I've spent a few moments after reading a story or watching a movie, sort of sighing to myself, and thinking, "ah! if only . . . " But then I wake up and move on to all the fascinating parts of my life and the "tales" instantly become insignificant.

    Do any of you know girls/women/people who are actually convinced they should live the lives of fairy tale/Hollywood characters? Has anyone ever REALLY seen these stories do harm? Ksl gave a few examples. . . . Is this the norm or an exception? Am I just lucky and unusual that I've loved these stories my whole life without ever really believing them? How can we tell these stories, let our children see movies, and yet help them retain a sense of reality at the same time?

    I hope it's possible, because I want to make fairy tales a part of my kids' lives. I also love the idea of telling stories from real life, family, history, (I love my own family's stories--and especially, when I was a child, the ones about me!) and supplementing traditional fairy tales with the many above suggested alternatives.
    posted by Blogger sunny at 2/18/2006 01:24:00 PM  

  • We love The Stinky Cheese Man, too, but my son constantly reminds me that "stupid" is not a nice word!

    The fairytales thing is tough- even as the mother of sons, I have wondered about the messages conveyed, and do I really want them? With a daughter on the way, I guess I am going to have to give it even more thought- because EVERY little girl loves princesses, nothing to be done about it.

    I like the idea of introducing REAL heros and heroines from history as part to the story time repretoire. Thanks for the post.
    posted by Blogger Tracy M at 2/18/2006 01:48:00 PM  

  • Sunny I'm with you--I love fairytales/romances and I've never expected life to operate the same way stories and movies do. And I find it hard to believe other people would let fairytales shape their expectations of life, but I suppose it could happen.

    My kids are older so I think more about messages they're getting from sitcoms (or I would if they actually watched any). Dads are bungling idiots, casual sex is a given, etc.
    posted by Blogger Susan M at 2/19/2006 12:27:00 PM  

  • Okay, I'm posting this at my own risk....
    I think that a lot of the problem you're actually dealing with is the "Disnification" of classic fairy tales.. It's sort of another form of apostasy. (My opinion) So much has been lost in the telling and re-telling of fairy tales (and then fixing them up nicely and taking all the gorey parts out, etc.) - that a lot of what is really valuable about fairy-tales gets lost and all that is left is the fluffy part with no important meaning left and then you end up with these moral dilemmas.

    If you want an academic/psychological discussion on when and how fairy-tales / folklore can be valuable to children and their development, try "The Uses of Enchantment" by Bruno Bettleheim, and "The Interpretation of Fairy Tales" by Mary-Louise von Franz and Kendra Crossen. I can't do their work justice... but basically folklore (which is how most fairy tales started out) - has a distinct role to play in helping children find symbolic solutions to problems they are not mentally mature enough to deal with yet.

    If you were to honestly compare the "Disnified" versions of most fairy-tales to the "real" thing... you'd find much more depth, meaning, and value in them... (my opinion, but a strong one) - and the VERY best example of this is the Little Mermaid.... the way Disney massacred that beautiful story makes me mad enough to spit... spit spit spit. Just take my word for it and go read the REAL story to your daughter... you will cry and cry and cry. (And probably have valuable moral and relious discussion afterward).

    As for happy endings... Most 1st or 2nd generation/translations don't actually say "and they lived happily ever after" - - they say something like "And if they haven't died, then they are living there still..." There is a need to package the stories up at the end so that they are a pill that small children can swallow... children like to see things fixed. But if that need for "neat closure" persists into adolescence... well I have no easy solution there... but a lot of stories (Multiple of the Arabian Nights for example) don't fall into that easy happy ending trick... so maybe we just need a more balanced diet of fairy tales? (How about a Disney Detox?)

    Alright... I will shut my mouth and return to my dark corner before I am pounced on.
    posted by Blogger Em at 2/19/2006 08:54:00 PM  

  • Em,

    I think you have a great, great point. It is hard to think of any princess story and not think of the DIsney version, especially now that they have those darn princesses plastered on just about everything!

    Do you have any suggestions on books that tell more of the "real" story but are still written for children?

    I think the short films from the "Fairytale Theater" hit closer to the real thing but I have only seen a few. I am sure Kage could weigh in on this if she wasn't off O.D.ing at *gasp* Disneyland! (see you there on Tuesday!
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 2/19/2006 09:35:00 PM  

  • Susan--couldn't agree more about sitcoms! And Em--I don't think there's much fear of anyone pouncing. I'm with Carrie, can you recommend places we can go to read the real, deeper versions of the fairytales that Disney has redone? (I know the real ending to The Little Mermaid, but I've never been exposed to it closely enough to know its "message" or "value" beyond just that the mermaid REALLY loved the prince--to the point of complete self-sacrifice.) Even if there aren't children-accessible versions, is there something we can read and then tell to our children? I'd love to know.
    posted by Blogger sunny at 2/20/2006 01:12:00 PM  

  • I guess it depends on what you think is child-accessible. I've had no problem reading direct translations of Grimm Brothers to most kids(The Puffin Classic publication of the complete works is only $5 new...)... just use discretion (& possibly the spirit?) in deciding what is best for a child to hear. (& maybe skip The Juniper Tree if your child is easily disturbed)
    A fun source, if you can find them, are the PECK-GANDRE paper-dolls. They are gorgeous and they include a pretty faithful telling of the fairy tale they are based on... fun non-Disney stuff.

    I think I was just on a don't throw the baby out with the bathwater rant. I love fairy tales, I do not love what Disney has done to them....
    posted by Blogger Em at 2/20/2006 04:45:00 PM  

  • Em- beautiful points.
    Regarding non-Disney FT: A woman named Sulamith Wulfing wrote a lovely, illustrated version of The Little Mermaid, and I know it was in print still a few years ago...

    Also, I highly recommend the Elsa Beskow books published by Floris Books(there are many of them- and they are marvelous Sweedish folk and fairytales illustrated for children). We specifically like "The Children of the Forest" and "The Sun Egg" and "The Story of the Root Children". None of them have been Disney-fied, and you can edit in your reading for very young children.
    posted by Blogger Tracy M at 2/20/2006 11:06:00 PM  

  • And I should clarify that Disney is not the only perpetrator of degradation and commercialization of fairy tales... but they sure do make themselves an easy target.
    posted by Blogger Em at 2/21/2006 08:18:00 AM  

  • And some film/video suggestions that may be (in my opinion anyway) more in keeping with being "virtuous, lovely, of good report....etc." than the latest Disney uber-sequel made on minimum budget for maximum profits...

    Princess Mononoke (1997)
    The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)
    The Slipper and the Rose (1976)
    Snow Queen (2002)
    Snow White (2000)
    The Snow Maiden (1968)
    The Singing Ringing Tree (1957)
    Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (1975)
    Beauty and the Beast (1946)
    The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)
    My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts (1999)
    Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
    The Secret of Roan Inish (1994)
    Spirited Away (2001)
    Whale Rider (2002)
    The White Balloon (1995)
    posted by Blogger Em at 2/21/2006 08:56:00 AM  

  • I'm with Em on this one. The Brothers Grimm book she's talking about is the one I have. I love it. It is a nice change from "happily ever after." And for those of you with thw same twisted sense of humor I have, if you liked "Fairly Stupid Tales" by Lane Smith, there's another one by him called "The Happy Hockey Family" that cracks me up.

    Carrie and Tamrobot: I think I might know the books and tapes you're talking about. The ones I had were called the "Standin' Tall" series and the tapes were yellow and you could color the books. My brother wanted another book by that writer and my dad found it on-line. Here's the link. And, of coarse, it's on CD now.


    They're by a woman named Janeen Brady in the Brite Music company. I hope it's what you're looking for.
    posted by Blogger hairyshoefairy at 2/21/2006 11:33:00 AM  

  • BTW, I LOVE Fairy Tale Theatre too. I used to have all of them on VHS but lost a bunch moving when I was little. A library close to my parents house has quite a few, though. So great.
    posted by Blogger hairyshoefairy at 2/21/2006 12:36:00 PM  

  • I'm back. I love Faery Tale Theatre. I got the entire collection on DVD for under 50 bucks. The cheapest I have seen it is at Costco. It is low budget with some very famouse celebrities. Shelley Duvall produced them in the early 80's for showtime. I was surprised at the ending of The Little mermaid. I suspect this is the ending ya'll or bloggin' about.

    As for Disneyfication. I wish there were more mothers in these stories. My Dad abandoned me as a child, so I was always a little ticked that it was not only a Prince (man) saving the day but a FATHER (man) getting all the glory for raising such a beautiful daughter. Hmmm...
    posted by Blogger Kage at 2/24/2006 01:47:00 PM  

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