I ADORE fairytales. We had a giant book of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm when I was a kid. (Actually, I still have it.) I loved the familiar ones, because I could see what really happened in the stories without the Disney candy coating. (Spoiler alert Denise, The Little Mermaid dies at the end. Sorry!)
But my real favorites were the ones that I only found in those books. The girl with 7 brothers who were turned into swans. The dogs with eyes as big as teacups and towers. And then, my favorite, The Nightingale.
The story is simple. A Chinese emperor heard from a kitchen maid that a tiny brown bird had the most beautiful song in all the kingdom. He ordered the bird into his court, and the nightingale sang for him and all his friends. But then someone brought a mechanical bird, covered with gold and jewels, who could sing just as beautifully as the nightingale. The emperor forgot the real bird in lieu of the wind-up one, and the real bird left for its home in the forest.
Several years later, the wind-up bird had grown so fragile that it was hardly used at all, and then it broke completely. The emperor grew very ill, and Death perched on the end of his bed. The emperor begs for music to keep Death away, in a line I still say to myself every time I turn on the tunes:
“Music! Music! The great Chinese drum!”
The nightingale hears of the emperor’s condition, and leaves the forest and sings at his bedside. Death is so moved by her song that he agrees to leave the emperor. The emperor apologizes to the bird for the way he treated her, and she agrees to come back and sing for him as long as she can come and go as she pleases.
Sigh. I love this story. It reminds us that as cool as technology is, nature is even cooler. Yeah, I’m a fruity hippie. 😉
Have you heard of this one? Do you have a favorite that isn’t so well-known? Tell me! I love new fairytales. 🙂
On to today’s topic: Favorite Fairytales. This means it’s confession time. I’m a complete and total “Little Mermaid” junky. It’s true. (sigh) I stalked kids at the theater so people wouldn’t realize I was there to see it by myself. I bought an extra DVD when it was available so that I’d have an emergency copy in case of “mishap.” And, uh, Iknowallthewordstothesongs. There are several things about the Little Mermaid that make it a favorite story of mine, despite the fact I didn’t know the story until later in life.
First, I can totally relate to Ariel’s overwhelming desire to live somewhere else. I have a perpetual, incurable case of wanderlust, so I’m forever eyeing the next stop of life’s journey and yearning for it. “I want to be where the people are” is a battle cry for me. I want to surround myself with the “new,” and tend to become obsessed with “thingamabobs” and “whatsits” of faraway, seemingly impossible places (*cough*Ireland*cough*). I can, and have, become so focused on what’s coming that I forget to celebrate what is. Fortunately, I’ve had good friends around me to keep me grounded.
This brings me to my second talking point. Ariel has friends who have her back. Always. And even though they’re a lobster, a fish and a trippy seagull, they have her best interests at heart. They hold the hard lines with her when they need to, even though they don’t always win. And they are always there to commiserate and celebrate. The one thing I would have changed would have been the fact that all her friends are male. I would have loved to see her given a female friend and for that friendship to be valued by the prince. Seems women are forever denied strong female friendships in fairytales while the “evil” sisters or step-mothers or witches are elevated and thrust forward so we’re sure to know who the bad “guy” is.
My final talking point is, not surprisingly, the prince. Prince Eric falls in love with Ariel without the benefit of words and, for someone who talks a LOT (me), this is impressive. The two find a way to overcome their differences and he loves her in spite of a perceived “disability.” This is HUGE. Even though she’s this undeniable beauty, she’s not perfect, and that made the whole story so much more appealing to me. He loves her, not the evil Ursula in disguise (again, a beautiful woman disguise — and why do all the evil women have dark hair???) who’s ironically sporting Ariel’s amazing voice. That Eric loved her when he could have had a woman who wasn’t mute made me mad-crazy in love with him.
What are your thoughts on the Little Mermaid? Do you have a different take on it that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you. One final thought: if you’ve never read the original fairytale? DON’T. Just…spare yourself. I read it as research for this blog and I’m clinging to my lyrics and HEA harder than ever. Sea foam? Three hundred years for a soul? Prince Charms-a-Little? EEK! Disney, I’m all about your version.
The theme this time around is our favorite fairy tales.
I’m’ a writer, but first and foremost, I’m a reader. I’ve always enjoyed a good story and even better, I loved happy endings. My absolute favorite fairy tale is one that still appeals to me as much now as it did when I was a kid. Beauty and the Beast is one of those stories that works in so many ways.
You have the heroine, who while beautiful is also loyal and intrepid. I mean, I like to think I’d sacrifice my own happiness and freedom for the ones I love, but I’ve never had it put to the test. She doesn’t even really think twice, does she? She just does it. That’s true love, the kind that most people would love to have directed at them.
Then we have our beast. *Sigh* I’m a sucker for a tortured hero. I really am. He brought it on himself with his vanity and selfishness and he’s suffering for it. Ugly, disfigured and lonely, he’s the opposite of our Beauty. And the bargain he strikes with her is one guaranteed to make her miserable, which I believe is his intention. Misery loves company and all that, right?
But like with any great love story, a metamorphosis takes place. I’m going to use Disney’s version because I found I actually liked it. But basically, Beauty’s love and light penetrates Beast’s darkness and self-hatred. They begin to balance each other. I used to play a text-based RPC as a druid, a neutral guild. I guess that suited my personality the best because I strongly believe you can’t have all goodness and light, or all evil and darkness. You need both, because without one you’d never be able to appreciate the other.
To me, that’s what Beauty and the Beast represents. It’s the balancing of Beauty’s goodness and Beast’s darkness because no matter that they break the spell, that they fall in love, that darkness will remain with him. Or at least that’s what I like to think. His lesson is learned, but the scars are still there to remind him not to take the light and beauty for granted.
Pretty heavy, huh?
Who are some of your favorite “beastly” heroes from books or movies? My personal favorites are Zsadist from the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Lothaire from Immortals After Dark and nearly any of the heroes from Elizabeth Hoyt’s historical romances.