“Fairy tales are more than true;
not because they tell us that dragons exist,
but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
[ G. K. Chesterton ]
What an awesome title, huh?! Pretty presumptuous albeit. I can just hear you saying: “What is she thinking? I mean we’ve all heard about the dangers of fairy tales, waiting for your own Prince Charming to rescue you and all that, but this?! Does she really believe she’s a fairy-tale princess?”
Well, yes and no.
I’m pretty sure you all know the sweet Disney Version of Sleeping Beauty. Equally you all know that Sleeping Beauty was named Aurora Borealis by her parents and dubbed Briar Rose by her guardians (or rather guardian).
What you might not know is that Sleeping Beauty is a original German folk-lore collected (not written!) by the Brothers Grimm. You might have guessed that the original tale is not as sweet as the Disney interpretation of it.
Again, what you may not realize is that all German folk-lore (to a certain extent) is not a compilation of fictional entertaining stories, but was actually used to teach children important lessons, such as “Don’t walk into the woods on your own and don’t talk to strangers. You never know who might be a wolf in disguise praying on you!” (Little Red Riding Hood).
Well the original tale of Sleeping Beauty holds a similar moral for the little girls of past times: Don’t have sex before marriage!
“Really?”, I hear you mutter again, “She can’t be serious?! What in the world does this have to do with premarital sex?” ;- and to a certain extent your right.
It’s not necessarily premarital sex, but more careless decisions that can diminish your reputation or worse set your life up on a wrong course, leading everybody around you into shame and humiliation. Back then, the ultimate careless decision for a girl was premarital sex. I understand it still is largely that way in the U.S. even though it may be (at least a bit) different in large parts of Europe including Germany.
But I am digressing. The moral of the story, although it might be hidden today, was blatantly clear to the children of earlier days who were used to this kind of imagery. And this is the story they would have heard:
“Once upon a time, there were a king and queen who for a long time could not conceive a child, although they loved one another very much. Then finally, the queen gave birth to a beautiful little girl. This girl was so precious to them (and to the kingdom, being the sole heir of sorts), that they feared for its safety having it grow up inside the walls of the castle.
For the King beloved as he was by his people was not without enemy. There was a powerful Queen (who by all accounts could only be a Witch, because such intelligence and strength is not common in the gentle and sweet nature of a woman!), who had long since wanted to take over his kingdom and was just waiting for the perfect opportunity, a moment of weakness in the King.
So the King and Queen decided to send their daughter secretly away with her trusted wet-nurse (who was so schooled in the art of natural remedies, that some also considered her a witch, but a good witch, more like a fairy) to be raised until the day she was old enough to marry and thus could not be harmed anymore in an attempt to harm the King. And so it was done. Carefully a spot was chosen away from the public eye and most importantly away from eager young men already besotted by the beauty of the little girl and the promise of power she held (men=spindles).
Alas the powerful Queen never gave up searching for the princess, determined to find her and use her against the good King and his Queen. But the years past and with it a feeling of false security came over the good King.
Then on the eve of the princesses 16th Birthday her trusted wet-nurse told her the truth about who she really was. The princess who had come to love her nurse like a mother was distraught at the idea of leaving her and cried greatly. This outburst was overheard by one of the powerful Queens spies, who had disposed all over the land in search of the princess and he hurried back to the Queen to tell her of the good fortune that he had finally found the Princess.
The Queen knew that the easiest way to destroy the King was to destroy his only heir to the throne, but even she did not dear to kill the Princess at the Kings court. However she knew that if the girls virtue was lost no suitor would be found to marry her, thus guaranteeing the continuance of the good Kings kingdom.
So she sent her trusted spy to destroy the Princess virtue. The Princess who had been raised without the knowledge of mans charms and deceptions naively followed the spy into the dark towers of the castle and succumbed to his sweet words and promises of true love, but after the spy had pricked her (= had sex with her) he did not as he had promised marry her, but left her to face her destiny alone. So shamed was the princess after the loss of her virtue, that she and with her the entire Kingdom withdrew from the outside world, that shunned them. It was almost as though the entire kingdom had fallen into a deep sleep.
The years past and no eligible suitor was able to master the walls of thorns of social spite that had enveloped this kingdom, no matter how hard they tried. And try they did for not only was the Princesses beauty without compare, but the Kings kingdom was famed for his riches and a similar favorable prize. The powerful Queen waited patiently. She knew it was only a question of time until the King would become old and weak and without a worthy heir his Kingdom could easily be conquered.
Then one day a young prince arrived from a far off kingdom, who had heard of the tales of the beautiful princess disconnected from the world in a seeming slumber. He too had to face the thorns, but were others had given up he pushed on, because he had seen the true picture of the princess in his heart. And then when he reached the princess and gave her the kiss of true love (= marrying her although the princess had already been pricked), the spell of the powerful Queen was lifted and the kingdom awoke to new life. And – of course – they lived happily ever after.”
This is the tale as the Brother Grimm heard told in many German village while they were travelling the country. Again you’ll ask “But what has that got to do with her? Is she trying to tell us she had pre-marital sex and destroyed her family in the process? I don’t get it.”
Well, like I said before, yes and no.
I did have pre-marital sex, but seeing as I am thirty years old, unmarried and living with my boyfriend that couldn’t come as much of a surprise, but that’s not what I mean.
What I mean is that I’ve made more than my share of bad choices in my youth (which ultimately led to more or less dire consequences and also, naturally, effected by family, especially my father).
What I also mean is that Phil is the first person, who ventured beyond the walls I had erected around myself, because somehow, behind all the masks, he caught a glimpse of the true me.
In many respects he did save me from a long slumber. Without his patience I would probably have never understood, how wonderful the true me really is and that I don’t need to hang my head in eternal shame because of bad decisions I made when I was 13 years old or 14 years old or well probably up until I was 23 years old.
And you see, I think that’s the true beauty of the moral. No matter what you do (but yes, it would be better you don’t do it in the first place), there is always hope.
It only takes one person to see you for what you truly are and the spell is broken.
If one person sees the good and truth in you, you too can recognise it and in the end, you become your own Prince Charming.
[ “September” – The Shins ; – performed by James Mercer (live version)]