My cousin all of 5 years old now, my pretty little sister bent over the evergreen fairy tale that you and I had grown up reading and now another generation and the generation next after that was going to read. The vividly colored and beautifully illustrated Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Goldilocks as well as Snow White and the dwarfs. All these fairy tales are a part of our growing up since these are some of the first stories that we are introduced to but what about the impact they leave on the girls who are reading them. Even before they can understand the meaning of ‘a happily ever after’, they are introduced to ‘a happily ever after’ that includes an inevitable marriage and a prince who rescued the damsel in distress. Later we spend a lifetime unlearning these older values that end up composing the structure of our brains. Instead of talking about concepts like equality, independence and gender sensitivity, we through the medium of these immortal stories that end with a typical warning to girls- don’t eat food from strangers, don’t talk to strangers end up imparting a lesson in fear while the modern era clearly demands a different outlook. One that privileges the voice of girl children rather than the villains of these stories. The need to endow our children be it our daughters, sisters or nieces with mobility, agency and most importantly a voice is an urgent demand that cannot be ignored but the kind of literature that we choose to read to them remains forever stuck in this mold of their favorite protagonist, the princess being a passive recipient.
A film like Disney’s ‘Maleficent’ becomes a truly outstanding example and a re-telling of the same old tale through the perspective of both the evil witch who doubles as the fairy godmother who has taken care of Beauty from an early age and a Beauty who instead of a knight in shining in armor is revived by the motherly love of Maleficent.These are the kind of movies that I would like to be seen turned into fairy tales so that the first tales that I or my mother heard do not teach us dependence but advocate the message of self reliance and tell the story of the voiceless ‘she’.
The need for fairy tales that speak about the experiences of the protagonist princess from her point of view in a different vision like ‘Maleficent’ has become the need of the hour.We need to be more careful about the kind of message we choose to teach our kids.Most importantly, the nature of the ‘happy ending’ that the fairy tale envisions is different from the guaranteed one. The ‘evil witch’ is the ‘fairy godmother’ and the happy ending comes inevitably through her. The restoration to order from chaos happens through her.
It is definitely a fairy tale that caters to the modern mind re inventing the inevitable ending in different forms. By the end, Maleficent is the wronged woman whose wings have been snatched away from her. The happy ending sees the triumph of women after a volatile and a violent battle resulting in the King’s death while the Prince stands in the background and waits for his beloved ‘Beasty’ to come to him. They have a relationship which does not end in marriage. She becomes the Queen and the lands are united under the two Queens, Maleficent and Beasty.
A different happy ending from what we have been indoctrinated with. A happy ending that sidelines the men and foregrounds the women. The meaning of a fairy tale evolves as the endings change. The endings are being re-written as are the fairy tales.
About the Author
Aspiring writer who likes to see the different colors of the world and then write them down. Shrehya Taneja is currently studying English literature at Delhi University and likes to keenly observe things. She is a forever aspiring author who is interested in viewing the world differently. Among other things she loves books and traveling along with her pet dog and the simple things in life.
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