(artist unkown - if you are the artist, let me know, and I will credit you!)
Something to Read for the Train is a fantastic blog of fairy tale musings. The most recent post recalls an article that declaired fairy tales irrelivant, since the world that created them is gone. CRFricke begs to differ, and gives us these fantastic stories:
Once upon a time, a man and a woman are married, and they live near a dark wood. The woman cooks a stew for dinner, but the man complains that it is too cold. They quarrel, and the man storms from the house, and becomes lost in the woods. He is gone for over 30 days. Upon return, he pledges devotion to his wife’s cooking—a happy ending, despite the impending loss of the man’s legs from frostbite: Row Over Cold Soup Leaves Husband Stranded in Frozen Forest for Over a Month
Once upon a time, a man and a woman are married, and they have no children. How the woman wishes for something to care for! She finds a cat. Then another. Then another. Then another and another and another until there are 550 cats for her to love. Her husband fears that they will not be able to feed all of their furry children—or himself, for that matter, as the cats continuously steal his food, the clever beasties. He also fears that his wife’s love for him is no longer as strong, when it must be spread amongst all 551 of them: Man Divorces Wife After She Refuses to Get Rid of Her 550 Cats
Once upon a time, a man and a woman are to be married, to ensure the man’s status in the kingdom. The bride’s mother makes all necessary arrangements, then departs. But when the wedding is to take place, the bride is hidden away from the light, while a false bride takes her place. The man and the false bride treat the girl like a servant and a lowly beast. She is made to sleep, eat, and behave like an animal. She is beaten and ridiculed for years, until a kindly neighbor comes to the bride’s rescue with a camera phone. She is found by authorities in a depleted state near the forest: Bosnian Police Arrest Couple Over Girl’s 8-Year ‘Slavery’He also discusses Kate Bernheimer's responce to the article , which gives a few more examples why the conditions that gave rise to fairy tales (poverty, psychopaths, fear of abandonment, martial strife, etc) have not disappeared with the feudal system or the aristocracy.
But fairy tales are, at heart, about dysfunction, about a world off-kilter and the normal human’s response to that dysfunction. There’s many the villain in a fairy tale who resembles a modern-day sociopath, and many the short, comic tale that doesn’t end with a wedding, but instead begins with an already married couple, trying to eke out a life together in the midst of annoying personal quirks and lack of proper resources. The happy ending cannot exist with the dysfunction, and occasionally the horror, that preceed it. (see full post)I would add to this discussion that, yes, the dysfunction and horror of fairy tales is alive and well in our modern age, but so is the happy ending. There are kind people who rise above their circumstances to get the acclaim and position they deserve. There are people who look beyond what society says is beautiful to find love. There are people who go on long journeys (either physical or spiritual) and come out better people. We really haven't changed that much as human beings in 200, 500, or 1,000 years so that fairy tales and myths no longer apply.
It's like Joseph Campbell says, “The latest incarnation of Oedipus, the continued romance of Beauty and the Beast, stand this afternoon on the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, waiting for the traffic light to change.”