(12/19/00 8:52:46 pm)
I am trying to do a project on Prince Charming, and his importance in fairy tales. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
(12/19/00 10:00:36 pm)
Here are my thoughts:
First of all, I beleive "Prince Charming" as a character was first introduced to the modern notion of fairy tales by Disney's Cinderella.
If you are talking about "the handsome prince" who usually sweeps the heroine of a fairy tale off her feet and rescues her from a dreary life...well, I've always kind of resented the prince character's presence in fairy tales. It seems to me that the poor, cursed heroine has had the strength and chutzpah to stuggle through her her obstacles, and in the end, the prince magically makes it all better by the simple fact that he is a handsome prince. Its not like Cinderella specifically went to the ball to win the prince (like her stepsisters); she went to the ball to have a lovely night on the town after the hellish homelife she led. Snow White didn't live with the dwarves all those years with a princely rescue in mind; he just showed up at the right place at the right time. The prince seems to be a kind of deus ex machina: you know the story is about to end at the arrival of the prince. As I was growing up, I veered away from the little girl dream of finding a "Prince Charming." I wanted an Alladin or a Robin Hood in my future: a hero who must overcome obstacles and put his life on the line to win the girl.
Just some brain droppings for your consideration...
(12/20/00 12:54:45 pm)
|boring prince charming|
I've also resented this character. He doesn't do anything but be in the right place at the right time which usually signals the end of the tale and completes the 'happily ever after'. Yeah whatever *rolls eyes*. He has no part in the adventure or any of the trials so his character hasn't added or shared anything. And you never really get to know much about him. Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty.....I adore these tales just as I love so many more but the instant prince (just add a spell and viola!) has always bothered me.
(12/20/00 3:57:00 pm)
|Lost in the woods...|
Ok, I feel a little out of place in saying that I used to dream about the prince... constantly! It may be where I grew up, a lot of women didn't work and basically relied on their "Princes," many still doing "chore"-style work. No too many of them went to college. BTW- there is absolutely nothing wrong with it if it suits your preferences- this is only one of my many opinions, often contradictory. I had my barbies. I played princess as often as I played house and teacher. I wanted to play the damsel in distress (I did a few times- once improvising in the woods- which my friends later said I could not do and had to play the ogre- and once in nursery school I was Sleeping Beauty). I wanted to be Clara in the Nutcracker. I think it may have been a simple love of the things that went with being those princesses in my storybooks (yes, most often they were Disney's)- the costumes, the crowds, the dancing and feasting, all of the wishes and good luck bestowed. And yes, a handsome husband who would sweep me off my feet! (I could be found mooning over older men when I must ohave been in grade K- staring out the window) I believe they were also used with my generation as a means of instilling obedience- if you're a good little girl, you'll find a nice man to marry. I believed it too. As time went on, I learned more of the rogues and bards, good peasant husbands that want to be worthy of their wives who they treat like queens (sometimes). I do still believe in the prince, but it's the good heart, not the beauty and riches, that are stronger now. The princess (or peasant, or just everyday gal) working hard at life has taken precendence.
One thing you may wish to consider are new renditions of fairy tales in literature today. Heidi's site has a vast list you may find helpful:
SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages
Shameless plug: I've also recently printed a chapbook of my poems, a few of which mention princes, if you're interested. I'll be taking orders after the first of the year.
Good luck and let me know if you want me to babble more!
PS- Merry Yule to all!
(12/20/00 5:48:54 pm)
|Re: Lost in the woods...|
Very rarely have I yearned for that 'prince charming'. But I tend to shy away from most relationships be it casual or deeper. Err, um I can understand the desire for one and still hold to what I said earlier 'bout him signifing the end and happily ever after. Perhaps this is the exact reason that so many girls and women yearn for him to appear, to 'save' them. Cause once he appeared one could feel relieved that everything is and will be okay. That the worst is over and from here on out it's roses. And don't we all hope for a 'happily ever after' and wish for some certain ingredient (happy lives isle three, today there's a special on enchanted crockpots sure to cook up contentment ask the cashier, oh btw, if you see a frog prince hopping around please take him back to isle seven)that would establish the positive future? And to be able to recognize it? What better than a charming prince? I was too caught up in my own adventures as a child to wish the journey to end. If I pick up a few adventurous and amusing companions along the way, well then it's always nice to have some help with things (like building the defenses of the vast snow fortress in time for the battle or catching that tricky lizard whom keeps sticking out his tongue when I tell him of my incredible abilities even when I give proof that I can I can I can!!). Maybe I was an odd child *shrugs*(maybe I still am) but I never played at or imagined myself the princess. I was the only girl so I was (okay I admit it) kinda spoiled already. Also I was raised mostly around adults with little contact with other children my age. No, I usually felt more at home imagining myself as one of the villians apprentice that turned the scales playing a part in winning the day or the serving wench who did a couple sly cunning things that helped the heroes make their escape or the kind sister who dies tragically for refusing to tell the location of the goods she is hiding or the wise deformed old woman who lives in the cave protecting the treasure or cure with her riddles....etc. I am so heartened and proud of all the strong adventurous heroines in tales these days. Well enough of my babbling. Oooppss!
Kerrie~~Let me know more about you chapbook when you can, I'd love to have one. =)
(12/20/00 10:08:57 pm)
I think Ganfae has something here: To me, the term "Happily Ever After" is the equivalent for "Limbo of Nothingness." Ya might as well be dead. The tale is over, there is no change, all is in stasis for eternity (which is why I love Into the Woods so much...we see what happens After Happily Ever After.) Prince Charming also represents that state of no-change. His character has had no hardships, he has lead a blessed life of riches, usually with a family who loves him (unlike our long-suffering heroines), and therefore has made no journey. And the core of my own personal philosophy is that in the end, the measure of your life is made by the journey you've taken. I have never yearned for "Happily Ever After." Perhaps I'm neurotic, but I thrive on challenges. Viva Dysfunction! Cinderella and Snow White are changed from girls to women in the course of the tales. Prince Charming isn't even given the chance to grow. Its like he's a paper cut-out of a man.
As for my own playtime activities, I hated Barbie. I dispised "Donna Reed" and "The Brady Bunch." I rarely played house, unless it was Haunted House. I liked She-Ra. I liked "All in the Family" and "Welcome Back, Kotter." As an only child in a neighborhood full of adults, I would reanact the Greek myths (the ultimate in dysfunctional family relationships) from the safety of my bedroom, and would play all the roles. (Hmm...I guess there's no surprise that no that I am in grad school i'm putting together a one-woman show based on fairy tales in which I'm playing all the roles). In my back yard, I was Pocahontas scouting for food for my exploitative white employers. In the woods I was a nymph, plotting the demise of an arrogant hunter. I disliked the early disney movies with the Ken and Barbie-like protaganists...my first appreciation for Disney came late in life, while I was babysitting for some kids who had Little Mermaid on video: finally, a heroine saves her Prince Charming from a witch's spell! (although I think the Hans Christian Anderson tale is ten times more beautiful)
But I think that a common theme while I grew up was that I didn't like stories with almost impossibly convenient endings: the notion of Prince Charming is a convenience for the story teller.."and just then, a handsome young Prince happened to be wandering in the woods..." Uh-oh...I know what phrase is coming soon..."And they lived happily ever after." Blech.
Edited by: allysonrosen
at: 12/20/00 10:27:20 pm
(12/21/00 12:00:14 am)
The first thing that came to mind when I read the initial post here was the Anita Baker song "Fairy Tales" --- I might be dating myself here, but I did hear the song in a supermarket recently, so it's still out there somewhere. It's about a woman growing up to find that life (and love and the notion of Prince Charming) isn't much like the tales we grow up with, after all. I also remember reading Ruty Sidel's "On Her Own" - a book that explored society, women and the "dreams" we grew up believing in from a socio-economic perspective. I guess I belong to the generation of women who no longer were willing to accept a paradigm that generated unrealistic expectations.
Happily, many contemporary retellings (of fairy tales) have addressed this issue. I wonder how the other gender feels about all this? And the rather shallow ideologies generated from the classical depictions of the Prince...
Paul, you might find the tale "And Still She Sleeps" (in Black Heart, Ivory Bones) interesting. The author is male and the tale is rich, often humorous, and very appropriate - it provides a commentary on the traditional notion of "finding a Prince" and goes on to make a statement that's certainly relevant to today's society.
PS - "Barbie" ??? Who's that
(12/21/00 2:14:08 pm)
Wow! I didn't think I would get such a good response! Thank you very much! If anyone has anything else to add, or wish to continue thoughts, I would really enjoy hearing them.
(12/21/00 2:17:03 pm)
Donna, could you tell me the author of "And Still she sleeps?" Thanks
(12/21/00 6:11:51 pm)
|token of trivia|
I still have a (slightly discoloured and bearing a few proud small holes) she-ra beach towel. =)
(12/22/00 12:39:32 am)
|Here you go, Paul...|
I don't know if you're familiar with the series - if you are, please forgive the redundancy. If you aren't, be prepared for a treat. "Black Heart, Ivory Bones" is the 6th anthology of fairy tale retelling compiled by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. - And Still She Sleeps - is one of the stories included in that edition. It is written by Greg Costikyan.
(12/22/00 4:58:28 am)
|prince and beyond|
I feel a word or two needs to be spoken on behalf of the Prince. His role actually varies a bit depending on the tale and the culture in which he resides. If he is in a narrative that focuses on the heroines rite of passage, it's true it seems as though he is the icing on the cake at the end of a long journey. But not all princes are so flat--consider the Prince in "Armless Maiden" narratives. He is part of a complex interaction that has two resolutions--a first false happily ever after, followed by more struggle and then a true marriage. But he is very important to the narrative--he makes mistakes, he corrects them--and in the process a great deal is said about the necessity for respect in marriage. Sometimes, as in a Kordofan narrative, (from the Sudan) "The Monkey Girl" (which can be found in Leo Frobenius' "Erotic African Nights") the Prince and the young woman must undergo rites of passage at the same time--hero and heroine are reshaping each other's life and their interdependance in this journey suggests the strength of the marriage to come. Last, if you look at one of the earliest Sleeping Beauty (I wrote about it in an article that is on Terri Windling's Endicott Studio web site) you will find that the Prince, naughty boy that he is, (which itself suggests that the Princes are not all that flat either!) agrees to some serious testing of his worth (he agrees to be buried as though he were dead) before Sleeping Beauty will marry him.
Tag endings like "happily ever after" are just that--bits added on to the stories, often much later that don't have much to do with the structure of the tale, except perhaps to suggest by contrast the tenuousness of life--this tag is a mere whistling in the dark when one considers the enormous difficulty of people's lives when these tales were traditionally told; shortages of food, high mortality rates, marriages that may not last a few years due to death. Look at a familiar tag ending from Russian tales: "I was at that wedding too. I drank beer and mead; they flowed down my beard but did not go into my mouth!" Or the Italian ending "Life they did indeed enjoy/But me they never would employ!" Even in the ending there is still a little anxiety--the world isn't always perfect, and the tale's conclusion only offers the barest moment of rest in an otherwise perilous life.
Also, the tales of the Prince are only part of an entire body of stories. At that moment the world may be resolved for the couple (who would not wish them well?) but those tales are surrounded by other much darker tales that suggest anything but a happily every after. African narratives have a large body of the heroine/hero tales to marriage--but they also have tales that deal with the difficulties of the "ever after of marriage"--"Jealous co-wives" "Women Give Birth to Crows" (about the anxieties not only of difficult co-wives, but the fear of barrenness as well). Another tale about a man during a time of starvation who murders his pregnant wife on their journey to her parents looking for food. The fetus digs itself out of the earth and travels after him--pretty gruesome and definately not one of those "happily ever after" moments. In an Italian tale husband and wife cheat on each other, suffer separate miserable fates and then rescue each other that shows them reuinited a much wiser and older couple.
I'm not sure if any of this is any use to you--but I would suggest that you try to think of the Prince not just as a modern cardboard construction by Disney but as a character who has a few interesting things to add to the narrative. If you need any names of stories that might give you a better twist on him (beside the three I've mentioned in the first paragraph), let me know. I'll think about it a bit more. Good luck with your paper.
(12/28/00 1:52:41 am)
Here's a lovely poem on the subject of princes, weddings, and happily-ever-afters:
Carabosse by Delia Sherman, at: www.endicott-studio.com/cofboss.html
(12/28/00 5:38:57 am)
I would add to Midori's references to African and other tales, the "Ocean of Story" by Somadeva, 10 volumes of Indian folk & fairy tale. In those stories the main character is frequently a prince; he often meets a beautiful woman and the two of them fall in love and perform a secret marriage ceremony which, according to the gloss on the text, is a form of ritual tantric sex. They're married by the very act of consensual sex. But because it's a long series of tales, he invariably leaves his new wife and goes off to his next adventure, and the wife is sometimes never mentioned again.
I think this has less to do with a particular callousness of the character than with the need to keep the tales going.
That he's a prince seems to bespeak a particular niche with particular characteristics which suit the stories--he's of royal blood so he's important, educated and rich, but he's young and free to travel, whereas a king would not be. You could make the argument that people don't want to read about people of their own stratum; they want to read about what the elite people are doing, and thereby be transported to that level. There may well be something of an opiate for the masses element in telling tales of princes and princesses, but it might be worth your looking at some of them. There's an abridged edition of the Somadeva tales put out by Penguin. You'll get the flavor of the volumes from that.
(1/21/01 9:33:17 am)
I fear I shall have to count myself
among the minority that *did* dream of a prince when I was younger.
My first crush was Mikhail Baryshnikov after the first time I watched
him dance "The Nutcracker". I was three. And I've always
been a romantic, period, so that was hardly unexpected.
Of course, everything took a sharp turn once I hit the Gothic novel stage and decided happy endings didn't exist. *g* Mr Rochester and Heathcliff became the men of my dreams and Byron was the ultimate fantasy.
Just this past summer, I pulled out the entire Ellen Datlow/Terry
Windling faery tale anthology series from the library and I loved
them all. The variety and points of view were just amazing! I'd
started writing my own not long before and a dear friend of mine
recommended them. Of course, being in college now, I'm rather strapped
for cash for books that aren't school-related, but I'm still looking
for cheap copies somewhere, just to keep me from going utterly crazy
over historians and existentialism.
Does anyone know if they plan to publish any more of those anthologies? And, if possible, how one might go about trying to get a faery-tale retelling published? It's not "mainstream" fiction, I would think...
(1/26/01 4:30:44 pm)
Kavita: Ellen and I published six of those anthologies altogether, and then decided we needed to take a break from it all. (I'm doing so much editorial work that I've gotten way behind on my own writing.) At the moment, we're doing a couple of similar anthologies for younger readers (the first of which, A Wolf at the Door, came out last year), but I'm afraid they're not open to submission at this point. Your best bet for publishing fairy tale re-tellings is to try the genre magazine: Realms of Fantasy, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Century. The later two in particular are open to stories that are quite literary. And if I hear of any other good markets, I'll post them on this board. Good luck!
(1/27/01 9:00:04 am)
|Thank you, Terri!|
I can't thank you enough. Next time I pass by a bookstore, I'll try and pick up copies of some of those. I'm not sure exactly what they're interested, but I suppose the only way is to try!
Once again, thank you so very much!