Quite the kernel of our culture, hardly any of us can hold out the nostalgic allure of fairy tales – tales, which hover not just around fantasy, but embody varied notions of escape, resurgence, solace, hope – and if delved deeper, may be a few disturbing double standards that many of us are happy to ignore for the “Greater Good”.
The ancestry of fairy tales can be traced back to oral traditions, given most of these were passed down through generations – intrinsically teaching right from wrong and good from evil. However, the rose-tinted hues of our much-loved classics might have more to themselves than just gleaming tiaras and gorgeous knights in shining armours.
Easily sidetracked by the chimera of razzle-dazzle surrounding our age-old stories, we often tend to misread some of their hidden implications that could lead us to question the very basics of societal norms and all that children are taught against – with hypocrisy and the duality of human nature contributing to just the tip of the ice-berg. Here’s a look at some of our all-time favourite fairy tales and the innuendos they have to offer.
Good looks; good looks and only good looks!
The base stone for almost invariably all fairy stories – if you are not good-looking, apologies, but you are not worth a story at all because no evil queen would be going to devious extents to get your heart carved out (Remember Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?), neither would Prince Charming take troubles of tracing you down on the impulse of a dream or even kiss you awake after a hundred years of sleep! Bottom-line: Beauty rules!
But then again, it’s advisable to fall in love with an ugly person because chances are – your true love will turn him into a very attractive person (refer to Beauty and the Beast; The Frog Prince), and if you’re truly lucky he might just transform into Milind Soman, you never know! Lesson learnt? Date the handsome and smart but always go for the acne-ravaged, obese and ugly!
It’s Okay to steal!
Stealing is wrong, unless of course you’re stealing from an unsightly person. And in the process of stealing, if you do happen to get caught by the said ugly person – it’s absolutely alright to kill them – much like Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack keeps stealing from the giant – time and again – quite justified, because the giant terrorises the village; also he killed Jack’s father; but more importantly because he is deformed and hideous and Jack is not. Point to be noted: Some going against you wishes or coming in between you and your lover? Kill them. Period.
Late nights; live-in – no big deal!
Snow White lived in with seven men and ate an apple from a stranger; Cinderella sneaked away at night to woo her prince; Rapunzel had midnight trysts with her lover within the very confines of her tower, right under the nose of her captor – does that raise eyebrows; does that question regular customs? Wonder why, because back then these didn't strike as revolutionary concepts, either to us or to our parents!
And that’s not all – remember how Ariel (The Little Mermaid) abandoned her family, changed her body drastically or gave up her most treasured talent just to get the man she loved? A man, who on seeing her pretty face could only hope for a witch’s spell to draw his eyes away from her! Sure, she couldn't have lived under water all her life as a princess of the ocean? So what, if she had to hurt all her friends and family – worth the all the efforts for a boyfriend surely?
Taking up the matter, best-selling author Durjoy Dutta, says: “Fairy tales are meant to include moral lessons, say: treat people the way you would like to be treated or follow the judicious advice of adults.” Quite the ladies’ man, known for his romances like Of course I love you...Till I find someone better or the very latest When Only Love Remains, the writer shares, “You see, fairy tales are told to children at such an young age that they tend to avoid the ethical predicaments and stick to the clear-cut lessons and morals. However, as we grow out of the fairytale-phase, without internalising those morals, there is no way for us to move forward and be prepared to face the true grey circumstances in life that do not offer simple answers, which by the grace of such fictitious tales, we are somewhat prepared to expect – what we are not, are the dearth of inevitable happy endings!”
All said and done, in our day, paradoxically they are the adults, who seem most in need of using fairy tales, because they are just about the only stories we have in common with which to think through deep quandaries and to keep alive chronicles of sentiments and imagination, otherwise being windswept. Fairy tales, these days, must carry an unparalleled lumber of significance and it is not surprising that modern versions – retelling or radical rewritings, fabricate a darker, more multifaceted, less resolved storyline milieu than hitherto.