My daughter wants to be a princess, indeed her brothers, and certain friends encourage this by calling her a princess. Buying her ghastly clothes, with perky slogans like ‘daddies little princess’ emblazoned on the front. (ALWAYS sent to the charity shop as soon as received, and in the worst cases, chucked straight into the bin, or used as dusters- am not encouraging this in others).
Lets just clarify what a princess is. A princess is the daughter of someone, and in every fairy tale ever written- her entire value is either as that mans daughter, or as the potential wife of someone.
She has started requesting certain princess stories- Rapunzel for instance. I do tell her the story. Its just that in my version, Rapunzel realises waiting for some berk to come and use her hair as a ladder is pointless, and actually chops hair off, to a more manageable style, and makes her own rope ladder- leaving the tower a good 6 months before the prince turns up. I tell her other fairytales with slight adjustments- you dont fall in love from a kiss, and certainly slightly more is required before committing to a relationship with the prince- never mind marriage. In my version of Rumplestiltzkin, the clever woman who guesses the mean midgets name, also gets to leave the mean old King, with the gold, and her child- and manages to live happily ever after on her own. In Cinderella, Cinders gets to keep the dress and the shoes, the Prince is told off for being so arrogant that he just assumes any damsel in the land will accept his hand, and eventually marries an ugly sister, realising that ugly and mean are not the same thing- while Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother set up their own design business. In my version, the eponymous heroines are not meek and mild, they are sharp, witty, and able to help themselves.
There are many theories about the origins of folklore, and certainly when the origins of some of our more well loved fairytales are investigated- they all contain quite disturbing themes of sexual repression, of terrible things happening when the young woman is awakened sexually(note for reader- spindle is ALWAYS symbol for penis-small penis probably, but penis nonetheless).
Yes, I hear you say- but these are just stories. But these are not stories. THese stories are so powerful, that I dont even have to explain the tales I am referring to- they are so deeply ingrained on our collective psyche, that I can safely assume that any reader from the western world, will know exactly what story I am referring to.
There are theories that the folklore and mythology of any give society, are an allegorical reflection of their own psyche, their views, their morals- and IF this is the case- then the cult of the princess needs to be tackled. I suppose if that is true of folklore- then its likely to be true for the modern equivalent of folklore- the media. Our films, our television, our fiction, our art.
I dont want my daughter aspiring to be a helpless virtuous girl- who when faced with trouble, thinks the only solution is that a handsome prince rescues her. The fact that at 2 years old, before she even has the ability to identify what a princess is(she thinks princesses eat sweeties, and have a crown)-this is her first aspiration, bothers me enough, that I will always rewrite these tales- even though by the age of 5, with, or without my influence, she will know the originals off by heart. I am sure that my rewriting these stories will cause a slight bit of friction, when she finds that mummy’s version is different…but who cares.