Now before you click that magical little X in the corner that has the power to make bad Youtube videos, friendships, new stories and blogs you don't want to read disappear, hear me out. I'm not saying fuck fairy tales because I'm evil or mean or want kids to grow up in a world void of stories, fantasy, or hope, but I do think we need to seriously reconsider the narrative of the fairy tale before we continue mindlessly reading these to our children.
You see, the problem with fairy tales is that they set you up for failure. Most of the fairy tales that we know, that have been passed on over the centuries and continue to be popular in our current culture come from The Brothers Grimm, Aesop's Fables, or Hans Christian Andersen. While there are a great many other fairy tales, folk tales, and tall tales that have been told throughout the years, the ones that we seem to have chosen to teach important lessons to our children tend to have a very flawed lesson of salvation by another from some predicament. We are ingrained to believe early on, earlier than we can possibly remember that when we are in trouble, someone will come to rescue us. That some savior is waiting just around the corner to come and solve our problems and help us live happily ever after. There are other fairy tales that teach different lessons, and a great many were used to instill fear and codes of moral conduct in the hearts and minds of children, the ones that we seem to cling to, that we really love to tell over and over again, center around a victim being saved by a hero. And my friends, that shit just ain't true.
You see, whether it's Cinderella getting rescued from scrubbing the palace floors thanks to Prince Charming and that glass slipper, or Little Red Riding Hood saved from the vicious wolf by the brave woodsman, even Beauty and The Beast where the captor and the villain himself become the savior for Belle, the captive, there is always a hero coming to save our victim. While many of the old fairy tales that we use to put our children to sleep had original endings that at times were much darker and more sinister, teaching more poignant and somewhat terrifying lessons to little people, we seem to have adapted and "Disneyfied" our fairy tales to teach our children that help will come rather than teach our children how to take care of themselves, make smart decisions, and be their own saviors.
Again, I'm not hating on story time. I love a good story, especially one with an ending that makes you re-evaluate the meaning of life and how you act, but I just think we need to rewrite the modern paradigm that our victims and our heroes are different people.
I recently discovered a quote by one of my favorite authors, Tom Robbins. I love his books, his somewhat cynical take on life and the status quo, his overly verbose use of words and his run-on sentences. He never fails to inspire, challenge and incite revolution and passion within the confines of my skull. His quote reads:
"We are our own dragons as well as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves."
It's from his book Still Life With Woodpecker, the first of his that I had the pleasure to read.
This quote got me thinking, obvisouly, about the narrative we're taught. About how we don't rely on ourselves to be strong, to solve our own problems, to do what needs to be done. Instead, we sit around and wait, for the perfect job, for the perfect lover, for the perfect friend, for the random rich man who tips you $10,000 out of the goodness of his heart. We wait, and wait, and wait for Prince Charming to come along and put that damned slipper on our foot, when we could have just bought our own shoes. We don't slay our own dragons, we hope someone else will come along and do it for us. And if we wait, we end up like Rapunzel, sitting her tower, hoping that someone will come along and offer up a better life. Well, really, Rapunzel should have cut her hair off and made her own rope ladder to climb down with, although then I'm sure she would have been mistaken for a lesbian with that short hair cut. At least she could have gone to San Francisco this weekend to celebrate Pride.
My point is, we have to change the story. We have to teach our kids that they are strong enough. That each and everyone of them will at some point be the emperor walking down the street totally naked, Goldilocks in the wrong place at the wrong time, or the goose that laid the golden egg. We will be all of these things, we will fail, we will fall, we will lose, we will make mistakes, we will have regrets. But we can be our own heroes. We can right our own wrongs. We can be our own saviors. And we have to be, because as harsh as it sounds, as much as we might be scared to admit it to ourselves, no one is coming to save you. No one but yourself.