You said its much more interesting to have a character try to fit into their role and fail then a princess character who automatically rebels. Can you tell me more about it and what makes it interesting? I really like your insight when it comes to stories and fairytales.
Ah! Thank you! Well, I really dislike the ‘Rebellious Princess’ narrative for three reasons, and I’ll just go into them below before talking about more interesting approaches
This is the most obvious issue. Your hero is a rebel princess, born into a life of status and privilege. She is the 1%.
Every time the Princess laments that she’s trapped by her own wealth and status, she ignores the fact that her problems are minute and petty in the grander narrative. Princesses are inherently privileged, and it’s ignorant to ignore their own wealth in favour of chasing some bohemian ‘freedom’.
We get it, kiddo. You hate needlework and you don’t want to be Queen. But your kingdom is in the middle ages, people eat dirt and no one is happy. The Princess might yearn for some vague concept of ‘something more’, but that’s myopic and selfish when her people yearn for electricity and proper sanitation.
I have extremedifficulty enjoying Star vs the Forces of Evil.
2. It pits the hero against other women to make her rebellion look good.
So you have your Princess who rejects the institution of traditional femininity. All well and good. But in order for her to be rebellious, there must be an institution in the first place for her to reject.
Enter The Institution. Call her St Olga’s Reform School for Wayward Princesses, call her Prudence, or Marina Del Rey. No matter what she looks or acts like, you know you’ve seen her before. She’s prudish, traditionally feminine, tough as nails, and probably sews her own ballgowns on her weekends off.
She is a perfectly good woman in any other sense, but since she’s everything your princess doesn’t want to be, conflict has to arise from the princess fighting her and her ideals.
And of course, the princess will win, because traditional femininity is evil.
Oh, Prudence, you deserved so much more than the Disney Sequel you got.
In a feminist world there’s nothing wrong with fighting old ideas of what women should act like - but in a postmodern feminist world, one must be aware that some women willingly are quite happy to be traditionally feminine, and some don’t have the luxury of choice to pick whatever kind of femininity they embody.
Pitting the ‘feminist’ rebel princess against traditionally feminine women is a microaggression in itself: we have never needed to sell men an empowerment narrative by pitting men against each other, so why start here? Also note that Disney is extremely fond of this, especially in marketing Frozen and its reboot movies by saying it’s better than ‘classic princess’ movies because ‘classic princesses’ needed men:
I said before that some woman don’t have the luxury to be rebel princesses, and some willingly want to be traditionally femme. This is especially so in POC cultures.
In Chinese culture, the concept of filial piety is a very important one: to be dutiful and respectful to your parents, and placing your family’s honour and their values above your own.
Mulan does not have the luxury of ‘rebellion’. Rebellion would dishonour her family, rebellion would shame her parents. Mulan’s entire character arc exists to teach her to balance her parent’s needs with her own, and it ends with her bestowing her war prizes to her father - at the height of her own glory she doesn’t forget where she came from - and it’s the greatest show of honour she could possibly give.
To turn Mulan into a rebel princess would be to undermine everything her culture and the folklore surrounding her represents. A lot of these themes are repeated in Moana - how much of yourself do you give up to make your parents happy? What is the true meaning of tradition? When you exist for other people can you still know who you are?
Moana is great. Watch it.
Making White Feminist statements like ‘my princesses isn’t like a classic princess! she feminist and doesnt need to listen to anyone!’ does a massive disservice to other cultures who have to balance force of will with filial piety.
So, about those Interesting Narratives…
Pans Labyrinth (2006) is thematically about ‘rebellion’ - it’s set in the Spanish Civil War and half of its narrative is about fighting a military dictatorship. It’s other half is about Ofelia (a fairy changeling), who is given instructions so that she can return to the magical world. Ofelia proceeds to mess all of them up: she eats from a magical table when she’s told to take no food, she refuses to kill an infant to open a gate to her homeworld. While excited to be a princess, Ofelia struggles to cope with the morally dubious or downright strange demands she’s presented with. Her rebellion isn’t a girl with a weapon in her hand: it’s a girl who legitimately wants to be a princess but isn’t cruel enough to do what it takes to get there.
I wanted to give others - and they are plenty - but this post has gone on long enough. ;w; Do come back to me if you want to know more, anon! I’m overjoyed to be able to talk about this!
HIDDEN UNDER LOCK AND KEY - SONGS FOR BLUEBEARD’S LATE WIVES
i. shankill butchers - sarah jarosz // ii. the master’s house - alexandre desplat // iii. bird song - florence + the machine // iv. flesh and blood - the waifs // v. devil’s resting place - laura marling // vi. secret garden - patrick wolf // vii o master - susanne sundfør // viii dig a grave - dark dark dark // ix the ghost who walks - karen elson // x dance of death - andrew bird // xi bang bang (feat. 2 cellos) - sky ferreira // xii identity tokens - rasputina // xiii keeley - emily jane white
There’s a wicked smile as Fate smashes Cinderella’s slipper. It rains glass shards that night. Peasant girls shouldn’t pretend to be something they’re not.
Fate laughs when Eric marries another. Laughs again when the little mermaid edges the ocean. Love isn’t real, Fate murmurs into the girl’s ear, humans don’t love.
A red apple rolls to the floor, half eaten. The prince lays still, remnants of the sweet fruit on his lips. Fate steals a kiss and licks its lips. Delicious.
How boring, Fate says and walks away. Mulan collapses, fisted hands strike the ground in a fit of anguish. She sobs, draping herself over the grave marker with the name “Fa Zhou.”
Princes are a lie, Tiana thinks as she scrubs the table a little harder. Fate had no hand in her situation, but takes satisfaction in seeing the girl toil for a restaurant she doesn’t own. She’s right, of course; princes don’t exist, only liars do.
Fate likes Peter Pan. It smirks when the boy stumbles upon Wendy’s grave, smiles when the boy returns to Neverland cheeks stained with tears and the taste of death on his lips. Fate likes Peter, but when is love ever kind?
Once upon a dream, Aurora meets a dashing prince. Once upon a dream, she pricks her finger on a spindle. Once upon a dream, Fate stops the good fairy and the sleeping princess never wakes.
The cold may have not bothered Elsa, Fate muses, but what about Anna? It watches with glee as Elsa sobs over her ice encased sister. What’s wrong, princess? Can’t let it go?
The last petal falls and crumbles in Fate’s hand. A heartbreak later, it appears by Belle’s side. Foolish girl, it hisses, you cannot save a monster.
HAPPY ENDINGS DON’T EXIST | nhi (for @inkstay’s prompt #344 “the thief of fairytales)
@ofhealinglove You don’t know me and I don’t know you well, but I know you like MadaSaku and life can suck, but MadaSaku always makes things better for me. Story is inspired by the folktale of the Lindworm. I hope you like it.
Once upon a time a queen fell into despair after many years of being unable to carry a child. Her kingdom was without an heir and her home devoid of sweet children. She was weeping in the garden when an old woman approached her, asking about her tears. When the queen told the old woman it was because she was barren the old woman held out a pair of pruning sheers.
“Go into your garden and you will find one red rose and one white rose. If you eat the white rose you will bear a girl, the red rose will give you a son, but be warned, you must only eat one of these roses, to devour both would be unwise.”
“The queen does as the old woman instructs and finds the roses in her garden. Thinking it over, the queen plucks the red rose and eats it, thinking of her future son. But then her heart begins to long for a daughter, and before she can remember the old woman’s warning, she devours the white rose as well.
“Nine months pass and soon comes the time for the queen to deliver her child. Heavy with child, she labors for many hours before she is able to push her child free, but a babe does not greet the midwives. With a roar like that of a fire’s, a lindworm slithers from her room and snakes out the window in wings of long leather. Following the worm, the queen discharges a healthy human boy, wailing in crying. The queen swears her midwives to secrecy and all is well in the land for seventeen and a half odd years.
But then the noble prince grows up and is taken with the heart for adventure of the most rewarding kind. He wishes to find a wife to make his heart sing. With his father’s blessing, he prepares to depart on such a journey when on the road the mighty dragon blocks their path. With the words of moral men the dragon demands a bride as is his birthright. The prince tries three more times, and the same even occurs. Bringing this news home, the queen finally breaks down and reveals her treachery. Yes, the monster is truly her son, and her first born. The young son may not marry until the eldest is taken with a bride.
The king sends for princess of far off kingdoms to please his worm son, but one after the other, they are eaten by the monster on their wedding night. Distraught and in a panic as to what they can do with their son, the king and queen begin kidnapping girls from nearby villages to wed to their son, praying one will break the curse and satisfy his desires.
“And that’s how I ended up here, isn’t it?” Sakura asked with a wicked smirk.
Staring wide eyed, the chancellor gaped openly for a good solid minute before recovering. Pushing his glasses up, the dark haired man squeaked. “Rumors being what they are, there is always exaggeration to be found-“
“Cut the bull, Iruka, I don’t buy it. Get to the point of what you wanted to say earlier.”
Iruka, to his credit, looked ashamed. “Beg your pardon, but I suspect the allure of marrying into royalty would not move you to give yourself over. I’m sorry, but you are the only one of our staff that does not have a father to speak for her. You’ve been with us only a month, but you’ve never had post or visitors and you don’t go into town. You won’t be…missed.”
Sakura frowned, crossing her arms over her chest and staring out to the side at the gardens she was tending. Her hands were dirty, and her dress was little more than rags fit for working in. She hadn’t tried to look nice in her new office of employment, in fact, she had purposely tied up her hair and kept it wrapped under and scarf so that no one would see it and remember her for it. She liked to remain unnoticed and be the person people forgot about first. It made travel from one place to another easy.
At least, that’s how she felt when she was working on jobs. When she was freelancing, she was a whole other story.
“Do I have a choice in any of this, or are you going to seize me in the night and drag me gagged and bound before his highness?”
Iruka stuttered. “I-I am so sorry, my good lady. Isn’t there anything you might want? To live as a princess for even a day is more than some girls can hope for.”
“Ah,” Sakura mused, exaggerating the tapping of her chin in thought. “But it is only for one day. To live for one more day, what would I trade for that?”
Iruka looked off to the side and Sakura followed his line of sight to the guards who patrolled back and forth on shifts that rotated ever four to six hours. Poor Iruka, to be the man who strong-arms the girls into this deadly fate.
“I guess there are some things I want. If the king will give these to me, I will consent and marry his worm of a son without complaint.”
“You will?” Iruka’s eyes were almost as wide as when she first recounted the story that had been so closely guarded. Not even the kitchen staff could speak or hear of it, and the kitchen staff knew nearly everything. “W-w-whatever you want, it is yours, the king will surly grant you your wish.”
Sakura held up three fingers. “First, I want seven dresses, each one a half a size larger than the last so that I might wear them all at once. These are the dresses I will wear on my wedding night so I can’t marry him until then. Secondly, on the night of our wedding, in the room where bride and groom consummate their vows, I want a copper basin filled with milk from a cow that is without spot or blemish.”
“Those are…” he struggled to find the words, “odd requests if ever I’ve heard them. What is the third thing you ask for?”
Sakura smiled, cheekily. “I’ll let the king know that myself, since it depends on how the night goes. Once my dresses are made, let me know and I will come for the prince, until then, leave me to work in the garden.”
“You don’t want a room fit for a princess?”
Sakura snorted, turning her back on Iruka and picking up the ho she had been using. In a simple move, she swung the ho out and buried its metal into the dirt. The lines in her back stood out, betraying the secret strength that coiled under her skin. She was a delicate looking creature, but Iruka suspected there was more to her than such a fragile frame. No one else thought to look twice at her, including him, but now he thought better of it. She was a tricky woman, one that set him off balance, and one he was all the better leaving to her own devices.
“I will leave you to your work then, my good lady,” he said with a nod, turning to let the king and queen know of his good news.
Alfred enjoyed a repetitive yet happy life with his parents in their little country village. The elderly couple that lived next door had never had a child, and we’re all too glad to have Alfred and his parents over to fill their house with noise.
One winter Alfred watches the couple build a small finger made of snow, pale strands of straw for hair, a pink scarf wrapped tight to keep it warm. That night, Alfred strides onto their property and smiles at the snowy creation and carefully carves a smile for the snowman.
When next Alfred visits the couple, he meets their new son, Ivan, pale as the frost coating the windows, joyful like the holidays, pink scarf around his neck hair the same platinum of the straws atop the the snowman’s head…the snowman that lay in a heap, with only one set of footprints leading away.
Ivan is an odd one, but beautiful for all his idiosyncrasies. He feels warm easily, seeking the cold breeze outside for a reprieve from the fireside, but always telling Alfred how beautiful he thought sunny skies were. Alfred’s new friend hardly ever gets sick, and moves through the snow as a dancer glides across a ballroom, December sunset eyes full of laughter and light. And Alfred’s summer gaze is full of joy whenever he is with his new companion, this mysterious young man of the snow.
Ivan grows more reclusive as the months relent to spring’s dewy mornings. Indeed, this is the most sickly Alfred has ever seen Ivan, and it only gets worse as summer skies light the world. Alfred too finds himself weakened with worry.
But the waning of the year provides Ivan with renewed vitality and soon he and Alfred is back in the company of his friend of silver and frost. Encouraged by Ivan’s recovery, Alfred shares with Ivan his hobbies, his likes, his fears, and is delighted to hear of Ivan’s love for the night sky, of the speckled midnight sea of stardust and dreams. Alfred tells Ivan ghost stories and scares himself more than Ivan, and Ivan is all too happy to impress Alfred with his natural talent on the ice.
But Ivan is a product of Winter and Spring. Upon the wishes of the elderly couple a year ago, the two spirits blessed upon them a child to love and raise, but a child subject to the laws of their nature. Love is too warm an emotion for a son of snow and ice, but comes as natural as the blooming of flowers in the spring time thaw. The agony of Ivan’s budding love for Alfred sears his chest- his heart, and his life goes hurling toward a crossroads.
Some say it is hard to pinpoint the exact instant of falling in love. Alfred would look back and say his feelings built up with each passing instant with Ivan. But Ivan knew the exact moment he fell in love with Alfred, for the warmth of such a tender- such a human- emotion set his heart on fire.
The joy of ecstasy is always accompanied by pain. So too is the nature of love. Subject to something too warm for his winter heart to take, Ivan melted to nothing, dying with his love for Alfred to let him soar to the nighttime skies they both adored.
After Wendy returned back home with her brothers, Peter Pan decided that Neverland should not only be the home of lost boys but of lost girls as well. The new inhabitants made Neverland seem even more alive than before, their happy laughter echoed through the silent nights as they danced around the campfire. Everyone including Peter held their breath when the oldest girls told the most wonderful stories about princesses who fought their own dragons or escaped from the most frightening situations with their intelligence as their sole tool. There was a mutual respect between the boys and the girls, neither one of the two groups thought less of each other and they lived together in peace.