The lovely Princess and the particularly unpleasant monster

Once upon a time (well, about 2 years ago) there was a beautiful princess who found a monster in a cave, gave it the kicking it so obviously deserved and went on her way to marry her prince and do the happily ever after thing. After she had gone, the monster (merely beaten, not dead) sat with its bruises and wondered how it had come to be cast in this role.

It wasn’t that she got angry – people do get angry after all, and while I find it hard to deal with, I wouldn’t blame anyone for being cross. It wasn’t the telling off – humiliating and hurtful though that was. What did for me, was seeing her on social media announcing how proud she was of herself for standing up to me. I had no idea what I must have looked like to her; for knocking me down to be something to take pride in. She knocked me down so thoroughly it took me months to get up, but then, that’s what warrior princesses do to monsters, isn’t it? Two years on, and I’ve had a lot of being haunted by what happened.

It’s one of the experiences that have made me very wary about the degree to which I let people in. It raised for me issues about how I am in the world, and what it is reasonable to express of my own discomfort. Because for me, what lay at the back of this was the need to flag up that she’d done something that really hurt my feelings, and for her this expression read as a full frontal attack. I try not to attack people, as a general thing. I’m conscious of issues like Ahimsa (psychological violence). I try not to raise my voice, not to blame or accuse, not to demand. No doubt I get this wrong sometimes, maybe even a lot, but the general effort on my part is towards not attacking people.

Of course she’s not the first princess to take offence because I’ve been inconsiderate enough to express pain. Maybe there’s something about princesses that makes it very difficult for them to hear that someone is unhappy. My most recent princess has a great deal invested in being seen as a lovely, kind, gentle, generous sort of person. It was therefore like a pea under a hundred mattresses to be told that she may have inadvertently caused distress. Princesses are delicate creatures, and the onus tends to be on the monster not to offend that delicacy with any misplaced peas. There are things to recognise here about the difference between goodness, and an appearance of goodness.

We tell stories about ourselves. We tell stories about other people. We cast them in roles, we give ourselves roles. Hero, princess, wicked witch, rescuer, victim, dragon. Girl in the high tower, growing her hair. Woodsman in the forest looking for grandmothers with wolf fetishes. Who we think we are shapes what we do, and what we expect from others. Who we think they are shapes how we react when they do something. Our stories aren’t always accurate, or helpful. When the terrible monster roars, the lovely princess has to dust off her Kung Fu moves and do the heroic thing. Meanwhile in another story, a person who has had their nerve broken before finds all the things they fear about themselves may be true after all, and hides in their cave for months.

It’s taken me a couple of years to come up with a new story, one involving peas and over-reactions, and the entitlement of princesses who wish to be seen as good, rather than an acceptance that kicking monsters is what princesses are for. Maybe monsters are people, too. Maybe some of them are howling, not growling, or are purring, or singing. Maybe being an awkward thing in a cave is not a reason to be attacked. New stories, better options.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “The lovely Princess and the particularly unpleasant monster

  • Viviane

    Today a slightly different comment as your entry made me think of stories, minds and books.
    Have you heard of SJ Tucker? She has a song called “Shipful of Monsters” which was inspired by a book and seems oddly fitting. Being a monster has its opportunities and maybe it is something to be celebrated if you can accept you aren’t like everybody else because there are others along who stand with you.
    Have you read the Orphan’ Tales by Catherynne M Valente? That is what the song relates to. 🙂

    People make up stories but as Sooj sings in another song “Every witch was someone’s princess in another once-upon-a-time”. So just because someone believes one thing doesn’t make it the only truth.

    • Nimue Brown

      I’ve run into SJ’s work but not this specific song, and not the book, I shall keep an eye out for those – thank you! The quote sounds about perfect 🙂

      • Viviane

        My favourite song of hers at the moment is “Wonders”, let me know what you think. The quote is from “Not the villain” on the same album. You can listen to them here http://music.sjtucker.com/album/wonders and the Song off the monsters is on “For the girl in the garden” album.

        There are two books to the series and they are stories within stories. Some of her work is hard to read but the Orphan’s Tales I adore. I love how stories can move us forward and expand a tale in so many ways.

  • landisvance

    Hmmm, maybe I can tell a different story. There was a shy, loving, and lovely person that drew people to her through her gentle kind nature. Many came to warm themselves in her presence, but among them were a few that were damaged, whose souls had formed with crooks and boles and cracks. They were drawn to her particularly because they felt that she could repair their brokenness and because she seemed accepting of them without demands.. One day our heroine, in seeking to clarify a misunderstanding, approached one of these souls with a question about an hurtful interaction they had had. Far from the reasoned response that she had anticipated, she was astonished when this soul began proclaiming loudly to all who would listen that it had been harmed.

    Our heroine was cut to the quick because it was never her intention to harm anyone, that she had approached this person in an attempt to clear up any potentially injurious words. How had this happened? She took the other´s woundedness very seriously and it caused her to doubt her way of being in the world that this was being shouted to all and sundry.

    Bent people are drawn to those who are accepting without question because they need what the other has and they are either unwilling or unable to deal with structure or rules that require mutuality. They are a bit like vampires that way. The best defense against them is to value yourself and to set boundaries. It also helps to uncover how one approaches relationships to see how and where one might be interpreted as giving permission for this person to treat you this way in the relationship. Lots of experience with this one!!!! Being a monster is kind of rad not bad..

  • Sue Marsh

    I really like this, and the comments that have followed…thank you Nimue.
    You’ve given me a new perspective…

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Gee Nimue, you are the nicest and gentlest monster that I know. [Grin] Hardly a monster though.

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