Tag Archives: fairy tales

Snow White and other problems

Content warning – consent issues.

Recently there was a controversy over a Disney ride including a depiction of the non-consenting kiss at the end of Snow White. I’ve watched this with interest. I note that for people who are ok with it, the notion of love and romance is key. That he kisses her to save her life, that the kiss is ok because she wakes up and isn’t horrified.

As an aside, the prince kisses Snow White when he thinks she is dead, and having never known her as  a living person. I prefer versions that change these details. Yes, it’s very normal to kiss your dead loved one, less so to kiss a corpse when you’ve never spoken to the living person.

It’s romantic because he is young and good looking and she isn’t horrified. What would happen to this story if the kiss came from an older, less desirable person? I have a suspicion that if our prince wasn’t an attractive young white guy, the interpretations of romance would be undermined for some people. Through this story, we teach children that being kissed by a stranger is ok, in the right context. We suggest that love follows violation – and this is a theme that comes up far too often in stories that purport to be romance. Girls who fall in love with their kidnappers and abusers are on my list of stories I think we’d be better off without. There are still places in the world where children are made to marry the men who rape them.

So much hangs on the idea that the whole setup is ok because Snow White falls in love with the Prince. But, we’re not talking about a real, autonomous person here. We’re talking about a fictional character, and it worries me how often that’s ignored. She doesn’t have autonomy, she isn’t choosing, this isn’t true love. It’s a story suggesting that a certain pattern of actions are ok. I see this other places too – male comics artists defending highly sexualised depictions of women on the grounds that the female characters are expressing themselves. It’s empowering, apparently, for a fictional woman to wear highly sexualised clothes and pose a lot in positions that draw attention to her sexual qualities. As though these were real women able to make real choices on their own terms, and not the creations of men.

Just because something is old, doesn’t make it right, or good, or useful. It’s also important to remember with fairy tales that these aren’t fixed. There are versions of Rapunzel where the young lady falls pregnant before her boyfriend is discovered. There are pregnant versions of Sleeping Beauty, with all that implies. I prefer the Snow White story when it’s handled as a 15, what with the eating of hearts, the attempted murder and the implied necrophilia. And I’m not convinced we really need to tell children stories about how women might want to kill other women in order to be considered the prettiest one.

It may be tempting to think that the story is ok because yay, the kiss brings her back to life! But once again I point out that this isn’t a real person, this is a story, in which a person has been put in a pretty unlikely situation precisely so that the tale can have this sort of ending. No real people get to live because of this non-consenting kiss, but quite a lot of real people seem to have been persuaded that non-consent is fine, in the right circumstances. It might be fun to imagine being kissed to life and wakefulness by a beautiful stranger… but what if they aren’t the gender you find attractive? What if they aren’t beautiful? What if you don’t open your eyes and fall instantly in love with them? It doesn’t take much for the dream to look like a nightmare.


Outlandish, magical and unlikely things

Books I have recently read…

No Fire Escape in Hell- Kim Cayer. I picked this up because I really enjoyed Kim’s thoroughly mad tale ‘Lights, Camera, Dissatisfaction’ and her second novel is equally crazy and charming. Kim writes madcap middle aged romps, in which unlikely heroines with improbable ways of life face outrageous and bizarre challenges and somehow pull through.  The heroine of No Fire Escape in Hell is trying to buy off her abusive husband so he’ll leave her be. To do this, she lives in her car while delivering singing telegrams to the Toronto area. Laugh out loud funny in places, but also a serious look at what it means to have nowhere to live, especially the social alienation it causes, and the way in which living with abuse can get you making insane choices.

More information here – http://www.roundfire-books.com/books/no-fire-escape-hell

 

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. So it turns out that what we think of as Grimm’s fairy tales comes from the 1857 edition, massively edited and re-written and a long way from the original stories. This is a translation of the first edition, in which fewer tweaks had been made to the collected stories. Some are just fragments, many are bizarre and a lot darker than the versions we’re familiar with. There are glass slippers, but not in the Cinderella story – they turn up at the ends of tales ‘and I was there, in my glass slippers’ being a way of saying ‘and this is total nonsense.’ A fascinating read, somewhat repetitive with versions of the same stories, but a must for anyone interested in fairy tales and the possible Pagan subtext of fairy tales. (I may come back and blog about this properly some other time.)

More information here – http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10300.html

Pagan Portals Candle Magic – Lucya Starza This is an excellent little book for people starting out on a witchcraft path or interested in exploring magic. A light accessible writing style not dissimilar to Rachel Patterson, lots of things that can easily be undertaken and ways of working that can be flexed to suit your situation – broad theories of how to work rather than lots of terribly specific – and therefore often  irrelevant – spells. It’s a book that encourages flexibility and creative thinking, rather than offering a set of instructions. Absolutely ideal for younger witches, and for solitary witches, but perfectly usable for anyone new to candle magic, and for group work. At the moment, spells are not a significant part of my life, but I’ve enough of a background to feel confident about saying that this is a good and useable book.

I’m running a Thunderclap campaign to draw more attention to this books, if you can loan me a tweet, tumblr of facebook post it would be greatly appreciated (it’s easy, quick and painless) – https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/37263-pagan-portals-candle-magic?locale=en

More here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/pagan-portals-candle-magic


Deconstructing fairy stories

I encountered Judith through her book God Speaking, which I was hugely taken with. Judith is a Canadian Pagan, writing from personal experience, and with a courage and honesty that I found captivating. God Speaking tackles head on the tensions between insanity and religion.

As Judith isn’t an internet person, and it’s really hard to sell books without an online presence, I offered her some guest blog space. These blogs have nothing at all to do with the book, but I think give a good sense of what an interesting mind she has…

Over to Judith…

As part of my self-training process I spent some years doing professional divination with a set of Ogham cards that I had developed. The design on the cards, that is, not the tree significator nor the traditional kennings although I did a little substitution for North American plants instead of a few British Isles ones that don’t grow here at all. So there I was at a show, doing readings with ‘Ancient Irish Tree Cards’ (in all the hundreds of readings I did only one person actually knew what ‘Ogham’ was) and the activities director of a local retirement home came by and asked me if I would come and do a little talk about Irishness at the home on Saint Patrick’s Day. I’m open to talking, but on the day of the presentation I drove up to the home and thought, ‘Whew!! This is a pretty upscale nursing home– I’m not sure I feel comfortable with this….’ Soldiering on (in solidarity) I was escorted into the library and given an easel (I start with a recitation of an adaption of ‘Saint Patrick’s Breastplate’:

Here in this fateful hour,
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath,
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the wind with its swiftness along its path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the Earth with its starkness
All these I place
By the Gods’ almighty help and grace
Between myself and the powers of darkness.

(with large-sized copies of appropriate cards for each invocation.)

After that I was talking about the imagery in the various pictures and told the story of why the wren is the king of birds.

One old geezer who had clearly spent a long long lifetime of never being opposed in anything nor ever spending a moment of his time in doubt of his essential self-worth decided that now was the ideal instant for him to step up to his favourite pastime of pestering:
“This is just MAKE-BELIEVE!” he said querulously.
“These are legends, yes,” I responded, “But they explicate essential truths in a fantastical format.”
“Faugh!” he said, “Fairy tales!”
Then I lost my Socialist temper (as the sparks fly upward) and countered, “Look at the back-story of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, for example: Goldilocks thinks of herself as a cut above the disadvantaged people living in a little cottage in the forest. ‘They are not like me’ she says, ‘They do not feel things the same way— they are just bears.’ So she feels quite comfortable eating their porridge, breaking their chairs, and using their beds. When the ‘bears’ come home and find her asleep, what is the essential truth, the moral of the story that is the teaching lesson here?”

The Querulous Geezer was thrown off balance by the indirection and not having me straightforwardly complain that he is causing trouble or being impolite and has no answer nor does any other of the audience…

“If you take all that they have from the poor they will rise up against you and eat you.”

And then one of the Nize Little Old Ladies changed the subject.

When I told the story at dinner that night, my son laughed and said, “So you’re not invited back for next year?”

God Speaking is out now, and you can get it here http://www.amazon.com/Pagan-Portals-God-Speaking-Judith-OGrady/dp/1780992815/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368782561&sr=8-1&keywords=God+Speaking+Judith+O%27Grady and other such places.