About a Prince

Prince Chariming

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been reading fairy tales. Most of these have featured a princess waiting for her prince.

For quite some time, I’ve been reading blog posts and had links shared about princesses and how bad they are for girls to read. I haven’t read too many princess stories, probably because I have boys who were never in to princess books. I read some last year, but these weren’t fairy tales.

When it was announced that there was a flash fiction anthology for fractured fairy tales, I borrowed a small pile of fairy tale collections from the library. So far, I’ve written three different stories looking at the princesses. These have been The Frog PrinceThe Princess and the Pea, and Rapunzel. These are the three I have read the closest in recent days.

One thing that strikes me is the prince – it’s not only the princess who sits around waiting for her prince, but the prince does a lot of waiting and searching for his princess. He seems a bit more pro-active about his goal in some of the stories, such as climbing up Rapunzel’s hair, but he is also manipulated by his mother (as in The Princess and the Pea) or a wicked witch (as in The Frog Prince). They don’t strike me as particularly strong men.

While writing a fractured fairy tale focusing on the princesses, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a version of these stories focusing on the prince. What would make him a stronger man? Is it standing up to his mother not to marry a girl who shows up at the door dripping wet and who has a horrible night sleep? Is it being man enough to bring his own ladder so he can help the girl down from her tower?

I’m still mulling this over, and I hope I won’t get attacked for these thoughts… I know I don’t want my boys to spend their whole lives just looking for a princess, I hope they have more goals than that.

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  1. I LOVE this post, Melissa! I completely agree! Maybe this year, instead of a contest to write about strong princesses, I’ll run one where the prince has to be more than just someone looking for or rescuing a princess. 🙂

  2. And like you, writing some flash fiction pieces for this anthology has got me coming up with new story ideas left, right and center!

  3. Hello Melissa,

    Whatever you do, just remember that fairy tales are primarily addressed to very young children, and they’re supposed to create patterns of thought and behavior for the future. They’re a sort of “road signals” to help little children cope with all that raw material burried inside their psyche, and to transform it to useful, practical examples to act upon later in life.

    Adapting fairy tales is a perfectly good practice, and it can be lots of fun. I think that we should pay great attention to *starting from where the child is* at the moment — e.g., if (s)he’s still very young, it is natural for her/him to seek the guidance or approval of an adult (most usually their parents), and this may help avoid feelings of internal conflict… oh, this is a very big discussion, really… just a few thoughts I’m leaving here…

    Be well

    • Thanks Helene. When I was reading them with the prince in mind, I kept thinking of the sort of message it was giving to boys… they didn’t strike me as being particularly strong male characters. I’m still thinking on all of this 🙂

      • I think sometimes that the various persons presented in a story may correspond to various aspects of a single character — e.g. in The Princess and the Pea, the mom, suspicious and cunning, doesn’t let her (more innocent, obviously) son get immediately caught by the charms of the alleged princess, but wants to test her first.

        In the language of archetypes, Queen-mom may represent the logical self, a reminder that “we should cross-check and not believe without proof” — in the simple language of fairy tales, characters are not very complex, so they are sometimes “broken down” to multiple persons that best represent the characteristic we want to highlight.

        Plus, young children want things simple — more complex characters may confuse them. Are they “good” or “bad”? Small children want answers in black and white. They’ll learn about the various shades of grey later in life, anyway.

        Just imagine, how would the prince look to an audience of a 3- or 4-year olds, if he started having second thoughts about the pretty guest? “I like her, I want to marry her, but what if she’s not a princess? I must do this-and-that to test her!” A doubting mom keeps things clearer, I think. And adds tension to the story: he’s captivated by her beauty, but his mom might oppose the happy ending.

        Oh, and we want our children to remember that moms sometimes know best certain things, don’t we?

      • Did I tell you that, apart from my defense of the classic fairy tales, I still believe that we can adapt them, play with fairy tales and our imagination?
        Of course I do! Just read the book by Gianni Rodari, an Italian educator of the mid- to late-20th century, “Grammar of Fantasy” — lovely and thought-provoking read, with many tips and tricks on how to liberate our imagination when “playing” with stories. One of my favorites.

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