Fairy Tales of my Childhood
The fairy tales I listened to in my childhood were like ‘Snow White and Seven Dwarfs’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘The Frog Prince’. In all cases the female protagonist was a beautiful young princess and her life mission was to find the man of her dreams. She succeeds in doing so and then they live happily ever after.
I found the stories sweet and adorable as a kid. But as an adult I can look back and see how each of these stories have ridiculously defined my life by one event – finding the (right) guy. I just have to look pretty and be patient to accomplish this life mission.
The Arabian Nights:
Closer to home , the other tales I have listened to were, ‘Alibaba and the forty thieves’. The message of the story is that thieves are evil, but stealing from them is smart and you should just ensure you do not get caught. The other famous story is that of the ‘Aladdin and the magic lamp‘. The genie does whatever Aladdin bids. So success is in finding the genie, who with unlimited powers will ensue you get the pretty princess and the kingdom. So to be successful, you have to find the cave with hidden treasures or a genie that can give you all that you wish for. Why bother working hard to get what you want.
The fairy tale effect
Do you think it’s just a story and does not influence the way the kids think? Let me narrate my experience here. I had this story called ‘Princess and the Pea‘ in my 2nd or 3rd standard, where the prince wanted to marry a ‘real’ princess.
The test of being the ‘Real’ princess was made by putting a single pea below her sleeping surface. It was topped by several mattress. Yet the princess couldn’t’ sleep properly through the night. It was hence proved that she was a ‘real’ princess and so the prince married her. Right now this story fills me with utter disgust. But at that tender age of 5, I found a pea pod and put it under my barely 2 inch thick mattress. That night I slept soundly and only to wake up with the great disappointment the next day. That day a little peapod shattered my dream of being a ‘real’ princess.
What Robin Hood did to me as an adult??!!
Stories like Robin hood glorify a thief and vilify all rich people as evil are popularly taught to children. It’s no surprise we have people across the world who think the job of the govt. is to tax the rich and feed the poor. We don’t think of wealth as something abundant that can be created with willingness and hard work.
For a long time I read philanthropy stories of rich with skepticism and disbelief. It was dismissed in my mind as either tax benefits or publicity. No rich person would give away his superpower, the money that he had obtained. Although I didn’t look at rich as villains or douche bags, I definitely considered them as egoistic. For if I was rich, that is the only way I would have behaved at that point in time. Until I met wealthy people who behaved consistently in such humble ways, I had a hard time re-writing my beliefs.
Defining Success: Changing Times
As in the many fairy tales above, earlier generations defined success for women as finding a suitable husband. It was common for mothers to taunt young girls about not living up to expectations in their husband’s house if they don’t behave. In my parents generations women have done the tough job of coming out of the shackles of home and making a career for themselves. Today, nobody asks a working woman, if she plans to continue to work post marriage. Although her career still takes a back step compared to her husbands at other levels.
Success for women is no longer defined by getting a good catch – a husband. But We still carry within our minds the dreams of a perfect fairy tale wedding and living happily ever after. Thanks to the seeds sown in the young minds on destiny.
Evolving Disney Princess:
Even Disney Princess are no longer the damsel in distress, they are like Moana, the adventure seeker who reignites the exploring passion of her tribesmen, Or Merida of Brave, who becomes an ace archer and saves her family through her own bravery and wisdom.
It’s time we carefully evaluate the stories we read, movies we watch and the reality that we weave for ourselves.
Do you want your children to think that they are entitled princess? or Do you want your children to think ‘anybody can become anything’ like the bunny cop of Zootopia.
Choice is liberating:
You need not be born into the throne like the ‘Lion King’. Life for you need not be decided the moment you are born – neither by your family nor by the heavenly stars. You can decide what you want to be and what success means to you . It is upto you. Destiny is not a process of discovery but a process of creation. To me it is a very liberating thought. Your blank canvas is full of possibilities that only you can add colour to.