Believing is just the Beginning...

May 14, 2010
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‘If you can see the magic in a fairytale, you can face the future.’-famous author Danielle Steel had said. Who has not read fairytales? We all have had the experience of revelling in the beauty and innocence of fairytales. May it be ‘Cinderella’ or ‘The Ugly Duckling’…fairytale is a word which cannot be new to us. But have you ever traveled to the very heart of these fairytales and uncovered the fascinating meanings behind each of them? Well, if not, then here are some mystical finds I discovered when I undertook this journey.

W.H Auden said ‘The way to read a fairytale is to throw yourself in.’ True indeed; unless the drama…the suspense…the thrill…the magic vibrates within us; we will not be able to feel the ecstasy of reading a fairytale. So whenever you read a fairytale, imagine you are the hero/heroine, then try to invoke the feel of the dramatized series of happenings, and you will be carried to a mystical land where everything will be as you want. The fairytale traverses in an unreal world and in this never-never land humble heroes kill adversaries, succeed to kingdoms and marry the ever-beautiful princesses. The characters and motifs of fairytales are recurring and simple: Princesses and goose girls, youngest sons and gallant princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepmothers, fairy godmothers, talking animals, glass mountains, witches, castles, meadows and the like. One distinct feature of fairytales is that, they take place “once upon a time” or “long, long ago” and they conclude with the prince and the protagonist lass marrying and living “happily ever after.”

Johann Christoph Friedrich v. Schiller had once said, ‘Deeper meaning resides in the fairytales told me in my childhood than in any truth taught in life.’ There is one thing that must be noted in the writers of the ever-green fairytales…their wisdom. If we delve deeper into the fairytales and try to understand the underlying morals in them, it is perceivable that the writers had immense awareness about human virtues and vices, human feelings and sentiments and human values. The fairytales are not only a medium of entertainment; these are platforms to spread good values among people. I, for one would like to take three of the most famous fairytales and illustrate the hidden meanings contained in them.

Cinderella, the forever fresh story about a beautiful cinder girl and how she attains the happiness she so richly deserves, persists in its ability to attract young minds even today. This is a story which, through its varied happenings, tells us that virtue always triumphs over vice. On a first instance, let us bring to mind, the incident of Cinderella being helped by her Fairy Godmother, who makes use of a pumpkin, mice, a rat and lizards to prepare her for the Prince’s ball. This shows that even the Godmother could not have helped her, had the rat, mice, pumpkin, lizards been not there. It reminds us that it is most often tiny, insignificant things that guide us to success and bliss. Secondly, in the prince’s ball at midnight, Cinderella runs away from the castle (as her Godmother had warned her to return before midnight) but leaves behind her glass slipper. It is this glass slipper which enables the prince to find her later. This incident can be analysed as such that people who are gracious and virtuous always leave behind something of them wherever they go. Their essence lingers behind and people who come in contact with them can never forget such people.

Beauty and the Beast is a lovely fairytale which glorifies the spirit of true love and the miracles love can perform. It tells us the story of Beauty, a pretty rich girl, youngest and sweetest of three daughters, whose father falls to misfortune and the family is rendered penniless. They move to a broken-down hut where her elder sisters grumble and complain all the time, but beauty grows sunnier and rosier than ever. Then tragedy strikes as beauty has to go and live in a ferocious beast’s palace because her of her father stealing a rose from his garden for her. After that, the story revolves around Beauty and the Beast, and shows how Beauty’s innocence and warmth won over the beast and how her deep love for him transformed him into a handsome prince, which he really was. (As the story goes, a witch had cursed the prince that until someone truly falls in love with him, he would remain a beast.). What we can learn from this fairytale is that true love doesn’t necessarily mean two beautiful persons being mutually attracted but it rather means the beautiful, God-gifted magic which seeks beyond superficiality, which seeks what is in the heart. It says that love cannot be denied by anyone and it touches even the stoniest of the hearts.

Snow-White and the Seven Dwarves, the eternal favourite among children, too contains important lesson to be learnt for life. To those who have read this story, it is known that Snow-White’s gentle, loving nature melted the hearts of the seven dwarves who later saved her life. In our life, we often tend to ignore the down-trodden ones and befriend the influential people, but as we make out in the story it is Snow-White’s rich stepmother who betrayed her and the dwarves were the ones who welcomed her with open arms. There is also the woodcutter who was sent to kill her but who did not do so because she had been a kind and generous princess. So also, we must really appreciate people who love us from the heart and not who show false affectations. Secondly, the incident of the stepmother poisoning her with a red apple is somewhat exemplary of the underlying meaning contained in the poem ‘The Poison Tree’ by William Blake. The red apple, apart from signifying temptations, also symbolizes the Forbidden Apple from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden which led Eve to sin (Genesis, Old Testament). This is a lesson for us that we must avoid attractive temptations at any cost as they may prove to be the death of us.

Fairytales seem to be very simple stories, but there’s more to them then what meets the eye! G.K Chesterton said ‘Fairytales do not tell children the dragons exist; they tell the dragons can be killed.’ Children do not need fairytales to tell them that fairies, dragons, etc exist. They already know that. Instead fairytales tell that good always succeed over evil, as in Hansel and Gretel, we read how Hansel and Gretel, who are good, escape from the wicked witch. Other examples can be Sleeping beauty, where we are told how Sleeping Beauty after much catastrophe, at last finds bliss and triumph over the wicked witch. Fairytales are narrated to children when they are young and this is very essential indeed, for if in the launching of our lives our minds are manipulated by the beauty, innocence and the morals dwelling in these tales, we will be able to trace the optimistic side of happenings. The fairies are like our wildest dreams, which seem unreachable but we can make them plausible. As we grow up we cease to believe in these supernatural and fantasy-based characters. But as we read in the famous story ‘Pandora and the Hope Fairy’, there are loads of evil, treachery, malevolence in this world but there also resides a fairy called Hope, because of whom we are able to survive these anxieties of life.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I do believe in fairies and the fairytales…and who knows, I may someday meet one because, after all, believing is just the beginning! And as J.M Barrie said, ‘When you say I don’t believe in fairies, a fairy somewhere drops dead.’ And I wouldn’t want anyone dead on my account, would you? So here I end my piece of writing…with the hope that you enjoyed reading it.

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