A friend posted a meme on Facebook the other day that had a picture of Cinderella’s glass slipper. It was captioned, “Life is not a fairy tale.” At the bottom of the picture it continued, “If you lose a shoe at midnight, you’re probably drunk.”
For some reason, this struck my funny bone. I laughed and laughed and then tried to figure out what the “alternative” lesson would be for many of my favorite fairy tales. Right away, Hansel and Gretel came to mind. In my head, the new caption of their picture reads, “If you leave a trail of breadcrumbs while you wander in the forest, you likely won’t get home without your GPS.”
That’s true, for me, at least! If I wander pretty much anywhere, I need at least an atlas, if not my GPS. Though occasionally GPS has led me into logging roads, it’s much more dependable than bread crumbs. Plus, I always wondered why Hansel and Gretel used their only source of food as a trail. Perhaps they were more adept than I at finding food in the forest.
Sleeping Beauty’s lesson comes from true experience (mine, that is). If I am in a deep sleep and a handsome prince awakens me with a kiss, it’s likely that “prince” is my big black lab. And it’s also likely that it’s not exactly a kiss, more like a slurp.
Many fairy tales feature the forest. I guess because they represent dark, gloomy, possibly scary places. Yet, in many fairy tales, small children venture into the woods without a care, carrying bread in their pockets or, in the case of Little Red Riding Hood, a basket of goodies. The lesson from this famous story is — if your grandmother has long, sharp teeth, growls at you, and talks, it’s very possible you ate the wrong kind of mushroom on the way to granny’s house!
Snow White lived with seven men in a cute little house built into a massive tree. She did all the cooking and housework and each night the seven men returned home from working at the diamond mine. Yet, they never came home with any actual diamonds. I think the lesson here is self-evident — housework and cooking deserve at least one diamond!
Finally, there’s the infamous Jack, who climbed the beanstalk and stole the goose who laid golden eggs from the giant. Then he scooted back down the beanstalk and chopped it down so the giant couldn’t catch him. If you trade your only cow for a handful of “magic” beans, then honestly, you’re either just plain dumb or crazy.
These alternative life lessons strike me as cold, though. I think that fairy tales are meant to stretch the imagination and make the world seem like a place of magic and wonder. So, even if the “real” life lessons are funny, I think I’ll stick with the original messages of each, especially Beauty and the Beast – because the best beauty really is the beauty within.
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Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at a local elementary school and Hospice and keeps busy taking care of house, husband, son, and pets. She lives just outside of Troy, Ohio.