Seven of the most dangerous words in the English language.
You just think it’s how a fairy tale ends, right? Just something sweet to help the kids sleep?
You couldn’t be more wrong.
(Obviously you’re not wrong. I said that for dramatic effect.)
When I write, I love to let the story tell itself, and for each reader to find their own message, their own gem. I find my own gems too, when I read the stories back later.
So why not the fairy tale? Why not ‘and they all lived happily ever after’?
Here’s what Terry Pratchett, the master weaver of stories, said:
“Because stories are important. People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around. Stories exist independently of their players. If you know that, the knowledge is power. Stories, great flapping ribbons of shaped space-time, have been blowing and uncoiling around the universe since the beginning of time. And they have evolved. The weakest have died and the strongest have survived and they have grown fat on the retelling … stories, twisting and blowing through the darkness.”
― Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad
There are two things the fairy tale does, which we take on as apparent limitations.
The first is the obvious one. It suggests an ending. Something static. A hurdle after which everything in the garden is rosy. Which encourages seeking of the ‘if my life is not rosy all the time, I must be getting it wrong’ variety. It forgets that life is continuous flux of seasons, cycles and pulses.
The second is more subtle. The fairy tale creates a villain, in order to allow a victim and a hero to be cast into their roles. Even more dangerous if it’s a hero-victim combined role. For both the hero and the victim create division: There must be a ‘them’ for there to be an ‘us’. There must be an enemy to overcome for ‘us’ to be validated.
As Mitchell D Lopate’s “the girl who made friends with dragons” knew, the fairy tale can be subverted by those that hear.
The story can change. The story can shift. The story can break the bond of the fairy tale. The story can become the expression of freedom, of love. The fairy tale can only battle towards a ‘happy ever after’.
I spoke just now to a woman who embodies the girl who made friends with dragons. She’s not the only one. Maybe you also can see the fairy tale for what it is? Maybe you’re ready to step out of your typecasting and change the story? Or do you just want to live happily ever after?