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Some Thoughts on Love and Fairy-tales

24. juni 2013

I have been deeply emerged in thoughts of love and relationships these last few days.

Of our expectations and how they came to be.

See, I have this little girl. She’s five, and into the princesses and fairy-tales. Disney, mostly, I’m embarrassed to say. There’s Cinderella, there’s Rapunzel, and of course Sleeping Beauty, who is her personal favorite since they kinda look the same, with the long, blond hair.

But I’m thinking that I really should introduce her to the not so pretty fairy-tales, too, just to balance the whole idea of just lying there and being adored by a brave prince. Yeah, I get that these are stories about the feminine power of attraction instead of going about it the masculine way and go get what you want and put a spear in the mammoth kind of energy.

And I know that many of the relationship coaches out there with an understanding of the feminine and masculine energy asks women to lean back into their femininity and simply attract and draw what they want to them, instead of chasing it down.

They do have excellent points. I’m not going to hammer them down with feminist crap about women needing to be man-like leaders to be seen as valuable to society. Not at all.

But I do have one question.

What happens when the feminine energy is disturbed from the go?

You know, there is almost always an evil witch in those fairy-tales. An envious stepmother. Or a dark fairy.

The bitch is always a woman.

The feminine energy is warped – and that’s when we get into trouble. If it weren’t for that, the protagonists would mostly be OK.

Right?

So there’s work to do.

We’re not really battling the world, we are battling the destroyed feminine.

Mostly, that is symbolized by the witch with a poisoned apple or the evil stepmother or similar characters, leaving the innocent and pure princess as a victim.

But what if the protagonist messes it up for herself? When she, herself, partly embodies the warped feminine energy?

There is this Norwegian fairy-tale which I’m falling in love with these days. Being Norwegian myself, you would have thought that I knew this by heart, but alas, I never heard about it until the Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994, and never actually read it until I started studying folklore and culture in University College a few years ago.

Some of you may have seen the movie The Polar Bear King. The fairy-tale is really called White-Bear King Valemon, and I’m pasting the synopsis from Wikipedia here:

A king had two ugly and mean daughters and one, the youngest, who was beautiful and gentle. She dreamed of a golden wreath. Her father set goldsmiths to make it, but none of them matched her dream. Then she saw a white bear in the woods, and it had the wreath. The bear would not give it to her before she agreed to go away with him, and got three days to prepare for the trip. The daughter did not care for anything as long as she had the wreath, and her father was glad of her happiness and thought he could keep off the bear, but when it arrived, it attacked the king’s army and defeated them, unscathed.

The king sent out his oldest daughter. The bear took her on its back and rushed off with her, but asked her if she had ever sat softer or seen clearer, and she said she had, on her mother’s lap, and at her father’s court; so the white bear brought her back to the castle. The next Thursday it came again, and the king tried his second daughter, and she also failed.

The third Thursday, the king had sent his third daughter, and she had never sat softer or seen clearer, so it took her to its castle. Every night, it turned into a man and came to her bed in the dark. Every year, she had a child, but as soon as the baby was born, the bear rushed away with it. At the end of three years, she asked to visit her parents. There, her mother gave her a candle so that she could see him. At night, she lit it and looked at him, and a drop of tallow fell on his forehead, waking him. He told her that if she had waited another month, he would have been free of a troll-hag’s spell, but now he must go to her. He rushed off, but she seized his fur and rode him, though the branches battered her, until she was so tired that she fell off.

She searched in the forest until she came to a cottage where an old woman and a little girl were. The old woman told her that the bear had gone by; the little girl had a scissors that, whenever she cut in the air, silk and velvet appeared, but she said the woman had more need of it, and gave it to her. She went onto another hut, with another old woman and little girl. This time, the little girl gave her a flask that poured whatever was wished for and never emptied. She went onto a third hut, where the little girl gave her a cloth that could conjure up food.

The fourth night, she came to a hut where an old woman had many children who cried for food and had no clothing. The princess fed and clothed them, so the old woman had her husband, a smith, make her iron claws so she could climb the mountainside. With them, she reached a castle where the Troll-Hag was to marry the white bear. She started to clip out cloth. The Troll-Hag offered to trade for them; the princess insisted on a night with her sweetheart, and the troll-hag agreed but drugged him, so that she could not wake him. The next day, she bribed her way in with the flask; again the troll-hag had drugged him, but an artisan next door heard her and told the king. The third day, she bribed her way in with the cloth, and the king had not drunk the drink, and they could talk.

The king had them put a trap door in the bridge the bridal procession was to cross, and had it opened so that the troll-hag fell through it and died. They took her gold and went to his homeland for the real wedding, but on the way, they took the little girls, and the princess learned that they were her own daughters, whom the white bear had taken so they could aid her in her quest.

You can read the full fairy-tale here.

So, here, in all essence, you have a princess who messes it up, and who has to work really, really hard to make it right again. And what this synopsis doesn’t say, is that the bear explicitly asks the princess that when she goes home to see her parents, she doesn’t listen to her mother, but to her father instead. The mother is the one who insists that she lights the candle to see the king’s face, while the father tells her that that may not be such a good idea and asks her not to.

The mother… she gives bad advice, and tells her to act masculine, in that she takes action and brings light to the darkness too soon. I wonder why that is? Maybe this has something to do with being in a relationship with a man, maybe we tend to lose our way and wisdom then.  Because it’s the elderly women and the very young girls who possess the wisdom and means to get her out of the mess.

The scissors. The ability to cut away what’s not useful, and to shape reality. A woman’s weapon – a tiny sword. The element of air.

The flask. The emotions and the love, if you look at it from a tarot view point. The element of water.

The cloth. The nourishment and abundance. The element of earth.

And the will to use them, too, while helping another women take care of her hungry children. The element of fire, within her.

Could you have done that? Exhausted, on a desperate search for your love, knowing you had to get him back and make it right?

It seems like she’s finally learned to be patient at that point, in that she didn’t try to do the impossible by climbing the steep wall. Instead, she took the time to use her gifts and share her abundance, before patiently waiting for someone who will provide her with the exact right tools to climb that mountain.

 

So, the moral of this story is…. don’t listen to your mother, go find help from someone who is in another stage than you are yourself. Someone who has either been there before, or who hasn’t. The one who is in the same spot cannot give you proper advice, it’s too tainted, possibly.

Use your feminine tools when you mess up by being to masculine (by bringing an untimely light into the darkness), and go all the way to make it right again.

Help others and get some rest.

Learn to be patient – if you act too soon, you might destroy everything.

Trust the masculine to help you out. Trust that he knows what he’s doing, trust that he’s safeguarding you both when he does weird stuff (like taking your babies and running out in the woods with them).

I really have no final point to this post, I’m just playing around with it in my head and figured I’d share some of my thoughts with you.

What do you think?

Can you extract some wisdom from this fairy-tale? 🙂

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  1. I love that tale! I’m going to have to look it up.

    My daughter is now 17, and graduated from high school.

    When she was your daughter’s age, I encouraged the «stronger» Disney princesses. We couldn’t escape the phase entirely, but:

    Jasmine talking about choosing her own husband and «I’m not a prize to be won!»

    Mulan – dressing as a man to save her father, learning to fight, but in the end, it’s her intelligence and cunning that win the day.

    Belle’s love of books and refusal to be won over by the charming jerk and look past the service.

    And now there’s Merida who is pretty great.

    Nala in the Lion King – Going far afield to hunt for her pride, kicking some sense into Simba, etc.

    My daughter says the princess in the Frog Prince is good because she has and follows a dream of creating her own business, and even if she does end up getting derailed and living as a frog. (not sure how I feel on that one).

    We did a LOT of Mulan.

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