By Vidhi Maingi Gaur Feb. 09, 2018
The Disney Princess trope has long been bashed as reductive and anti-feminist, but here are some fairy-tale heroines who are just as #fierce as Beyoncé.
In an age of Krrish, Chota Bheem, and Frozen, I wouldn’t blame parents who feel that fairy tales are outdated modes of entertaining kids. After all, why would stories written in the days of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen be relevant for today’s children? It’s easier to outsource the storytelling to the tablet, phone, or TV. But some classic fairy tales still pack a punch in 2018, especially in a post-#MeToo world. The Disney Princess trope has long been bashed as reductive and anti-feminist, but here are some folk-tale heroines who are just as #fierce as Beyoncé.
Red Riding Hood
Dear little ones, the big bad wolves exist in real life. They may not have sharp teeth, furry pelts, or clawed paws, but they are on the prowl. No wonder, most mothers today insist on teaching their children about good touch, bad touch, stranger danger, or dialling 100. There may come a day, when you’re alone. And in a situation.
So, what do you do? All that Little Red Riding Hood did. She used her common sense. She noticed the wolf in grandma’s clothes – noticed his big eyes, his big ears, and his sharp teeth. Her wits were sharp enough to alert her to a dangerous situation, which is important for when the real wolves do come. Just like the fairy tale, getting out takes a little bit of common sense – seeing them for who they are and taking the decisive step.
Dear girls, Cinderella was not just a princess waiting for her prince. She was a survivor. Stuck in her evil stepmother’s house and made to serve her evil stepsisters, all she was expected to do was wait on them hand and foot. In a country like India, where prospective brides are seen as household appliances that will enter the family and take over all the chores, Cinderella is a role model for her optimism.
It’s a timeless Indian tale, where the girl dons the garb of housekeeper with a positive attitude – if not for her saasu maa, then for ghar ki shanti, or pati ka pyaar, or because that’s what she saw her mum do before her. The lesson to learn is not about doing all the chores or hoping for a Prince! She didn’t either. A positive, cheery disposition may not become a magic wand that will make trouble go away. It will, however, serve as a coping mechanism, while you try to find the Midnight Ball experiences on the way.
The Little Mermaid
This Hans Christian Andersen story is one of my favourites to read to my daughter for its easy- to-understand moral: Don’t Shut Up!
The lovely Ariel gave up her home, family, and even her voice – all for the affections of a man she barely knew. Exposed to the pain of “walking on sharp knives with every step” while twirling and dancing like a circus performer for his pleasure. Becoming the embodiment of all that the society expects from a girl – being seen and never heard. And then dying of a broken heart, because he did not think of her as anything more than just a girl.
A voice would have said no. A voice would have argued for her position, revealing that she was his original saviour. Or at least complained about the injustice of it all. And every little girl should learn to never lose hers.
These fairy tales might have been written a long time ago with morals that seem dated, but there’s still something in there to teach your kids if you know where to look. Apart from these ones, there’s learning to never settle from The Princess and the Pea and resourcefulness from Hansel and Gretel.
So let’s make fairy tales great again! Because honestly, I’d rather my daughter grew up idolising Red Riding Hood over Kylie Jenner.
Ideas, connections, and how they’re relevant to people – that’s what makes Vidhi tick. And she does that as a workaholic writer and editor with blogs on higher education, parenting, and the mysteries of life. In her spare time, she becomes a child with her own little one.