I’ve been writing about happily ever after a lot lately—questioning its validity, holding it up to a modern lens—and it got me thinking…
What is happily ever after in a fairy tale sense? I can’t speak to everyone’s needs and feelings, but I know what it would take for me to consider any popular fairy tale a happy ending. The women must have choices.
Sleeping Beauty: After thanking the prince for his helpful, yet impulsive act, Aurora (in the original she doesn’t have a name, so I opted for the Disney name) takes control of her kingdom and institutes a constitutional monarchy knowing that consent is the first rule of any society. She and the prince remain friends and allies.
Snow White: Her time in suspended animation gives Snow time to think about her plight and that of her stepmother’s. She doesn’t forgive her for the cruel and heartless acts committed against her, she understands that in their world, a woman’s beauty is everything. Prince Charming revives her and asks for her hand in marriage, but she asks for a place with the palace scholars to ensure she has other options. Snow White becomes an advisor to Aurora.
Cinderella: On the ride back to the castle, Cinderella asks the prince if they can take it slow and get to know each other better. She agrees to live in a separate wing in the castle and be formally courted. During that time, she works on converting the rooms for other young ladies who find themselves at a loose end after being released from slavery.
Rapunzel: Wandering the world with twins strapped the her back makes Rapunzel think up new and inventive ways to make her life easier. When she finally finds the prince (and cures his eyesight), she’s able to take all the innovations she’s created and make them accessible to other mothers in the kingdom.
Rumpelstiltskin: Solving the riddle of the little imp’s name that wanted to steal her child was just another instance of someone trying to control her. She sues her husband, the king, for custody of their child and a divorce (with her new skills finding information the king doesn’t want exposed) and opens her own private investigative service specializing in fairy affairs.
The Little Mermaid: You’ve got me there! She had no good choices and happily ever after just wasn’t an option.
Beauty & the Beast: After Belle saves the beast (a nice change to the genre norm), she realizes she can’t go home, but can’t stay with the beast who kept her on pain of killing her father. Instead, she decides striking out on her own can’t be any more frightening than living with a monster. Her gardens are the envy of all, although no one can begrudge her its beauty because of her generosity. Her roses are world-renowned.
I’m sure there are other ways to make these stories tailored to anyone’s version of happily ever after. Cinderella could start her own house cleaning service. Snow White might start a gem consortium with the dwarves. Or maybe a twist ending—The Mermaid takes over for the sea witch, for example. Or the ladies could stay with their princes, but on more equal footing. Just so long as they chose their endings.
What about you?
Have you considered defining what happily ever after looks like in your favorite fairy tale?