I’ve been thinking about ambition lately. Wishes, yearnings, desires. It all sounds very intimate. Ambition is all about what we want deep down inside and work toward. We all have them, don’t we?
Here’s where Snow White lost me. After escaping a death sentence because the queen’s servant takes pity on her and finding shelter with the dwarves, she sits back and cleans house.
Cinderella lost me when she discovered her mother’s grave granted wishes asks for a dresses to go to a ball.
The Sleeping Beauty, Briar Rose, barely wakes up and sees her family before they marry her to the who, according to the story, just happened to kiss her when the curse was weakening anyway.
What they all have in common is ambition, or the lack thereof. Princesses (or in the case of Cinderella, aspiring princesses) hardly ever want anything aside from the essential. But given the power they could wield, they choose instead to be martyrs.
Snow White could have easily told her story to the dwarves and at the end asked them to help overthrow her evil stepmother (who, if had resorted to killing children to be called the most beautiful must have been engaging in other nefarious endeavors). Cinderella could have asked for an escape route, money to fend for herself or if you want to get truly dark, a potion to rid herself of the evil women in her house. Briar Rose should have walked away—a hundred years under a spell and I’m sure she wanted to see something of the world before being tied down.
Shouldn’t princesses dream of being queens? Queens seek power, respect (and yes some go the fear route), and to be more than they are. That’s not a bad thing. Ambition is part of human nature. What does that mean for fairy tale princesses?