Fairy Tale Billing Switch

Ever wonder how fairy tales get their titles? Some make perfect sense like Cinderella or Snow White, but how about Jack and the Beanstalk? I understand Jack, but how does the vegetation get higher billing than say, the Giant? Or what about Rumpelstiltskin? He might be pivotal, but the woman (who they didn’t bother to name) has way more lines.

In 7th grade I was enrolled in a performing arts middle school as a vocal music student. That year the drama department had students act out fairy tales. They had to write their own scripts, block movement, etc. It was their end of the year project. My boyfriend at the time was the lead in The Golden Goose. No, he wasn’t the goose, he was the simpleton who, after having read the story myself, seems to be simple only the sense that he was kind enough to share his only food and drink to a stranger after his brothers said no. My post isn’t about acts of kindness, although that could fill pages. It’s about a minor character—the princess.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

After hilarity ensues with people trying to steal the simpleton’s golden goose, he comes to a kingdom where the king has declared that the man who can make his daughter laugh can have her as his wife. Modern feminism aside, the far-fetched notion is typical of fairy tales.

(Keep in mind we’ve accepted a tailor who killed flies can fell a giant, a woman who has been kept in servitude only gets a reprieve when she asks for a dress to dance at a ball, and a small man who spins straw into gold thinks a first born is appropriate compensation for services rendered.)

No, what gets me is the fact that the princess wasn’t laughing until a man trailed by greedy people trying to grab a golden goose fell in front of her. What was going on in the kingdom? Was her home life bad? I assumed all sorts of things considering her father was willing to bargain her away if someone could make her chuckle. What did she suffer from? Personally, I think that’s the more interesting story. If anyone deserves a backstory, it’s the princess from the Golden Goose, a story that gives top billing to the MacGuffin.

Are there any fairy tales you’ve read where you wanted to know more about a secondary character? Do you wonder what kind of life the Giant lived before Jack pilfered his stuff? Why did we follow the spoiled princess who was forced to keep her promise to the frog when faithful Henry, his servant was the one who really loved him?

4 thoughts on “Fairy Tale Billing Switch

    • It’s like that for quite a few stories. They have monikers or descriptors, but not names. On the one hand, it’s tailor-made for re-imaginings, but on the other it almost makes me main character inconsequential. I mean, I still name my plants!

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