Happily Ever After – Fairy Tales and Religion

You may not agree with me, but I really don’t like the movie “Pretty Woman.”  I can watch Richard Gere do almost anything, but trying to pass off Julia Roberts as a prostitute and Richard Gere as someone who needs to hire one was unconvincing and ridiculous.  What is offensive about “Pretty Woman” is perpetrating the mythology of women in need of a rescuer.  There are times when all human beings need or desire a rescue, but that is not exclusively experienced by women.

In The Witch Must Die: How Fairy Tales Shape Our Lives, Sheldon Cashdan tells better stories like “The Adroit Princess” (p.144-8) who saves herself and her sisters from an evil prince while her father is away at the Crusades.  There’s also (my favorite), “The Princess Who Stood on Her Own Two Feet.”  She had a talking dog and was tall and smart.  She tried to dumb it down for her intended prince by not talking and sitting down a lot so he wouldn’t be intimidated by her height, which he was.

The Princess eventually punted the dolt to the chagrin of her parents who gave her a condescending lecture about her duty as a princess.  She said, “I have other duties: a princess says what she thinks.  A princess stands on her own two feet.  A princess stands tall.  And she does not betray those who love her.”  I wish I had heard her story when I was growing up.

Fairy tales didn’t become children’s literature until the 19th century and have evolved to offer the “power to help children deal with internal conflicts they face in the course of growing up,”  said Cashdan (p.10).  Charles Perrault (1628-1703) is credited with establishing the moral of the story and highlighting the good versus evil struggle when he wrote down and edited oral tales.  However, women had already been taking folk tales and infusing magic to create fairy tales in France during Perrault’s time.  According to Jack Zipes in The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales (p.xxii) female writers established the genre.  I bring all of this to your attention not as a bedtime story to lull you to sleep, but to provide context and to suggest what fairy tales and religion have in common.

Cashdan asserts, convincingly, that fairy tales address common fears of children.  In danger or crisis, it’s natural for children to look for a rescuer.  And that’s why I believe this rescue mentality, when applied to religion, is a juvenile interpretation of god.  Many religions apply a parental analogy to help practitioners in how they view their religious leaders, or their god(s), especially in looking for rescue from hardship.  It is understandable, but it is limiting.

In the United States we talk about “fundamentalists” by which we mean Christians who have a fundamental interpretation of their religion and read much of the Bible literally.  And no matter what they tell you, they do not ever take all of it literally or as a verbatim instruction book.  For example, the “Song of Solomon” is an “Old Testament” book that is romantic and erotic poetry.  Not surprisingly, it doesn’t get quoted much.  In book seven, verse 11 (NAS) it says: ‘Come my beloved, let us go out into the country.  Let us spend the night in the villages…There I will give you my love.’  I am not aware of any group of Fundies recommending we all go out in the country and have sex, or even that God is telling us to have sex outside.  That is a juvenile and erroneous interpretation of text.  Abstracting passages from their context and applying a literal interpretation is how Fundamentalist Christians are abusing the Bible to justify gay-bashing.  It’s childish bullying.  Here’s what Jesus said about homosexuality: NOTHING.  The link below is a Huffington Post column that goes into greater detail.


I posted a CNN story on my Web site (www.allthingsreligiousonline.com) about a North Carolina “pastor” who sermonized on how to “get rid of gays.”  I watched the YouTube video of only part of his sermon because I couldn’t stomach the whole thing.  That his brand of vitriol and ignorance is connected to any religion is appalling.

Last night “Modern Family” had an episode with the gay couple trying to adopt a second child and being disappointed.  Yes, I know it’s fiction, but there are terrific real life gay couples like them.  There are probably some dysfunctional ones, too, but being straight doesn’t prevent bad parenting.  So how about the religious fanatics quit bitching about abortion and gay marriage and get all the already born unwanted children adopted to the gay couples that want them?  And while we’re at it, how about the Roman Catholic Church start ordaining women to address the shortage of priests?  Women in the priesthood would start to breakdown the Good Ol’ Boys’ Club that’s been protecting sexual predators.  In my fairy tales, there would be justice and common sense, heroes and heroines, and protagonists solving problems for ourselves so that we all live happily ever after – not just princes, princesses, the wealthy or the religious.  That would be heaven on earth, and we wouldn’t need to be rescued from it, or each other.  –J.B

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  • Robin Smith  On May 24, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Good again – I hear echoes of John Lennon in this one.

    • allthingsreligious  On May 25, 2012 at 6:40 am

      I actually hadn’t thought at all about John Lennon, but I see your point. I was really just imagining the kind of fairy tales I would really like to hear. Thanks for reading, Robin. -J.B.

  • womanwhorunswiththegoats  On May 24, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    I miss you already! Wish we could go hang and drink margaritas together. You make me want to write… and to write better and more often. Maybe I feel a blog post brewing. One of my favorites to read to my kids back in the day was “The Paperbag Princess” by Robert Munsch. The princess slays the dragon and rescues the prince, but he isn’t happy with her attire (a paperbag because the dragon wrecked her outfit). She remains undaunted and independent, and they do not live happily ever after. Check it out.

    • allthingsreligious  On May 25, 2012 at 6:41 am

      Off to work for now, but I’m going to check my library for that one. It sounds good. And yes, I wish we were close enough for margaritas. Talk to you soon! Thanks for reading! Blog is nearly at 4,000 now! -J.B.

  • ligh4043  On May 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    This is a very intelligent blog. In my own weekly blog I focus on eastern philosophies as a spiritual answer.
    I believe the greatest and most truthful answers lie in understanding our own minds, not in some book or bible

    • allthingsreligious  On June 4, 2012 at 11:31 am

      I’m glad you found my humble blog and appreciate you taking the time to read it. All the best to you on your quest. I will take a look at your blog, as well. -J.B.

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