I have often been bothered by the fact that a majority of fairy tale stories end with the wedding day – a couple who are about to spend the rest of their days living happily ever after. No sickness, no miscommunication, no kids, no stress. Just a simple little phrase to carry them till the end of their days.
But then I saw the recent musical-turned-blockbuster-film “Into The Woods”.
It’s been a couple of weeks now since I’ve seen the film and much of my previous conception of fairy tales and storybooks that I have grown up hearing and seeing were turned on their heads. One scene in particular stood out to me when Prince Charming (who had just recently married Cinderella), and the Baker’s Wife, have a
“moment” in the woods. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. I was afraid I was going to have to cover my eyes, begging the characters on screen to not go through with it. It ended up not being as bad as I first imagined, but I think I was so shocked not because of how the scene played out, but the fact that it even existed! I never would have imagined Prince Charming drifting from his happily ever after! How could he?!?!? Not only is he a charming prince, but he is the epitome of charming! It’s his name for crying out loud!!! It’s not rocket science folks; it’s a fairy tale! We all know Prince Charming lives happily ever after with Cinderella. Period. End of story. There is no such thing as drifting, or taking a glance, or wishing for something better. It just wouldn’t happen.
After a few minutes, I calmed myself down, the scene ended, and the movie went on. The movie finished, my life resumed, no big deal.
And then it hit me (yeah it happens a lot..)
I had been programmed to expect, enjoy, and assume that fairy tales always end in happily ever after. I know it’s not reality, but wasn’t that the point? To be able to imagine a world where happily ever after was actually possible? And then somehow turn off the switch like I turn off my television and resume living in the real world, where it is a known fact that happily ever after is a lie. What if we changed our fairy tales to make them more like real life? That way we wouldn’t have to turn a switch at all, and then these heroes and heroines could actually be role models.
Hence my discovery which I have labeled as “The Prince Charming Delusion”. The delusion is that Prince Charming is perfect, and the discovery is that I have bought into the delusion that Prince Charming is perfect 🙂
How can I be so sure that I was deluded? Perhaps you should re-read the first part of this blog post again. I was dumbfounded that Prince Charming had a “moment” in the woods with someone who was married to someone else right after he himself just got married!
So like any good music lover, I broke down and bought the soundtrack to this film and listened to it over and over again.
Perhaps I became desensitized.
I think it is more likely however that my eyes were opened to the discovery of this delusion.
After her moment in the woods, the Baker’s Wife sings a solo entitled (you guessed it), “Moments In The Woods”. I really think this is one of the best songs in the film. Why? Because it’s raw. It’s real. It’s genuine. In a nutshell, it’s the real deal.
The Baker’s Wife had it all – a caring husband who loved her, a blessing of a child after years of infertility, job security in the business her and her husband owned, a roof over her head, warmth and shelter from the cold, and someone to hold her at night. Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like a dream come true! And yet despite all of the blessings the Baker’s Wife had, she found herself struggling emotionally and physically when she stumbled upon Prince Charming alone in the woods. Suddenly, she realized the grass just might be greener on the other side, and she wanted to experience it for herself. In one single moment, the life she had been content with before was no longer enough.
The Baker’s Wife struggled, was tempted, gave in, recognized her error, repented from her ways, and ultimately chose to live life in the real world with her husband and child, instead of riding off into the sunset with the Prince. The same cannot be said for the Prince however. The movie doesn’t go into detail about the Prince’s reaction to this “moment” after it was over, but you also don’t see much of him after it either. He doesn’t have a solo rendition of his views of the “moment in the woods”. There is no reflection, and no repentance on his part. For all I know, Prince Charming waltzed away from this moment, and no doubt made himself “charming” to another enamored passerby in the woods. Suddenly, Prince Charming doesn’t seem to be so charming after all.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not perfect. After getting over the initial shock of a less-than-perfect encounter in the woods, I was relieved to find that characters in fairy tales are not perfect either, and make much of the same mistakes I do. In the words of the Baker’s Wife in her song “Moments In The Woods”:
Back to life, back to sense
Back to child, back to husband
You can’t live in the woods.
There are vows, there are ties,
There are needs, there are standards
There are shouldn’ts and shoulds.
Today, our culture is telling us we can enjoy our grass and the greener grass on the other side too. That feelings must come above morals, and that somehow this is going to make us happy. Yet why do our statistics show an increase in depression and a decrease in the overall happiness we feel in this life?
The Baker’s Wife may not have lived the quintessential happily ever after life we envisioned for her, but I think with her dying breath she could say with pride she lived happily ever after despite her shortcomings. Because she chose the path that took her home to where she was meant to be. She could have followed her heart and run away with the Prince, but she chose to repent of her wrongdoing, and go back to live in the real world with all of its beauty and blessings; all of its shame and ugliness.
The Baker’s Wife chose to live life – in all of its fulness. And that folks, is a life truly lived happily ever after.