Fairy tales are rather hypocritical, don’t you think?
Yes, the world seems to think that they are the best ways to burnish the young, impressionable minds in the contemporary times, but morality in fairy tales is a factor that comes with a rather large list of cons that might persuade anyone to turn over to the dark side. Be it Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel or even Tyrion Lannister from ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series—though he cannot be considered moral in every sense of the word—the protagonists, or the ‘moralists’ are always shown to have been the dealt the short hand in the story.
Take Cinderella for example: ‘would you give the girl a break?!’ is what leaves my mouth every time I watch the movie. Cinderella is blessed with unparalleled beauty and the kindest, noblest of temperaments, but is betrayed by fate when it comes to luck. Not only does she loses her mother at an early age, but also has to deal with an evil stepmother and her two daughters after her father remarries, and later dies. Beautiful Cinderella is now stuck in a hostile household which offers nothing but round the clock abuse and mice and insects for friends (though they were nice mice and insects . . . who talked.)
Snow White’s story is no different. She too loses her mother as an infant and has to suffer at the hands of her stepmother after her father dies, so much so that she escapes the castle she grew up in and takes up house with the seven dwarves. As if that wasn’t enough, her stepmother poisons her with an apple, sending her into a deep slumber which she only comes out of with a kiss.
Let’s talk about someone else here—Tyrion Lannister. Granted, he doesn’t quite fit the conventional moral spectrums of the society with his boorish and promiscuous ways of life, but he does garner more sympathy and admiration the more you look into it. In fact, if there is someone who can rule the magical land of Westeros without pushing it into the crevices of doom and oblivion, it’s him, despite what they say about his ways.
Tyrion Lannister is who you call the laughing stock of the royal family in Westeros. Born as a dwarf, he had to bear the shame of his physical deformity as well the accusation of killing his mother in childbirth his entire life. He was never respected by his father, much less by his peers and siblings—though that, of course, changed as time passed—and was mocked and scorned at for his debauchery around the land. But Tyrion isn’t a character you sympathize with easily—unlike in Cinderella’s and Snow’s cases. He is shrewd, foul mouthed, mischievous, promiscuous, and selfish and blunt in the exact meaning of the words. So why is Tyrion such a favorite when it comes to morality in a series that is riddled with conspiracy and betrayal?
He gives the answer in his own words when he says to Jon Snow:
“Never forget what you are, bastard. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like an armor and it can never be used to hurt you.”
Tyrion’s character is shaped largely by how his family treated him from the start. Fed up of being teased, mocked and treated as the runt of the litter, he sharpens his mind and his tongue and becomes a brilliant and clever diplomat who never runs out of ways to have fun. Tyrion doesn’t give a damn about the world, much so because the world doesn’t give a damn about him, and he knows that.
But his story could have been quite different had he not been what he is: a dwarf. Tyrion’s physical appearance is the prime factor of his hideous treatment by the family. Had he been like his elder brother, Jamie, tall, fair, blond and “pretty”, he could have grown up to become much less than the man he is now. He would have the same luxuries and upbringing as his siblings—without any shadows of discrimination and mockery—and might have turned into a conceited bastard who lived in whorehouses and inns.
People’s way of masking up this major flaw in fairy tales is to classify this deformity in structure as an obstacle. They sing praises of how Cinderella found friends in the mice and the fairy godmother, and how Snow was taken care of by the dwarves. But a juxtaposition of the same stories in real life would render consequences quite different. Cinderella would be probably be kicked out or end up in an orphanage after her father’s death, and Snow White would either seduce the huntsman to survive or die, because survival trumps morals in the real world. Let’s not even talk about the dwarves and the mice and the fairy godmother. Compared to them, Tyrion would probably survive, since you can’t really blame him for being who he is. He was made what he is by his family—one thing I actually am grateful for, because let’s face it, nobody like the Lannisters—and beneath the whoring, drinking and gambling, Tyrion is actually a kind, compassionate, respectful person who has been starved of love, affection and the respect that he so rightfully deserves all his life.
Fairy tales, thus, shape our ‘young, impressionable minds’ in the wrong way. What I gather of fairy tales is that you have to be weak, annoyingly humble, afflicted with some kind of physical hindrance and have to suffer at the hands of your family and the world to emerge as the hero at the end.
Wake up call: the real world rotates the opposite way, dear.
The moral characters of the fairy tales would either be killed, raped or end up as a mafia lord or drug addict in the real world. Call me harsh and pessimistic, but it’s only the truth. Fairy tales are tales in every sense of the word: unless you are Sherlock Holmes or extremely lucky, surviving as part of this increasing horde of humans is hard. It is nothing that a glass slipper or a kiss by Prince Charming—who will most likely be another druggie like you—can fix. The structure of the moral spectrum today has changed by degrees and angles since the eighteen hundreds. Contemporary morality does not constitute being weak and destitute: that’s a notion long forgotten.
Morality in the contemporary world runs more along the lines of being good as long as it is convenient. There are other factors in the equation today—success, survival and most importantly, maintaining your dignity no matter what tactics you employ. You can call it Intelligent Morality, or even Circumstantial Morality. We do not live in the eighteenth century anymore. It is a different world, with different definitions of every word around us, and different ways to go about them.