Origins


The Legacy of Snow White

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This week, I will be breaking down individual fairy tales, beginning with the fairest of them all. The story of "Snow White" has a complex history, rooted in both reality and mythology. It has become even more complex over the past decade or so, in which the character has been revived as something entirely different in am attempt to make her less of a passive victim and more of a warrior princess.


It is believed that Snow White was inspired by two real women. The first, Margaret von Waldreck, had a stepmother sent her away to Brussels because she hated her. The princess was later discovered to have been poisoned after an illicit love affair with a prince that neither kingdom approved it. The second, Maria Sophia Margarethe Catharina,von Erthal, who was also disliked by her stepmother, lived in a kingdom that produced "talking mirrors," which were essentially very expensive 18th century novelty items. It is believed that her stepmother owned one of them She lived in…

The Legacy of Cinderella

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It's time to talk about everyone's favorite makeover story. Cinderella has been done and redone so many times that she's turned into more of a trope than an actual character. Every time I have dressed up as a princess for Halloween that I thought was at least fairly recognizable someone has asked me if I was supposed to be Cinderella. It never fails. I've been asked it as Belle, Ariel, Princess Peach, and more. She is by far the most common character to pop into anyone's head when they think of the word "princess." With Disney's 2015 remake and the the recent Broadway revival, that is unlikely to stop any time soon.


What is it, exactly, that makes Cinderella such a timeless character? The story goes so far back through so many cultures that no one actually knows where or when it began. The most famous version is the one by Charles Perrault, which incorporates the fairy godmother, pumpkin, mice, and glass slippers that have become so iconic of the stor…

The Legacy of The Little Mermaid

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Today I'm going to tell you about my favorite fairy tale, "The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Andersen. The history of this princess tale is quite different from Snow White and Cinderella. Instead of being passed down verbally for generations before getting transcribed, "The Little Mermaid" was an original story that Hans wrote about unrequited love based on his own tragic experiences with romance. It was inspired by the story of the Undine by Baron Fouqué, about a mythological water nymph who must marry a human to obtain a soul, but will die if the human is unfaithful. The story's impact on modern media is less obvious than the two aforementioned princesses. Though it had fewer direct adaptations, it inspired many films and TV shows about mermaids who either fell in love with humans or had the ability to transform into a human. In Denmark sits the statue of the mermaid herself, permanently caught between two forms and two worlds.


The most famous version…

The Legacy of Beauty and the Beast

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It's a tale as old as time. "Beauty and the Beast," the story that teaches us to find the beauty within, is next in this week's series of fairy tale princess breakdowns. The most famous version of this story is the one by Charles Perrault. Countless adaptations have been made, some more loosely inspired than others. Several of them, including this lovely 1984 feature by Don Bluth, never got to see the light of day. Not everyone can learn to love a beast.


The beast marks one of  very few flawed princes in fairy tale history. He was not a nameless savior like the prince in Snow White or Cinderella's tales. Instead, he was aggressive, dark, and self-pitying. Likewise, Beauty was not a passive heroine. She willingly gave herself up to the beast to save her father. Some people argue that her romance was a result of Stockholm Syndrome, but in all versions of the story, the beast gives her an opportunity to leave him, and she always returns to save his life in an act th…

The Legacy of Swan Lake

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Today's fairy tale breakdown is one that you might not expect. "Swan Lake" was a ballet composed by Tchaikovsky in 1875. The ballet's popularity in recent years inspired several movies, including The Swan PrincessBlack Swan, and one of the first Barbie movies. Perhaps it was Tchaikovsky's haunting score that made the story so irresistible or perhaps it was the classic princess elements, such as the magical transformation, like in "Cinderella" or the tragic betrayal of true love, like in "The Little Mermaid." Whatever it is, the ballet has become a favorite among princess fans for over a century.


Little is known about origins of the story. Two popular theories are the Russian fable, "The White Duck," and the German fairy tale, "The Stolen Veil." These only vaguely resemble the tale of Princess Odette, though. If any bird that turns into a princess inspired "Swan Lake," you can just as easily argue that the anime P…

The Legacy of The Frog Prince

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We all know the story of a spoiled princess who rewarded a frog for returning her golden ball by then throwing him against the wall in a fit of rage. Or do we? The Brothers Grimm tale known as "The Frog King" has gone through so many iterations over the years that while many are familiar with the story, few are aware of its roots. It is commonly believed that the frog's curse was broken with a kiss from a beautiful princess, but the Grimm version is a great deal darker. The princess was so disgusted by the frog that she threw across the room, when he transformed into something more appealing to her. The version of the story with the kiss is believed to be a later development inspired by Edgar Taylor's translation, which made the princess begin to care for the frog over the course of the story. The best adaptation of this was the one by Jim Henson in 1971, featuring Kermit the Frog and his nephew Robin.


In the Muppet version of "The Frog Prince," Princess Me…

The Legacy of Rapunzel

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Picture a maiden with impossibly long hair trapped in a tower. What story comes to mind? Rapunzel has been a memorable icon among princess tales long before Disney got their hands on it in 2010. She is the quintessential fairy tale damsel in distress. That's not to say she was always helpless. In fact, in the Brothers Grimm adaptation, Rapunzel asks the prince to bring her silken skeins that she sews together to create a ladder so she can escape the tower herself, so she was actually more active in solving her own problems than Cinderella and Snow White. Let's get real, though. It's that amazing hair that's held our interest for all those centuries. Who hasn't dreamed of growing their hair insanely long, despite all the upkeep it would inevitably require?


Though Rapunzel became a princess through marriage, she did not start out that way. Her family's social status was unmentioned, but it was likely that they were peasants because her father needed to steal food…

Princess Fashion

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I've been seeing several viral posts recently about historical fashion lately. One was a gallery of women's fashion every year from 1784 to 1970, and another was a video re-enactment of how women got dressed in the 18th century. These got me thinking about some of my favorite princess fashions. Though princesses are not known to be historically accurate, their fashions drew inspiration from many different places, and history is one of them. If you take a look at the way fashion has evolved over time, you can get an idea of which parts inspired the princess movies and which parts were altered.


Something that surprised me in the re-enactment was how many pieces were assembled on a woman to give the appearance of a single dress. Today, most dresses are a single piece, but historically, gowns consisted of a corset bodice and a large skirt with a crinoline underneath. This was something I also noticed about Disney's theme park princesses. Though they look like one dress when yo…

Everything Wrong With Frozen

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In 1845, Hans Christian Andersen wrote a story called "The Snow Queen" about a girl named Gerda who bravely journeyed through many dangerous lands to rescue her friend Kay, who was possessed by a cursed mirror and seduced by the beauty of a wicked queen. In 2013, Disney released a movie that had absolutely nothing to do with any of that. I go back and forth between hating Frozen and thinking it was just okay. The more hype it gets, the angrier I become. When people ask me why, I get tired of going into the same explanation again and again because it's long and complicated. That's why I'm writing this post.


Most of what I knew about Frozen before seeing it in theaters came from the D23 Expo in summer 2013. I went to several panels where I saw the early footage and listened to the filmmakers discuss their progress. At the time, I was very excited about it. Olaf's song was hilarious, and Elsa's disapproval of Anna's engagement to Hans seemed like an inte…

Princesses in Tír Na nÓg

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Tír Na nÓg is a land of eternal youth that originates from Celtic mythology. It is often associated with faeries because they are also common in Celtic myths. The most common story of Tír Na nÓg is about a beautiful woman named Niamh who fell in love with Oisín, the son of the leader of the Fianna clan on Earth. She took him back to her homeland of Tír Na nÓg where no one ever aged. They lived happily together there for three years. One day, he decided that he missed his family and wanted to visit them. Niamh sent him back to Earth on her enchanted white horse, but warned him never to touch the ground. Upon returning home, Oisín realized that 300 years had passed on Earth during the short time he spent in Tír Na nÓg, and everyone he loved was dead. When he inevitably touched the ground by accident, the 300 years caught up with his body, and he died of old age. This myth has rarely been touched upon by modern media, but the land of Tír Na nÓg occasionally does appear in fantasy stories…

The Legacy of The Nutcracker

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Season's Greetings, princess fans! I hope you're all having a lovely holiday season this Christmas Eve no matter what you may celebrate. The most common princess story that takes place during this time of year is that of "The Nutcracker." Since it is so time appropriate, Disney has just released the first trailer for their upcoming live-action movie based on the tale, even though the movie itself isn't coming out for almost a year, with a release date of November 2, 2018. This trailer marks the first live-action movie that Disney had released in quite some time that isn't based off a previously animated film by them. They make this glaringly obvious by featuring logos of some of their more recent live-action remakes in the trailer itself. This is a significant revelation because it shows that they are taking the live-action medium more seriously for future original fairy tale movies that are not remakes. In some ways, this is sad because it does mitigate the …

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