{Guest Post/Giveaway] THE FAIRY TALE PRINCESS YOU DON'T WANT TO BE by author Sarah Cross

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Sarah Cross is the author of the fairy tale novel KILL ME SOFTLY, the superhero novel DULL BOY, and the Wolverine comic "The Adamantium Diaries." She loves fairy tales, lowbrow art, secret identities, and silence. 

If you want to know more about her, read one of her books. Her soul is in there somewhere. 

Current art inspirations & obsessions can be found at tumblr, Fairy Tale Mood, or pinterest.

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by Sarah Cross

Sparkly dresses, cute animal sidekicks, love at first sight, and of course, happily ever after―that's the fantasy of being a fairy tale princess. But in fairy tales, the life of a princess is not all chipmunks and rainbows; it can be downright dark and disturbing. 

“Snow White” 

– You probably know the story: By age seven, Snow White is, according to her stepmom's magic mirror, the fairest of them all. The stepmom/queen decides Snow White must die and orders the Huntsman to kill her, but the Huntsman can't bring himself to do it; he lets Snow White escape into the woods, where he figures she'll be eaten by wild beasts. But Snow White survives, finds the seven dwarfs' cottage, and becomes their housekeeper in exchange for room and board. Eventually, the queen discovers Snow White is still alive (and still the fairest!) so she disguises herself as a peddler and tries to kill Snow White three times: first with stay laces that suffocate her, next with a poison comb, and finally with a poison apple. The dwarfs save Snow White from her first two “deaths,” but once Snow White takes a bite of poison apple, it seems like she's really, truly dead. The dwarfs put her mysteriously not-rotting body in a glass coffin and display it, because they can't bear to bury her.

Now we get to the prince―and this is where the fairy tale differs from most adaptations. In the fairy tale, there's no true-love's-kiss moment; the prince doesn't revive Snow White, he doesn't do anything except barter for her dead body. The prince sees Snow White in her coffin and tells the dwarfs, “I must have her. I'll pay you anything.” The dwarfs don't want to sell Snow White, but when the prince asks if they'll just give him the corpse, they relent and say sure, why not, we feel bad saying no to you. Later, when the prince's servants are carrying the coffin back to his palace, one of the servants stumbles and the jolt causes the poison apple to come loose from Snow White's throat, at which point she wakes up and wonders, “Where am I?” And the prince tells her, “You're with me. I love you. Let's get married.” And they do.

Checklist: left in woods to be eaten by wild beasts, suffocated, poisoned (x2), corpse donated to admirer, marriage to necrophiliac 

“The Maiden with the Rose on her Forehead” 

– This unnamed princess with the rose on her forehead is born while her mother (also a princess) is living in her brother's rose garden. The mother has no idea how she got pregnant (“Where did this baby come from? I swear I've just been hanging out in this rose garden!”), and when it comes time to send her daughter to school, mom is so distressed by her kid's existence, she tells her not to draw attention to herself or she will kill her. Yes, kill her. You get the impression this is a reminder the princess hears every day, like, “don't forget your house key,” except it's a death threat. The princess is really diligent about following her mother's rules―she doesn't speak at school, she keeps her head down and the rose on her forehead covered―but one day the other kids are eating cherries and tossing them around and a cherry gets stuck in her hair. Mom finds it while she's combing the girl's hair and says, “Looks like you made yourself known, what did I tell you about doing that?” And then she kills her with the comb, and puts the princess's body in an iron chest and locks it up in a room. Oh, and then she dies from remorse. Of course, before her death, she gives her brother (the prince) the key to the room, but tells him, “Don't open it!” Because that's what you do when you give someone a key in fairy tales.

The prince actually respects his sister's wishes, but one day while he's out, his wife and mother-in-law go into the forbidden room, open the chest, and find the little princess working on some embroidery … alive now, apparently. The prince's wife is so jealous of the princess's beauty that, instead of asking, “Who are you? What are you doing in this chest?” she takes a hot iron and burns the girl until all her skin is scorched, then passes her off as a servant. The prince, who is the girl's uncle but doesn't know it, is curious about the girl, and one night he hides under her bed while she tells her sad life story to a talisman. The prince realizes she's his niece, leaves his hiding spot and tells her: “No more abuse for you! Not on my watch!” and lets her pick her tormenter's punishment. The princess opts for an eye for an eye approach, and the prince has his wife and mother-in-law burned with the same hot iron they used on the princess, then has them both sealed inside a wall.

Checklist: daily death threats from abusive mom, killed by comb, locked in chest, burned all over with a hot iron and given chores instead of medical treatment 

Nameless princess from “King Thrushbeard” 

– Basically, what you have here is a princess who doesn't want to get married. She finds fault with all of her suitors―too tall, too short, too pale―and rejects the titular King Thrushbeard (that's the princess's nickname for him) because his beard is weird. The princess's father is so exasperated with his daughter that he decides he'll marry her to the next beggar to come to his door. And Thrushbeard, determined to have the last laugh, shaves off his beard, disguises himself as a poor minstrel, and shows up at the palace with his “will strum lute for food” sign, at which point the princess's father calls for a priest, forces his daughter to marry the minstrel right then and there, and kicks her out of the palace so she can live as a pauper with her new husband.

Minstrel Thrushbeard then sets about humbling his bride by moving her into a hut and putting her to work spinning, weaving baskets, and selling pottery. She's terrible at everything except selling pottery (people buy from her because she's beautiful), but the point isn't to teach her a useful skill, it's to humiliate her, so Thrushbeard disguises himself as a drunken horseman and breaks all the pots by riding his horse over them. Next Thrushbeard sends the princess to work as a kitchen maid in his own palace―not even for pay, just in exchange for kitchen scraps―so she can be reminded of the huge mistake she made in spurning King Thrushbeard. It isn't until the princess is publicly ridiculed by everyone in the palace that King Thrushbeard (dressed as himself, finally) reveals that he's the minstrel who married her, so yeah, she's his queen, and: “Don't be upset, I had to punish you because I love you. You didn't want to marry me before, but now that I've broken you down, you're totally fine with it, see? So my plan worked. Here, have some presents.”

Checklist: vindictive dad, suitor who can't take “no” for an answer, humiliated by self-righteous husband (x1000), still has to marry that guy with the ugly beard, only now she knows he's a total d***

Want some more? See also: “Donkey Skin,” “Sun, Moon, and Talia,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Wild Swans,” “The Tinderbox.” And if you want to see the dark side of fairy tales in a modern retelling, you could always read my book KILL ME SOFTLY...

Sarah, I could sit here and read posts from you all day long.  In fact, I really feel like re-reading KILL ME SOFTLY right now...!
Thank you so much for stopping by for Fairy Tale Fortnight!


Sarah Cross is giving away one audiobook of KILL ME SOFTLY, read by Kim Mai Guest!

Please make sure you've also filled out the Giveaway Registration Form
we're using during the event for all winners!

Open to US/CA citizens at least 13 years old.

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  1. I think if we are honest the answer to "fairy tale princess you don't want to be" should probably be "all of them." There's always something creepy and weird going on!

  2. This post was amazing, I never knew Prince Charming was a necrophiliac. Makes sense though. Kill Me Softly sounds great, I really enjoyed Dull Boy a few years ago.


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