That dude in the Princess and the Pea sure knows how to pick ’em. A woman so delicate she somehow manages to be bruised by a pea hidden under a ridiculous amount of mattresses -might- not be marriage material. But hey, if he likes a woman that will undoubtedly shatter like glass when he tries to hug her, I guess that’s his call.

It has got to be a difficult life for that poor woman.

I don’t really do a lot of fairy tale (not folklore) comics and I’ll tell you why: I largely dislike the messages they convey. There’s a great deal of imagination there and whimsy for a lifetime, but the way that the morals are imparted (not to mention some of the morals themselves) is a little difficult for me to deal with. A large amount of fairy tale literature deals with themes and characters I find fairly annoying, particularly royalty and royal figures and the stories often haven’t got much good to say about women.

While mythology may not be the most enlightened area with regards to gender roles and the like, I’ve found fairy tales to be much more offensive in a number of ways. While their male characters may not be the most fully developed figures in literature, their female characters almost always fall into a few basic stereotypes. You’ve got your princesses, your queens, your peasant girls or wives, and, of course, your witches. Not only that, but these characters only have a few basic personality types as well! Either the woman is kind but meek and (most importantly in the story) beautiful, or she’s willful with a crooked disposition (which usually results in terrible things happening to her). Having read a fair amount of fairy tales, I can almost count on one hand the number of good, strong female characters I’ve come across within them. The sad bit is that, even for these few great heroines, the outcome of their story is usually just to be married to some dude. What a reward!

Of course, that was life back in the day. Women weren’t expected to live up to their enormous potential or they were, at best, expected to live up to the potential that patriarchal societies set for them. You were to be a good wife, a fertile mother, and (if you were lucky) a good-looking lass and that was it. In the vast majority of cultures since the advent of male dominated societies, women were not expected to take jobs, earn money, or have adventures. It was so unexpected that people didn’t even imagine it or come up with stories that might contain such things. Even in fiction, these roles were reserved primarily for men.

So if that’s just how it was, why get upset over it? Nobody really needs to go on a crusade nowadays, but it’s important to note the effect stories have on culture. Many children (boys and girls) were read fairy tale stories at very young ages and these tales help them to understand their role in society, even if the concepts presented are fairly archaic. While TV has largely replaced storytelling as the entertainment media of choice for all ages in Western countries, fairy tales are still told around the world or become part of modern media. It’s sad to think about all the children through history that have been influenced into thinking the beautiful princess was the only character to idolize in their stories simply because they didn’t have any other options.

When you’re presented with willful women that turn out to be witches or passive female characters that get to marry royalty, it isn’t really surprising.

That said, it’s still possible to read and appreciate fairy tales for what they are, just not with this particular issue. Thankfully, we live in a time where gender equality in fiction is -starting- to shift. Even Disney movies are trying to give young girls proper role models, though they aren’t always perfect.

Personally, I’m just glad ladies have a little more freedom nowadays. If all you’ve got available to you is witch or passive wife, you -know- some people are going to become witches.

And I’m afraid we just don’t have enough babies to feed all the witches we’d have in the world thanks to that choice.

Note: I am joking about goofy story-witches, NOT modern wiccan witches. (Before people start commenting on THAT haha)