Staff Opinion: Life is a fairy-tale

By Erin Bothwell | March 19, 2018 1:14pm

Erin Bothwell
by Brennan Robinson / The Beacon

You know how it goes: the prince rescues/marries the princess, the villain is defeated, the kingdom saved. 

We’re familiar with the concepts of fairy tale weddings, of living happily ever after. When we talk about fairy tales, we often don’t think about how we live them in moments absent of poofy white dresses, tall cakes or ceremony. But matrimony isn’t the whole story. Marriage isn’t the fairy tale. Life is the fairy tale. Fairy tales are all around us. 

We remember the glory of fairy tales and forget the mundane. We condense. We montage. Mourning, hard work and suffering become short sequences, things our characters get over or done with, so the audience won’t get bored. And consequently, we forget we live in a fairy tale because we fast-forward through the parts of the stories we can actually relate to. 

It’s easy to overlook the unsanitized tales Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm or Andrew Lang once recorded, as we’re familiar with childhood depictions of the old stories. 

In literature, the stepsisters’ eyes are pecked out by birds, the prince sexually assaults Sleeping Beauty (and his mother is a literal ogre), Bluebeard hides bodies in a closet, the little match girl dies. 

It’s easy to focus on the bright beginning of a story and skip over or edit the sinister end. But the ending is part of the story too. And certainly the middle parts can’t be forgotten either. 

We can edit and redact stories to make them more digestible, less acidic. But editing doesn’t dilute from the truth. Sometimes the heroine gets hurt, sometimes she dies. Sometimes the prince turns out to be a mega-jerk. Sometimes the witch has a relatively valid reason for casting her curse. Sometimes I inadvertently describe the entire plot of Into the Woods

Our lives are fairy tales — magical, full of suspense, drama, death, new life, secrets, late nights, sunsets, goodbyes, lost shoes, dirt, wishes, tears and heartbreak. And like the stories we’re so familiar with, monsters exist, people wear masks to disguise themselves, mad kings govern and fall in disgrace. But life is a still a fairy tale (albeit not always a happy one), if you know how to read it right. 

Erin Bothwell is a senior Communication Studies major. She can be reached at