When I was little, I always wanted to be a fairy-tale prince. I wanted to ride up and rescue a princess who would fall in love with me forever. I wanted mermaids to trade their legs for my love. I wanted to fall from towers into thorny bushes just to have a beautiful maiden heal my eyes with her tears and love for me. I wanted rain-drenched princesses turning up at my door and finding peas hidden under their mattresses. But, it turned out I was actually a girl and most princes are boys, real-life women don’t really want to be rescued, and I’ve always been scared of horses; so that all of that kind of foiled my plans.
Despite not officially being a prince, over the years I’ve crossed romantic paths with many princesses. Some have been real fairy-tale showcases: a complete princess, far too special to treat me as her equal; or a regal ice-queen, far too broken and distant to show her love and affection; or a mermaid with no tongue, just really long legs and nothing to say. And rather than just being the ever-loving prince, I’ve played out my different roles too. I’ve been the villain, saying all the wrong things and making my princess cry; or the jealous, plotting witch, wanting to lock my princess up in an ivory tower and keep her all to myself, scared of her letting her hair down and having fun; and I’ve been the hapless princess, needing to be rescued but defiantly struggling to do it all by myself.
The trouble, I suppose, was the idealism of it all: the triumphant rescuing, the brilliant sunshine of the happy-ever-after, the exquisite sadness when it didn’t quite work out as it had been foretold, and the general madness of modelling real-life on fairy tales. So now I write and create my own stories to live by. My tales aren’t always wild adventures, there’s no promise of a happy ever after, and no magical and instant dream come true. There’s just life where people have to deal with that, move on and let stuff go, or carry the burden and baggage with them. In my tales, people make their own magic.
As for the fairy tale of true love, I’m still working on that. I want to believe true love is out there and one day we’ll find each other and manage a shared happiness, loving and honouring each other with our minds, bodies and souls, but then again I’ve yet to imagine that plot-ending fully. In fact I’ve had many true loves. I’ve truly loved them when I said I did, it’s just we all change. So, I think the best we can do is adore each princess when we have them and wish them a happy ever-after when we split.
In the meantime, I’m working out new plots and writing each page as I go along, with me as the protagonist. Sometimes I’m the prince, sometimes the wicked queen, and often just a changeling beastie. I’m writing and creating new stories that explore equality and nurturing, honest communication and a re-imagining of the dualistic archetypes of traditional Western folk-lore. Some of my tales draw on the horror and shockingly bad behaviour we’re used to in fairy tales, some show how we can create different endings by thoughtfully making our own decisions, and some of my tales are just pure fantasy and fun to make us laugh and smile.