Sleeping Beauty, or How to Lose Your Fashion Blog

Once upon a time, there was a king and queen who wanted a child, ever so much. But they knew that raising a child meant work, so they began to prepare. They read books on child-rearing, they baby-proofed the castle, and they spent hours talking about names, immunizations, breastfeeding, and cloth diapers verses disposables.
And just as babies do, this baby came, and it was a girl. They called her Francesca, or Frankie, for short. The king and queen began to organize the child’s christening, and the king was put in charge of the guest list. Now, in the king’s defence, he put thought and care into that list. He had names on coloured stickies all over the royal study, and he gathered those names into a master list that he carried in his pocket. He remember to invite the seven dwarfs, the seven ravens, and every other king, queen, prince, or princess within a hundred miles. But when he added the names of the seven fairies to his list, he forgot one. And when the seventh fairy realized that she wasn’t going to get an invitation, she was pretty mad.
The day of the christening came, the guest were gathered, and all went off without a hitch—almost. The king was walking about the castle gardens where the christening was held, and little Frankie was snoodled up in a snuggly strapped to his chest. He beamed upon all of his guests, wandering about and shaking hands, while the queen wished it all would be over soon. She needed a nap. One by one, the guests presented their gifts to the new princess.
Just then, the seventh, and conspicuously uninvited fairy arrived at the garden. She was dressed in a black, Armani suit, and she looked forbidding. Not only was she a powerful fairy, she was one of the top fashion bloggers in that part of the world
As soon as he spotted her, the king realized his mistake. To his credit, he hurried over to offer an apology, but the seventh fairy wouldn’t have it.
“I’m not interested in your excuses, you old windbag,” she said, coldly. “Here is my gift to your little brat of a child.” And with that, she put a curse on the princess. “When this child reaches the age of sixteen years,” the fairy intoned, “she will prick her finger on a spindle, which will put her to sleep for a hundred years, unless a prince wakes her with a kiss.”
“Oh,” she added quickly, “if a prince does kiss her, and if she wakes up, she will forever lack a fashion sense.”
A shocked silence followed the words of the fairy, and then a cry of dismay. The king begged the fairy to take back her cruel words and have some punch, but she shook her head.
“You must face the consequences of your forgetfulness,” she said to the king.
“But you were on my list,” wailed the king. “Can’t you forgive me? For the sake of my poor little daughter?”
“Not a chance,” said the fairy, and with that, she turned on her glittering, spiked heel and left the party.
You can imagine the dismay of the king and queen. “What are we going to do?” cried the queen.
“And never to have a fashion sense!” added one of the ladies in waiting, one hand to her aching brow.
“Now, now my queen,” said the king, recovering his dignity. “We will take steps, we will prepare, and we will stop this vile curse from ever coming to pass.”
So little Frankie began to grow. She became a toddler, and then a sturdy child, and soon a long-legged girl, who ran and laughed and made noise and got herself into trouble. She had hair as black as the raven’s wing and eyes as blue as a summer’s day. She laughed often and freely, and she tried the patients of her parents. She hated wearing princess clothes, and would most often be seen, whether in the kitchen talking to the cooks or in the yard chasing the stable-boys, wearing an old black T-shirt and jeans.
“Part of the curse is already coming true,” whispered the ladies-in-waiting to one another. “The princess Francesca has no fashion sense.”
But Frankie didn’t care, and her parents had more to worry about as the princess approached her sixteenth birthday.
The king had done his part by rounding up all of the spindles in the kingdom and making a great bonfire that could be seen for a hundred miles. Next, he advertised for a prince—the kissing kind—just in case things went sideways on Frankie’s birthday. There must have been many princes wandering the lands that year, because at least fifty showed up at the palace to be on hand in case the princess fell into an enchanted sleep. But the king wasn’t going to take any chances, and he housed them all, letting them practice their princely skills on the royal training ground. Frankie would sometimes go and watch them. She liked sports as much as anyone else, but she wasn’t about to join this posturing collection of fools, just so they could try to show her up. She left them to their swordplay, their archery, and their flexing.
The princess’s sixteenth birthday drew nearer and nearer, and the kingdom seem to hold its breath. And then, the morning of Frankie’s birthday arrived.
Perhaps not so surprisingly, the king and queen couldn’t find their daughter that morning. Frankie had risen early, and on her way down to the kitchens, she discovered a stairway into a tower that she had never noticed before.
“How odd,” she said to herself. And being the curious girl she was, she followed the stairs, up-and-up, until she came to a tower room. And there, as you probably guessed, sat an old woman with a spindle in her hands. She grinned crookedly as Frankie entered the tower room.
“Good morning, my sweet,” said the old woman, in honeyed tones.
“Hello,” said Frankie. “What is it you are doing?”
“I’m spinning, my dear. Would you like to try?”
Now, Frankie wasn’t as stupid as all that. For one thing, she had heard the story of what was supposed to happen on her sixteenth birthday a hundred times. Everyone had always made a fuss about it, and now, here was this old woman, clearly trying to set Frankie up for her big sleep.
“All right,” said Frankie, coming close. “But first show me what to do.”
“Very well,” said the seventh fairy, for it was she, in the disguise of an old woman. “Watch carefully.” And she showed Frankie how to spin the spindle and wrap the wool.
Frankie came closer, as though she was trying to see what the old woman was doing, and she just happened to bump the old woman’s arm.
The old woman gave a cry. “Clumsy child!” she shrieked. “What have you done?” She held up her finger. Right at the tip was a bright bead of blood.
“Oops,” said Frankie.
The old woman turned pale, and then she turned green, and then she lost her disguise completely, and the seventh fairy, in all her radiant beauty, fell over with a crash onto the floor—sound asleep.
Frankie regarded her for a moment. Another princess might have left the fairy to her long sleep, but Frankie wasn’t so cruel. She headed down the stairs and out onto the training ground. She walked up to the first likely-looking prince she saw.
“There’s a beautiful lady inside the castle who is under an enchanted sleep. Want to come and give her a kiss?”
“But, of course,” cried the prince, slapping a ham-like hand to his chest. “It is my destiny, my duty, my honour.”
And with that, he followed Frankie back into the castle and up the stairs. When he saw the fairy lying on the floor beside the fallen spindle, he went down onto his knees. “My dear, enchanted lady,” he murmured. And then he bent down and kissed her gently on the lips.
The eyes of the fairy flew open. She looked at the face of the prince above her, and then she looked at Frankie. “What – have – you – done?” she asked in measured tones.
“Just giving you a taste of your own medicine,” said Frankie, coolly. “You actually haven’t been asleep long, and look, you now have your very own prince. As for your fashion sense, I’m less sure about that.”
“My blog?” shrieked the fairy. “I’ll be ruined! What will I do?”
“You’ll be fine,” said Frankie, and she skipped off down the stairs.
When the king and queen heard what happened, they were much relieved. The king announced a feast to celebrate Frankie’s sixteenth birthday, and he promised never again to give her a hard time about running riot all over the castle. This time the king remember to invite the seventh fairy, but by that time, she was already half a kingdom away, with her faithful prince in tow, and fated never to blog again.
And as for Frankie, she enjoyed her party, and she went on with her life. She was, after all, only sixteen years-old. She started to think of a career. Maybe curse breaker, she thought. But, really, she had plenty of time to consider.

Disney Princesses—No Short Supply

Since its release in 2013, Frozen has become the new benchmark for Disney princess movies. But what happened to Tangled? The film certainly hasn’t disappeared, but Rapunzel pales somewhat compared to her princess cousins from Frozen. Next time you watch Frozen, pay attention to the coronation scene: you can see a brief cameo by Rapunzel and Flynn Rider.
Tangled, unlike Frozen, attempts to adapt a fairy tale into film. I’ve heard repeatedly that Frozen is based on Hans Andersen’s “The Snow queen,” which is a stretch. It may have been the inspiration for the film, but Frozen bears little or no resemblance to Andersen’s dark, strange, and stylized story of Gerda and Kai. Tangled may not accurately represent the Grimms’ “Rapunzel,” but since when did Disney ever attempt accuracy? The film contemporizes the fairy tale in its language and relationships, and Mandy Moore gives a convincing performance as a conflicted princess. Disney often kills off parents early, but the parent-child relationship is one that informs most of its films—this one being no exception. The controlling, passive-aggressive Mother Gothel is unlike any villain Disney has ever given us, and she’s repellant in a way that many villains can’t manage. She’s psychologically realistic in her concern for Rapunzel, right up until she turns. Less the evil witch than Snow White’s stepmother, and less the parental caricature than King Triton, Mother Gothel strikes an interesting balance between villain and caregiver. She’s no doubt a more frightening villain for parents watching than she is for kids.
I recently watched Tangled with my youngest daughter. Even though both of my kids are in their twenties, they often prefer watching Disney movies with their dad rather than something adult. It’s still better than teenage hood. The list of films I was allowed to watch during my daughter’s teenage years was strictly controlled, and it was always better if I knocked when approaching the TV-room door. I’m not complaining. We all love Disney movies, and we watch them again and again. This time, it was tangled.
I was happy to watch the film again, even if just to get Frozen out of my head. Flynn Rider is a bit of an ass, and the details get convoluted—the hair, the flower, the floating lights unnecessarily complicate the story. But I was impressed all over again with Mandy Moore. She’s no cookie-cutter Disney princess. For years, by which I mean before the Internet (was there really such a time?), I was convinced that Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine were played by the same actress. That’s what I mean by a cookie-cutter princess. Disney princesses aren’t just types; they’re personalities. Mandy Moore is not such a personality—thank god. She brought life to a type that hasn’t seen much innovation since Jodi Benson’s performance as Ariel in 1989.
Apart from interesting characters, Tangled is a conventional film—prince (in this case rogue) and princess meet, they variously rescue one another, and then they marry. Tangled’s Rapunzel is certainly more active than her fairy tale counterpart: she, at least, gets herself out of the bloody tower. And remember, she doesn’t need help to escape; she needs a guide to the floating lights. She doesn’t have twins, as does the Rapunzel in the fairy tale, but that seems a forgivable omission. Try explaining why Rapunzel has twins in the wilderness the next time you read the story to a child. Hopefully, you won’t have to.
Aside from its conventionality, Disney’s Tangled will hold up for a long time yet to come. It’s unlikely the corporation will top Frozen for a while, so forget about Anna and Elsa, and go back to some of your older favourites. I always offer a comparison between a fairy tale and its Disney adaptation as an essay topic for my children’s literature students. Tangled has been a popular choice since its release in 2010—with good reason. It’s a good film.