Give Me a KIss: Fairy Tales as Chick Lit.

The other day I started to talk about Paranormal Chick Lit, It was said that modern Chick lit goes back to two adaptations of Jane Austen novels, Clueless and Bridget Jones Diary. But, thinking about it for a couple of days I have come to believe that Paranormal Chick Lit goes back much farther – according to some scholars over 2,200 years. To be sure, scholars have spent lots of time and grant money looking for the reasons that fairy tales have common themes worldwide.

Chick lit also has common themes: Usually:

  • The main Character is a young woman, although it does go up to characters in their sixties (usually they are starting over). From my experience it is either a woman with skills, education and a good job, or women with some qualifications but is not as successful as she could be. Sometimes it is a group of close friend characters.

  • Usually, the young woman is either in search of a relationship, waiting for a man to commit and/or in a break up. There is a sense of dissatisfaction that often arises from this relationship search/break-up/lack of commitment.  

  • While dealing with this personal or professional angst, and often approaching difficult issues, Chick lit is often written with a light and humorous hand.

So Jane Austen was all about this young woman, searching for a husband. She was so good at it that contemporary writers were able to apply it to today’s young women. Miss Austen was an amazing character painter. I see her characters every day. But I contend that Chick Lit began many years and cultures before this past decade.

A Fairy Tale is by its very nature a paranormal story, often a parable. To prove my point I am going to turn to the Princess and the Frog. This story is sometimes about keeping promises. Sometimes a story is just a story.

The princess, as a royal, has a job, sort of in the way royals have jobs either as rulers or mediators or just a sort of symbolic representation for their nation. Often, the princess is underemployed.

In the universe occupied by fairy tales, the princess always seeks a husband. Preferably one who is or who will become a king.

The dissatisfaction in her life is evident by her lying about sighing near a rustic or garden pool. Miraculously she meets the be-spelled talking frog — really a prince! — Who is no doubt attracted by her melancholic sighs. Sometimes the princess bargains with the frog and then refuses to honor the bargain until forced to do so. Other times, especially in contemporary versions, the frog needs to be kissed. In either case he turns into a prince and they live happily ever after. In the first case where the princess is refusing to honor a promise, the tale has a serious morality component. In the latter case the princess is forced to look beyond the slimy suitor to the Prince he could become. In the days of yore, the stories were much scarier than their Disney-fied contemporary counterparts. So now they are usually more or less light an amusing with some dark patches.

I believe that Cinderella fits the mold, as does Sleeping beauty. The next time you read a fairy tale or watch a filmed version, remember the supposition that these are really old, passed down orally for millennia, and yet still teach the life lessons they imparted earlier.

What do you think? I would love to know.

I will be vacationing for the next few days. And while I sit on the beach I will be reading some paranormal Chick lit. When I am back next week I will talk more about it. Have a great weekend.illus.

Illustration> 09-02-09 © Song Speckels through istockphoto