This morning, on the way to my writing studio, I bumped into Little Red Riding Hood. True, we were not in a forest, but overlooking the Kalk Bay Harbour. She darted into the take away deli, her cloak and hood blowing around her in the wind. It was a blue velvet cloak and she wore black tights and booties. Her cheeks were rosy red circles, highlighted with blusher. She was small and dainty. She was blonde. She was definitely Little Red Riding Hood.
It occurred to me that the world is just one big fairy tale. Any fairy tale – take your pick. Whichever one it is, there is a Little Red Riding Hood and a grandmother and a wolf. Or a Cinderella, an evil stepmother, and the sisters looking for their prince. And there's the prince himself. Everyone is playing a part. The roles may change during life – sometimes – if you're growing, until you have played every part of the tale. Till you've been the hero and the villain and the mouse watching from the corner.
Have you ever wondered what tale you are living, and who you are, in that tale?
I myself started as Cinderella, with a real proper evil stepmother and a kindly father who was dead in the sense that he could not, or would not, see the conflict that was under his nose. I had no siblings, but the evil sisters betrayed me anyhow – in the guise of my aunt and school friends who seriously broke my trust.
Was I looking for the prince? I thought my father was the prince. Sometimes I thought I was the prince too. Of course, tales can be woven together – one can enter the tale here, at Cinderella, and then find themselves in the forest as sleeping beauty, or a dwarf.
I was also definitely the hero. A cross between a cowboy and a danger averting Perseus. Always trying to save one person or another. I was the temptress and the fairy godmother and lost my slipper to many a prince.
Now, many years later, it's come full circle. I feel I have become the evil stepmother – on hard days with the kids. What happens to the evil stepmother, the wolf, and the villain in the tale? I think they just move on, into another tale. Sometimes they die. But they are never really gone.
A story like Maleficent transforms the evil fairy godmother, gives her wings, and creates a happy ending. It's the happy ending that we all crave. What happens next though?
I found my prince and we set off to live happily ever after – yet no one tells you what happens after the end of a tale. In storybooks you close the book and begin another story. As a child, I always hated coming to the end of a really good tale. I still do.
I wonder what tale I'm living now, and what my role is? As you get older, do you transform from princesses, hero, and temptress into a wise woman living in the forest? Luring unsuspecting children with candy? Or trapping juicy young men using potions of youth to conceal your hideousness? Yes, the older woman definitely gets a raw deal in fairy tales. She becomes the crone. Someone to be feared and avoided.
On the other hand, old men in tales are wise. They are kindly, and they help. They do not lure or eat up little children. In days of old and in some cultures, they set off on vision quests, to bring back wisdom to the people. These days they set about luring young maidens.
Sometimes we live in tales we do not recognise. We may think we are the princess, when in fact we are the pumpkin or the fairy godmother. I will ponder on which tale I am living, and what my role is in that tale. I will decide if I want to be here in that role or if I want to choose to enter another tale. You can do that in a fairy tale.
Anyhow, as I said, today I saw Little Red Riding Hood swish in and out of the deli and then hurry down the main road in front of me. The cloak and hood on her head were blue, but she wasn't fooling me.