True love’s kiss
“No matter what, I’ll find you,”
-Once Upon A Time
The strongest form of magic is true love’s kiss. So in support of fairy tales and the idea that they speak to something very true about human nature as opposed to something unreal and flaky; I think taking time to talk about true love’s kiss and the way in which it has changed over the years is warranted. This concept always interested me because the idea of true love wasn’t something that I believed. But there has to be something to it since within the past few decades, even though marriage is still suffering, the core of it is still moving strong: Love. (Yes, yes, I know- marriage was never about love; this is indeed a concept that we began to integrate into our culture.That’s a completely different essay.) Thus, I think people love to love. We can’t help it. Being in love, being full of the essence of love, and trying to find someone that we can love is a major aspect of our society. A manifestation of this idea is true love’s kiss.
Imagine this scene: a princess is lying on her deathbed in a perpetual coma and a man, who she recently had a rendezvous with, has come to rescue her. He’s fought the dragon or evil wizard and can’t think of any other way to break the spell that the princess is under, except by making out with her. If he is her true love, it will break the spell and she’ll live. Initially true love’s kiss happened between two people that just met, like in the scene above and it was possible that they would marry and live happily ever after. This idea has received several harsh critiques: especially from feminist who believe that women are not helpless, do not always need a prince to save them, and want to teach the values that women should be treated equal to the young girls in their lives. This is understandable. I actually agree and cringed at these scenes as a young girl myself and spent most of my ‘coming of age’ period proving that I was tough. The types of fairy tales and fictions I liked were steeped in darker fantasies.
Now let’s take another scene. A man is cursed because he hasn’t learned to love, and if he doesn’t find true love by a certain time, then he will remain cursed forever. The moral of this story is that the ability for us to love wholly and assumedly unconditionally is what makes us human. I don’t mean to take this essay to an existential place, but when it comes to true loves kiss it is one of the concrete things that can hold this idea (of loving unconditionally) in place.
The biggest reason why so many people are unable to accept fairy tales is because of the argument that magic is not real. It’s not substantial. It’s not probable. It simply does not exist. I think that the same argument can be made for several abstract verbs like love. There are several people that write off love as just a slew of physical reactions that the body goes through because of hormones and electrical synapsis in the brain. They may have a point, but love does in fact exist, and if it does then there may be something said for true love’s kiss as well.
Do you remember your real first kiss? Did it feel like you were floating? Did you experience the cliché toes curling? Did you metaphorically fall? Did it feel like magic? Did it feel powerful enough to wipe away any curse?
If it did not, then it is a possibility that you weren’t kissing the right people. If it did, then you may have experienced your own type of magic.
Eventually, storytellers got rid of the concepts of princesses fawning over a handsome prince, but still present was love, and what it meant to be loved. If you’ve read any of my other work, you know that Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite tales. In scene two above, the beast has to grapple with what it means to be human. What can he do to admonish the curse? Whatever it is, it has to be real, for the curse lives deeper than his desires, steeped in the furthest reaches of his soul. I think it makes sense that only the purest form of love could save him. Although, this type of love has been critiqued as well by using two words: Stockholm syndrome. I disagree; Belle doesn’t fall for the Beast because he stole her away; she chose to be taken to save her father (Disney Version). Either way she sees something in him worth loving. (The rest of this essay has spoiler alerts!!!!)
So, what started to shift in these stories was the concept that if this ‘true love’ was indeed that powerful then why should it only be reserved for new couples? Even though Disney is the bulk of most of the original criticism, the company is also at the forefront of change. In ABC’s Once Upon A Time, Snow White and Prince Charming are the epitome of true love. They love each other so much that their true love is manifested in their daughter, Emma. Emma is deemed the savior because she is a product of the truest form of love. Her son Henry, in turn, has the heart of the truest believer. The town of Storybrook is under a powerful curse, and only Emma can break the spell. She doesn’t know how, but when Henry’s life is in danger and she looses hope, her heartfelt goodbye kiss is actually what breaks the curse: True love between Mother and Son
Disney runs with this new type of true love and adds it in to Frozen. When Elsa freezes Anna’s heart on accident, Anna thinks that only true love’s kiss can break the spell. Loosing precious time, she rushes back to her fiancé who she just met the day before, so that she can get a kiss. He turns out to be evil, and Olaf, the talking snowman, helps her figure out that it’s really Christophe, a guy that journeys with her to find Elsa, who is really her true love. Now here’s the twist. Anna freezes completely before she reaches Christophe because she decides to save her sister. Anna’s act of true love, unfreezes her heart: True love between two sisters.
Finally, in this last example, Maleficent a giant fairy with horns puts a curse on the daughter of the man that betrayed her and stole her wings. She does not believe in true love’s kiss. As the story goes, the little girl grows up away from the castle to keep her safe from Maleficent and spindles. Maleficent watches the little girl grow up and becomes fond of her. Eventually, she grows to love the little girl and wants to take back the curse but she can’t. The little girl, Aurora, finds her way to a spindle and falls into a deep sleep. The fairies that raised her rush to find a prince to break the spell, but Maleficent finds him first and delivers him to Aurora’s bed chamber. He’s surprised to be ambushed, but kisses Aurora anyway. And yes, you guessed it. It doesn’t work, so the fairies fly to find someone else. Maleficent stays behind to watch over Aurora. She is deeply saddened by what she caused. She leans over and gives Aurora a kiss on the forehead vowing to find a cure for the curse. Amazingly, the spell is broken: true love between Mother and daughter.
I really like the new shift to the idea of true love’s kiss, and I actually commend Disney on their effort.
Want to hear more about True love’s kiss? Read Fairy Tale Review’s Blog.