A Fairytale for Grown-ups

I’m so excited this week I don’t know where to start.  But it feels like there’s a buzz in the air – is this just me?

Earlier this week I read a post, again by The Man of the Minivan, which detailed a funny – but much more cynical view – of kids’ stories than the one I’m about to tell.  How a child’s book, read through an adult’s eyes, suddenly becomes a story about…politics?

Personally, I love the way that kids’ stories are able to whittle down the complex issues to their barest, human bones.

And that is exactly what this modern fairy tale does.  Just don’t expect a fluffy ride – it’s called Brave for a reason, right? 🙂

It is the perfect answer to my quandary last week, when I stumbled upon a Grimm tale about fear and bravery.  I’ll try not to include too many spoilers.

Merida is the gorgeous, spirited Princess from the Scottish ruling clan of four.  Presented with a bow and arrow for her birthday as a child, she grows into a fiery teen who breaks all rules of Princessly decorum.  What’s a girl to do when she’s the apple of her father’s burly eye?

The clincher comes when Merida learns of her planned betrothal to the winner of the Highland Games, where the three eldest sons of the other clans compete to win her hand.

From here, the story unfolds as a battle of wills between mother and daughter, duty and independence, tradition and progress.  And it’s one selfish little tantrum that she throws!

It might be hard to believe that a Princess of that time would be quite so rebellious.  But we are talking fiction, here, and the joy is living vicariously through characters much braver and more selfish than we could hope to be.  (Plus, one only has to take a look at the husbands-to-be to take that ride!)

Merida’s rebellion takes a dark turn involving a will-o’-the-wisp, a wicked witch and a (quite literal) return to the wild.  The only way through is the hardest of all – to mend that familial rift.

There’s lots of little fun things along the way – like her impish triplet brothers whom she bribes to do her will.  The warm, loving and otherwise clueless men of the clan who are too busy fighting and drinking to know what’s going on.  The buxom maid.  The rest – you’ll have to watch to see.

I love this movie.  It is PG rated, but it’s not for the faint hearted.  So beware of your grown-up sensitivities and if you’re scared of your child’s emancipation, maybe stick with Cinderalla 🙂

If not, you could learn a thing or two.

Bravery is a balance.  While it can call for might, it sometimes also requires a more humble kind of resoluteness.  It is the hardest thing in the world to do, because it means negotiation and a compromise.

The happily ever after is suspended for a much more grown-up take on hope.  And what I really dig is that neither Merida nor her mother come out of this unchanged.

In the end, they learn from each other.  The child teaches her mother the value of breaking tradition, and the daughter learns the value of the legends that have gone before.  The solution – surprise, surprise – benefits the entire kingdom somewhere along the lines of ‘make love, not war’.

In a world of uncertainty, where tradition seems somehow to fail us, it gives us hope.

As Merida says:

“Legends teach us things.  But we are young.  Our stories haven’t yet been told…”

There are lots of political lessons to be taken away from this, too, if you want to go there.  For example, the fact that the lead character is a red head caught in a political crossfire (anyone seen our PM lately?) is not lost on me.  But that’s a whole other sad story.

They might be the rarest of them all, but I think it’s fair to say, in this instance, the reds have it.

Have you seen the movie?  What are your thoughts?  Is it just another kids’ story, or are there worthy lessons to be learned?