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Back in March, Michelle at Buttered Toast Rocks (a sentiment I have to agree with) alluded to her favorite fairy tale – Donkey Skin – which I’d never heard of. When I snooped around for more details I found a deeply touching story. Beautiful, dark, and finally in the end – sweet.
It brought up issues of incest and hugely unequal power struggles, though, that at the time I wasn’t sure how to broach. There are these harsh realities in life that are so hard to look at. I squench my eyes shut and measure my breathing, trying not to think about them. Things that shouldn’t happen, but do; that immobilize a person, or that make them wish they could simply disappear into oblivion.
I imagine that’s what the princess in Donkey Skin felt.
Though I’ve never dealt with incest, I have had to deal with the backlash of terror and emotion that comes from being abused by someone I loved and trusted. I know I’m not alone in this feeling, and I know others can agree that that’s the worst part, isn’t it? That you open up the very softest parts of yourself to this person, but they use your tenderness for their own gain/pain/pleasure? How can that even be? It doesn't make sense. The ground becomes uneven under your feet as you ask question after question to try regaining your balance...
So while this story has been in my brain since March, I’ve tried to let it rest. Until today, that is, when my fairy tale wanderings inevitably led me back. This is my abridged journey:
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A few initial searches led me to this story. I’d never heard of Cap O’ Rushes before, but the interesting animation caught my eye. And then it turned out to be a fun little thing that reminded me of Cinderella. I knew I didn’t want to go there yet, and there were bits of Cap O’ Rushes that caught my whimsical attention – the meat and salt comment, the time period, the ring in the soup.
What to do with that, though?
I butted my head multiple times against the “Love like Salt” idea, which is apparently a whole fairy tale sub-type unto itself. That had potential. But I kept looking.
Something in the dialogue of the Cap O’ Rushes YouTube page mentioned Sapsorrow, a variation on another old German fairytale, Allerleirauh. Both of these are in essence Donkey Skin, only Sapsorrow is a softer, more forgiving version.
Chunk out 23 minutes of your day and take a look:
I like this version because it is still beautiful though dark, still sweet in the end, but the father doesn’t seem to want to hurt his child. That one twist is what makes all the difference to me. I’m finally able to talk about Donkey Skin.
I find the similarities in these three stories interesting:
- The discontent and misunderstanding father. Usually it’s the mothers/step-mothers who play out the ‘evil’ card, eh? -- What about you? Do you get along better with your mom or dad?
- Instead of becoming slave to her changed and uncomfortable circumstances, our heroine uses her intellect to find an alternative solution. -- When you're in a situation you don't like, do you just shut down til things change? Or do you figure out how to get out of it on your own?
- Her alternative also involves using natural resources to hide her identity and beauty, whether they be rushes from a bog or skins and feathers from her animal friends. -- What part does nature hold for you in your healing processes?
- Laboring in the kitchens is her saving grace in multiple ways: working further supports her disguise, it’s here that she learns about the ball, and it’s also here that she either slips the ring into the soup or hears about the shoe. -- Does it bother you when you have to work, or do you find strength in getting your hands dirty?
- There is a point at which the prince finally gives a signal or sign that if the princes will trust him enough to come out of hiding, he will protect her from whatever it is she’s afraid of. -- Do you have signals for things with your friends and loved ones too? Scratching your nose means you're ready to leave the party, or something?
- The princess is the only person who can truly answer that sign completely and comfortably, not because she’s a princess or because she’s beautiful, but because the shoe was made for her and no one else. The ring was given to her and no one else. It is a role that only she can fill.-- This last one's a doosey, init? The thought that we alone can fulfill our parts, our roles, in this chaotic thing called life -- whatever that may be for each of us. And? And that we have a choice in the matter. We can try on the kicks, or we can chose not to.
So similarities are interesting because, while I may not have lived any of these fairy tales, I’ve felt similar feelings. And I’m sure you have had similar feelings too. How is it that we can all experience such different lives, but still be connected in these similar emotions?
Why do we still pass on these stories, with little changes made here and there, from one generation to the next?
What is so powerful that it makes a person not want to talk about a story completely unrelated to their own life, but is felt deeply nonetheless?
Dare I say it’s magic? What would you dare to say?
Moment of Magic today:
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Obviously I'd pass on trying on this type of glass slipper. It's beautiful, don't get me wrong. I love that my life doesn't require me to wear high heals, though. Not ever. Or at least if it does, I still choose not to.