Often when we read fairytales, the life lessons can be quite obvious. They’re woven through in less than subtle ways. However it’s when we delve deeper into a story’s meaning that we can reveal greater life lessons. Those lessons buried, waiting for us to uncover them years after the author penned the tale. The fairytale The Fairies (also known as Diamonds and Toads) by Charles Perrault is a wonderful example of this.
On the surface the story teaches us about being nice to people, using nice words, that not everything is as it seems and that what goes around comes around. But when we delve deeper there’s an even greater life lesson to be learned.
The Fairies is about a widow with two daughters. Her elder daughter was the likeness of her mother, both in looks and character; the other, younger daughter her father. The mother favoured the daughter who took after her and treated her very differently to her other daughter.
The mother sent her younger daughter twice a day to fill a pitcher of water. On one occasion, the daughter went and encountered an old lady who begged her for a drink. What she didn’t know, was the old woman was a fairy who had disguised herself. Rewarding her for her politeness and friendly nature, the fairy cast a spell where for every nice word the girl spoke, a flower or jewel would come out of her mouth.
Upon returning to her mother, and explaining what had happened and why flowers and jewels were falling out of her mouth, the mother sent her elder daughter to the fountain to fetch water. When the elder daughter got there, expecting to find an old woman, she encountered a well dressed lady who asked her for a drink. The daughter was rude, obnoxious and spoke dreadfully to the lady.
Just as she did to the girl’s younger sister, the disguised fairy cast a spell over the girl, however this time it was snakes or toads to spill from her mouth. A reward for kindness and speaking so nicely; a punishment for rudeness and not speaking politely.
The story goes on and of course the young girl is sent away from home where she happens to stumble upon the son of a king….you get the picture.
You can see why the life lessons in this fairytale are quite obvious. Always speak nicely to others. However, it wasn’t until I was talking with a friend of mine (I was telling them about this story) that the deeper, hidden lesson became clear.
We all need to have awareness of how we impact others. This story really starts with how the mother treated her two daughters so differently. This had a significant impact on the behaviour of both her children. The younger daughter, willing to help others and speaking nicely to people, left a lasting impression on people she met. The impact of her kind act for an old woman did not go unnoticed. Just like the interaction with the elder daughter left an impression, however not a pleasing one.
Like the diamonds spilling from the girl’s mouth, people are multifaceted and we must be aware of our own personalities and behaviours. We all impact other people. Stopping to take a moment to think about the impact, both desirable and less than desirable, you may have on other people is essential. Often in life we barely pause to have a moment of self awareness about our behaviour and how it impacts other people.
After all, it’s only from understanding the impact we have on others that we can grow, adjust and improve to leave a better, lasting impression…and live happily ever after.