Changing the story

We read a lot of books in our house, and often times I’ll change some of the words or minor-ish plot points (like, “the evil Queen told the huntsman to take Snow White into the forest and leave her there” instead of “kill her”). Usually it’s because of something like violence or to soften the story a bit. Tonight, however….

So we’re reading an adaptation of The Frog Prince. Everything is going according to the original story, with the princess making a deal with the frog, the frog forcing her to keep her end of the bargain…

When the princess was in bed, the frog hopped over and tugged on the sheets. “I’m tired, and I want to go to sleep. Lift me up, or I’ll tell your father.” said the frog.

The princess became angry. She picked up the frog and threw him against the wall as hard as she could. “There, you ugly frog. Now you’ll sleep,” she said.

A bit violent, but still ok. But then, mind bogglingly, we go to this:

When he dropped to the floor, the frog turned into a handsome prince. He told the princess a wicked witch had cast a magic spell that had turned him into a frog. He had lost all hope until the princess came to play by the well.

The princess looked into the prince’s beautiful eyes. She believed him. The princess let the prince become her dearest friend and husband. They went to his father’s kingdom, and they lived happily ever after.

WHAT? That makes NO sense at all. None. She throws him against a wall in disgust, and THAT breaks the magic spell? And she “believes” his story (like he made it up?) and “lets” him become her dearest friend, now that he’s a prince? How convenient!

Really, I’m offended on two levels. Both from the viewpoint of a lover of stories and a believer that they should be accurately preserved, and as a mom. Has this adapter ever read the original story? How do you go from the prince needing a kiss of true love and the princess having to overcome her prejudice of his “ugliness” and come to love him, to her trying to KILL him and him magically becoming a prince and her saying “ooh, a cute prince, I’ll marry you!” And him going along with it! The woman just tried to KILL you! Do you still have the brain of a frog??

As B pointed out, it’s writing like this that makes people think that Twillight is good. (And I don’t mean the people who enjoy it while acknowledging its flaws, I mean the people who think it’s legitimately amazing literature.) The plot jump is sloppy, it’s careless. But more than that, what’s the moral of this story? The take away, if you will? Not just that it’s ok to be mean to ugly people/creatures, but that romance is easy, that there’s nothing wrong with violence in relationships, that all it takes is a look and it’s love.

Now, I realize that some reading this may be thinking, “Maryanne, you are WAY over-analyzing a 32 page book intended for preschoolers.” But I was a lit major. And words and stories are important. And the stories that my girls hear are important. The stories that I tell them are important.

So what did I do? Here’s how I ended the story. (Picking up right after the princess threw the frog at the wall)

When he dropped to the floor, the frog turned into a handsome prince. He told the princess a wicked witch had cast a magic spell that had turned him into a frog. He had lost all hope until the princess came to play by the well.

The princess looked into the prince’s beautiful eyes. She believed him. And she said, “Let me be your princess!”And the prince said, “No. You were horrible to me when I was a frog. You said mean things and didn’t keep your promises, and tried to hurt me. You are not a nice princess. I’m going away.”

And he did.

When I finished, Zoe just looked at me and said, “That was mean!” I asked her what was mean, and she said that the prince was mean for leaving. So we talked about how the princess was mean, and how the prince shouldn’t have to stay around someone who was mean. THIS is exactly what I mean when I say that stories are important. Through them we (especially kids) learn how we can expect to be treated, how we are expected to act. And the LAST thing I want my little girls thinking is that they’d be mean if they got themselves the heck out of dodge in a bad situation.

And… wow. I started this post intending it to be a funny little story and got all indignant along the way. But it was a stupid book.

To end on a more positive note, if you’re looking for a princess book that’s not stupid or overly Disneyfied, I suggest Usborne Stories of Princesses, which I can’t find a link for at the moment, but this version of The Princess and the Pea is in it, and is fantastic.

2 thoughts on “Changing the story

  1. Cindy on

    I agree with you. I change words to songs and stories all the time. There isn’t enough niceness in the world anymore and we have to do all we can in our own little ways to teach it. I can actually hear your voice in my head saying the words as I read your blog. Is that weird? It makes me smile though so I guess if I’m going senile I’m just enjoying it, lol!

  2. That’s a good point, Maryanne, and one I’m not sure I would have picked up on, about teaching that it’s not mean to leave people who hurt you. Thanks for sharing it, and for being such a good Mama 🙂

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