Saturday, November 14, 2015

Story Saturday: What does YOUR Cinderella look like?

This is an intriguing little thing that has been rattling around in my head lately. Every time I open Facebook, there is a high chance I'll run into one of those "Disney princesses reimagined as..." memes.
In case you have missed this trend, here are some things Snow White & Co. have been re-drawn as lately:

Iconic horror movie villains
Real people
Famous people
Wearing historically accurate costumes
Having realistic hair
Characters from the Walking Dead
Tattoo pin-up girls
Different races/cultures
Fine arts portraits
Having short hair
Each other
Twisted creatures
Pop culture heroines
College students
And finally, the ultimate spoof of the trend:
Lukewarm bowls of water

The visual cues people most often associate with folk- and fairy tale characters tend to come from illustrations they see as children. This and the memes above (especially the ones that play around with the appearance of the princesses) made me wonder how much of our mental imagery is influenced by Disney. I am not one of those storytellers who scream about the death of imagination every time someone mentions the D word... but when I ask myself how I pictured these folk- and fairy tale characters before I saw the canon Disney imagery, I have some very interesting realizations.

My Little Mermaid has never been a redhead. I grew up with the Japanese cartoon instead of the Disney one (which I didn't see until college), so the Little Mermaid in my head has always been blonde (oh, and her name was Marina and she didn't wear a bra).

Talking about blondes: My Cinderella has always been a brunette. I don't remember where I got that idea; she just always sounded like a brunette to me. I also imagined her as very tiny. The dresses, however, I very clearly remember coming from a Hungarian picture book. There were three of them (duh), one pink, one blue, and one green and gold.
Some of my other iconic early fairy tale images came from the same book series. The princess of the Frog King was blonde, round-faced and curly-haired; the Nixie in the millpond was black-haired and rosy cheeked.

My Sleeping Beauty, on the other hand, was definitely a redhead (kind of a dark, coppery red) with freckles. I usually imagined her in a matching yellow dress. Since in Hungarian, her name is Csipkerózsika (Little Briar Rose), I always imagined her castle as tangled in thorny vines, but also covered in pale pink dog-rose flowers.

Snow White is pretty much a given, except in my head she has a long black braid, and doesn't wear yellow-and-blue.

Images definitely get more random once we get to stories that have never really been put to the iconic big screen. But now I am wondering: How many children get to make their own mental images of these classic characters before popular media teaches them what they should look like?

So here is the question:

Do you remember any folk- or fairy tale characters that lived in your head before you saw canonized pictures of them? What did they look like? Why did you like imagining them like that?

I would love to hear from you! :)


  1. Disney pretty well set the standard for a good many fairy tale characters. I don't recall ever having my own mental image of any of these characters. Actually I'm not so good at conjuring mental images.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  2. One of my favorite tales is "How Six Men Got On in the World" from Grimm and I find that whenever I picture the characters in it, my mind always seems to spring back to how they looked on this show: