For the first four episodes of this season, we’re exploring the female archetypes (and stereotypes!) in old fairy and folk tales. First up – the Queen. To quickly recap – in the last episode, we learned about the sequel to Sleeping Beauty’s “happily ever after” in which she has to deal with her mother-in-law – the evil Queen Mother – an ogre and wants to eat her twin babies. If you haven’t listened to that episode, go back and do so, otherwise this second part won’t make sense. Today, we’re going to sink deeper into this archetype to understand what’s going really going on – and in the process, learn more about ourselves.
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So, I came across a 17th Century version of Sleeping Beauty called Sun, Moon, and Talia, and oh heroine, did this really put the Queen in perspective for me. It helped me see her in a completely different light.
In this other version, the evil Queen isn’t the King’s mother, but get this, she’s the King’s wife. Yes, Sleeping Beauty– or Talia – is actually the “third” woman in this tale. That’s right, our homeboy King is a player. He already had a wife before he met Sleeping Beauty – it’s the part Disney doesn’t mention. He’s just doing what Kings did back then, sleep with whoever they wanted.
So we begin to see that there’s a complicated relationship between the King and the Queen. At one point in the tale, when The Queen thinks he’s eating one of his own kids (the kids he would have had with another woman), she tells him, and I quote “"Eat away! for you eat what is your own." What the King replies is fascinating, and I quote “"Ay, I know well enough that what I eat is my own, for you brought nothing to the house." Oh snap. That’s a rude response. The tale writes, “And at last getting up in a rage, he went off to a villa at a little distance to cool his anger.”
In other words, the King is annoyed that the Queen isn’t contributing “bread” to the table. This line could be interpreted many ways. Either he’s mad she hasn’t brought home the bacon or he could be shaming her for coming with a small dowry. But what options does a Queen have, locked in a Kingdom, in a patriarchal society, to go out and bring something to the house? Very little. In fact, in most of these fairy tales, the King is always quite mobile of course, traversing stretches of land, while the Princesses and Queens are confined within walls, or being ordered around to go from place A to B. It’s clear that the Queen is powerless in the patriarchy with her lead patriarch, very literally the King. At one point, when she confronts Talia who we know as Sleeping Beauty – the woman her husband is having an affair with – she says, “Are you the weed that has caught my husband’s eye and given me all this trouble? So so, you are come at last to purgatory, where I'll make you pay for all the ill you have done me." Obviously, Talia’s not the problem – the King is the main issue here, lest this becomes an episode of Jerry Springer. Both Talia and the Queen are powerless in different ways.
So, it’s obvious and quite justified – one of the ways the Queen has responded to betrayal, hurt, and feelings of powerlessness is to become a total Queen. Duh. In other words, she claims control because she’s been badly hurt. She’s wounded! When we see the full context of the Queen, we can see how she’s very connected to the inner victim...underneath Queen behavior is a feeling (and perhaps even a reality) of victimhood.
Ok, now it’s our time to turn it to you. How have you felt out of control in your life, and how has that made you double down on becoming more controlling? For some of u