Illustrated Guide to Updated Fairy Tale Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts

Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault by Harry Clarke,_1922).png#/media/File:Page_90_illustration_from_Fairy_tales_of_Charles_Perrault_(Clarke,_1922).png

Fairy tales have long been used to teach children life lessons such as “work hard” or “don’t steal food from bears.” As we grow older, however, some of these morals grow less relevant. How is a gingerbread house tempting if you’ve gone gluten-free? Who needs pumpkin coaches when there’s Uber? It’s a question worth considering – how can fairy tales still impart wisdom in these modern times? 

Fret not — painstaking research and analysis of several classic stories have yielded a secondary set of lessons more appropriate to the current day. Presented for the first time is the Illustrated Guide to Updated Fairy Tale Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts.


Attending a Dinner Party

Frog eating from princess' plate... the king looks angry!
The Frog Prince, Anne Anderson  (1874-1930) Source

DO remember it’s gauche to request second helpings at dinner. If you clean your plate, simply begin cleaning everyone else’s. (This also assists with clean-up, so it’s doubly gracious.)

The Princess is surprised when the frog turns into a prince!
By Anonymous, Walter Crane – The Frog Prince and other stories, by Walter Crane (1874), Source

DON’T overstay your welcome!  If your host turns up the lights, sets out coats, or actively gets into bed and yells at you to leave, it might be time to cut short your harrowing tale of that one middle-school biology class and go home.


When on a Blind Date

Beauty sitting near a winfow with the Beast, byEleanor Vere Boyle
Beauty and the Beast, byEleanor Vere Boyle Source

First encounters can be awkward, so DO get creative with conversational ice-breakers!
BORING: “So… evil walrus, huh?”
FUN: “I think those birds are laughing at my hat.”

Beauty sitting at a table with the Beast
Beauty and the Beast by Anne Anderson Source

Two minutes in and you’re just not feeling it? DON’T be obvious when searching your chair for the “Eject” button. There’s no need to hurt your date’s feelings, and you probably won’t find one anyway.


Dealing with Difficult Neighbors

Dwarf being eaten by a bear
Snow White and Rose Red, by Alexander Zick Source

DON’T get drawn in to their drama! If their black-market Lego deal results in a dissatisfied customer, remember: if it’s not on your property, it’s not your problem.

Snow White and Rose Red cutting off the dwarf's beard
From Josephine Pollard’s children’s book Hours in Fairy Land: Enchanted Princess, White Rose and Red Rose, Six Swans (1883). Artist unknown. This illustration is from the Grimm fairy tale “Snow White and Rose Red”. Source

DO be diplomatic when setting boundaries. Instead of a passive-aggressive “NO FISHING IN THE KOI POND” sign, try mentioning what a nice beard your neighbour has, and what a shame it would be should something… happen to it.


Disaster Response & Restoration

Sleeping Beauty, with everyone around her at the castle sleeping
Viktor Vasnetsov Source

DO attempt to raise morale beforehand by hosting a “Goofiest Sleep Position” contest. (It’s currently a dead heat between “Uttanasana pose on unabridged dictionary” and “Spooning with Mari Lwyd.”)

Everyone sleeping at the castle
Walter Crane Source

DON’T attempt to raise morale afterwards with a one-man performance of “Y.M.C.A” The servants have been asleep the past century, they’re not going to know the song.

We hope you will find this guide useful in navigating modern life with some good old-fashioned folktale panache, whether you’re racing home to beat curfew or dealing with an oddly persistent apple saleswoman. Remember, the stories are old, but the wisdom they impart is evergreen! Whatever your age, problem, or circumstance, fairy tales will have the solution – you may just need to read between the lines!

(Except the bit about not stealing from bears. That’s pretty straightforward.)

If you enjoyed this piece, do check out Folklore Humour: The Funniest #FolkloreThursday Tweets of All Time!

Courtney Connolly is a New York-based writer & amateur folklorist. She takes everything extremely seriously. Follow her on Twitter here.

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Courtney Connolly

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