Fiction: Lies Storybooks Tell

The storybooks lied. “Happily ever after” is never, ever that simple. I should know.

Hmm? Oh, I suppose I ought to introduce myself. You’ll recognize me from the story the Grimm brothers told—“Cinderella”. That was me, even if the name was a cruel joke on the part of my stepfamily. (I apologize for any confusion.)

Now, as I was saying . . .

The happily ever after didn’t truly come until long after my Prince found me through diligence and a very distinctive piece of footwear. It didn’t come when I was whisked away from my stepmother’s house. It didn’t come when I was shown my chamber at the palace, nor did it arrive at the wedding. Happily ever after didn’t come when my belly first swelled with child. It didn’t come with the second child, or even the third.

Happily ever after didn’t arrive until I unlearned what my stepmother beat into me, and such lessons are not easily forgotten. Oh, yes—I told you the storybooks lied. You thought servants were never beaten? You thought I was treated better than a common servant? Not so.

Happily ever after didn’t arrive until after I learned to lift my eyes to meet those of others, until after I stopped cringing at a raised voice. Happily ever after didn’t come until after I stopped apologizing for that which was not my doing, until my back stopped tightening—anticipating the lash—every time my husband was angered or irritated. It wasn’t until I finally pulled free from the learned worthlessness, from accepting anger and malice as my due, from knowing to never expect a kind touch or word, that happily ever was mine to claim.

It took a long time. It took my husband’s patience and my children’s love. It took many visits to my mother’s grave. It took several afternoons with the Queen, my husband’s mother. It took the gentle words and quiet friendship of the women assigned to my service. It took the memory of my father’s love, and the birds who never denied me their companionship—not when I was a scullery maid, and not when I became a princess. But when happily ever after arrived, it was beautiful—so much more than the storybooks ever tell.

So, now you know the truth. Now you know how my story really went. The next time you read fairy tales, watch for the things they leave out. The storybooks always lie.

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.


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