The Hub: “Once upon a time…”

A Fairy Tale by Tania Meridew

Why write a fairy tale?

Over the past 10 years I have been the very fortunate participant in an unusual sort of book club. Once a month I meet with a wonderful group of women to discuss philosophy, astrology, literature and psychology. We debate, interpret, analyse and investigate concepts and ideas that confuse, interest and resonate. None of us are experts, but we all strongly believe that studying myth, literature and the ideas of old and new thought-leaders help give us new ways to scaffold and navigate a deeper understanding of ourselves, our families, our communities, and our society.

We take to heart the Delphic maxim, “know thyself”. What greater task in life is there? The trick is how the heck to do it. We are all so often blind to the very places that hold our greatest insights. As such, inspired by writers like James Hollis, Joseph Campbell and Rollo May, who write extensively on the power of symbols, myth-making, and personal growth, our group occasionally enlists tasks too. One of the tasks we gave ourselves was to write our own personal fairy tale.

I’m happy to share with you mine, in the hopes that you too might write your own. In doing so, with an open, curious mind, letting the images come to you without censure or force, you may also uncover some interesting truths about yourself and view them from a new perspective.

Once upon a time there was a princess who grew up in a castle without any walls. That isn’t to say the castle had no shape – on the contrary, of course it had a shape, but the outside of this castle was invisible and no one ever knew what shape it would take from one day to the next. On some days she would skip merrily down a hall only to bang straight into an invisible ‘wall’ that had never been there before. On other days it seemed like the castle had shrunk down to the size of a closet! On other days, it expanded to the size of the moon, so she would get totally lost as it all just kept going and going; sometimes it took her days to find her way back to her own bedroom! In the whole of the castle, in fact, there was only one non-changing constant – it was the door to the king’s throne room. On days when she felt overwhelmed with this never-ending kaleidoscope of a castle, she would find her way to the throne room and just lean against the door. It was cold, and hard and kind of hurt her back a little, but it was solid, always visible and never shrank, grew or moved.

The biggest shock of her life came when one of her friends invited her to stay with her over one of the school holidays at her castle.  For the first time in her life, she realized that some castles had many solid doors! And walls! That didn’t move! That weren’t invisible! She could lean on any she liked and always knew how to get to the kitchen, the bathroom and her bedroom. Even better, there were doors she could sit next to that were padded, heated, played music and even had arms that would move to brush her hair. Once, when she woke in the middle of the night and saw her friend was missing from the bunk bed below, she crept out of the room in fear. Soon, however, found her friend sitting, leaning up against a lovely soft door that had just put a hairbrush down and was hugging her friend. She stayed for a while, watching, but realized that her throat had begun to hurt, so she snuck back to bed.

All too soon, princess school was over. She went home and was told by the king and queen that it was time she got married. The king and queen made lots of preparations and told all the other kingdoms to send their princes. The princess got very alarmed and scared by this, but said that if the princes arrived carrying one of the doors they had in their castles, she would agree to meet them. Although everyone found this an odd request, they all obliged and soon a steady stream of princes and their doors could be seen winding their way up toward the castle, hoping for good news.

To her parents’ annoyance, the princess was not easy to please. She immediately dismissed all the princes with invisible doors, loud squeaky doors, knobbly and uncomfortable doors, half-split doors and doors with bells that played jangly music. One prince, who got so frustrated with the princess and how long it was taking, chucked his door off to one side of the meeting room and stomped out.

Two full days and nights went past and the line of princes dwindled. On the third day, all the princes had gone. The princess sat down, exhausted. The king and queen could be heard coming down the hall and they were very angry to find that she had not chosen a prince. She looked around to find a place to hide and saw the door that had been thrown to one side. She quickly ran behind it and hid. When the king and queen had left to look for her somewhere else, she calmed down and leaned against the door. It was hard and cold, but it had the kind of arms which although seemed rather stiff and immobile, could, she thought, be encouraged to brush her hair. She sat there for quite a while and fell asleep. When she woke up, she tried to stand, but found that her dress had caught on the door hinge. She fell back down to the floor with a bump. At that, the king and queen rushed in and found her.

They were furious with her. She had wasted their time and they said she would now stay a spinster forever because there were no princes left anywhere for her to refuse. In anger (and fear) she shouted that she didn’t care – she had found her future husband – the door. She knew deep down in its woodgrain that it was kind and stable and she was sure that it felt the same way toward her as she felt toward it. So she chained herself to the hard, silent door, intent on pouring so much kindness and love into it that it would soften and its arms would work properly – maybe even be just like the kind door her childhood friend had.

Unfortunately, as everyone knows, doors do not change their woodgrain and although one could argue that the door did indeed become a bit softer, its arms never really worked very well and it never did learn to brush her hair. Her chains grew rusted and pinched and seriously compromised her ability to play and dance, but the door was always wonderful to lean against and was a great surface to write on.

Twenty-four years went past and the princess and the door remained together through drought and storms, heat waves and freezing winters. Then, on the eve of their 25th anniversary, something unbelievable happened. The princess was trying, for the millionth time, to get the door’s arms to work, when “CRACK”, the door split in two. She was still chained, but now to two door halves!

Oh what a shock!! Her beloved door had broken – something she thought could never happen. She refused to believe it had happened, so for a few days, she just propped it up and tried not to lean on it at all. It worked for a bit, but then every time she tried to lean on it even a little bit, it fell apart. It took a few weeks for it to really sink in – her door was no longer her door – it was just a broken piece of wood. Oh how she cried!! She wandered around aimlessly, sobbing her little heart out, dragging her door halves behind her, while all the castle stewards just looked on shaking their heads in confusion. Why didn’t she just throw the door away?

Finally, she found her way to the castle’s inner garden. She sat down and looked at a beautiful flower. It made her smile for the first time in a long time, but when she reached down to touch it, she fully realized just how tightly her wrists were still chained to that door. Calling to her king, she told him to bring his saw. Her father, overjoyed that she was finally asking him to help, ran back with the saw and cut her loose. It took months for her wrists to heal from the deep indents the cuffs had made, and she missed her door so much sometimes she thought she would throw herself into the wood chipper. However, as time passed, the princess realized that ‘her’ door was actually never her door at all. It was just a door – that frankly never worked very well.  So, with her parents’ blessings, she went and did what every princess should do right from the start…she bought some wood and became a carpenter.