A Mirror Broken

A Mirror BrokenA review of Mercedes Lackey’s “The Sleeping Beauty” (Luna, 2010).

By Derek Newman-Stille

In the Five Hundred Kingdoms, The Tradition is the binding force of the universe, pushing people toward traditional tales whether they are happy-ever-after’s or tales of tragedy. The Fairy Godmothers are aware of the power of The Tradition, and it fuels their magic, but they need to be careful to push The Tradition toward happy endings and avoid fairy tale horrors. Fairy Godmother Lily has decided that the best way to help her kingdom to avoid misery is to teach the royal family about The Tradition and keep them attentive to the ways that tales may pull them into the grasp of a fairy tale narrative. 

Fairy Godmother Lily is contacted when the royal family notices a familiar pattern from The Tradition and realise that they are being pushed toward a Snow White tale and Lily, a godmother with power, a magic mirror, and the ability to perform decides to play the part of the evil queen in order to keep others who are actually wicked from taking the role. 

Mercedes Lackey entwines fairy tales together in a magic inkwell to write her tale of change and new beginnings in The Sleeping Beauty, combining elements from Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and the tale of Siegfried and Brunhilde. Rather than a kingdom asleep, she creates a kingdom awake, aware, and willing to take control of a destiny that seems to be pushing them toward predictable ends. There is nothing predictable about this combination of tales and from this cauldron of possibilities comes new potentials and new sources of empowerment. 

Rather than rendering her Snow White as a passive figure, waiting for a prince to awaken her, Lackey’s Rosa is a princess who is able to protect herself, her kingdom, and those who love her. She is a princess who learns magic, combat techniques, and the power to rule a kingdom through her curiosity and insights. Lackey depicts the domesticity of the traditional Snow White tale as a form of slavery, resisting the Disneyfied rhetoric that women belong in the kitchen, caring for men. Lackey’s Dwarves are cruel and misogynistic and literally chain her to the home, seeking to take away her freedom, but Rosa is able to persevere and is able to count on other women for support rather than relying on a rescuing male figure. 

When princess Rosa is required to chose a king, The Tradition pushes them into a contest of wills that would normally result in her being taken as a prize, depersonalized, disempowered and completely objectified, but Rosa and Lily are able to shift the assumed story line to build their own take on the tale, wielding The Tradition for their own purposes. Lackey projects herself into this tale as Rosa and Lily since Lackey herself is a women who is changing a traditional tale to empower women, taking away the bindings and constraints placed on Rosa constantly throughout the tale is a metaphoric release from the bindings of narratives and Lackey illustrates that any reader or writer of fairy tale fiction is capable of shifting the narrative from disempowerment to new possibilities. Like the other tales in the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, The Sleeping Beauty is about the changeability and shifting nature of fairy tales rather than their constraints. Although The Tradition seeks to place the characters into stereotypical roles, characters are able to change those roles by self-realization, knowledge of new skills and ideas, and the tenacity to not give in to social pressure. 

Mirror mirror on the wall, whose tale is the most changeable of all?

To discover more about Mercedes Lackey, visit her website at http://www.mercedeslackey.com
To find out more about The Sleeping Beauty, go to http://www.mercedeslackey.com/books/the-sleeping-beauty-2010/ 

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Dangerous Traditions

Dangerous TraditionsA review of Mercedes Lackey’s The Fairy Godmother (Luna, 2004).

By Derek Newman-Stille


Fairy tales have their own system of internal logic, a certain path that follows ideas of destiny and heroism. In Mercedes Lackey’s “The Fairy Godmother“, this internal logic is called The Tradition and it serves as a guiding force for the world of the five hundred kingdoms. Characters are propelled by The Tradition to make decisions, change their lives, and be brought down the path to destiny. 

Elena ends up being caught up in The Tradition, propelled toward a Cinderella tale that is incapable of ending in a happy ending because her Prince Charming is far too young. However, the accumulated magic around Elena, the force that should empower her happy ending is still swirling around her, trying to compel a narrative that she is unable to live. She is eventually visited by her Fairy Godmother, who explains The Tradition to her and offers to either take the magic away from her so that she can live a normal life or make Elena into a fairy godmother, a being who consistently modifies The Tradition so that people can live happy, safe lives without too much fairy tale tragedy. 

Lackey explores the potential of fairy tales as a shaping narrative, a governing force in a universe. She examines the question of what occurs when a fairy tale goes awry, when it cannot end in a happy ending. Lackey explores the issues with a dual morality system, where one can only either be good or evil and any that have moral ambiguities end up caught between systems, pulled constantly back and forth between destinies. She examines the areas of fringe in a system that doesn’t allow for ambiguities, the uncertainties that are generally erased from the simple ideologies governing fairy tales. Lackey’s “The Fairy Godmother” invites readers to question fairy tales and complicate them, exploring those fringe areas and areas of uncertainty around the narratives we construct to better understand ourselves.

The role of the fairy godmother in this tale is to mitigate some of the tragedy visited on those who don’t fit the fairy tale mould, those who exist outside of the easy systems of understanding provided by our narratives. Through the role of the fairy godmother, Lackey brings attention to the issues that arise from the narratives we create to understand ourselves, and the people who end up suffering when they live lives that don’t fit society’s mould Lackey points out that we are all fairy tale creatures constantly being pushed in certain directions by our society’s traditions and constantly needing a fairy godmother to help shift those narratives to allow inclusion of those who traditions ignore or erase.

To find out more about Mercedes Lackey, visit http://www.mercedeslackey.com
To find out more about the Five Hundred Kingdoms’ tales, visit Luna’s website at http://www.LUNA-Books.com