Tag Archives: Cinderella

A City with Rhythm (And Other Disney Favorites)

Those who have not seen at least one Disney movie in their lives are deprived people. Some probably do not even realize this fact! (Yes, Mr. Kilmeade, I am talking about you!)

So, for those who are deprived and for those of you who are old fans, here are some Disney songs to make you smile. They are a mixture of old and new; you will find Peter Pan and Elsa rubbing elbows below, whilst Rapunzel joins the other princesses for tea. And do not be surprised if a few Dalmatians and lions show up. This is Disney, after all! Anything is possible! 😉


The Mithril Guardian


Oliver & Co.

Why Should I Worry

Streets of Gold

You and Me

Why Should We Worry


Peter Pan

What Made the Red Man Red?

You Can Fly!

Following the Leader




Frozen Heart

Let It Go

Troll Song


The Lion King

The Circle of Life

I Just Can’t Wait to Be King

Hakuna Matata

Can You Feel the Love Tonight?



The Little Mermaid

Fathoms Below

Someday I’ll Be (Part of Your World)

Kiss the Girl

Under the Sea


Sleeping Beauty

Once Upon A Dream



We Can Do It (Song of the Mice)

So This Is Love



When Will My Life Begin?

I’ve Got a Dream

I See the Light

Something That I Want


101 Dalmatians

Cruella Deville


Beauty and the Beast

Be Our Guest

Gaston’s song

Song as Old as Time


The Aristocats

Everybody Wants to Be a Cat

Thomas O’Malley, the Alley Cat

Scales and Arpeggios The Aristocats

One More Point in Saving Mr. Banks

You may or may not have seen a post I did a little while ago about the film Saving Mr. Banks, readers. In it, I spoke about a line Walt Disney uttered in the film: “See, that’s what we storytellers do. We bring order to the world. We give people hope, over and over again.”

I wrote then about the way this statement affected me personally. (Among other things, it made me cry quite a bit.) Thinking more about this scene, and the movie in general, another line in the film struck me.

Throughout the movie, which shows Walt Disney doing his utmost to convince Mrs. Travers to allow him to make a film out of her Mary Poppins book, Disney again and again says that he wants to “make something beautiful” out of her story.   And he does not just want her permission to do this. He wants her help to do it.

How many of us use the word “beautiful” in conjunction with a film? Really, how many of us do that? I know I do not use the word “beautiful” to describe a movie. In fact, listening to Disney say it, I was inclined to squirm a little. How can a movie be “beautiful”?

I guess the better question is, “How could it not be beautiful?”

We do not use “beautiful” very much these days, readers, with regard to stories. Whether they are in print, song, or on film, “beautiful” is an adjective rarely attached to a story. Or, if it is applied, it can sometimes be applied to a film for the wrong reason.

A viewer might say that he thinks films such as Pacific Rim, Star Trek (the latest reboot), or Noah are beautiful. By this he could mean that he believes the CGI effects are beautiful. I will not disagree that CGI effects are impressive. I like Avatar simply for the CGI effects, and I would indeed call them “beautiful.”

I cannot say that about the story in Avatar, which is simply cowboys and Indians on another world. And the Indians win. I believe that I have watched Avatar a total of two or three times since a friend sat me down to see it first.

In contrast, I have watched Mary Poppins too many times to count since I was introduced to it as a child. Of late I have not watched it as much, but compared to Avatar, I would say that the story of Mary Poppins is a “beautiful” story. The story in Avatar I would call, politely, “mediocre” – at best.

So why would Disney call a prospective Mary Poppins film “something beautiful”? He would say that because a good story, just like a good photograph, painting, or song, is an expression of beauty. Beauty lifts us up. It reminds us of what is good, true, and permanent. That there is more to life than what we see, and that we rarely experience the “permanence” we can often feel but are rarely allowed to see with our eyes.

Parents often complain – laughingly – that their children almost endlessly watch a particular movie or movies over and over again, until they (the parents) are well and truly fed up with it. Why do children do this? Why do they watch the same film(s) time after time, when they know every line by heart?

I would guess it is probably because children have a sense that attracts them to beauty, which is crushed – or tamed – out of them as they grow up. I remember watching lots of films several times in the same week as a child. I never got tired of them. I enjoyed new stories, but the older stories were my close friends, and I did not want to leave them out of my fun.

Today, however, many storytellers – whether they work in the medium of print or film – are running away from beauty. There are others who embrace it, such as those at Disney, if only because it is their bread and butter. Others continually try to tear it down and destroy it.

Do you want proof of this? Check out the films that have come out recently. Along with the latest Marvel films, Disney’s Maleficent, Cinderella, and Frozen, we have such movies as The Purge, The Purge 2, The Hive, Gallows, and other trash. Yes, I called those films trash, and I will do so again. They are garbage, the vile refuse of small minds that take pleasure in “tearing the old world down,” to quote Alexander Pierce of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

These “storytellers” are not telling stories. They are not making films. They are propagating nihilism. They are worshipping destruction, death, and horror. And they have the temerity, the unmitigated gall, to call it “art.” “Art doesn’t have to mean anything except to its maker,” they howl hoarsely. “We’re giving people what they want. We’re giving them reality!”

Pardon me a moment, readers, but this is nonsense. No, actually, it is worse than nonsense. It is lies.

Art is not a collection of carpet fluff glued together to resemble a poodle. Art is not a bed covered in empty vodka bottles or a canvas someone spilled thirty cans of paint onto, and art is NOT anything like The Purge or The Hive.

Art is a manifestation of beauty. Everyone can see and recognize beauty, and they can either love it or hate it. Everyone who loves beauty is gifted with expressing it in some way, from a waitress smiling at a customer to a director doing his utmost to turn a great book into a remarkable film.

And everyone who hates beauty will try to destroy it. They will try to destroy those who use their talents to express beauty. One of the first targets, therefore, will be the painters, songwriters, storytellers, and others who make beauty visible for all to see.

These haters of beauty try first to shout and beat these great artists into submission. Finding that shouting does not work on all, they instead whisper and sneer, making themselves look reasonable and more real than the beauty these artists portray.

Everyone says they can make art. And someone who makes a good movie, writes a good book or a song, or paints a beautiful picture, has proved their worth. But those who paint death, horror, destruction, and malfeasance of every kind yet call it “art” are liars, cads. They are the Wormtongues of our age, the useful puppets of the Sarumans that feed them the falsehoods and monstrosities they then display for all to see.

No longer is a storyteller believed to bring order to a chaotic, brutal world and give people a taste of what true reality looks like. No longer is a storyteller expected to bring hope to the people again and again, to give them characters that will live forever, safely cherished in the viewers/readers hearts.

No. Instead, the Sarumans say storytellers are supposed to revel in the transient. They are expected to give form to passing feelings, fleeting fads, and to lift up the slime at the bottom of the gutter and proclaim it art. This is now the anticipated path of an artist.

G. K. Chesterton said on his deathbed that there was only the light and the dark, and every man had to choose which he would serve, for which he would live and die.

What do these sides, the light and the dark, look like? Look to your heart, readers. Who rides there? Captain America? Aragorn? Luke Skywalker? They are the emblems of the light, the ideals of those who choose goodness, right, and truth. They are what these people truly strive to be. All who live according to the light, who love the day and the stars at night, they fight for the light. They are the true Avengers, the real Fellowship of the Ring, and the living Jedi Knights. To believe in beauty, to fight to keep it present in the world – that, readers, is choosing and fighting for the light.

What do those who serve the darkness look like? Whom do they carry in their hearts? Loki, Saruman, Hannibal Lecter, Thanos – these are examples of the outriders of evil. It is these who are carried in the hearts of those who serve the darkness. They, like these characters, have rejected the light. For them it is better to rule in the dark than to serve in the light. Non serviam, they say. Those who are minions of evil resemble these wicked characters in some manner.

It may not be an obvious resemblance, of course. Does not Crossbones wear a mask? Do not Saruman and Thanos hide behind useful puppets like Gríma Wormtongue, Loki, and Nebula? Does not Hannibal Lecter do his work where none can see and stop him? And was it not Loki who was told by Coulson, “You’re going to lose.”

“Am I?”

“It’s in your nature.”

“Your heroes are scattered,” Loki answered, “Your floating fortress falls from the sky… Where is my disadvantage?”

“You lack conviction,” was Coulson’s prompt, true answer.

Why would evil wear a mask if it were so utterly convinced that it had nothing to fear? Evil wears a mask because it does have something to fear, something far greater than itself. The Light is what it fears, and for that reason true storytellers serve the Light.

This is why I blog about stories which I know are beautiful. This is why I blog about characters and songs I know to be beautiful. This is why I write. There is no other reason for this blog. If there ever was another reason, it has long since passed away. Writing about beauty is one way of making beauty visible to the world again and again. Of bringing order, if only for a few paragraphs, to a chaotic society. Of giving hope, however small, where it is needed most.

Excelsior, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

Saving Mr. Banks

When I first heard about Saving Mr. Banks, I thought, “Oh, great, another brainless Hollywood idea. Somebody in the break room must have said, ‘I’ve got it. Let’s make a documentary about Walt Disney.’ Wheee.”

I really, truly, one hundred percent respect and love Walt Disney. I grew up on almost all the original Disney films – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, Robin Hood, 101 Dalmatians, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and so on. So the idea of seeing Hollywood maiming this great man’s character did not appeal to me in the slightest.

Well, sometime back, a couple of my friends saw part of Saving Mr. Banks. At one point, Tom Hanks (who portrays Walt Disney in the film), said something that made both my friends respond with something on the order of, “Mithril has to see this!” They said it at once, interrupting the film.

They almost never do that.

I agreed to see the film, keeping my reservations – and earlier contempt for the movie – to myself. I sat down with my friends to watch it. About midway through the film, I started to sniffle. Then, a few minutes later, I broke down and cried.

I never, ever, thought I would do that during this movie, and I cannot remember the last time I cried while watching a film. I did not even cry during The Battle of the Five Armies, for heaven’s sake! But when this film showed one of the songwriters performing “Tuppence a Bag,” I lost it. The water works kept coming, on and off, after that. By the end of the movie, it was a miracle the room was not flooded. It took me another hour to calm down, and even then I was still sniffling.

Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of how Walt Disney worked very hard to get the movie rights to P. L. Travers book Mary Poppins, so that he could make it into a film. He had promised his daughters that he would make the film, and Saving Mr. Banks tells us how he kept that promise.

As the movie explains, for twenty years Disney kept asking the author of Mary Poppins, P. L. Travers, to give him the rights to turn her first book into a movie. But Mrs. Travers keeps refusing, until she runs into money trouble. Then her agent insists that she go see Mr. Disney, who has agreed to let her have creative input on the screenplay. Anything she does not like will be taken out of the script. She has final say. She can refuse to hand over the rights if she does not like the way Disney and his team are handling the movie.

Mrs. Travers finally caves in to her agent’s pleading and flies to California. The rest of the movie shows us just where the idea for Mary Poppins came from, why the film was almost never made and why Mrs. Travers loved Mary Poppins as much – if not more – than any of her fans.

I will not go into the details of that story here. One, I do not want to spoil the movie for you, readers. Two, I might start crying again – and then I will not be able to type to finish this post!

But what, you may ask, was the thing Walt Disney said that made my friends immediately agree that I should watch the movie? It is very near the end (and I cried while I watched it), so I will try not to spoil too much. But Mr. Disney was so determined to make Mary Poppins a film that, when Mrs. Travers abruptly returned to England in a fury, without signing over the rights and without an explanation, he immediately followed her there.

Before he did, though, he learned that her name was not really P. L. Travers. That was her pen name; her real name was Helen Goff. Travers was her father’s first name, and she loved him so much that she took his name as her pseudonym, insisting people call her “Mrs. Travers” in order to hear her father’s name over and over again.

Back to what Walt Disney told her near the end of the film. I do not know if it is really what he said to her in that interview, but from what I know of Walt Disney (admittedly, I do not know him by anything except reputation), it sounds like something he might have said. He told her (as best I can recall through the waterworks), when he was convincing her that he would never do anything to Mary Poppins to ruin it that, “See, that’s what we storytellers do. We bring order to the world. We give people hope, over and over again.”

Excuse me – but I need to stop for a tissue.

*Ahem.* He was right. Storytellers do just that.

The world is a hard, nasty, chaotic mess. No one needs to look any further than the newspaper or the TV news channels to know that. The reports on which Hollywood stars are dating whom drown out the story of a nine year old girl shot and killed while doing her homework in her Chicago home. The videos of Planned Parenthood selling aborted children’s body parts are ignored in favor of the news that a famous lion was killed by a foolish dentist. Two hundred other lions were killed as well by different people in the same country, but even they do not get the spotlight.

What kind of a world is this? It is a world filled with horror and darkness, and that affects us all. It affects some more than others. Babies who could grow up to change the world are killed so that those who kill them can make a profit off their bodies the same way arms or drug dealers make money off of weapons and drugs. A nine year old girl working on her school assignment is killed before she can grow up and decide how she wants to change the world.

The rest of us watch it all happen, either unwilling or unable to do much of anything to turn back the darkness. For those of us who do anything, or at least try to do something, we relate well to what Cap is reported to say in the Civil War trailer, “Saving everyone we can doesn’t mean that we can save everyone.”

We are not God. But many of us pretend to be, and it only furthers the darkness. In a world like this, where is the hope? Where is the order? Where is the sense, the sanity?

You all know how big a fan I am of Marvel Comics. I am a big fan of a lot of stories. I listed some of them, in movie form, at the beginning of this post. I pay attention to the news about upcoming Marvel films. I blog about stories. I daydream about stories.

There are a lot of people like me. Some attend the Comic Conventions and other such events around the globe. They learn to speak Klingon; they dress up as their favorite characters; they pay huge amounts of money for an action figure or a film prop, and they are as ecstatic over a new story in their favorite genre as they are when they learn someone in the family is going to have a baby or is getting married.

Others do not show their love of stories by dressing up, learning Klingon, or spending gobs of money on a new action figure. But they still love the stories. They still love the characters. They still catch the latest movie, book, television episode, etcetera. Why? None of this is real. As Mrs. Travers says in Saving Mr. Banks, “Mary Poppins is not real.”

“She’s real to me,” says Disney. “She’s real to my daughters. She’s real to all your readers. She’s there when we need her.”

People who go to Comic Conventions are mocked a lot. I have never been to a Comic Convention, but I have heard the snide things people say when they speak about those who go to these events. “Yeah, Jake went to Comic Con this year. He dressed up like Superman. Can you believe it? He’s forty and he’s still dressing up. Not to mention getting excited over a stupid comic book character. Ha ha ha!”

And that is Walt Disney’s point in this scene. Mary Poppins is not a stupid character. Superman is not a stupid character. Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, the Avengers, the Fellowship of the Ring, Luke Skywalker – none of them is a “stupid character.”

Yes, these characters are not real people. I will never walk down the street and accidentally meet the Steve Rogers I find in Marvel’s comic books. I will never meet Luke Skywalker, Optimus Prime, Col. Jack O’Neill, Aragorn, or any of my other favorite characters in the flesh.

But that does not make the characters any less real. That does not mean they are not there, within me, ready to be there for me when I need them most.

As an example, remember the end of The Two Towers? Frodo has just tried to kill Sam, but he has recalled himself in time and pulled back. He has done what Gollum decided not to do when his friend Deagol discovered the Ring. “What are we doing here, Sam?” Frodo asks, horrified and sick with the knowledge of what he nearly did.

Sam says, “I don’t know. By rights, we shouldn’t even be here. It’s all mixed up!”

Then, more quietly, Sam adds, almost to himself, “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? Folks in those stories, they had a lot of chances to turn back only they didn’t. They kept fighting, because they were holding onto something. And that’s what we’ve got to do, too.”

“What are we holding on to, Sam?” Frodo asks, still scared. Still lost. Still hurt.

Sam turns to him, helps him to his feet. “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo,” he answers, “And it’s worth fighting for!

I do not know Klingon, and getting me to dress up is harder than putting socks on a crow.   I used to think I was crazy for all the attention I paid to stories, those snide comments about Comic Convention attendees ringing in my ears. What makes me any different than them, I would wonder. I do not dress up or speak Klingon, but I am still practically a walking encyclopedia when it comes to certain stories. I still care more about a good story and the characters in it and get angry at writers who mistreat those characters than I care about having lunch, going for a walk, going shopping, or other such things. What if I’m nuts?

Doubtless, readers, some of you probably think I am nuts. But I do not think that. Not anymore.

Because, in Saving Mr. Banks, in that one scene where he tells Mrs. Travers that “Storytellers bring order to the world and give people hope, time and time again,” I learned what I really am. I may not be a great storyteller, and I do not know about giving people hope time after time. But I know I want to be and do both of those things, and that I am willing to fight to be a storyteller and to give hope to people, over and over again, during this “Long Defeat.” And that I am willing to fight any and all aggressors who deny the value of stories and their characters.

I am a blogger, a storyteller. I am naïve. I have limits. I cannot be everywhere at once, read minds, change shape, or protect everyone. I cannot love everyone in the world, though I have a special place in my heart for all of you, readers.

But I can write. I can appreciate a good story. Because as Samwise the Brave said, “There is some good in this world. And it’s worth fighting for!”

So that is what I am going to do, as best I can, and I am heartily thankful to those friends who sat me down to watch Saving Mr. Banks. I am grateful to those who made it, to those who made Mary Poppins, the book and the movie. And most of all, to the One who made me and all the good things and people in this world, I am very, very grateful, beyond words.

Catch you later, readers.

The Mithril Guardian

A Happy Ending, Please!


What is your idea of a happy ending?  For most people, the ideal happy ending appears to mirror the ending of the Cinderella fairy tale: obstacles and problems (step-sisters and step-mother in Cinderella’s case) are overcome; the protagonist wins the love of his/her life (the prince gets Cinderella/ Cinderella gets the prince); and the two ride off into the sunset.

This impression of a clichéd ‘happy ending’ is far from true.  As a first example, there is Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Little Mermaid.  The ending for the Disney film bears absolutely no resemblance to the ending of the fairy tale – which is fine; Disney’s The Little Mermaid is a wholesome movie that can be enjoyed and mined for philosophical purposes just as much as Anderson’s fairy tale.

At the end of Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, the Little Mermaid does not win her prince’s hand in marriage.  Unlike the film, this failure will not result in her enslavement to the sea witch.  In the fairy tale the penalty is far higher – either the Little Mermaid wins her prince’s heart and marries him by her third day on land, or she becomes sea foam as soon as she touches the ocean water on the third day and dies.

In the fairy tale, the prince awoke on the beach after the Little Mermaid rescued him and found a girl from a nearby temple standing over him.  Believing it was this girl who saved him, the prince marries her instead of the Little Mermaid, breaking the Little Mermaid’s heart and seemingly dooming her to oblivion on the morning of the third day.

However, the Mermaid’s older sisters (their number appears to change with each telling of the story; Anderson wrote the Little Mermaid as the sixth and youngest child for the fairy tale) arrive at the side of the prince’s ship – where he married the other girl – before sunrise of the third day.  The five sisters have paid the sea witch with their long hair to buy a remedy for their sister’s plight.  The ‘remedy’ turns out to be this: to live, the Little Mermaid must kill the prince and let his blood drip on her feet.  This will give her back her mermaid tale and the typical mermaid lifespan of three hundred years.

To kill the prince, the witch gave the sisters a special knife, which they in turn toss to the Little Mermaid.  But the Little Mermaid cannot bring herself to kill the prince.  Instead, she tosses the knife overboard, and then follows it into the water a moment later.

This is not a ‘happy ending’ at all, right?  Well, this is where Anderson surprised everyone.  Instead of killing the Little Mermaid, Anderson let her sacrifice earn her a second chance at happiness.  Instead of dying when she touches the water, the Little Mermaid becomes a ‘Daughter of the Air’ – an invisible sprite that lives in the air.  This will not help her marry the prince, who is already blissfully in love with the girl who found him on the beach.  But it will give her the chance to gain a human soul, one of the periphery advantages she would have gained if she had married the prince.  She and the other Daughters will have less time to wait for their soul when they see a child who does good, but a day will be added to their wait whenever they witness a child doing wrong.

The ending to the Little Mermaid’s story is not the only example of a ‘non-standard’ happy ending.  At the end of the play Cyrano de Bergerac, for instance, Cyrano wins the love of Roxann, his cousin.  But he wins it moments before he dies, killed because he spoke out against the corruption of the French court far too long and far too loudly.  Also, after his injury at the end of the Legends of King Arthur, Arthur is whisked away to the mystical Island of Avalon as his kingdom falls apart.  He will remain on Avalon, according to the legend, until his kingdom needs him once again at some future date.

Fat lot of good that is going to do his subjects and his remaining knights, isn’t it?  Yet Arthur’s story still ends in this way.

For more ‘modern’ examples of an ‘unconventional’ happy ending we have The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars trilogy.  At the close of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Frodo is unable to find peace and comfort in the Shire, which was his desire throughout the journey to destroy the One Ring.  He has been injured too deeply by the burden of the One Ring for the joys of Middle-earth to heal him.  In his words, such a thing must often happen, sometimes one person “has to give up what he desired so that others may enjoy it.”  (I paraphrased his own words, but that is essentially what he said.)

So Frodo leaves the Shire and Middle-earth with Bilbo, the Elves, and Gandalf, crossing the sea to – essentially – leave the land of the living for life beyond it, a life where he can be healed.  This is not an ‘unhappy’ ending at all.  It is tinged with sadness because now those who knew and loved Frodo will not be able to share the rewards for their work with him, as they naturally wished to do.  But they know that where he is going he will be happier there than he would have been in Middle-earth, even in the beautiful Shire which all the Hobbits love.

In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker turns his father from the Dark Side of the Force to the Light Side of the Force.  He does not do this through pleading with Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, though his speeches may have had some influence on Vader’s change of heart.

No.  Luke saves his father by refusing to kill him, by willingly facing death rather than commit patricide.  This, combined with watching Emperor Palpatine’s joyous torture of his son, turns Vader to the Light side of the Force.  Vader saves his son’s life – at the cost of his own.  Lucas wrote the ending for the film this way partly, I believe, because though Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker had saved his son and had been saved by his son, he could not remain in a galaxy that had hated and feared him for so long.  So instead Anakin Skywalker dies and becomes one with the Force.

Again, this is a happy ending with a touch of sadness.  It is sad because Luke will not get to know his father for as long as he wanted to know him.  He discovers his father in time to say good-bye.  But the ending for Jedi is a happy ending all the same because, while Anakin saved his son’s life, Luke saved his father’s soul.  It is a happy/ sad ending.   These endings listed above show that ‘happy’ endings are not all of one shape.  A ‘happy’ ending can and often does take several different forms.

Now I know that some authors will say, “Yes, but my character doesn’t deserve a happy ending.”

That may be true.  Were it up to me I certainly would not give such characters as, say, Hannibal Lecter or the villain of Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago, a happy ending.  I would just as soon kill off either character with a lightning bolt before or after the story was done and have done with them.  But then I am reminded of Gandalf’s words regarding Gollum, “Deserves it [death]!  I daresay he does.  Many that live deserve death.  And some that die deserve life.  Can you give it to them?  Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.  For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” – Chapter Two of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

By all accounts, Gollum was a disgusting creature, complete vermin.  In the books it is mentioned that he not only fed on wild animals but, on his journey through Mirkwood toward the Shire (which he thankfully never set foot in), he would sneak into the cottages of the woodsmen who lived near Mirkwood and ‘look in’ on the cradles they had in their homes.  Then there is the fact that, before losing the One Ring, when he tired of fish Gollum would capture an Orc for dinner.  He even splashed into the Dead Marshes on his journey out of Mordor in an attempt to feed on the bodies in the mire there.  From every angle of his case, Gollum should have been killed.  But both Frodo and Gandalf refused to kill him or let him be killed, and that proved to be what saved Frodo in the end.

“Fine,” say other authors, “But you must admit that there are stories that simply do not have happy endings.”

This is also true.  However, I would say that this is true of biographers, or writers who base their fiction closely on actual events.  Most fictional stories are allegorical, and therefore they carry very little with them that is real, beyond certain unchanging truths.  Fictional stories, therefore, usually have happy endings.

Then there are those authors who roll their eyes and say, “Come on, there’s no such thing as a happy ending!  How can you write about something that doesn’t exist, like that phony ending to The Little Mermaid?  That was nothing but a bribe to make children ‘behave themselves.’”

Now these are the authors I have a real beef with, because there are such things as happy endings, inside fiction and out of it.  As for the ending of The Little Mermaid, one could argue that it is a bribe to make children behave, but I think this is a mistake.

I think this because characters are not – or should not – be given endings they ‘deserve.’  Characters should be given – and they usually receive – rewards for their decisions and actions the way that a child is rewarded for his/her behavior.  As Tolkien pointed out through Gandalf, it is impossible in this world to know what anyone truly ‘deserves.’  However, it is quite possible to discern what a character has earned by analyzing their actions, thoughts, words, and decisions throughout a story.  This is something some authors do instinctively, I think.  Tolkien, Chesterton, Shakespeare, Andre Norton, etc., all had a knack for knowing what their characters had earned and what they had not.  That is why they are great authors.

To illustrate the point, let us return to The Little Mermaid for a moment.  Anderson gave the fairy tale the ending he did because the Little Mermaid’s willingness to sacrifice her life rather than kill the prince she loved had earned her a second shot at happiness.  The ‘bribe,’ wherein Daughters of the Air earn a soul faster if children are good, but have a day added to their waiting period when a child is bad, is no more of a ‘bribe’ than the warning in the song “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”

How many children consider the warning of “… you better not pout, you better not cry…” until their folks are dressing up the Christmas tree?  Not very many – and I should know; I was one of them once!  Summer activities leave little room in most young noggins for any of them to think about Christmas.  I sincerely doubt that children would think very much about the Little Mermaid’s waiting period while splashing around in a pool.  And they definitely would not remember it in the middle of a snowball fight or a ride down the hill on a sled.

If one were to end stories with what a character ‘deserved,’ then Darth Vader would have let his son die in Return of the Jedi; the Black Widow would not be a member either of SHIELD or the Avengers; Cyrano would have married Roxann; Arthur would have died; and Frodo would be dead.  These characters did not receive the end that they ‘deserved.’  They received the end that they had earned – just as people in real life receive or will receive what they earn, not what they deserve.

“Okay,” someone says.  “You say authors today should give their stories happy endings, and you cite the classics to do it.  Well what about those classics that didn’t end happily?  What about Frankenstein, Othello, Wuthering Heights, etc.?”

That is a valid question.  And the answer, I believe, is this: these stories are warnings about the cost of choosing evil.

Think about it.  What befalls Frankenstein – the scientist, not his monster – after he ‘creates’ new life in an attempt to conquer death?  Doctor Frankenstein’s life is ruined as the monster he ‘created’ harangues him for his remaining days, killing everyone close to the doctor.  Frankenstein finally goes on a hunt to destroy the monstrosity he made.  He eventually dies in the Arctic on a research ship, where his monster comes to lament over Frankenstein’s dead body about its own stark fate.

In Othello the villain Iago tells his commander Othello that Desdemona, Othello’s wife, is unfaithful to him.  Othello eventually comes to believe Iago’s story and kills Desdemona.  Eventually the truth comes out through Iago’s wife:  Desdemona was in fact faithful to Othello, and he murdered his wife for nothing.

Wuthering Heights sees the mad Heathcliff torment all those around him – even the woman he loves, who is married to another man.  When she dies and her daughter puts an end to Heathcliff’s schemes, Heathcliff is haunted by memories of the woman he loved but could never gain.  Eventually Heathcliff kills himself by starvation.  As someone I know would say, these are the kind of stories that “are really dark, really noir, and in the end everybody dies.”

Ah, but why do these stories end like this?  Unlike most ‘modern’ stories that are what my friend describes as “really dark, really noir,” the stories of Frankenstein, Othello, and Heathcliff are warnings.  They do not glory in misery and pain – they warn against it.  These characters made choices, choices for which they suffered more than if they had chosen right instead of wrong.  These stories are tombstones set along the road of life – signs that say: “DANGER:  DO NOT ENTER!”  They warn that “this way lies death, do not choose this road.”

This is what differentiates these stories from most of the ‘dark’ fiction of today.  ‘Dark’ fiction of the past was a warning, a DANGER:  KEEP OUT sign.  ‘Dark’ fiction today is a just a mud hole wherein everything is “really dark, really noir, and in the end everybody dies.”

Today’s ‘dark’ fiction sees zombies or vampires taking over the world, or horrible people doing horrible things for no real reason.  Analyzing most of this new ‘dark’ fiction, where everything ends in despair and death, one finds no warnings and nothing else of practical value.  This is why ‘happy endings’ to stories today are so much more preferable now than they were in the past.

“If Frankenstein is a warning,” some ask, “then what is The Little Mermaid?”

Frankenstein IS a warning.  The Little Mermaid is a sign post pointing the way to the destination everyone seeks, though they may not know it or know how to seek it properly.  That destination is eternity; the end for everyone in the world.  What one finds on the other side depends on how they live, and how they seek eternity.  As my blog title – “Thoughts on the Edge of Forever” – suggests, I am not there yet.  Else it would not be “on the Edge” of forever.  It is a journey and there is much yet to see.  But to lose sight of the prize is to lose everything.

Thankfully there are many signposts – stories – that help to point the way.  And there are just as many “DANGER” signs screaming “Not this way!!!”

And so, viva happy endings!

The Mithril Guardian