Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Of Power and Princesses, pt 4

4. Magic, and the public perception

Most likely, in the Princess-verse, there many other users of magic, we just don’t have movies showing us their boring exploits. While we’ve seen four fairies helping out Cinderella and Aurora, there have probably been many others helping out other random people and the occasional princess or future princess; we’ve just haven’t had the privilege of seeing it. And equally so, there have probably been other enchanters, sorcerers, wizards throughout history, for good and evil, and again, just no movie for us to see. Jafar and Dallben appear to be educated in magic, and likely learned their magic from other wizards and enchanters, though it is not common enough to merit any kind of Hogwarts-style school. Others, perhaps like Malificent and Elsa, just discovered the inborn powers, and struggled to learn to control it. And, of course, there’s a countless number of witches, so they probably have their own guild.

While not common, magic appears often enough that the population of the Princess-verse knows about, either from stories and legends, or potentially, by direct contact. So what does the public feel about these people?

There are both good and evil magic-users in the Princess-verse, as I’ve already listed. However, among those garnering public attention, it’s mostly the evil ones.

Good fairies are casting their charms privately, and only on a person or two. So-call great wizard Dallben has hidden himself away on a pig farm. Triton lives under-the-sea. And that’s about it. The Genie will grant wishes to anyone who has his lamp, and the Beauty and the Beast enchantress probably thinks she’s doing good, but takes things way overboard, hurting a lot of people in the process.

Then the rest: Evil Queen, tyrant, narcissist, and murderer; Malificent, narcissist and fire-breathing dragon; Horned King, king of the undead; Jafar, Machiavellian political manipulator and, of course, narcissist; the witches from Brave and The Black Cauldron, tricksters with a bad attitude; and Ursula, user, manipulator, and power-crazed giant squid.

Finally, we have Frozen. Little Princesses Elsa and Anna are playing, Elsa using her magical snow and ice powers, and Anna is hurt by a misfired ray of cold. Off to the trolls, where Grand Pabbie is able to heal Anna, but also feels it best to remove her memory of Elsa’s powers. Why? And after advising Elsa that she needs to learn to control her powers, her parents, the King of Queen, decide it would be best to shut the doors of the castle and teach Elsa to hide and repress her powers. Why?

As an audience in 2013, these choices seem backwards. We live in a society that does (or is evolving to) accept differences, revels in people’s uniqueness, and loves super-heroes. Elsa should have been taking regular trips into the mountains to practice making snowballs and ice sculptures.

But in the Princess-verse, the people have learned that with great power comes great evil. Sure, the occasional fairy or troll elder is harmless, but if you have any real magical abilities, so are destined to cause great trouble. When, after arguing with Anna during the coronation ball, Elsa fires off a wall of ice to keep the crowd away, the Duke of Weselton yells out “Sorcery!”, and not in admiration, but in fear. He calls her a monster instructs his thugs to kill her, given the chance. The crowd in the castle courtyard back away from Elsa in fear when she freezes the fountains. These are the reactions of people who fear magic powers.

So while Elsa herself was an innocent child, she was cursed with magic, and so Grand Pabbie troll and King Agdar both felt that hiding her abilities to be the correct choice, to protect her from the world that believes that magic power leads to death and destruction. And, of course, it nearly does.

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