What do fairy tales tell us about love?

When I was little I was mesmerized by the tragic beauty of Hans Cristian Andersen’s fairy tales. The story I liked most was the sea princesses story. The sea princess, who gave up her ability to sing, her most cherished talent, and endured excruciating pain for the sake of the love of a prince she barely knew. Well, it is a fairy tale , so these things won’t happen in real life,  I told myself when I reached adulthood and witnessed the destruction wrought around us in the name of love.

Men murdering women, in the name of love and committing suicide. Women leaving the family,  for greener pastures.

Where is the beautiful love, talked about in those stories? Mind you, Hans Christian Anderson’s stories do not depict couples winning their battles of love, and living happily ever after. There is suffering in the mere concept of love, the Bodhisattva concept, where Load Buddha supposedly spent 555 births inculcating in himself 10 humane qualities, even at the expense of his own life and limb in each separate birth.

In the fairy tale the Happy Prince,  the happy prince is now unhappy,  because he is witness to all the suffering of the city, he once presided upon. He decides to take matters into his hand. He enlists a sparrow in love with a river weed, to help him. The sparrow, also out of compassion for the once happy prince helps him to help the downtrodden of the city. When stripped out of all the trappings and luxury of his happy prince era, the prince requests the sparrow to leave him.

But, the sparrow has endeared himself to the happy prince, minus his luxuries, and he lives with him, till frozen to death. When adults teach these stories,  to children, they are sure to add the adage that this type of deep abiding love is so rare now. That people are after money and prestige and things like love and compassion are unnecessary baggage that hinders progress. 

But, I would like to differ. Beautiful things are found, if only you have time and patience to look around. And beautiful things are not found mostly among the luxuries and glitter.

I met a beautiful soul, who told me something so profound that I skipped a heartbeat. A man, resident in Padaviya, who was compelled to spend most of his young life sleeping in the jungle at night, during the 30 years old war told me “ Tamil people are ourselves, there is no difference “ “ Maybe far better than us in certain aspects “ One person, you couldn’t even blame for hating Tamils uttered the most profound statement of reconciliation,  I ever heard.

My neighbour is a regular man, with a small family,  and a small business. I remembered that he had his elderly parents once at home but since our practice was to keep to ourselves, I didn’t inquire much into what happened to them. Upon, the announcement of the death of one elderly parent,  it revealed to me that this family of four had been caring for two bedridden parents, for so long as 10 years with minimum fuss. They were so very well cared for that we barely noticed that they were there. They were not people of much means,  both the parents worked full time and both the children were at school.  But they looked after, according to well-informed sources of the village, the two elderly parents, with utmost tender loving and care, with no fuss at all. These parents did not lead exemplary lives either, I was told, the father used to be addicted to alcohol and the mother vented her frustration upon her children.

But they had managed to kindle in the hearts of these children the rare virtue of gratitude and the children’s children, in turn, would learn that.

When the songbird takes upon herself to nurse the rosebud, so that the young man will have a rose requested by his lover,  and when she bled to death in the process, according to Hans Christian Anderson, my heart wept.

My heart continue to weep,  for all the unrequited love in the world. For all the unfinished love stories.

But, wait a minute,  should we measure the success of a love story, only by it’s ending?  Should there be something called success, when it comes to love?

Love , given will enrich not only the heart / person who receives the love but the heart who pours out love.

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