Our Obsession with Happy Endings

Tell me you don’t think about it.  Tell me you don’t know people who get upset when they read a story or watch television/movie and there is not a happy ending.  I can bet those that prefer happy endings are the ones that have changed literature (including scripts) for, quite possibly, the worst.

Not to be mean, really I’m not.  Happy endings are great.  The ones that are needed definitely should stay there. Does the world truly need everything to be so filled with sunshine and lollipops and unicorn’s farting rainbows? If everything ends so wonderfully then how are we truly going to understand life and its multiple layers of lessons?  Yes, everything is a lesson, whether we like it or not. I can understand, maybe, that it is a way of escapism or wishful thinking.  

I’m not saying everything should be written be so drab because what would the fun in that?  What I’m wondering is when did we flip that switch from endings that fit to endings that make a person feel good?  I know we would love to place the blame on Disney, heck I think they’re pretty twisted in what they come up with sometimes.  No matter what, though, endings of stories always change.  The content changes and for that it isn’t just blamed on the big cheese himself.  I come across people all the time who won’t read a book once they find out it doesn’t end well, or leaves things in a quandary or a cliffhanger.  They especially dislike that their favorite characters may die or there happens to be pain and suffering.  Why would that be? Things have become so full of fluff that it is easy to stay up in those clouds of happiness, yet to be down to earth means flaws, suspense, death, pain, suffering, confusion, tears, laughing, justice, vengeance, happy, love; humanity at its finest.

In my opinion I think that if you rob a good story of its true ending, they way it should be written, then it is a story that should sit in a drawer until it is mature enough to give its true ending whether happy, sad, or truly evil. Otherwise it is being robbed of its real potential.  I am one to not shy away from what is needed for a story, even if it is upsetting.  Everything has its purpose and place.  I believe I would be completely ripped apart if someone added a truly happy ending where everything happened right and nobody died.  How much fun would that be?

I’m going to use an example now.  It’s a fairy tale.  You do understand that a lot of the fairy tales were completely different when they were first written.  I definitely would have to do a lot more research if I were to check on the origins of each and every one of the popular tales that were told, I would need to put down my own writing just to get to them all.  For now, we will go for just one.  It is a tale that is so different from what we grew up knowing, yes this is a Disney thank you I’m sure, it seems so innocent.  But it is dark, twisted, and has been changed a few times in itself throughout the generations.


The tale is The Sleeping Beauty.  Are you thinking of a pretty princess dancing around, singing, fairy godmothers, the wicked witch, a spindle, a sweet kiss and a so forth and so on.  The version before the one you recognize was written by Charles Perrault – the Frenchman who also brought you Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood.  He wrote from existing fairy tales and put his own spin on things, oddly lightening them up some more; although he kept things to their closest form.  He wrote “The Sleeping Beauty” for the collection, which he took from , an Italian in the 1600’s and his story “Sole, Luna, e Talia” or “Sun, Moon, and Talia“. The Brother’s Grimm go a hold of the story after Perrault’s but told it a tad different also. It was separated in two parts, the first one ending with the prince finding the sleeping woman and the second called “Little Briar Rose”.  This, more than likely, was probably why we only know the Disney style version since it was separated. But we will focus on the Frenchman and the Italian.

In Perrault’s version, there still was the birth of a princess, fairy’s were in attendance, and it was an old fairy who cursed the child to die on a spindle and with a last fairy changing that curse to 100 years of sleep. Of course what happens after stays about the same.  The spindles are forbidden, she is drawn in anyway and is put into a deep sleep with everyone in the castle put to sleep.  After 100 years a prince checks the castle out during a hunting expedition. He finds out what happens, goes to the princess, falls to his knees and the enchantment comes to an end.  They talk, people wake up, they marry.  Being that they were wed, the prince kept it a secret and she stayed in her palace heading back and forth for many years between his home and the one with his wife.  In those years they had two children, Dawn and Day.  He kept everything secret from his stepmother, who happened to be of ogre lineage.  Once the prince ascended the throne he brought with him his wife and their two children. Disliking the situation, the step-mother sent off the princess to a cabin and given strict instructions to the cook to prepare the boy, Day, for her dinner.  The cook could not bear this so he substituted a lamb in the boys place.  The Queen mother, having liked the boy so much wanted the girl, Dawn, cooked up also.  She was replaced with a goat and the ogre step-mother was pleased and enjoyed the sauce they were prepared in.  Her appetite was not satisfied so she sent for the Sleeping Beauty Queen to be her next course.  As distressed as she was from losing her children to her husband’s step-mother she offered her throat to be slit so she could be able to see her children again.  The cook secretly united the family and the beauty was replaced with a hind.  All three were prepared in the same sauce which made it easier to mask the meals.  She soon found out and prepared a tub in the courtyard filled with vipers and other noxious creatures to kill the family that never became her meal.  The King returns just in time to stop his step-mother.  The Ogress, apparently distraught at her step-son finding out her ill-intended doings, threw herself into the pit and everyone else lived HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

Yes, it had a happy ending.  The tale in between was a bit less savory and lighthearted than the one we grew up with wasn’t it?  So how could the tale become less happy?  For that we look to Giambattista Basile.  He gathered many a tale and put them in a collection of works, although I am curious what he had changed when he wrote them down also.

“Sun, Moon, and Talia is a tad different. Instead of there being a curse, it was prophesy.  Instead of fairy’s there were wise men and astrologers who cast the child’s horoscope. Instead of a splinter it is a piece of flax.  The same is done, the king demand all flax destroyed, the young woman ends up fulfilling her fate, and falls asleep.  She is put away in one of the country estates.  The prince is already a king but he does the same, he see’s the estate, asks about it and the tale and visits.  HERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE AND BEWARE IT IS NOT SO KIND: The king tries to awaken Talia, but is unsuccessful.  Instead he has sex/rapes her then heads back to his own city.  Still deep in her sleep Talia becomes pregnant and gives birth to two children, Sun and Moon.  One day the boy could not find his mother’s breast to feed and ends up suckling on the finger that had the piece of flax in it and it is pulled loose.  Talia is awakened quickly (obviously not startled by the actions, which I am scratching me head about) scoops up her children, names them, and they live happily in their estate.  The King finally returns and is startled to find the three of them.  The big problem is that he is already married to someone else.  He goes back and forth between his two homes.  At nights his wife hears him calling out Sun, Moon, and Talia’s names in his sleep.  She finds out about who he was dreaming about and sends for the children immediately, ripping them from their mother’s arms.  The cook was informed, and like the other story he spared the children and replaced them with animals.  The Queen taunts the King the whole time they are eating.  She also has had Talia brought to court, had ordered a fire to be lit and Talia to be stripped and thrown into the fire.  With each piece of clothing she takes off she cries in sadness at the loss of her children.  The king hears her in the courtyard screaming and crying.  This was when the Queen tells him that Talia will be burned at the stake and that he had unknowingly eaten his own children.  The King, enraged, demanded that the Queen, the secretary that told her about the family, and the cook all be thrown into the fire instead.  When it came time for the cook he quickly explains what really happened with the children and reunites the family, leaving the Queen burn.  He later married Talia and the cook rewarded with a title of royal chamberlain.  So I suppose you would say they lived HAPPILY EVER AFTER. 

Yes, all had happy endings.  In all honesty though, going back in time and stripping away all the  things that make it so happy, happy, joy joy you see the tale as it is.  Somewhat dark, disturbing, and fit for a true tale.  One that you have to work for and push through to get the outcome that you want.  Those are the happy endings I can deal with because the content is so meaty it is worth the meal.  

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  1. I always thought the old fairy tales were supposed to be campfire stories or used to terrify children into being nice. The mean villain always got a disturbing comeuppance.

    • Some that I looked at, including this one, were not even meant for children to begin with when they were first started. When they did get used for kids, it was to put the fear in them, or at least give a moral that probably is lost to us now (as in the meaning or even why) being there was more than likely a specific reason. I just am not sure when our shift between those kind of stories and what have become today. Sugar coated for sure.

      • I think it was Disney with Snow White. They found the market and altered the Grimm Tales. Other people followed suit when they realized dark tales can be remodeled for children.

      • Which is understandable, but the tales got washed away with it all and people find it simpler to have what is put in front of their face at the most current. Kind of like all the marketing we have to do if you think about it. Snow White was definitely nothing to be happy about either. The Grimm brother’s watered tales down, but they didn’t even make it as “friendly” as they are today.

      • Little Mermaid is one that always comes to mind. Cinderella and the step-sisters’ mutilation is another. It could be the sign of a cultural shift too. This isn’t the same world that those stories were made in, so that could be another reason.

      • It is definitely different. I know the little mermaid turned out horrid for the mermaid who practically committed “suicide” and yes the mutilation in Cinderella is quite intriguing.

        I find it head scratching with a world full of violence in general that tales with a true story to be told have to be censored or sent back to be redone to fit “demographics” because it isn’t happy or campy enough.

      • I think it’s more to give children positive, happy stories. People can be changed by the world of violence when they’re older. Children shouldn’t be tossed into it so quickly.

      • yes children need positive….they should be fed the changes or the information later in life I suppose. It’s the ones that coddle the kids until their 20’s, that’s a totally different subject.

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