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Fairy tales can't come true; it won't happen to you

Shambling into the living room this morning, where my wife was watching the news, I heard—even before my first coffee—a woman use the word fairytale three times in ninety seconds while gushing about the pending royal wedding in Britain.

No one should have to endure that in the early morning. Or at any time of day.

Trying to stamp out the “’Tis the season” cliche in articles is a lonely struggle against titanic forces, and the inane accounting of the price tag of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” has apparently drunk an immortality potion. So it is with little or no confidence that I suggest eighty-sixing the “fairytale wedding” cant. (D’you remember how the last one turned out?)

The combination of the Cinderella fantasy and the latent Anglophilia on these shores—the latter spreading even beyond PBS watchers—is a potent cocktail, and writers should be wary of the hazards of intoxication. Try to stay sober.



Posted by John McIntyre at 10:38 AM | | Comments (10)


It was a fairy-tale wedding; it just wasn't a fairy-tale marriage. Marriages are usually only mentioned in fairy tales when they have gone seriously bad, and right at the end when you aren't going to hear any more anyway.

Indeed. So many brides say their wedding day is "the happiest (or best, or most important) day of my life", and for a large percentage of them that, unfortunately, is true.

A "fairytale," according to "The Encyclopedia of Fantasy" (written and edited by those who know a thing or two about the field), is "a written story that relies upon the fantastic, although it need not involved fairies or faerie...It almost always involves a transformation, either physically or through self-discovery, so that by its end people or circumstances have changed, generally allowing a 'happy ever after' conclusion." By "transformation," the authors mean a magical and radical change in shape (think "The Frog Prince" or "The Little Mermaid"). I don't think that's what will really happen in this royal wedding.

Stick to your guns, John. This wedding will be a spectacle but no fairytale.

Meanwhile, for many of us here in the UK, the real fairytale - oxymoron notwithstanding - would be if at least some sections of the media eased up on the whole thing.

Kevin, even on this side of the Atlantic much of the coverage seems excessive. How bad will it be by the time of the wedding?

Bros. Grimm----herrs Jabob and Wilhelm--- if today (they) were chronicling alleged contemporary 'fairy tales', wouldn't touch the pending Summer-2011 nuptials of young Prince William and comely commoner, Kate Middleton, w/ a ten-foot pole.

Sadly, many Americans longingly pine for some form of greater connection w/ what some cynics would argue is the anachronistic institution of British royalty, w/ the almost mythic Kennedy 'Kingdom of Camelot' representing the closest state-side facsimile of British noblesse oblige at the supreme level.

With the passing of Sen. Edward "Teddy" Kennedy--the last of the four charismatic Kennedy brothers--- 'Camelot' is fast fading into history, a fairy tale dynasty of privilege, power, and passion marked by incredible highs, and tragic lows.

But alas, hope truly springs eternal, w/ the prospect of Princess Diana's eldest son William finally taking his fetching fiance, Kate, as his lawful-wedded-wife, and possible future queen.

Clearly, the fawning global tabloid media-machine is gearing up w/ collective gusto, creating a mounting crescendo of anticipation, pomp and circumstance befitting a typical manufactured media 'fairy tale', already exuding hyperbole, and superfluous hype.

The current British royal House of Windsor was formerly the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the Teutonic familial line of Prince Albert, the consort-designate, and husband of long-reigning Queen Victoria.

So the Germanic genetic strains run deeply thru the British royals' bloodlines. Like many a Bros. Grimm fairy tale, the future marriage of William and Kate could well evolve into a 'happily-ever-after' marital scenario, yet could just as likely have less than a fairy tale, positive ending----not unlike the sad and tragic fate of Britain's most beloved modern royal ever, William's mum, Princess Diana.

John, I agree that a soberer, less exuberant take on this impending royal coupling by the world media might be the most prudent tack. Sadly, that OTHER over-hyped fairy tale union w/ so much initial collective hope and promise, over time devolved into a most depressing and ill-fated nightmare.


I suspect that it has instead drunk an immortality potion, unless you meant a portion of a potion. (Apologies to anyone who now has a Danny Kaye earworm.)

And the "'Tis the season" problem could be worse -- there could be a fashion for "Gay apparel" headlines.

Potion, indeed. Many thanks.

It seems to me that Fairy Tale Princesses were always such victims!

Eve: All except the Paper Bag Princess. She's got style.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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