This morning, I tweeted:

Grimm’s fairy tales offer uniformly terrible marriage advice: 1. Endure supernatural hardship 2. Marry the person who rescues you

My observation was based on my nightly reading of a copy of Grimm’s that I got at Barnes and Noble last week,1 not any statistical analysis. But it sure feels true.

If someone has the time this weekend, I’d be curious to know which of Grimm’s tales actually fit this pattern. The book is free through Project Gutenberg.

Obviously, fairy tales are simplifications of reality, so we can’t expect verisimilitude in them. But this pattern of marrying the first person who assists you seems an especially dangerous idea to instill in young women.

As I think about acquaintances with terrible boyfriends/husbands, almost invariably the girl came from a difficult background (abusive parents, poverty, illness), and this guy got them away from it.

But the fact that they rescued you once doesn’t mean they are the right person for you to build a life with. It doesn’t mean they’ll be a supportive spouse or a good parent. And it doesn’t mean that you’re right for them, either.

If the only requirement for marriage is saving you from peril, we should all marry firefighters.

  1. I’m reading one of those $20 made-for-Barnes versions, and it’s actually really nice.