I hear a lot about Fairy Tale Princesses, or even Disney Princesses, but what about those Fairy Tale Princes? That’s right – I said princes. The male counterpart of all those princesses. Why don’t they ever get any attention? Well, in this blog, they’re about to get all the attention.
Who are these guys, anyway? Let’s see, there was Snow White and Prince . . . Prince . . . Prince . . . What was his name, anyway? It turns out he actually doesn’t even have an official name. Poor guy. We cannot kiss him off completely, though; we must at least give him lip service.
Prince Charming seems to be the stock name for fairy tale princes, but who is Charming’s original princess? The source of the term Prince Charming could have originated with Charles Perrault’s 1697 version of Sleeping Beauty when the prince is “charmed” by Sleeping Beauty’s words. But, it could also come from Madame d’Aulnoy‘s eighteenth century fairy tales, The Story of Pretty Goldilocks and The Blue Bird. In The Story of Pretty Goldilocks, there is a hero that is referred to as “fine” or “beautiful” and translated to charming by Andrew Lang. In The Blue Bird, the hero is “The Charming King”.
Wherever the title Prince Charming came from, it has come to be a catch-all for several no-name princes. Peruse some translations of Cinderella and Perrault’s The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood. Or how about LePrince de Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast? In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast, who turns out to be a prince, is referred to as “the charming prince”, but otherwise, remains unnamed. And moving forward to modern-day fairy tale renderings, Prince Charming is Snow White’s prince on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, while in Michael Buckley’s books The Sisters Grimm, Prince Charming is now Mayor Charming – mayor of Ferryport Landing.
Disney seems to have a habit of naming fairy tale princes for their movies. In the 1959 Disney movie Sleeping Beauty, the prince is named Phillip, and in the 1989 The Little Mermaid, the prince bears the name of Eric. Both of these princes are nameless in the original fairy tales. Check out Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid or Charles Perault’s The Sleeping Beauty for yourself.
That leaves us back with Charming. The term Prince Charming in today’s world has come to refer to the perfect man. It seems all these fairy tale princes have certainly set a gold standard of excellence for the males amongst us. Or have they?
I mentioned the originally nameless prince in The Little Mermaid. He really isn’t so perfect. In the original fairy tale, the Little Mermaid believes the prince will marry her to give her a human soul, but when he chooses to marry another, the Little Mermaid is doomed to die and become sea foam. She is given a chance to return to her mermaid form, but must kill the prince in order to do so. She does not, however, choosing to die herself rather than kill the prince. If fairy tale princes are supposed to be our shining example, The Little Mermaid‘s prince has failed the test.
And on the opposite end of the spectrum of our stereotypical prince, there is The Frog Prince (originally called The Frog King or Iron Heinrich). In this classic fairy tale made popular by the Grimm Brothers, the princess/prince roles seem to be reversed and it is the prince in need of being rescued. He is also nameless, by the way.
Let’s return one more time to focus on that Prince Charming name. Even though princes are rather nameless in the realm of classical fairy tales, the name Prince Charming fits many of them. I’ll tell you why. In light of the many different princes found in fairy tales, I contend that Prince Charming is not so much a name as a type of prince found in some fairy tales. The type that rescues Cinderella or Snow White or Sleeping Beauty or . . . . You get the picture. And if the type fits, the name Prince Charming fits, too.