Once there was a princess who was imprisoned in a castle the size and shape of herself. In fact, the castle looked almost exactly like the princess. Since nobody realized she was imprisoned — because of course, it was nearly impossible to tell — no one bothered to try to rescue her. So the princess dressed the castle in fancy clothes. Still no one tried to rescue her. So the princess put a lot of makeup on the castle. She dyed the castle’s hair a lovely but unnatural shade of blonde. People looked at her — or rather, at the castle — a little more closely, but still no one tried to rescue her. So the princess saved up her pennies and got the castle a nose job. As soon as she took the bandage off, a prince came along and kissed the castle’s new profile. At that moment, the castle cracked in two and crumbled at the princess’s feet. Thrilled to be free at last and what’s more, overjoyed at the thought of being loved, the princess stepped over the rubble and into the prince’s arms, plain as the day she was born. The prince took a look at his watch, made a half-assed excuse, and left.
One fine winter day, a kind-hearted peasant woman was sitting on her doorstep, peeling an apple, when the knife slipped and she cut her finger. A drop of her blood fell onto the snow. The peasant woman gasped at the vivid beauty of the sight. “Oh!” she said, “If only I had a child as red as blood and as white as the snow.” Some time later the peasant woman did indeed give birth to such a baby, a little baby boy with skin as white as snow and lips as red as blood. When the woman saw her child, she was so happy she died of joy. At least, that’s what his father told him. A few years later, on the playground, the other kids explained just exactly where babies come from. They called the boy “murderer,” and told him that his mother had not died of joy but because giving birth could be hard on a woman. They also told him he had weird lips.
A highly regarded merchant had three fair daughters. The youngest, called Beauty because she was so striking, was her father’s favorite. One day the merchant told his daughters he was going on a trip to buy goods for his shop. The two older girls, insecure about their looks, begged him to bring them back diamond earrings and tortoise-shell combs, fancy dresses and expensive laces, ribbons, and furs with which to adorn themselves. Beauty said nothing. When finally her father asked her what she wanted, she replied, “You are kind to think of me. Perhaps you could bring me a red, red rose. They do not grow here.” Her father was touched and impressed by her restraint, just as Beauty had intended. He had always believed that the purity, the goodness, the sheer beauty of her soul were reflected in her outward appearance. Beauty sure had him fooled. She wanted the rose so she could rub the petals on her cheeks as a kind of rouge. Already, Beauty used strawberry juice as lipstick, and charcoal from the wood stove as eyeliner. The truth was that Beauty outshone her sisters because she secretly wore makeup. And in those days that meant you were a real hussy, the kind of woman who’d run off with any old beast of a man, especially for money.