Saturday, September 25, 2010
Princes in Disguise
Recently, over at All About Romance, a thread started up about happier endings and tragic ones, and the discussion digressed, as it sometimes will do, to a lively debate about Jo in the book Little Women -- specifically, whether Jo's choosing Professor Bhaer over the younger, more passionate Laurie was really a true happy ending. I argued it was. And not only because he was played in the movie by Gabriel Byrne, so that now I imagine him looking like this..
...because let's face it, Laurie was not such a bad-looking guy in the film, either.
No, it's because the professor is one of those heroes I love best: a prince in disguise.
I coin the phrase from Carly Simon's lyrics to The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, in which she claims the 'slow and steady fire' can outshine 'shooting stars', and asks straight out, 'What if the Prince on the horse in your fairytale/Is right here in disguise?' Those lyrics impressed me so much, by the way, when I first heard that song, that I hid my next hero in plain sight in front of the reader (and heroine), just to see whether they'd notice. Most didn't. The heroine nearly walked past him herself.
She was looking, as we all so often are, for what the fairy tales have promised us: a dashing, handsome, charming prince, with style and status, money and a white horse (or at least a flashy car).
And while we're looking for him, often we don't see the prince in front of us: the one without the flashy car. The one whose charms are quieter. The one who doesn't need to call attention to himself because he's self-assured and solid and dependable.
I've loved these men so often now in fiction, from Jake Waring in Lucilla Andrews's The First Year to "the guy who gets the girl" (can't spoil it) in Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart, that I nearly always spot them when I see them, standing patiently and waiting.
And I always love the moment when the heroine turns round and sees them, too.
What about you?
Come back Thursday, for Julie's next post.