My husband and I finally managed to watch Frozen right before our trip to Disney World. His comment was that it was basically an exploration of mental illnesses. Everybody’s got issues in this film! I thought it was a little too well arranged to become a broadway play. The songs no longer assist to tell the story, they just sort of express an emotion at the time of the song. We were both slightly disappointed when Elsa didn’t turn into a wicked witch. She SO set herself up to be an awesome one.
The film also got me thinking about Disney films, siblings, and folklore in general. They haven’t done siblings TOO often, but it’s happened. Peter Pan, of course, has Wendy, John, and Michael. Lilo and Stitch features Lilo and Nani. Brave gives us Merida, Harris, Hubert, and Hamish. The Little Mermaid’s main character, Ariel, has a slew of older sisters. The Incredibles has Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack. If you want to consider non-Disney productions, there’s the Avatar: The Last Airbender series, with Katara and her brother Sokka, and An American Tail, featuring Tanya, Fievel, and Yasha Mousekewitz.
Now, let’s consider a few Grimm Fairy Tales with siblings. Right off the bat we have Hansel and Gretel, of course. Slightly lesser known is Snow White and Rose Red, which is one of my favorite stories, but I greatly doubt Disney will ever do this film, because they couldn’t possibly have TWO Snow Whites. Scanning through the titles, you can see a variety of stories with titles featuring siblings. Go take a look!
All right, what do these stories all have in common? The importance of working together. Of sticking together, of kindness without expecting anything in return. Of righting wrongs, whether you caused them or not. Watching each other’s backs. Sometimes defending each other from their own parents. When siblings set out separately to complete a task, they generally fail, and only find success when another brother (or sister) comes along to help. It’s become so much of a trope that sometimes it’s mocked. Have you ever read Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones? The main character, Sophie, has two younger sisters, and right at the beginning of the story, she believes she’s doomed to failure in life just because she’s the eldest, and doesn’t even bother trying to have dreams, let alone reach them. She’s wrong, of course, as she turns out to be the sister who comes along to help the other two. Age isn’t the important thing, family loyalty is. Alone, Hansel and Gretel couldn’t escape the witch’s cottage, but together they manage to outwit her. Violet and Dash had different super powers which weren’t enough to help individually on Nomansian Island, but by combining them they’re able to keep themselves safe until help arrived. Tanya and Fievel are separated for most of the film, but they can somehow sense the positivity and hope that each is broadcasting to the other, and that keeps them working to find each other.
Sometimes the siblings are only there to emphasize differences. Ariel has lots of sisters, but they play only a minor role in the story. They establish what’s supposed to be ‘normal’ for a daughter of King Triton, which is certainly NOT a fascination with the human world. While it’s subtle, Merida’s brothers demonstrate the difference in expectations for this medieval princess vs princes. She’s expected to be a proper, obedient lady, and looks on with envy at the chaotic and free behavior of her brothers. Still, without her brothers, she wouldn’t have been able to right her wrong deed, and she knew EXACTLY what they were best at. John and Michael are mostly in the story to emphasize that Wendy no longer belongs in their world, and it’s time for her to grow up and leave the nursery. (ok, I don’t actually remember the Disney version. Is it the same as the book/play?) Cinderella has stepsisters who help emphasize how sweet and put-upon Cinderella is in comparison to their nasty selfishness.
There’s always a lesson in fairy tales. Your siblings are an asset. Use ’em!