Origins — Prince Charming


By: Noel Bleu 

For years we have read and heard stories of the princess damsel in distress and the brave and heroic “Prince Charming” that rescues them from their dreadful situations. Though stories like “The Swan Princess” and “Sleeping Beauty” had maidens wed to princes with names; stories like “Cinderella” and “Snow White” portray the women wed to unnamed royalty.

The concept of the prince as in most fairytales depicts the general idea of the hero rescuing the damsel in distress. This takes place by him voyaging on a quest, and either saving her from an evil spell or slaying some beast that holds her captive. The description fits most fairytale heroes, however, when these stories first started circulation these heroes were named after real royalty or not given a name at all.

The Prince has no distinguishing characters to separate him from other princes or men who marry the lead heroin in other stories. He is often viewed as the prize of the good-hearted maiden. In a fairytale written by Madame d’Aulnoy, a 17th century French Writer, she refers to him as Avenant  (meaning “fine” or “beautiful” in French) in “The Story of Pretty Goldilocks” and he is called  Le roi Charmant  (The Charming King in French) in the story “The Blue Bird”. Andrew Lang retold the first story in 1889, in “The Blue Fairy Book” he simply referred to the hero as Charming

Most times when speaking of Prince Charming we think of the Walt Disney depiction of traditional fairytales. It is commonly believed that the name of Snow White’s spouse was Prince Charming though the name hadn’t been attributed to the character until Cinderella. The creators of the film actually named him “Prince Charming”.

In the Charles Perrault’s version of Sleeping Beauty, published in 1697 a passage telling of Sleeping Beauty being awoken by the Prince suggests that Charming was not a name but merely a characteristic.

“‘Est-ce vous, mon prince?’ lui dit-elle, ‘vous vous êtes bien fait attendre’. Le Prince charmé de ces paroles… ne savait comment lui témoigner sa joie”.

The passage which in English means, “’Are you my prince… you’ve kept me waiting a long time’. The prince charmed by her words… did not know how to express his joy.” A possible interpretation of the passage is that the term, “Prince Charming” had been inspired  by this passage despite the fact that the prince had been charmed (charmé) as opposed to being the one who was charming (charmant).

In other languages, like Spanish and Italian, he is called the “Blue Prince” and in Portuguese, a translation mistake occurred and he is called “Prince Carmed” (Príncipe Encantado; the correct term for “Carming” should be Encantador or Charmoso), coincidentally closer to the sense in Perrault’s story. The Prince had really been called Prince Carming in the book but in the film they changed it to Prince Charming.

In the more modern telling of fairytales such as “Mirror Mirror” and “Shrek” Prince Charming is not portrayed as the hero. This may be due to the disillusionment of today’s society and the idea of a hero who saves damsels.

In “Mirror Mirror”, the prince is not the hero but an accessory to the heroin. He at one point in the movie is in need of being rescued from a wicked enchantment which coincidentally is broken by a kiss. In the Shrek series Prince Charming is actually the villain, arriving too late to save Fiona, he is villainous, self-centered, spoiled and less than charming.

Over the course of history the character of the Prince has evolved in many ways, one thing is for certain he has come a long way from the French depiction of his inception and only has room to improve. It is commonly believed that the prince in “Sleeping Beauty” was named Prince Charming, but his name is actually Phillip.




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