What are the traits of a fairy tale? Usually, fairy tales are focused around a particular female main character whose one wish is for her beloved knight or prince to come rescue her. Sorcery and magic are always involved in the tales we know and love. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, Christabel, the resemblance to a fairy tale is uncanny. Perhaps Coleridge did not have intentions of his readers thinking of Christabel as a fairy tale, however, the poem was never finished meaning that the outcome consists in the writers mind. The qualities that sum up a fairy tale are evident in Christabel: a princess, her knight, the conniving temptress or sorceress, as well as the setting. Even if this poem was not intended on being a fairy tale, it shares a considerable amount of the same characteristics a fairy tale has.
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The opening lines of the poem start out with laying out the setting for the readers to grasp the feeling of the moment. It is midnight in Lansdale Castle and everyone is asleep except for Christabel. "Tis the middle of night by the castle clock". Most of the main events in a fairy tale happen around the midnight hour. It just so happens that the very first line goes straight to the point. The home of the fair lady being a castle makes one assume that she is someone of nobility. Christabel is walking in the woods alone thinking of her knight when she decides to pray by a tree. All of a sudden Geraldine appears from behind the tree and her beauty overwhelms Christabel. "I guess, was frightful there to see/ A lady so richly clad as she–/ Beautiful exceedingly!". Geraldine tells Christabel that she was kidnapped and taken into the woods by five men. Geraldine’s beauty as well was the sympathy that her story provides is enough to make Christabel want to take her home. It almost seems that Geraldine tricked the wandering princess with her beauty and story. In a sense, this resembles the apple given to Snow White.
One situation that is evident in almost every fairy tale known to man is one of paternal or maternal love. Sir Leoline, Christabel’s father, finds Geraldine to be very attractive. Geraldine puts a spell on Sir Leoline so he does not see the evil that is within her. At this moment in the poem, a bond is broken between father and daughter as Sir Leoline falls for the seductive Geraldine. Christabel tries to warn her father but it is too late. An example of this is seen in the tale of Cinderella. Cinderella’s father is taken away from her leaving her with her two step mother and two step sisters. Cinderella is forbidden to go anywhere because her step mother is afraid that someone will see her beauty. Christabel is silenced because Geraldine is afraid that She could get her father out of his trance.
For most people, a fairy tale is quite enjoyable as well as easy to understand. Most Romantic poetry is quite difficult to understand except for this particular poem. It almost seems as if Coleridge could have purposely put fairy tale motifs in Christabel for his readers. Fairy tales spark imaginations and reach out to all different ages of people. Maybe that is what Coleridge was thinking when he wrote Christabel. Just as fairy tales are remembered, Coleridge’s purpose was probably to have his poem remembered in the same sense.
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