There is nothing to fear but fear itself.
Somehow, that wise phrase seemed to evade the minds of the tall-tale tellers during the lifetime of the Brothers Grimm. In their recounting of the tale “The Prince Who Feared Nothing”, fearlessness doesn’t come from simply overcoming the feeling of fear itself, rather it is innate. The Disney film Girl vs. Monster (2013) employs such an idea, recognizing that fear is a natural human characteristic and facing your fears is what truly engenders fearlessness. Both mediums, however, recognize the triumph and gains of being fearless over cowardice.
The Grimms’ tale follows the trek of one fearless prince. Born fearless, the prince chooses to leave his parents’ home and travel the outside world in order to find some form of excitement. He soon falls upon a game of ninepins that belonged to a giant (likewise, the pins were giant-sized), and decides to play with the objects (respect for private property went out the window). The giant, surprised to see how a mere human could play with such big and heavy objects, challenges him to retrieve an apple from the Tree of Life. The giant knew that the prince would have to get past many obstacles, including wild animals guarding the tree in order to reach the tree. If he managed to do that, he would have to get his hand through a ring, which would attach itself to his arm, in order to get the apple.
The prince, being the fearless and strong man he was (and quite cocky), accepted the challenge. He managed to get past the wild animals who were all sleeping and reach the tree from which he proceeded to stick his hand through the ring and grab the apple. A lion catches the prince in the act and chooses him as his master.
The giant, impressed by the prince, takes the apple from him and presents it to his bride. Unfortunately for him, his bride knew he had not taken the apple because he did not have the ring from the Tree of Life. The giant then tries to unsuccessfully trick the prince by getting him to take the ring off. He then blinds the prince and later gets killed by the prince’s faithful lion. The prince gets his sight back by the magic water from a nearby brook (these tales are so abundant with logic).
The prince continued on his way through the world and falls upon a castle with a beautiful maiden who is trapped under a spell. In order to free her, he must spend three nights in the castle and survive the haunts and tortures of demons that inhabited it. The prince successfully does so, never showing a single ounce of fear, and frees the princess.
The theme of the story: if you fear nothing, you get a princess (everyone else is screwed).
In Girl vs. Monster, Skylar is a fearless girl who gets the guy in the end as well, however, her approach to fearlessness takes a turn for the realistic (well, as realistic as it gets when there are monsters involved). Skylar is known by her friends as literally having no fear. As unnatural as it seems, it is discovered that it really is unnatural. Skylar’s parents, who are monster hunters, trapped a monster that fed off her fear when she was an infant, trapping away all of her fears as well. However, on Halloween, all of the monsters become unleashed, releasing 15 years of fear into Skylar. Overwhelmed by the fright of having discovered a new and seemingly unrealistic side to her parents and the surrounding thousands of monsters trying to take the souls of all the fearful humans, Skylar realizes that fear is a human feeling. With the help of her friends, however, she soon learns that the key to becoming fearless and getting rid of the monsters that feed on fear is to stand up to your own fears. Essentially, the way to get rid of fear is to stop being afraid of being afraid (it’s not as confusing as it seems at first). Of course, after saving the lives of her parents and all her friends from the treacherous monsters, she gets the guy of her dreams who (playing along very well with the theme of the film), works up the courage to finally ask her out.
Although there were fantastical elements to both the tale and the film, Girl vs. Monster seems to offer children a much more realistic and useful lesson. Acknowledging the existence of fear is probably a safer route to go for children who don’t understand why they are scared of the Boogey man hiding in their closet and want to find out how to get rid of him. Although (and not surprisingly) the film included a string of musical numbers sung by the protagonist Olivia Holt, most likely as another marketing ploy, it gave viewers something much more useful and valuable than the tale recounted by the Grimms did. The tale simply told kids that if you’re not fearless, you get nothing and are ultimately a zero; if you’re fearless you get everything and you’re the hero.
The most important factor in these two: fearlessness always gets you the guy/girl of your dreams in the end.