The problem is, I like my siblings. My sisters never tried to backstab me or steal my prince; my brothers would fight for my honor in a minute. Luckily, there are fairy tales where siblings get along. Not many, of course, but some of the most interesting, particularly in terms of what they say about sibling relationships.
|Kate Crackernuts, Derek Collard|
This might be the best sibling relationship in any fairy tale ever. Devotion on both sides, complete commitment to happiness together, renouncement of anything that doesn't benefit them both - it's almost like Kate and Anne care about each other! The kiss-of-death word "stepsister" is maybe mentioned once in any version; it's immaterial. Anne puts her fate in Kate's hands without question, and Kate more than requites that trust. These girls are sisters, by blood and in their hearts, and woe to anyone who messes with that.
|The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Ruth Sanderson|
|Hansel and Gretel, Greg (CreatureBox)|
Sets of brothers present a different conundrum in fairy tales. Princes and poor boys alike are expected to seek their fortunes, while sisters generally have to compete for whatever single fortune comes their way. Sisters resort to lies, backstabbing, and occasionally murder, while brothers have the option of ignoring each other on their individual quests. Of course, if some upstart youngest brother has the gall to come back home with a magic wife and untold treasure, his older brothers jump instantly to the murder option.
|The Four Clever Brothers, Arthur Rackham|
Personally, I love that none of them really care that much about the princess. They're on this adventure for the sake of having a grand lark with each other. As rare as sibling devotion is in fairy tales, it's even rarer to see siblings actually having fun together. So often someone's got to be rescued, like Anne, or a debt owed, like Gretel saving Hansel, or control established, like the Eldest Dancing Princess laying the law down to her sisters. One way or another, one sibling usually has the upper hand, even in friendly relationships. The Four Brothers are complete equals, and nothing makes that clearer than the fact that none of them squeaks by the others to marry the princess.
|The Cruel Sister, John Faed|
I don't know the answers. I don't know if there are any universal answers, given the wide range of problems fairy tales address. But I am glad that there are many kinds of family represented in fairy tales, even if scantily.