People have always watched fairytales at a very young age, growing up to believe in them. Some watched them to obtain some kind illusion, for pure entertainment, and others for the sake of love. However, not every fairytale has a purpose of giving us an illusion, of entertaining us, or making us believe in love. Shrek is not a typical fairytale. Even though many people see Shrek along with other fairytales as any other movie created for entertainment, it is a satirical critique of the archetypes involved in a fairytale.
While in many fairytales we have a knight, a damsel in distress, a partner, and a villain, Shrek changes things up by manipulating our stereotype of these characters. Our usual knight in armor is a smelly, heartless ogre. The damsel in distress is not much of a mannered lady and changes her pretty human shape at nights. The partner, the knight’s companion, is in denotation and connotation of an ass, both a donkey and an imbecile. The feared villain turns out to be a weak midget who cannot do anything for himself.
The movie Shrek is not a standard fairytale as the director uses the rhetorical device of logos to archetypes of the damsel in distress, the knight, and the friendly beast. The knight pictured in Shrek, is not the standard tall, dark, handsome, strong, loving human being. A knight is supposed to be chivalrous, handsome and well mannered. Even though, Shrek doesn’t represent any of these characteristics, he is a knight on the inside. Shrek was an ogre, which onion layers had to be peeled off in order to discover the true knight in him.
With time, his layers were peeled one by one, and the audience was able to see a different man. Shrek also didn’t want to accept the hero’s quest or the search for the damsel in distress, Fiona. He didn’t want to leave his house or the ordinary world where he belonged to, apart from everyone who was different from him. He goes on the quest because he is forced to; he would not only loose his house, but also get killed. Lord Farquard, the villain of the story, told Shrek, “All right, ogre. I’ll make you a deal. Go on this quest for me, and I’ll give you your swamp back.
The typical hero would usually show some kind of excitement to embark such quest, and would be eager on his way. Shrek didn’t show any of these emotions, therefore he isn’t the typical hero either. Often, heroes tend to develop a relationship with the damsel in distress. Shrek was no exception of this tendency. If Shrek had never fallen in love with Princess Fiona, she would have lived a miserable life with Lord Farquad. Things turned around because Shrek’s love for her was the whole reason behind his journey, that for he ended up saving her in the end, so their fairytale could have their own happily ever after.
Another archetype found in the movie Shrek, is the damsel in distress, or the woman in trouble waiting for a man to save her. Fiona is said to be the damsel in distress in the movie, but she isn’t like any other damsel you have seen. Most ladies that take this role are completely helpless and can’t do anything for themselves; they have good manners, and are very lady like. Fiona, on the other hand, is a strong, independent woman who can cook and hunt.
The first night, she reveals such when she says she needs “to find somewhere to camp now. Not every damsel in distress or princess would be willing to camp in the middle of the forest; Fiona was different from the rest. She did not posses many good manners, instead she would have a different diet which included rats and birds, and would also burp after meals. She also has a secret that makes her a different kind of damsel in distress, at nights she changes into an ogre. Fiona has many unusual qualities that make her different, but deep inside she is like any other damsel in distress. She is in search of love, and apart from her physical characteristics and ways, she is still considered a damsel in distress in the inside.
Fiona also becomes part of the star-crossed lover scenario, along with Shrek. It is universally understood that the means of such expression refer to a pair of lovers whose relationship is sabotaged by outside forces. It is seen as Shrek develops feelings for Fiona, and Fiona falls in love with Shrek. It is pretty odd because Shrek is a huge ogre and Fiona is just a tiny human princess, who was supposed to marry a prince. Even donkey mentions to Shrek that “She’s as nasty as you are. ” Another quality they have in common.
It is not the star-crossed lovers’ fairytale we are used to, but their feelings are so true and pure. What changes, is Fiona’s transformation into an ogre which makes things easier for the couple. The director uses pathos to appeal to the audience emotions and make them develop a connection between the complicated but true love both of these characters have developed. A friendly beast or an animal companion, who helps guide the hero throughout the quest, is expected to be someone brave, smart, and helpful. Shrek’s friendly beast is an ass.
The denotation for this ass would be a donkey but in society, the connotation for calling a donkey an ass is seen as saying they are stupid and imbecile. Donkey proves to be a different friendly beast by always making stupid jokes, fearing every single part of the quest, and complicating things up for Shrek instead of making them simpler. Even though he may not be very helpful, he is still a very loyal and kind companion. Donkey is not only the friendly companion, he has a duty. His duty is to make Shrek’s humanity come out and show that he is not just an ogre at heart.
Donkey softens Shrek by pushing him to experience love with Fiona and also by being the first creature not afraid of an ogre. He never saw evil in Shrek, while everyone else in town did both humans and fairytale characters. Since the first day Donkey met Shrek, he already considered him a true friend. When Shrek told Donkey to stop singing, he answered “only a true friend would be that truly honest. ” He saw the good in Shrek ever since the beginning and he was always sure that Shrek was capable of having feelings, and that he did.
Donkey made Shrek’s feelings emerge, which all thought was impossible since ogres don’t have emotions, but even the ugliest creatures do. Donkey’s kind heart did not only change Shrek’s heart, but also the dragon’s heart. At first, the dragon is part of the devil figure archetype or an evil incarnate that makes the quest more complicated. The donkey makes the evil figure’s good heart to show. The dragon has been evil, especially because he has killed every knight that tried to rescue Fiona, but when Donkey saved her, he also converts her into good.
Also, even when Donkey was afraid of her, he was nice to him. He suggested that they “should really get to know each other first, as friends or maybe even as pen pals. ” Not even the fact that the dragon was a huge, fire spitting monster, kept Donkey from making a new friend. All of his actions throughout the movie ensure the credibility of Donkey being the friendly beast. Ethos is used in order to show that he has a good will, is a good character, and has a good sense. It was evidenced through the diction of Donkey’s lines in the movie.
Donkey was indeed a riendly beast; he would always see the good in everybody when no one else did. He saw good in Shrek and even in the dragon. His task was to support Shrek physically and physiologically through the quest, which he accomplished very well. Growing up means realizing that not every fairytale has the same purpose, that not every fairytale has to be perfect, that not every fairytale is about a prince and princess falling in love, and that we can find love in the most random moments and places. Shrek is just the perfect fairytale to prove each of the statements above.
What we thought was a simple fairytale movie for entertainment, with some deep thinking turned out to be much more than that. Shrek is a satirical critique of the archetypes involved in a fairytale. The damsel in distress, the knight, the friendly beast, the evil figure, and the villain character archetypes are all manipulated and turned into a satire by using irony, sarcasm and even ridicule what we have always believed of a knight, a friendly beast, the damsel in distress, the villain, and the evil creature.
Most important of all, even though these characters didn’t look like the stereotype of the fairytale characters, inside of them, they were. They all had the same dreams, aspirations, and emotions. They were just hidden, as Shrek would say “ogres are like onions”, all these characters were like onions, we just had to peel each of their layers. We may have cried or considered stop peeling after a while, but we continued because we knew that deep down there was good in all of them.
We found good in the evil, they were just seeking for acceptance. We found weakness in the strong who had to soften up and even in the villain, we find hidden insecurities. Not only ogres are like onions, everyone is an onion, just by seeing their outside layer we will never be able to tell about their true identity. It is our choice if we want to be ignorant or if we have the guts to peel the onion and find more than what the eyes perceive.
- Shrek. Dir Andrew Adamson and Victoria Jenson. Dream Works Pictures, 2011. Film.