Maraşlı-The Anti Fairy Tale
“Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?”
-Love’s Philosophy, Percy Bysshe Shelley
We all grew up with fairy tales. Although I don’t remember my parents reading them to me in bed like I’ve seen in western movies, I do remember reading them myself as a child. Since I was old enough to read them, I was also old enough to know that they were made up stories about fictional characters. I needed to get much older and had to have a lot more education to learn that they did have some truth in them after all, since they were mostly based on folk tales.
In my very first Maraşlı essay here, I wrote that the show seemed to be structured as a Greek tragedy. I still stand by it, especially in the light of the 18th episode that we watched last Monday. However today, I want to take you on a different journey. I want to zoom in to Mahur and Celal’s love story and how it is structured like a fairy tale but not really. Let’s take a look at the fairy tale motif in Maraşlı and how it applies or how the writers use fairy tale archetypes to build the story.
An Unlikely Prince
Many of you who are reading this have read my article about the stag symbolism on the show, but the symbolism doesn’t end there. Episode 18 gave me the closure I needed about the stag. Until watching this scene I thought it symbolized his soul. Today as we explore the fairy tale symbolism in the show the stag may have another meaning and this would explain why it was finally destroyed.
As you know in many fairy tales the prince or the princess has a disguise. I particularly find similarities between the famous fairy tale Beauty and the Beast with Maraşlı. I know it sounds ridiculous but hear me out and remember this is an anti fairy tale not a real one. In fairy tales the evil witch usually bewitches the hero or the heroine and puts them in a disguise. The stag was Maraşlı’s disguise in a way. It was his secret agent identity, the identity that was made up for the sake of the operation he was leading with Hilal and the others. They showed us the stag portrait in flames, because the stag isn’t necessary any more since his cover is blown off by Necati.
Back to Beauty and the Beast. Anyone who has read or seen the animation or the live action movie, knows that Belle loves books. What a coincidence then that right off when the show starts we see her in Celal’s book shop. I know Celal isn’t ugly in any way but his mannerisms are like the Beast. He’s very blunt almost rude to her. Later he confesses to Mahur that he was flirting at their first encounter in the bookstore (*chuckles*). Hard to see that but it’s cute enough. Yes, I know he doesn’t have a palace but he does have a bookstore/library. Celal rented this shop and made it into a bookstore to attract Mahur’s attention because after months of investigation he knew she would walk in.
The Beast had the rose to remind him that his days were numbered and he had to make Bell fall in love with him. What would be Celal’s rose then to remind him of the mission? What reminds him constantly about why he got into this in the first place? None other than Zeliş of course. He wants to find who gave the orders for the attack. He will not stop until he finds that person. Zeliş is Celal’s rose, vulnerable and precious and a reminder of the happy self he once was before the attack or the witch’s evil curse.
A Real Life Princess
Some common cliches about fairy tale princesses are as follows; they are very beautiful, their mothers are almost always dead, they have a stepmom and evil sisters (in this case one evil brother), they live in a palace (have you seen the Türel mansion), they are royalty (even the fact that everyone calls them Türels means their surname is worth something) and they always love animals and children. Of course since I’m drawing similarities between the Beauty and the Beast and Maraşlı, let’s look at Belle, who is not a princess but a merchant’s daughter, just like Mahur (only richer).
At first Belle is scared of the Beast and she only accepts to stay with him to save her father. Like in most tales, Belle wants and forms a relationship with the Beast. It’s instinctive to desire to tame a beast for women. Mahur at first doesn’t want Celal because she finds him abrupt and rude but as she sees another side of him especially with Zeliş, her views of him change. Belle also connects with the Beast through her greatest love; books and literature. Mahur and Celal bond over poetry so I think that’s close enough. Celal also tracks and finds the book Mahur was looking for to gift it to her. I wish we knew what it was about (*sighs).
It’s obvious that Celal sees Mahur as something forbidden at first. He thinks that they are from different worlds and that he doesn’t deserve her love because he is using her for his mission. She appears many times in his dreams because he desires her deeply and sees her as this ethereal creature. In some dreams he calls him and he runs to her with longing and desire.
In Beauty and the Beast the princess saves the prince, it’s not the other way around. The moral of the story is not to judge others by appearance. It’s interesting how in Maraşlı Celal already has a disguise and at this point in the story, which feels like an introduction to the real story/adventure now, he is now stripped of it. Now Mahur will get to see the real man behind the disguise. She was angry and sad first but we saw at the end of the episode that she chose to believe his love.
Fairy Tale Structure and Archetypes
Every fairy tale is basically a hero’s journey. Each tale starts off as an adventure. Then we are introduced to the drama elements. The hero or the heroine has to go through many things but in the end prevails and grows as a human being. Sometimes it’s also a coming of age sometimes it’s just spiritual growth. Each fairy tale ends with a happy ending mostly with a marriage! This marriage is sometimes seen as a mystical marriage where the hero or the heroine has completed his/her mission and it’s a marriage with divinity.
The drama aspect of fairy tales and everything that happens to the characters in the tale can be seen as the things that happen to us in real life. Some call it karma, but not the type that you get for punishment. The karmic effect is inevitable even when you try to be a good human being. It’s basically a sum of the things you need to live to grow into a higher version of yourself in your next life. It is believed that things happen for the hero/heroine and not to them.
Religions including Christianity and Islam believe that in the end everyone will be redeemed. This is one of the aspects that attracts people to faith as a concept. That is why no matter how tragic the things in a fairy tale are, they do have happy endings after all. I have to say, some fairy tales are incredibly violent and some even a bit scary. However they serve a purpose and I think they are helpful in helping us understand certain aspects of our own psyche too. Let’s take a look at the most significant fairy tale archetypes and how they are reflected in Maraşlı.
The Forest :
Mostly seen in Celal’s dreams, the forest symbolism refers to adventure and danger. In many of his dreams Celal dreams of the stag and the forest. He seems himself chasing someone. He seems lost in the forest. As an Anatolian man, and an ex soldier Celal normally is not afraid of being in a forest but in the dreams he is running and chasing someone or something. That person is probably who he’s chasing in real life. The man who gave orders for the concert shooting. The man we know now that is Necati’s boss.
Animals as a disguise is common in fairy tales. Celal’s protective nature completely fits with the stag which in many cultures and especially in countries like Turkey is seen as the king of the forest. In his dreams Celal is never afraid of the stag but he’s saddened by his presence. Why? Because the stag is not him, its his disguise, it reminds him of his mission. This is why when he saw the mural with stag and the writing said “to the truth” the stag/his mission was to take him to the truth about his daughter’s shooting.
Barely mentioned once in episode 14 during a conversation between Necati and Celal where Necati conveyed that he knew about the stag, Celal said that he is more like a wolf. After the first trailer of episode 19 where it’s implied that Celal could be Mehmet İnce, could his new/old animal disguise be a wolf? What do you think?
In most tales there is a trickster who changes the course of events. Necati who started off as just a drunk turned out to be just that. He tricked Savaş, Behiye, his family, Mahur and Celal and us. Celal had suspected it the first time he saw Necati and said don’t be fooled by their masks. Indeed Necati has changed everything for everyone and even for himself. We’ll see if he survived from his suicide attempt.
Sleep is used in fairy tales for different reasons. Mostly the heroine sleeps for a long period waiting to be saved, like in Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. In Maraşlı sleep has been used in the form of dreams. With Celal’s dreams we have been invited into his psyche and were able to see how he really felt. In episode 17, Necati gave Mahur a sleep inducing drug with juice and made Celal think that he poisoned her. I don’t believe in coincidences you know me. That was a shout out to Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and she woke up herself but after having heard how much he loves her. (*winks)
Are You Up For Unhappiness?
An anti fairy tale is one that has no happy ending since fairy tales are known for their happy endings. I’m not sure if Maraşlı will exactly be one but I’m certain, adding so many fairy tale elements to the story is definitely a choice on the writers’ part. Hans Christian Andersen said, “ Every man’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s fingers.” Is Maraşlı trying to prove that to us or is it trying to prove the opposite?
If we have faith and believe that our troubles are all happening for a reason and that reason is growth then they become more bearable. However if we leave faith out of it and look at everything like Necati then everything bad that happens to us, just looks like God is messing with us, that he’s punishing or even worse enjoying our agony.
If we don’t even believe in happiness and a bright future like Celal then it makes no sense believing in fairy tales and happy endings. Remember what he said, “The most senseless thing two lovers can chase is happiness.” As famous Turkish poet Cemal Süreya wrote in his poem Unhappiness,
“Who doesn’t want to be happy
But are you also up for unhappiness with me?”
Until now, Mahur and Celal have been through a lot. They got shot, stabbed, kidnapped, prisoned, lied to, beaten. They have been tested multiple times with deaths and injuries of their loved ones. Their adventure continues. Their love is special to the viewers because it’s mature. They both know what they want. They go after what they want. They are not afraid to speak their minds.
Yes, up until now, Celal had to hide many things from Mahur and initially he wanted to use her for his mission. But remember, no one forced Mahur to enter that bookstore. It was indeed meant to be this way. I love how their story has started and evolved. I’m fearful of its ending but I know, even if it can be tragic, I will enjoy it and won’t regret having seen it. An unlikely prince, his beautiful and smart princess and their delicate rose will live in my mind as a modern anti fairy tale.
Dear reader, thank you for reading so far. What do you think? Do you see some fairy tale symbolism in Maraşlı or am I dreaming? Do you think they are trying to create an anti fairy tale with the #MahCel love? Let me know what you think, you can find me on Twitter as @edsavaseri. Reading your comments and reactions make me so happy. Hope you have a great day wherever you are in the world right now. Sending you good vibes from a cool Istanbul evening.