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My Happy Marriage may have started out as “Cinderella,” but with this episode we’re moving into the territory of ATU480, “The Kind and the Unkind Girls.” It’s not nearly as well-known a tale type, but you may be familiar with it as the one where one sister is blessed to have gold and jewels fall from her lips while the other is cursed with snakes and toads. The baseline for the story is that one sister is kind but mistreated, and when her stepmother sends her out into the forest, she is good and helpful and therefore rewarded. Jealous, the other sister is sent out, but because she is mean and spiteful, she returns home with something much worse. That’s clearly what’s going on with Miyo and Kaya; Miyo, just by being herself, has won the love of Kiyoka (now in his Prince Besotted persona), which makes Kaya unbelievably jealous. The major difference is that when her parents refuse to help, she turns to Koji’s dad, whose desires align with hers.
We still don’t know precisely why everyone is so keen to get their grandchildren from Miyo – although Kiyoka’s comment that he senses a fading Gift in her when he finds her dreaming is interesting, it could simply indicate that someone’s giving her nightmares. But there’s clearly something, because Mr. Tatsuishi is beside himself with rage at the fact that Mr. Saimori gave his daughter to a different family. He’s far more dangerous than any of the Saimoris right now because their role in her life is largely over: they, as far as they’re concerned, got rid of their burden. But Kaya is another story. Like the unkind sister in the fairy tale, she sees what her sibling has and is intensely jealous. In her mind, she’s the more deserving sister and Miyo has no business reaping any reward. Koji’s the booby prize in her view, and that means Miyo should get him. Whether this is causing her to not think things through or she’s just spoiled and foolish is up for (a tiny little) debate.
The kicker is that Miyo would have been pretty happy with Koji if she’d never met Kiyoka. He’s not a bad person, just a weak one, and he and Miyo might have rubbed along just fine in a quiet sort of happiness, at least until his father got involved. That, in some ways, makes Koji a bit of a victim here; obviously, he never had it as bad as Miyo, but his father so completely disregards him that it’s clear he’s the spare in the old “heir and a spare” equation. Should he have stood up sooner? Yes, yes, he should have. But now that Miyo’s been kidnapped and chloroformed, the important thing is that he’s gone straight to Kiyoka, the one person he knows will help. When you consider that he’s asking the fiancé of the woman he loves to help him, that’s at least a little bit brave.
The interesting thing about both “Cinderella” and “The Kind and the Unkind Girls” is that, while there is (often) a prince, he’s more of a reward than an actual savior. Kiyoka fits this role because while he is helping Miyo to see that she has value, it’s not an arbitrary thing he’s decided to do out of the goodness of his heart; Miyo first must show him her kindness and care. Giving someone a new wardrobe is a lovely thing to do when they’ve been wearing rags, but if Miyo hadn’t demonstrated that she was worth it, Kiyoka wouldn’t have paid her any more attention than any of the other potential brides he had. He helped, but Miyo still managed to start the saving process herself. This new situation requires a much more active saving, but even if Miyo can’t get herself out of it solo, she will still have done the work to make it happen. Not all princesses defend themselves with swords, and both Miyo and Kaya could end up, like their ATU480 counterparts, reaping what they’ve sown.
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