Updated: Jul 20, 2021
Knight in shining armour: A person, usually a man, who comes to the aid of another, usually a woman, in a gallant and courteous manner.
Origin: refers to the idea of gallant knights saving damsels in distress, as depicted by Victorian era novelists and painters who romanticised the chivalrous ideal via the court of #Camelot.
Source of definition: https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/knight-in-shining-armour.html
Legends and fairy tales are littered with examples of fair maidens being rescued, or dreaming of being rescued, by chivalrous men. Think Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and my personal favourite, #TheLadyofShalott.
You might think that this ideal is long dead in the age of the strong, independent modern woman. We now have the right to vote, study and work in our chosen fields, marry if, when and who we want, access maternity leave, or live and travel solo. Perhaps because some of these advancements are still raw and recent, some women take their independence so seriously that they don’t want the help of a man, ever.
Amusing as the above meme is, it feels like an overcompensation. Waiting for someone else to ‘rescue us’ from whatever is happening in our life isn’t the best use of our time on earth, but refusing all offers of male assistance on principle isn’t so smart either. We all need a hand sometimes. An equal give and take is a healthy thing in all #relationships— romantic or otherwise.
Yet, by continuing to tell our children these damsel in distress fairy tales, are we fostering the idea that women need rescuing? Perhaps we could instead use these tales to start discussions with young girls about ways Cinderella might have stood up to her step-mother, or how The Lady of Shalott could have been less passive and resigned to her fate.
Sometimes I hear single women say, ‘I just haven’t found my #PrinceCharming yet’ or ‘One day my knight in shining armour will arrive.’ For some it’s a tongue-in-cheek statement but, for others, dig deep and you’ll find they believe it — even if they don’t realise it themselves. Yes, I’m speaking from personal experience.
Despite being strong and independent in some areas of my life, for many years I failed to take responsibility for improving or changing the direction of my life because I thought I needed a man to do it for me. Not very fair to the men involved! Needing a man in my life only resulted in a series of tormented relationships with incompatible men.
The school of hard knocks taught me that life transformation doesn’t gallop in on a trusty steed and sweep us off our feet. It incubates within as a gradual assimilation of knowledge and experiences culminating in a struggle to break free of our old selves, spread our beautiful new wings and soar.
Neither does happiness gallop in on a white horse, crown gleaming in the sunlight, and carry us away to happy ever after. It flutters patiently within us, emerging when we least expect it, when we’ve stopped our desperate search for a partner to ‘make everything better’ and turned our energy towards falling in love with ourselves.
There’s nothing wrong with being in love or sharing our life with a well-suited partner. Most of us want that. But there’s a real danger in needing that partner to be our saviour when we’re not willing to take some kind of action to help ourselves. Such an unequal relationship is doomed. The woman becomes increasingly frustrated and disgusted that her partner isn’t fulfilling the role she expects of him. The man becomes frustrated and angry that he can’t measure up to her unrealistic expectations. The ingredients of a good relationship — mutual respect, honesty, acceptance, gratitude and a willingness to assist and support each other — are eroded in the face of judgement and disappointment.
This short #fable, which I found some years ago but have been unable to verify the original author, illustrates the danger well.
The maiden swooned at the sight of her shining, handsome rescuer. Hours went by as she simply stared at him from her lonely tower, marveling at his glistening perfection, afraid to say or do anything lest she scare him away.
He stood there all day and in the evening it began to rain. It rained so hard that the knight’s armour began to rust and before long it was so rusted he could no longer move. He stood, immovable in the sleeting rain, under the now horrified gaze of the maiden who could scarcely believe how quickly her knight in shining armour had turned into a useless pile of rust.
“But you haven’t saved me yet!” she called from her tower. “You were supposed to save me so we could ride off into the sunset together.”
The poor knight, in anger and frustration, tried to bash his way out of the frozen armour but to no avail. Defeated, he began to shed big salty tears which only served to further rust the armour.
Disgusted, the maiden turned away, muttering under her breath “I guess I’ll just have to save myself then.”
She ripped all her dresses into long strips and tied them together to make a rope, slung the rope out the window and shimmied down the side of the tower.
On reaching the ground she turned, ready to berate the knight for his uselessness, and was confronted with the sight of an ordinary man.
The knight’s tears had rusted the armour to the point where it had crumbled and fallen away, revealing the man inside.
“You’re… you’re a fraud! she stammered. “I thought you were my knight in shining armour but you’re just a mere man.”
“I was always a man” the knight replied. “You just couldn’t see me for all the ridiculous armour you insisted I wear.”