Zelda Sayre was born on 24 July 1900 in Montgomery, Alabama, and was the youngest of six children. Her mother, Minerva Machen named all her children after two children’s stories; “Zelda: A Tale of the Massachusetts Colony” by Jane Howard (1866) and “Zelda’s Fortune” Robert Edward Francillon (1874).She was very smart, but was uninterested in school, continuing to learn ballet. Zelda would often smoke and drink, and would deliberately do things to cause rumours about herself, such as dancing in a skin-tight flesh coloured bathing suit to make people believe she danced nude. Her father, Anthony Sayre, was a judge, so she was able to get away with just about anything.
In 1917, she began to take ballet lessons, and dreamed of being a performer. But the dances she performed were not the type a proper girl of her age would perform in those days. She would perform for soldiers at a local military base. She had so many admirers that pilots would fly over her house, to the point where it became a no fly zone.
Zelda loved the attention she received, but was never really in love until April 1918, when she met Francis Scott Fitzgerald at a dance at Camp Sheridan. He was so taken with her that he rewrote tone of the characters of his first book, This Side of Paradise, to be a reflection of her. Despite the fact that she flirted around, she was in love with Scott, and reassured him of this in a letter, where she wrote,
“Don’t you think I was made for you? I feel like you had me ordered—and I was delivered to you—to be worn—I want you to wear me like a watch-chain or button-hole bouquet—to the world.”
On 3 April 1920, shortly after the release of This Side of Paradise, the who of them were married.
The novel was a hit, causing Zelda Fitzgerald and her new husband to become instant celebrities. But before long, she became to grow tired of being idolized for simply being the wife of a famous writer. In an effort to express herself and show the world she was her own person, she began writing herself. She’d always kept a diary, and her writing was so good that Scott even used some of her writing word for word in Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned.
The Fitzgeralds often collaborated together on short stories and articles, but Zelda soon started writing shirt stories of her own, such as Eulogy of the Flapper. Zelda often would use her husband’s name when publishing a short story so that it would sell more. Scott approved of her writing and loved the way she expressed herself, in an age when women rarely were allowed to do so.
In 1925, Zelda took up dancing once more. Not only was it it her passion, but it was something that she and Scott were unable to compete with each other over. While her instructor felt she started taking lessons too late in life to be a world-class star, she believed that Zelda had potential to star in several important roles
Zelda soon became obsessed with her goal of being a performer. She felt it was what was driving her. Scott approved of her dream at first, but soon after became impatient and tried to crush her spirit by belittling her. He was sinking into drunkenness, and the couple fought constantly. In 1930, she had her first breakdown, and she was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Due to her breakdown and and diagnosis, Zelda was forbidden from dancing. She returned to writing as a way to express herself. In 1932, she write her autobiography, Save Me The Waltz, which was primarily based on her marriage with Scott, her obsession with ballet, and the breakdown. Scott became furious with her about her book, because he was working on a novel based on the same things, titled Tender Is The Night.
Save Me The Waltz caused a rift between the couple. It was published in October 1932, but it was a rushed publication, and sold poorly. The book is her side of the story, and it’s a haunting look into the lives of the Fitzgeralds. Over the years, she added bits and pieces to the story, finding news ways of expression that wouldn’t be governed by Scott.
In 1934, she began painting, using dancers as inspiration.
The couple never fully recovered after Zelda’s 1932 breakdown. Even though they were still in love with each other, and Scott provided care for Zelda, there was a distinct bitterness between the two that never went away. In 1940, F. Scott Fitzgerald died. Either years later, Zelda Fitzgerald followed him, perishing in a fire.
In 1986, a video game designer named Shigeru Miyamoto created an adventure game that would change video games forever. When hearing of Zelda Fitzgerald, he thought the name sounded “pleasant and significant”, so named the princess you have to rescue Princess Zelda, and called the game The Legend of Zelda, which is one of the most beloved franchises in history.
As Zelda said to Scott in 1919, before the couple were married, “Why should graves make people feel in vain? Somehow I can’t find anything hopeless in having lived.”
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