The Magic of Fairy Tales


I was at a parent night on elementary curriculum recently and the principal was giving us a brief rundown of the literature our kids would be studying next year.  The same words kept cropping up:  Fairy Tales.  On top of that, one of our kids is getting ready to perform in CYT Phoenix’s musical, Cinderella this week.  So I’ve had fairy tales on the brain and wondering, “what’s the big deal about fairy tales?”  The stories are different, yet the same:  good-hearted heroes and heroines, peril caused by evil forces, and (usually) a happy ending where courage and virtue prevail.  But what is it about them that has made them transcend the centuries and continue to enchant us?

Modern re-tellings have watered some of them down beyond recognition.  Are traditional fairy tales too dark for preschoolers?   I did like the recent movie, Tangled, and it’s version of Rapunzel.  But why does it seem like most of these modern versions boil down to a teenager in rebellion against a parent who only wants to keep them from their dreams?  Is that how we want our kids to think of us?  The original by The Brothers Grimm may involve parents who make mistakes, the prince being blinded and Rapunzel wandering the wilderness in search of him, but there’s a depth of storytelling there that I really like and don’t think is over my kids’ heads.

It’s no secret that little girls love princesses.  But I wonder if we alienate our little boys from the riches of these amazing stories.  Let’s face it; boys love swords, dragons and blood!  C.S. Lewis, one of the most gifted writers of the modern fairy tale, said this:

“For in the fairy tales, side by side with the terrible figures, we find the immemorial comforters and protectors, the radiant ones; and the terrible figures are not merely terrible, but sublime. It would be nice if no little boy in bed, hearing or thinking he hears, a sound, were ever at all frightened. But if he is going to be frightened, I think it better that he should think of giants and dragons than merely of burglars. And I think St. George, or any bright champion in armour, is a better comfort than the idea of police.”

When you read between the lines filled with magic and tragedy, true love and valor, there are miraculous truths about life, friendship, and honor. I still have my favorite volume of fairy tales from my childhood.  Since it seems to be a theme of the season for our family, I plan on embracing it and making that book our nightly ritual for awhile.

One parenting blog I found had this to say:

“That is the strength of fairy tales. They are filled with promise. The weak can be strong; evil can be turned to good; the ugly can become beautiful; Cinderella can become a princess, the frog a prince. Every human being can rise to his true stature. Even the smallest child can realize this and rejoice at future victories.”

What is your favorite fairy tale?  Do some of them resonate with your children more than others?  Comment below!

*****

The amazing kids at CYT Phoenix are preparing a delightful presentation of Cinderella, opening at the Mesa Arts Center May 6th.  This is a new musical version of the traditional fairy tale, complete with all the magic of fairies and gowns that transform (you won’t believe your eyes) and a bunch of hilarious sword-fighting knights.  Tickets available at the Mesa Arts Center box office.  CYT is a non-profit youth theater dedicated to developing character in kids through the arts.

Photos by Zarmer Photography

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