I’ve mentioned on this blog many times that I grew up reading fairy tales. Consequently, I developed a love for them that goes beyond what people mean when they say, “I love chocolate.” Oh yes. I went there.
When you Google “what is a fairy tale,” this comes up:
• a children’s story about magical and imaginary beings and lands
• denoting something regarded as resembling a fairy story in being magical, idealized, or extremely happy
modifier noun: fairy-tale “a fairy-tale romance”
I’ve always wondered why fairy tales were called that—fairy tales—when you can’t find fairies in some of them. According to Wikipedia:
A fairy tale is a type of short story that typically features folkloric fantasy characters, such as dwarfs, dragons, elves, fairies, giants, gnomes, goblins, griffins, mermaids, talking animals, trolls, unicorns, or witches, and usually magic or enchantments.
I’ve also wondered why many people consider kids as the primary audience for fairy tales. Sure, my parents read them to me when I was a kid. But I never stopped wanting to read them as I grew older. I find them as soothing today as I did when I was a kid. I love being transported to a world different from my own, where magical activities are par for the course. This is why the stories I write primarily are fairy tales.
By why are they soothing? (Of course, not every fairy tale fits that description. There are many fairy tales—particularly those geared toward adults—that aren’t soothing at all. I can’t help thinking of Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro’s brilliant 2006 movie, which was quite unsettling. But I digress.) In an article entitled, “On the Importance of Fairy Tales,” at the website of Psychology Today (you can find it here), Sheila Kohler writes
Here, in these ancient tales, the small boy or girl can through the hero/heroine triumph over the large and often dangerous-seeming adults around him or her. . . . There is something essential about the repetition of the same words which soothes the child, nurtures the imagination and assuages his fears.
I also love fairy tales, because many follow the hero’s journey model. (See Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.) As the call to action is accepted, we get to travel along as the hero (male or female) sets out on a quest to find a lost treasure, vanquish a villain, or find true love. (Now I’m thinking of the “to blave” scene from the movie adaptation of The Princess Bride, a favorite of mine.)
Here are some of my other favorite fairy tales (or in the case of one, a book about an animated series), or favorite novels that have fairy tale elements (in no particular order; keep in mind that some books represent the series as a whole):
This seemingly untitled book is Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales. The spine of it is so worn out, I had to tape it.
There are many others I could have shown here (like Hans Christian Andersen: The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories, which I also have). Do you like fairy tales? What are some of your favorites?
My unicorn is just chillin’.
Fairy tale image from dreamstime.com. Legends of Windemere cover courtesy of Charles Yallowitz. Other photos by L. Marie.