We are all brought up with fairy tales and fables. Watching the old classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Bambi, Cinderella, Peter Pan and Aladdin. Reading Hansel and Grethel, Rumpelstiltskin, or Rapunzel. Or for a younger generation: Toy Story, Up and Inside Out.
All these tales teach us valuable (life) lessons and continue to do so in our adult lives. I for one still re-read or re-watch them. I think in every stage of your life you’re able to get something new from those stories.
We can use some more fairy tales and fables in our lives. Especially now. And not only on the big screen or on Netflix. Read, I beg you. Go back to the essence of our being with The Alchemist, or wonder with the Brothers Grimm, marvel with Siddhartha or learn what is truly important in life in The Little Prince.
When we become adults we start having more responsibilities, we “have” to grow up, which implies that stories like Pinocchio or Bambi are for children. This is simply not true. Fairy tales are not only timeless, they can provide both consult and entertainment for every generation.
“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Fairy tales and fables teach us a great many things:
1. They teach us life lessons wrapped in a story
In The Princess and the Frog, we learn what we must try to give people a chance (even if they don’t look like people — yet). In Alice in Wonderland, one is confronted with the fact that leaving your comfort zone and letting your curiosity guide you can lead to wonderful adventures. The wolf in Little Red Riding Hood teaches us about trust and that appearances can be deceiving. And of course in Pinocchio, we learn that we mustn’t tell lies.
These lessons and countless others teach us so many things about life, about friendship, about being a human being and most of all about love. The act of love always functions as the most powerful magic in every story.
“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living and above all, those who live without love.” — Albus Dumbledore (J.K. Rowling)
Fairy tales and fables teach us about being more in touch with nature, with animals. Have you ever noticed how many of the fairy tales are set in the woods, in the countryside or even in the sea? And don’t get me started about all the talking animals. (How cool would that be though!)
2. They teach your children life lessons
We ourselves were children once, and one day, many of us have children of our own. Think back of your days watching The Lion King on VHS. Or when your mom read Sleeping Beauty to you.
The lessons that are hidden (in plain sight) in fairy tales aid in children’s education. And the great thing is they are wrapped up in a story, something entertaining. Something they enjoy listening to, reading or watching. Instead of learning out of textbooks.
Fairy tales and fables teach us about society, class, relationships, emotions, values, vices, and sure: good and evil. Animated movies or live action remakes still draw many people to the big screen, and for good reason.
3. When real life just sucks and you need a happy ending
Especially when you grow up, life can be shit sometimes. We will face more challenges and obstacles when we get older. It’s an inevitable part of life.
When you’re stuck in your job. When you got dumped. When you lose a lot of money. When someone dear to you dies. A fairy tale with a happy ending can soften the blow(s).
Sometimes we just need a happy ending. Even if it isn’t our own.
When we see people facing their obstacles, fighting adversity and succeed, we feel lifted. It inspires us to think: “If they can do it, why can’t I?”. Even if it is based on a drawn character from the fifties.
4. Changing perspective
At the end of 2017, I wrote a short story called The Regret Rooms. A short fiction story about contemplating regrets and changing perspective. In that story, four people are faced with their fears and regret while recovering from injury in the ER. The nurse in that story has himself heard a tale from a mysterious and magical man when he felt down.
That little story has become one of my stories I am most proud of. I published it as a standalone story as well. It’s my most popular story to date. It’s called the Moon’s View:
Fables or parables can change your perspective. When we worry or when we are hurt we have difficulty to distance ourselves from that feeling. Sometimes all we need is a little change in perspective to find our troubles aren’t as big as they appear to be in our head.
“Let me tell you what I see when I see your kind from here [The Moon]. Your kind worry and fear too much, about uncertainties, prestige or other vanities. But one needn’t worry about those trivialities. If something doesn’t go your way, think of how big that problem is, seen from this very spot.” — The Moon’s View
I wrote about it earlier: to read is to escape from daily troubles. In that article, I talked about why people read fiction. Research has been done as to why people read. I think the following reasons apply to fairy tales in particular:
- Stories grant us access to varied human views otherwise unattainable or perhaps even unimaginable.
- Reading is a way of thinking about yourself. You become a better person because of it and it aids in maintaining your intellectual and ethical integrity.
One of the books that inspired me to write fables, was The Tale of the Unknown Island, by José Saramago. You can actually read it for free here. The first fable I wrote is called The Money Tree. It’s about a man who one day finds a money tree growing in his garden. Coming from a poor background, his life changes dramatically. What would he do with his new found fortune?
The Money Tree
Tomorrow he would be evicted. Jobless, penniless. He had nothing in sight.He had no family, barely any friends. He was…
I love the following quote from The Tale of the Unknown Island:
“Don’t you know, If you don’t step outside yourself, you’ll never discover who you are.” ― José Saramago
Granted, one could easily binge-watch the next Netflix or Amazon hit. But wouldn’t you agree that a short and sweet fable might leave us more the wiser?
What do fairy tales, fables or parables teach you? Do you have any favorites?
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