How Fairy Tales Speak to Us

Fairy tales have been around for as long as stories have been in existence. Whether they end happily or tragically isn’t as important as the thread of truth at the heart of each one. I think this is why fairy tales have lasted for so long, and why, like Shakespeare, you can plop a fairy tale story into any setting, and it will most likely work. It isn’t about the characters and setting so much as what we learn from the tale.

One of my husband’s favorite Disney movies is The Princess and the Frog. I love Disney’s version of the tale so much because it is the first Disney fairy tale told in an American setting (New Orleans). Not only is it a different setting than audiences are used to, but it also twists the fairy tale in some exciting, unique ways. At its core, we learn how much appearances aren’t as important as what’s inside (listen to the “Dig a Little Deeper” song, for instance), and that hard work is important only if you take time to smell the roses along the way.

I think, as humans, we cling to storytelling as a way to express the most important elements of who we are. Fairy tales boil down the essence of who we are. We value happiness and reaching goals and wishes. We value learning hard lessons, even if the endings are tragic. Even from an unhappy ending, there is a golden nugget of wisdom to be found—something that can lead to happiness if we will only stop to learn from it. This is why I like unhappy endings. They make me think a lot harder than happy ones!

Fairy tales started out as “little stories” passed down orally from one storyteller to another until the Brother’s Grimm started collecting some German tales in the early 19th century. Since then, we’ve had tales written down to treasure. We continue to write them down today. I certainly can’t keep myself away from telling stories with a traditional fairy tale feel. What’s your favorite part about fairy tales? Do you prefer them happy or a little more realistic?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle

8 comments

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author

I like the Princess and the Frog. That's a good one. I'm also really enjoying "Once Upon A Time" season two. It's been crazy this season with all the characters coming out of the walls.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Hi, Michael! I've heard good things about Once Upon A Time. Most likely, I won't watch it until it's all completed and all the seasons are out. 🙂

Martin Willoughby

Fairy tales were originally concocted to inform children about the world of adults. As most were written in dire times, it's not a surprise they have darkness in them.

Kathryn Purdie

Great post! I absolutely love fairy tales and mythology. They're such a cool lens to filter the world and to think about something in a new way. And it's true that unhappy endings last with you much longer. You think, "Why did it have to end that way? What could the characters have done to save themselves from such an outcome?" Always good things to think about.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Yep, and I like that darkness. It definitely adds complexity. 🙂

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Thanks, Katie! That's exactly why I like more controversial endings.

Tammy Theriault

love fairytales…it's everything you wish would happen to you (as long as the story ends well)

Leave a Reply