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?