The Art and Soul of Writing Fairy Tales

 

Beauty will save the world.

— Fyodor Dostoyevsky

For those who remember Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s version of Cinderella, I will invoke lyrics you may recognize when I invite you to join me “in my own little corner, in my own little chair… where I can be whatever I want to be.”

I still feel warm and cozy when I think about watching this classic movie in my childhood home on our old black and white television, the kind with an antenna — possibly some Reynolds Wrap or a wire hanger attached — and three channels. I was only four years old then, but I learned that it didn’t matter where I lived or what my clothes looked like. If I had the right guide and the right imagination, I could get to the ball and find something magical. Something magical and uplifting. But the story says something more important than that. It said that how your family sees you can blind them to who you really are.

How could they not recognize the sweet innocent face of Cinderella, even if she did wash the cinders off before she got dressed? They saw her as the maid. They saw her as inferior. They saw her as an “it”. In fact, they obviously didn’t see her at all; she was in fact invisible.

How does one become invisible? Is it before or after the cinders? If they valued her as a human being from the beginning, she would never have been sitting in her corner on her chair, dirty and in rags.

In other tales, the opposite happens. The rich and handsome characters are transformed because of how a magical creature “saw” them. A rude prince became a beast because he mistreated a glorious creature, believing she was just an old hag. So the whole world then saw him for his behavior, not as his physical self. No one recognized him, save for his servants who knew what happened but still saw the beast for what he had become not what he was.

Why do fairy tales tug at our hearts and fill our imaginations? Consistent tales of woe, romance, and stories to explain the “pourquoi” of our existence and our universe as they converge with supernatural mysteries exist across the breadth of mankind’s time and culture.

Stardust, moonlights, magical creatures, and settings, where the sky is literally the limit, makes for an irresistible recipe for artists. Like most recipes, there is a list of standard “ingredients” the average person would expect in, say, for a that most artists use to create their basic tales. But like most cooks, the recipe is just a place to start. The adventurous cook, the artisan, experiments with quantities and alternative ingredients. There’s always a place for the unexpected. In fairy tales, the unexpected is the infinite possibilities of plots, characters, settings dance in our heads at the mere words, like the lightness of mind after a glass of pink champagne.

 

 

 

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Killing Dragons: G.K. Chesteron and Fairy the Value of Fairy Tales

According to G.K. Chesterton, “Fairy tales do not tell children dragons exist, fairy tales tell children dragons can be killed.” Many critics of fairy tales object to what they perceive as the purpose of fairy tales, yet there is a reason that they have existed, in one form or another, for thousands of years.

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