Bringing Fairy Tales Back
I call acorns kisses. I refer to pumpkins as friends. I always look for fairy rings and regard some trees as "good treehouse trees" (if they qualify as such). I feel terrible when a beloved stuffed animal has been put away in a closet for too long. I take wishing wells very seriously and am always careful what I wish for because I know all magic comes with a price.Do I do and say these things to be adorable? Maybe. But I mostly do it because it comes naturally to me. The older I've gotten, the more I've turned to the parts of childhood that bring me solace. Fairy tales and stories that have taught me about friendship, death, imagination, and love. I think often people cast them aside as childish and not holding any real value. I couldn't disagree more and I think right now, in this climate, they are extremely crucial to both adults and children.I believe we should all be revisiting fairy tales.There are many reasons I love fairy tales. Not the least of which is the magic and fantasy included in them. Mermaids, princes, unicorns, enchanted forests, trolls. They are full of adventure and making the impossible seem possible. Widely regarded as an escape, in many ways, they are just that. However, they are also another way to view the world. Most fairy tales take very real, relatable problems and twist and turn them until they sparkle and we can digest them easily.In the case of the original Little Mermaid, she wanted her prince to love her as she did him and gave up who she was to do so. Because nothing comes without a price, she gets her legs but loses her voice and he falls in love with another. In a darker twist than the more popular Disney version, the sea witch tells the mermaid she must kill the prince to return to the sea. The lesson, as dark as it may seem, is a good one: be careful what you wish for. She chooses to kill herself instead by throwing herself into the sea. It seems like a terrible ending but she makes the right choice. She chooses not to be selfish; she knows she made a mistake dealing with the sea witch after she was forbidden to. Because of this, she is rewarded an immortal soul in the clouds instead of a life of foam which the sea witch had cursed her to.Perhaps if she had been her mermaid self, the prince would have fallen in love with her as she had so desired. She would have been able to speak, telling him how she cared for him. The semantics of that wouldn't exactly work out, fish tail and all, but you get it. Don't fuck with a sea witch and you might just get your happy ending.Right now, there's a lot of shit going on. I won't rehash any of it or how exhausted I feel after the past few weeks being a woman, a sexual assault survivor, a human being. I've turned to my fairy tales for comfort, for guidance, for hope. They open up the gates of hell and drag you through it but in the end, you walk out with only minimal scarring and more wisdom than you walked in with.I think of Winnie the Pooh. Of the friendship between all the animals and Christopher Robin. There are too many key lessons you learn venturing around the Hundred Acre Wood with Piglet and Rabbit and Pooh to name here. The heart of it all is friendship and acceptance. Even Eeyore is invited along in spite of his gloomy nature. They love him just the same and do not try to make him something he is not. Think about how important that is right now with all this turmoil and divisiveness. We have forgotten how to listen and appreciate our differences. Stories of Pooh and his friends remind us to love each other and to find little joys in something as simple as a birthday party or a blustery day. My favorite story, Peter Pan, is the one I keep constant in my heart. It blends the desire to always be a child with the hard lesson of knowing that is not possible. I never want to grow up. But being a grow up, I gain knowledge and power I didn't have as a child. Wendy and her brothers have an incredible time with the Lost Boys fighting pirates until the heartache of missing their home, their mother, their real life sinks in.What I don't think people reading it see right away is that it tells us we can be both. We can fly away to Neverland as adults if we just believe in it. We can play and have imagination and adventures but we also can settle down, raise a family, maintain a job. We can do good in the world with childlike wonder even if we have sensible caution. Being a child forever isn't all its cracked up to be but we shouldn't forget the magic that exists in us from that time in our life. That's how I like to read it and how I like to move through the world.The great C.S. Lewis said, "Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again." I found that a few months ago and it struck me in a powerful way. Regardless of what he may have intended, I took it as a moment in our adult lives where we turn back to the wonder that came from these tales. We seek answers that are not in textbooks but in storybooks. He may have just meant that we read them to our children should we have a family but I honestly think it was about a point in adulthood where nothing makes sense and everything feels lost. Isn't that when we turn to fairy tales as children? When we are seeking answers that may not be clear when we first ask the question?I am at such a point where I am reflecting on my choices and where I currently am standing. I've been writing about my journey as a creative and what I want to put my effort into presently. Hopes and dreams are key factors in fairy tales. Most of the characters are seeking something and navigating the best route to achieve it. It might be going to a ball. It might be getting out of a tower. Maybe it is to get a Wolf to stop asking you to get food for it (from Grimm's Fairy Tales and a very good lesson in gluttony and selfishness). Whatever it is, I've been replacing my own position with theirs.I think of Rapunzel who goes through some shit before finding her happy ending. The witch who has trapped her cuts off her hair, throws her out, and tricks her prince with the severed ponytail. Once he reaches the top to see Dame Gothel in place of his love, he falls out of the tower and blinds himself on thorns below. Rapunzel is out into the wilderness, pregnant with the prince's twins, and against all odds, leads the prince back with her voice and cures his blindness with her tears. Will I have to go through all that to figure out if I want to pursue acting again? No, probably not. But I do remember that hope is never lost, even when you've got a bad haircut, newborn twins, and have never lived on your own outside a one room tower. They may be dark and terrifying at times, but that is what makes them all the more real, isn't it? The world is frightening and uncertain. While fairy tales tend to take a more specific approach (witches, trolls, evil queens), they reflect the harshness of our world (dictators, sociopaths, hurricanes) and how ruthless it can be. Characters die horrible deaths in fairy tales. There is no mercy. There are few second chances. Even the most golden of hearts fall to a villain's wrath. What is there to do but give up?But they never do.I write this today to remind myself and everyone else of the point of fairy tales. They aren't just for children. They are for all of us. They teach us to keep fighting, to make smart choices, to be careful what we wish for, and that everything comes with a price. The world may beat us down but we get back up and fight on. We can be an adult while keeping the child inside of us alive. We know not to tell lies and wandering into the woods alone. We can go from rags to riches with a little faith. We can find the human within a beast.When I am in my deepest, scariest panic attack, I think of Pooh. I remember that he found happiness by walking in the woods with his best friends. I think of one of my favorite quotes from the silly old bear: "Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart." I remember hope. I remember to turn on the light. I remember hobbits walked into Mordor. I remember the huntsman taking a deer heart instead of Snow White's. And the littlest mermaid falling into the sea, choosing her love for the prince over saving herself. Don't forget fairy tales. They are important. In this time of darkness, remember the lessons that linger in their pages. Stick together, appreciate our differences, don't lose hope, keep fighting. We are all old enough to start reading fairy tales again.