I grew up pouring through the multiple collections of fairy tales and folklore available through my own book case the local library. Each time I cracked open a new story, I was enshrouded in endless possibilities that fostered exploration and piqued curiosity. But there was also something of greater value within.
Through these journeys I faced countless obstacles which not only challenged the protagonist, but myself. The end result was often a rewarding lesson of morals that actually helped my younger self navigate the early stages of right and wrong in life. It is easy to understand why these stories that have been passed down for generations will be forever timeless.
Today’s YA and often Adult fantasy aisles are littered with retellings and re-imaginings of countless classics. You can easily find stories of Sleeping Beauty or Vasilisa the Beautiful. And I could not be more thrilled about this. While we find that many authors are choosing to revisit the more original and sinister root of some stories, there is still significant value to be found between the pages in our older age.
Fairy tales help us explore our emotions. Even as adults, it can be difficult to face and work through the multiple and often complex emotions that life throws at us on a daily basis. More often than not, the narrative within these stories feature a protagonist who is facing several dilemmas and will experience a wide array of feelings ranging from sorrow to gratification along the way. It can often be strengthening and inspiring to not only relate to these feeling and hurdles but witness how the protagonist chooses to overcome them.
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
― Neil Gaiman,
Our moral compass muscle still needs to be flexed. I am a firm believer that we should never stop striving to do better and be better. Even as we age, we need to be reminded of the good and bad in this world and assess how we handle each. Fairy tales are saturated with actions and consequences that we can still learn from. Those meaningful messages tucked within do not lose value simply because we are older. In fact, I have found that I have been able to garner more from some stories now than I did in childhood.
“Fairy tales were not my escape from reality as a child; rather, they were my reality — for mine was a world in which good and evil were not abstract concepts, and like fairy-tale heroines, no magic would save me unless I had the wit and heart and courage to use it widely.”
― Terri Windling
Continuing to explore other cultures and traditions is important. We live in a constantly changing world. For many of us, a large portion of it might be left unseen or unexplored. Through folklore and fairy tales, we are given a glimpse into various aspects of life such as religion, social customs and very practices that we may never have encountered otherwise.
Sometimes we just need to let go and dream a little. Life can be more than hard at times. Engaging in reading (particularly fantasy) provides the reader with a healthy reprieve. Stories that feature our favorite characters and elements from childhood fairy tales offer a fun, nostalgic form of escapism with the added benefits mentioned above.
The widely growing selection of retellings often take the classics and place a spin on them that appeals to an older target audience but still captures the necessary components when successfully executed. I have little doubt that I will continue to devour fairy tales for many years to come.
Do you still enjoy fairy tales? If so, what is it that you feel draws you back to them as an adult?