Courage in Fairy Tales

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Sho's Song by Simon Caby/Cécile Corbel [The Secret World of Arrietty soundtrack].

artist unknown

I've often wondered what has led us to love fairy tales for so long. Folk tales, really, since fairy tales are a sub-category under that umbrella. Is it because they were bedtime stories? But then, how could they have endured for so long when at a time they were much more real?

At first I thought it was the oral nature of the stories. Something that tied us to our history and the earliest form of story we, or anyone, ever knew. I do not discount that now. I believe it plays an important part in the continued nurturing of these tales. But a part, not the whole.

As I've tried to link all the pieces of what makes us love dragons and houses made of gingerbread, of a girl who sacrifices her voice to save the life of her brothers or a boy who travels to find out what fear is, I stumbled on a connection.


In any great fairy tale or folk tale you will find extraordinary amounts of courage. From a young daughter who tells a white bear "I am not afraid," to a little matchstick girl that holds onto her grandmother's love even in the bitterest of winter nights, they show us there is something worth fighting for. Beaten down, there are often helpers that come, in the form of ants or fairy godmothers, they too show us we are not alone.

Even in stories of "submission" there is uncommon faith that things will work out the way they are supposed to in the end. That wrongs will be made right, that broken hearts will be mended, kindnesses repaid, and a brighter morning is waiting. That kind of trusting patience and perseverance while continuing to act is a quiet but nevertheless powerful courage in its own right.

And perhaps magic is needed in fairy tales. Not just for the wonder (though it is wonderful), but because it makes everything bigger, all the stakes made higher. It is not just a bully down the street or at work you are facing, but a dragon with a hundred eyes that never sleep. Or a father that cuts off your own hands to save his soul. If they, under such extreme pressure are able to endure, then we can find a way to not only overcome, but triumph in our circumstances as well.

From Debz Bookshelf (and a guest post by Pages Unbound), here is a quote I love:

"People rewrite fairytales, then, not because the original ones are somehow lacking but because they are provocative. In their brevity, they are somewhat like poetry. They say a lot in a short space. Yet unlike some poetry, they are still stories."

Bullies and cruelty and unkindness are not new to our world in our day. They have persisted in every age of humankind. That is why these stories speak to us. It is not just something told back then, but for everytime. A wise little girl may wear a fish net to solve a king's riddle or a brother's love may bring back his sibling from the dead but these are just the trappings for something much closer to home.