The importance of fairy tales

Childhood is that age of innocence, those years when one’s world revolved around simple wants and simple problems.  Enjoyment took on many forms, depending on when one was once young. Whether one’s youth consisted of the colorful, illustrated books and magazines of the 1960s, or the television programs of the 1970s, or the video cassettes of the 1980s, or the graphic novels of the 1990s, or the optical media of the new century, one’s world, and more importantly, one’s world of dreams, consisted of Cinderella, Pinocchio, and the Little Mermaid.  It was all the same, save for the difference in the communication technology which made fairy tale heroes and villains available to the youngsters of the period.

Sadly, the world of fairy tales eventually got replaced with adolescent crushes, puppy love, soirees and parties, and teenager acne.  In turn, the teen years gave way to young adult life, when one was more concerned with employment opportunities after school, and choosing a life partner.  Young parenthood soon beckons and, as the bills come in, the young parent finds himself in debt.  Since he owes, and he owes, then, like the seven dwarfs of Snow White, it’s off to work the young parent must go.  The fairy tales of yesteryears are, by that time, long forgotten, dismissed as juvenile entertainment, and nothing more.  Ultimately, they are considered the stuff for future children.          

One who thinks and behaves this way obviously did not learn much from the lessons of one’s youth.

2 Although fairy tales are stories stereotypically identified with young children, the good use that may be derived from them is not confined to the exclusive domain of the young.  To a young mind, fairy tales are entertaining narratives, as well as opportunities for adventure the borders of which are limited only by the extent of one’s imagination.  For the adult, however, fairy tales are means by which one can recall and relive those quaint, tranquil, carefree years of reckless youthfulness, when the forces of good always triumphed over scoundrels and scalawags, when might had to be right, and when the knight in shining armor always saves his damsel in distress.

When an adult takes time out to recall, and even read the fairy tales of the happy times of his youth all over again, he becomes young once more.  The usual stress he is subjected to day in and day out is somewhat visibly reduced, wrinkles on the skin seem to disappear for a while, and if one is truly immersed in his reading, a juvenile smile actually returns to his weary face, almost obliterating everything that is tired and old within him. It is almost as if each fairy tale is able to stop the march of time, even for a brief, fleeting moment.  Indeed, one drinks from the fountain of youth when one relives the fairy tales of old.            

Young once more, the adult who is able to live anew in fairy tale land can even undo what has been done, and succeed in his own imagination, even when he is a failure in real life.  Undoubtedly, fairy tales give even the most downtrodden adult a private, personal victory which not even the world’s most powerful dictator can take away.  If hope makes life worth living, fairy tales offer different ways of hoping for the future.  

The importance of reading fairy tales on the part of adults is best demonstrated in the music of Abba, the famous band from Europe, particularly in their popular piece I Have a Dream – “If you see the wonder of a fairy tale, you can take the future even if you fail.”  As sure as people believe in angels, as what the song mentions, there must be some truth in the message of this musical masterpiece.

3 Most, if not all people who have experienced the beauty, the majesty, and the magic of fairy tales are familiar with Peter Pan, the mischievous young man who never grew old.  He never grew old because he never stopped believing in the power of fantasy.  His girlfriend’s father, by then a grumpy, old man, was himself young once upon a time, and had shown all the signs of the aging process.  Dismissive of the existence of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys at first, the old man suddenly seemed nice and happy the very moment he looked out the window, saw the flying galleon in the sky, the one piloted by Peter Pan and his gang, and realized that what he saw in the night sky seemed familiar.  Yes, the old man experienced being young again, even for a moment.

There is a lot to learn from fairy tales, not only from the moral each story conveys, but in their inherent power to captivate the imagination.  It is no surprise to find out that those who don’t know seek medical means to stop the aging process.  Truth to tell, one does not really age as the years go by.  One ages because he allows himself to stop staying young.

The story of Peter Pan has been with us for more than a hundred years, but its message remains true and heartwarming.  Let us never cease to find solace and comfort in our imagination.  The moment we stop imagining is the moment we start to die.

Frank Sinatra once crooned, “Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you’re young at heart.”  Our youthful hopes, dreams, and aspirations can be ours again, through the fairy tales that we have experienced over and over, if we are young at heart.  So relive the experiences of our youth we must, and stay young at heart, and let the fairy tales come true, even in our imagination.     

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