Episode 156: The “Best of” Series – Why Read Fairy Tales, Ep. 70
Welcome to another episode in our “Best of The Literary Life Podcast” series. Today on The Literary Life Podcast, Angelina Stanford and Cindy Rollins tackle the topic of fairy stories, discussing the what, why and how of reading them. Angelina shares the distinctive characteristics of fairy stories in contrast to other types of stories, such as myths. They deal with the question of whether fairy tales are “escapist”, the influence of the Grimm brothers scholarly work on interpreting fairy stories, and allowing the story to unveil its deeper truths without forcing meaning onto it.
Angelina gives an illustration of how to see the gospel messages in fairy tales by talking us through the story of Sleeping Beauty. She refutes the ideas that fairy tales are about human romance or are misogynistic. She also highlights some of the Enlightenment and Puritan responses to fairy tales that still linger with us today. Cindy and Angelina also discuss some common concerns such as the magical, weird, or scary aspects of fairy tales. Angelina also makes a distinction between folk tales, literary fairy tales, and cautionary tales.
Other Literary Life series openers referenced in this episode:
Episode 20: An Experiment in Criticism by C. S. Lewis
Episode 71: Phantastes by George MacDonald
Episode 30: The Literary Life of Caitlin Beauchamp
Listen to The Literary Life:
After a certain kind of sherry party, where there have been cataracts of culture but never on word or one glance that suggested a real enjoyment of any art, any person, or any natural object, my heart warms to the schoolboy on the bus who is reading Fantasy and Science Fiction rapt and oblivious of all the world beside.C. S. Lewis
Children are not deceived by fairy tales. They are often and gravely deceived by school stories. Adults are not deceived by science fiction. They can be deceived by stories in women’s magazines.C. S. Lewis
Both fairy stories and realistic stories engage in wish fulfillment, but it is actually the realistic stories that are more deadly. Fairy stories do awaken desires in children, but most often it is not a desire for the fairy world itself. Most children don’t really want there to be dragons in modern England. Instead, the desire is for they know not what. This desire for something beyond does not empty the real world, but actually gives it new depths. He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods. The reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.C. S. Lewis
by Siegfried Sassoon
Adam, a brown old vulture in the rain,
Shivered below his wind-whipped olive-trees;
Huddling sharp chin on scarred and scraggy knees,
He moaned and mumbled to his darkening brain;
‘He was the grandest of them all—was Cain!
‘A lion laired in the hills, that none could tire;
‘Swift as a stag; a stallion of the plain,
‘Hungry and fierce with deeds of huge desire.’
Grimly he thought of Abel, soft and fair—
A lover with disaster in his face,
And scarlet blossom twisted in bright hair.
‘Afraid to fight; was murder more disgrace? …
‘God always hated Cain’ … He bowed his head—
The gaunt wild man whose lovely sons were dead.
Phantastes by George MacDonald
The World’s Last Night by C. S. Lewis
An Experiment in Criticism by C. S. Lewis
“On Three Ways of Writing for Children” by C. S. Lewis
Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis
The Princess and The Goblin by George MacDonald
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Gave this quote and others to my students from Lewis’s “An Experiment on Criticism”
But surely the same is true on another level? The sooner we cease to be as fickle, as boastful, as jealous, as cruel, as ignorant, and as easily frightened as most children are, the better for us and for our neighbours. But who in his senses would not keep, if he could, that tireless curiosity, that intensity of imagination, that facility of suspending disbelief, that unspoiled appetite, that readiness to wonder, to pity, and to admire? The process of growing up is to be valued for what we gain, not for what we lose. Not to acquire a taste for the realistic is childish in the bad sense; to have lost the taste for marvels and adventures is no more a matter for congratulation than losing our teeth, our hair, our palate, and finally, our hopes. Why do we hear so much about the defects of immaturity and so little about those of senility?
Hi Angelina and Cindy,
My girls and I listen to the podcast and paint, draw/journal ; if you’d like to see what we made today while listening to episode 156 please let me know : )
Thanks for all the love and work put into these shows …
Is there a particular or favorite version of complete works in print that is recommended?