Why classic fairy tales are important (for children and adult alike)

I loved reading fairy tales. The classic ones, where the witch did end up burning in the oven, where the bad children were cooked in with the cookie dough, and so on.

I also love writing versions of fairy tales, inspired by Angela Carter‘s revisionist take in books such as The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories.

Certainly, there is more to fairy tales than meets the eye. However, I completely agree with Adam Gidwitz and what he writes in this article: In Defense of Real Fairy Tales. He refers in particular to the original versions of the Grimm tales, and to how much they are nowadays sweetened and diluted by the more contemporary versions, not to mention the Disney/Hollywood’s take on them.

Gidwitz says:

Why, contrary to adults’ expectations and apprehensions, are fairy tales so perfectly appropriate for these children?

In part, the form of the fairy tale offers a complete package: problem, trial, solution, judgment and punishment or reward. And there’s nothing in fairy tales (the real ones, the blood-dripping, gory, Blue Beard ones) that children don’t see daily in their exposure to media. With a major difference: the media communicate facts (or they should).

Fairy tales provide a narrative, and narrative is a way of making sense, of understanding, of imagining ourselves in extreme situations and be shown various possible actions and their consequences.

Narrative is the first tool we can offer the young ones to understand the world. Possibly new fairy tales are needed, but not necessarily, because the old ones deal with human nature, and human nature hasn’t really changed. You may send a message with pigeons, ravens or a text. But the courier doesn’t change the nature of your message: lie, trap, truth, good news. The message will arrive all the same.

Do you remember the fairy tales of your youth?



Filed under Article, Authors, Fiction, Genre

4 responses to “Why classic fairy tales are important (for children and adult alike)

  1. Hi, i find this post really interesting – I’m glad I checked in and found it! Thanks for posting. I will check out the link to the article, too. I’ve started exploring some of these ideas in my own blog recently, and have woken up the last two mornings writing journal entries about the nature of fact and fiction – the shifting lines between “stories” and the “news”. You’ve inspired me to formulate some of these thoughts into a blog post soon! 🙂 I love reading stories and fairy tales – the old ones and the new. it’s interesting to see how cultures shift and change, and that affects the ways the stories are presented. I do love the Angela Carter versions – beautifully poetic and strikingly powerful. Thanks for offering your thoughts.


    • Thanks for your comment 🙂
      Something that may interest you, as well: in Italian, the word for History and Story is the same (Storia). I find it fascinating, because it linguistically blurs the difference between fact and fiction in one simple strike. (If we accept history as fact, which we know it’s not exactly the case 😉


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