The Book Devotions

What's the point of fairy tales?

Published about 1 month ago • 2 min read

I don't know about you, but I had a blast with Fairy Tale February!

Whether you read every single story or just cherry-picked a few, I want to bestow upon you my hearty congratulations!

For what? For being an adult who can countenance a fairy tale with respect.

That's something!

When we started this series 30 days ago, I wrote, "fairy tales say much with little, but they never explain."

I have a confession. I plagiarized that.

It originates with P. L. Travers, who wrote...

"...fairy tales never explain. But we should not let ourselves be fooled by their apparent simplicity. It is their role to say much in little. And not to explain is to set up in the hearer or the reader an inner friction in which one question inevitably leads to another and the answers that come are never conclusions. They never exhaust the meaning." (About the Sleeping Beauty)

So true.

But just because they don't explain doesn't mean they don't teach.

Fairy tales are full of meaning! And morality.

G. K. Chesterton wrote...

"If you really read the fairy-tales, you will observe that one idea runs from one end of them to the other—the idea that peace and happiness can only exist on some condition. This idea, which is the core of ethics, is the core of the nursery-tales. The whole happiness of fairyland hangs upon a thread, upon one thread. Cinderella may have a dress woven on supernatural looms and blazing with unearthly brilliance; but she must be back when the clock strikes twelve. The king may invite fairies to the christening, but he must invite all the fairies or frightful results will follow. [...] This is the profound morality of fairy-tales; which, so far from being lawless, go to the root of all law. Instead of finding (like common books of ethics) a rationalistic basis for each Commandment, they find the great mystical basis for all Commandments." (All Things Considered)

See how I keep quoting people who are smarter than me?

One more.

Writer and professor Leland Ryken wrote this about fantasies:

"The case for fantasy extends beyond its value as entertainment to its usefulness in clarifying life. [...] Fantasy and myth are particularly adept at expressing universal human experience, emancipated from changing social conditions and historical particularities. Stripped of the surface clutter of transient social conditions, elemental human experience stands out fully illuminated." (Realms of Gold)

By shedding the "distractions of reality," humanity takes center stage in a fairy tale. And we crave stories that convey human emotion, conflict, and dilemma. Human truth.

Ryken even stated (prophetically?):

"The more completely technology dominates our society, the stronger will be the appeal of fantasy." (Realms of Gold)

Do you think this is true?

What did you think of Fairy Tale February?

I'd love for you to hit reply and tell me.

Your devoted,


P.S. Here are the books that I quoted in today's email:

The Book Devotions

Michelle Watson

I'm a homeschool mom who loves to read. Every week, I email you book recommendations and reviews, fun printables, bits of bookish news. Come on over and read with us! We'd love to have you.

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