“Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”
G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles
Depending on how long you’ve lived, you’ve almost certainly seen your share of dragons. If even our smallest kids know about dragons, then adults are most certainly well acquainted with the beast. But what about St. George?
Chesterton’s quote refers to the legend of St. George and the Dragon from the 12th century. In this story, a dragon is terrorizing the town and the only way to appease his wrath is to sacrifice a virgin. One day, the lot falls to the princess. George happens to be passing through the village on this ill fated day, and he steps in, slays the dragon, and saves the day. Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale like that?
Lately, fairy tales have fallen out of favor in some circles. and even those who may still read fairy tales, do so with high levels of caution. In our “tolerant” society, tales about knights rescuing princesses seem, well, intolerant. And witches and evil stepmothers are just too scary for little kids.
But I would argue with Chesterton that our kids are already confronted with plenty of scary things in their little lives. What they need to know is that there are good people who will step in the midst of that danger to protect them. So, don’t give up on fairy tales – and here’s 3 reasons why.
Fairy Tales remind us that Good can (and does) triumph over evil
If you’re reading the Brothers Grimm, you know there is great evil in many a true fairy tale. However, there is also great good. We live in a world where we see evil all around us, and sometimes it is difficult to remember that there is also good around us. As a Christian, I know that in the final analysis, good wins. Fairy tales help me remember that today.
Fairy tales show us that actions have consequences
As a parent, I was often horrified when I would read children’s books and see the characters in the story committing all kinds of dreadful actions, and having no consequences to those actions. Not so in original fairy tales. Characters are frequently defined by their actions – we know what kind of person they are by the things they do.
Fairy tales teach values and morality through story
As we watch the characters in the struggle between good and evil, we see what they value as most important. I wrote earlier on the themes of courage, kindness, and forgiveness in the live action movie Cinderella. Struggles show us what we’re really made of, and those qualities are then either to be cultivated or avoided in our own lives.
Not only do fairy tales delight young hearers, but they contain a treasure trove of value for adults as well. Laura will be traveling for several weeks, so I thought this would be a fun opportunity to do a short series. In the next two posts, I will explore some specific fairy tales, and provide some suggestions for further reading. So go slay the dragon!