WHY FAIRY TALES MATTER
by Liesl Shurtliff
A common misconception people have about fairy tales is that they are somehow irrelevant because they’re not realistic reflections of our life experience. Fantasy and the fairy-tale are purely escapism, a way to ignore reality and it’s inconvenient laws of nature. “Life is not a fairy-tale,” people often say, but I couldn’t disagree more. I think what they mean to say is, “Life is not a Disney animation film.”
Despite my love for Disney and the joy they bring to my life, they have butchered the integrity of fairy-tales for generations. The real fairy tales, the ones written and collected by the Brothers Grimm, Perrault, Andersen and others, are generally brutal and often tragic. Take a look at the original tales of The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, or various origins of Little Red Riding Hood. They are not pretty, friends. Tragic love, cannibalism, and pecked out eyes. Some of them don’t even end well, and a few of them do not live happily ever after. They don’t even live. Why then do we say that life is not a fairy-tale as though we have somehow been duped? Consider the following statement made by a man who penned some of the most tragic fairy tales.
“Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale.”
-Hans Christian Andersen
Was this man delusional? I don’t think so. He didn’t mean that life is all butterflies and fairy dust and happily ever afters. There’s a sprinkling of that in real life. Of course there is great joy in this life, but many will suffer betrayal, heartache, and tragedy, and children are no exception. Fairy-tales, I believe, are great metaphors for real life. It’s beautiful, but it’s also ugly. It’s happy, but it’s also sad. It’s sweet, but it’s also bitter. Sometimes there is no explanation for why things happen.
It is all wonderful.
So I implore you, whenever someone says “Life is not a Fairytale,” you should yell “YES IT IS YOU IDIOT!”
RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN, by Liesl Shurtliff (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers) releases tomorrow, April 9, 2013!
In a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke.
Rump has never known his full name—his mother died before she could tell him. So all his life he’s been teased and bullied for his half-a-name. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. For Rump discovers he can spin straw into gold. Magical gold.
His best friend Red Riding Hood warns him that magic is dangerous—and she’s right! That gold is worth its weight in trouble. And with each thread he spins, Rump weaves himself deeper into a curse.
There’s only one way to break the spell: Rump must go on a quest to find his true name, along the way defending himself against pixies, trolls, poison apples, and one beautiful but vile-mannered queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—Rump just might triumph in the end.
An inventive fairytale retelling, perfect for fans of Gail Carson Levine or Shannon Hale.