Sometimes, it may be tempting to think that the main objective of children’s stories is to just keep kids entertained. While entertainment is not bad, so much more is going on when children are introduced to the wider world through stories. The quotes below focus on “fairy tales” because they are one of the oldest and most powerful genres of children’s story. I hope you enjoy!
1: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be even more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” -attributed to Albert Einstein.
The term “fairy tale” has an unfortunate association today with Disney stories that have the reputation for being disconnected with reality. But, traditionally, fairy tales were the stories that confronted the evil and darkness of reality the most. Fairy Tales are stories that view the world as a place full of mystery and magic. That’s why it makes sense that Einstein might have said this quote. If children grow up with stories that tell them the world is brimming with magic and mysteries, they would naturally develop a mind of curiosity, wonder, and a willingness to explore new and strange ideas. These qualities can become a really powerful kind of intelligence.
2: “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
But beyond just developing intelligence, good fairy tales confront the evil that all children already sense in the world. Chesterton’s word “bogey” means “phantom” or a source of fear–it’s that feeling we all remember from being a child alone in our bed when we are pretty sure we can see something moving in the muffled darkness of our closet. Fairy tales acknowledge the reality of dragons and phantoms, but then they show that the power of goodness and love are actually stronger–and that is the only source of true courage.
3: “Fairy Tale does not deny the existence of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance. It denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat…giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy; Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” -J. R. R. Tolkien
Fairy tales can show children the realness of things. What they do matters. They can succeed or fail. Dreams can come true, or dreams come crashing down. But the most powerful thing that a child can learn from fairy tales is that there can be hope, “a fleeting glimpse of Joy,” even when all the world is dark around them.
While not all good stories have to be fairy tales, these key qualities of fairy tales are good things to look for in any story. Curiosity and wonder, courage, and hope are all possible to learn through good stories. That’s why in upcoming posts, I am excited to explore some of the best titles that have these powerful qualities!
Thanks for reading!