When was the last time you read a fairy tale? Sometime as a child perhaps, or maybe more recently you read one TO a child.
I grew up reading fairy tales. I devoured them. And as I got older I added in fantasy and mythology. But I never lost my taste for the originals.
There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who love fairy tales and those who think that they are childish and simplistic and a waste of time.
Well, that’s nonsense. You are never too old for fairy tales. Or too busy. Everyone should read more fairy tales. And I’m going to tell you why.
I would like preface this post by saying that everyone should read more FICTION in general, but fairy tales are special.
6 Reasons You Should Read Fairy Tales
You may wonder why you should waste your very limited time reading “fantastical children’s stories.”
I suppose you will have to decide for yourself if it is a waste of time. And if so… well don’t read them then. But you’ll be missing out.
1. What's Your Outlook?
You are going to encounter a dragon or two at some point in your life. They probably won’t be scaly and breathing fire, but they may seem insurmountable and terrifying.
What do you do when staring a dragon down? Do you say ”Screw this,” and run in the opposite direction? Or do you take a deep breath, sharpen your sword, and start fighting?
In any fairy tale, the hero doesn’t give up when things get hard. They dig in and keep going and believe that they will be alright at the end of the day. They have that persistent optimism that keeps them going when things look hopeless.
Optimism, by the way, has been shown in study after study to have positive effects on your health.
So there are really very practical reasons to believe that dragons can be slain. Plus it’s fun.
2. The Use of Being Useless
In a world where the functional is king, how do we justify the unnecessary? We have been so conditioned to think that we need to be constantly producing something of value. That if we are not working towards some goal we are wasting time.
Which is a very transactional way of thinking about people and their lives. Don’t humans have intrinsic value just because they ARE, not because of what value they are providing for society?
There is much more to life than being productive and paying the bills and saving for retirement and making sure you are getting exercise 3 days a week and 5 servings of vegetables a day. Not that those things aren’t important, because they are, but they do not encompass the TOTALITY of life. They are the broad strokes of life, the outlines and guiding structure.
Those are your lines, but you need to fill them in with color and texture and experience and just plain old LIVING.
3. A Different Understanding
Anyone who has ever been lost in the land of fairy can tell you that its landscape and stories are vivid and REAL and true and that they GRIP you and get deep inside and CHANGE you.
The language of fantasy and fairy and myth speaks clearly and profoundly to those who listen. Fairy stories are human stories. Human existence is nuanced and multi-layered and PAINFUL.
When our minds wince away from grappling with something difficult, sometimes it’s better to use a different approach. Fantasy enables us to grapple with complex problems on a deeper level.
4. The Importance of Imagination
Einstein also said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” He may have been onto something. In order to solve the unsolvable problems that plague humanity, you need imagination and the ability to think WAY outside of the box.
The development of your imagination is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Immersion in the world of fairy provides something of immense value that cannot be taught or drilled into a person.
Fairy tales invite you to imagine what could be, beyond what seems possible in this universe. To conceive of things of which you have no direct experience. To live in the heads of other beings.
In order to be a visionary, you must have VISION and be able to see what could be.
Not to mention, it makes your mind an immeasurably more interesting place to hang out.
Stories are the oldest way of teaching. Humans have used stories as a medium to express truth for as long as we can tell. There’s a reason for that.
Fairy tales and myths tap into some very deep human truths, which is why they have endured for such a long time and continue to capture the minds and hearts of generation after generation. They provide expression for feelings and impulses that we have that are not properly or sufficiently expressed by the rules of our current world.
Fairy stories are where you find deep truth, the kind that you feel in your bones and under your feet. They teach a profound understanding of life’s tangled threads and speak to the deepest levels of human consciousness.
6. The Use of Losing Yourself
Fairy tales are not the kind of stories that you sit outside of and carefully deconstruct.
The right way to read a fairy tale is to totally immerse yourself into the story and into a new world.
Fairy tales remind us to notice that magic and wonder in the world. And they do that by pulling us out of it and submerging us in another one.
And sometimes, what I need most is to sit and lose myself in another place and another time for a couple of hours. Just because.