“You think I’m not serious?”
“That’s what’s scaring me. We’re too old for fairy tales.”
–Terry McMillan, I Almost Forgot About You
We have forgotten how to live fairy tales. Not the ones that are only light and sunshine, but the dark, gritty fairy tales. We have decided that we are too old for that nonsense. But I don’t think it’s nonsense at all.
Sure, not everybody gets their happily ever after. Yet it seems to me that most people do. It might not be the one we envision as children, but that doesn’t stop people from creating happiness in their lives. Besides, if we think about the history of those fairy tales, we would do well to remember that the heroes and heroines find themselves in light-less times long before they ever reach their happy endings. Rapunzel? Locked up in a tower for the entirety of her life, only to watch her savior be thrown into thorns and blinded. Sleeping Beauty (or rather, Aurora)? She’s actually denied access to a part of the world–spinning wheels and anything similar–in an attempt to shelter her from her destiny. And then her destiny becomes to fall into a deep sleep. Snow White? Her stepmother actually tried to kill her, and she’s forced into the woods to fend for herself as a result. Cinderella? Enslaved by the woman entrusted with her care.
Fairy tales are dark things, full of suffering. Many stories are. What makes fairy tales unique, in part, is that they never lose hope. No matter how dark the story gets, the reader can be assured that things will end with hope and joy. It might not be the happiness the characters hoped for, but it is a thing of beauty nevertheless.
So, as McMillan eventually assures us, we’re never too old for fairy tales.