Mom has been reading Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton and she has been sharing the good bits with me. One of the things that Chesterton seems to emphasize is the power of fairy tales. They aren't just stories of love and chivalry. Instead, this is the first battlefield for children. They get to fight the bad guy, save the girl, and live happily ever after. In these stories, children learn lessons of humility, kindness, the true meaning of love, and fighting for the side of right. There are also amazing spiritual sides to the stories.
C.S. Lewis, in "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader", says that Eustace is a boy who knows a lot about facts and figures, and trains and drains; but he is rather weak on dragons and the like. This creates problems for Eustace later on in the story. If he had been exposed to and taught to love fairy tales, his character would have been very different and a painful lesson would not have been necessary. Because Eustace had been taught to believe only in things he could see and touch, he utterly rejects the idea of a "make-believe" land with dragons, talking animals, and wizards. But it also means that he discounts the spiritual world as well.
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Ephesians 6:12
The spiritual world is not something that we can see or touch, but it is extremely powerful. Have you ever stopped to think that the Witch of Endor can actually call the spirit of Samuel up? She can actually do that!! In the Book of Deuteronomy, God lays the law out for His people. He tells them that He doesn't want them to go to witches and the like to ask for advice from the dead. Instead, He will give them a prophet that will conduct the words of the Living God-in other words, the prophet is speaking the words of a Spirit, albeit a living one. This means that the prophet would be represented by a good witch in the story. (This would also justify the reading and enjoyment of such popular literature as The Wizard of Oz, Tolkein, and the ever controversial Harry Potter, as well as any other story where white magic is used to defeat evil.) God, who has ultimate power, doesn't deny the minor, though not to be underestimated, power that these sorcerers have. He simply says, don't go that way. Not only don't go there, but drive all of them out of your land!
Want some examples of fairy tales with deeper meanings?
Cinderella (not the Disney version) is a girl with horrible family problems, but she is kind and patient and for that she is rewarded. Cinderella is also the story of a girl who is given one very simple rule that she can't seem to keep and she is forced to leave the palace. But there is redemption in this story. The prince loves this simple peasant girl and so he tracks her down and elevates her to the status of princess. This sounds vaguely like what happens to us. We couldn't keep one simple rule in the Garden of Eden and were thrown out; but Christ loved us so much that He tracked us down and elevates us to the status of His bride and takes us to heaven to live with Him.
The story of Beauty and the Beast is a story on the true meaning of love. True love is not based on the physical appearance of someone. True Love is also self-sacrificing. It wants only what is good for the person it loves. In this story, the Beast lets Beauty go home to her family without being certain that she will return and knowing that if she does not, he will die.
Jack and the Bean Stock says that Giants should be killed because they are giants, kinda like how bad guys should be defeated because they are bad guys.
One of my favorite fairy tales is of three brothers who set out to rescue a princess with the grand prize being her hand in marriage. The oldest two brothers see no need to help animals along the way that are in distress. They are totally focused on strategies for rescuing the princess. Only the youngest brother, who has taken the time to learn the different animal dialects, helps the animals and in the end they help him with impossible tasks. This establishes the idea that we should be kind to the people under us, even the bees and the ducks. All things have worth because God made them and we should be good stewards of all of those things and not abuse them.
One last point, in fairy tales everyone (at least all the good people) live happily ever after. Some people say that this isn't fair to kids because not everything works out perfectly. Life is messy and full of difficulties. Oh! but we do get happily ever after. A fairy tale is the Gospel in a nut shell. Christ (the prince) defeats Satan (the Dragon), saves and marries the church (the girl), and then lives happily ever after. No matter what happens here on earth, as Christ's bride, we are going to heaven to be with Him. We will celebrate the marriage supper and we will never be separated from Him. That sounds like a happily ever after to me!