If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.
I love fairy tales. I grew up hearing Grimm's stories, not from books, but passed down to me by my mother from her mother from her mother, through the oral tradtion. I went on to read as many fairy tales as I could find and essentially got my degree in them. I love the mystery and magic, the possibility and even the moralizing. I learned how to solve problems, trick my way out of dangerous situations and see beyond the obvious.
I've written before about how to tell fairy tales. As a storyteller, I know if I tell a fairy tale or a story structured like one, my audience will understand what I'm doing and come along for the ride. They are a common cultural language, with familiar symbols and pathways, that let us connect more easily with one another.
Fairy tales are potent for retelling and healing. When we tell the story of our own broken youth, we can tell it as a fairy tale and make it easier to both state and hear. We can talk about the dark and process those experiences without frightening ourselves any more.
Fairy tales help us understand that the values of once upon a time aren't so different from our values now. We still yearn for love, for fiscal comfort, for a better life for ourselves and our children. We want to overcome the ogres, move to better pastures, be cared for as best we can. If those values, carried across time, still endure, then perhaps values across cultures can be similar as well. Fairy tales help us break boundaries of time and culture.
And fairy tales feed our imaginations. The wondrous is matter of fact in these tales, so we are encouraged to look for wonder in our own lives. We are given permission to see the world as one of possibility. Einstein also said Imagination is more important that knowledge. If you believe that, as I do, then fairy tales are one of your most potent tools to feed your imagination.
It's important that we keep these stories in circulation, even the disturbing ones, because they tell us so much about what it is to be human. They allow us to talk about dark and scary things through metaphor (how many wolves have you met today?) and find ways through the woods in the safety of our own homes. They help us understand that yes, there is a woods, and yes, there is a wolf, but if we are wise or kind or clever, we will survive. They offer us unexpected solutions to the oldest problems. They remind us that strangers can offer kindness when we are kind in return. They teach us that we do not need to be alone.
(c)2012 Laura S. Packer