Saturday, October 20, 2012

Celebration count down day 5: Fairy Tales

As you know, I'm celebrating my birthday by sharing things I love. So far, you can hear a poem, consider time, get the chills and admire the sunset.

Today I wanted to talk about fairy tales. I've written about them before, about their meaning, use, power and how to tell them, but I've not really discussed why I love them so. And I do. My life has been shaped by fairy tales (which isn't to imply it is a fairy tale).

When I was a child my parents would tell me stories every day. They read to me, sure, but they also would lie down with me in the dark and spin stories out of the air. No wonder I'm a storyteller. My father would make up stories, often thrilling tales or spooky adventures, while my mother would tell me folk and fairy tales. Among the stories she told were Grimm's tales, including One Eye, Two Eyes and Three Eyes, a Cinderella variant that she learned from her mother who learned it from her mother and so on. It's a secret thrill that I know some of the Grimm's stories, learned not from books but directly from the oral tradition.

I told these stories to my friends. I loved them so much that I went on to obtain my degree in Folklore and Mythology, writing my honor's thesis on the female hero in Western European folktale. And 20 years ago I started telling stories as a performing artist beginning with fairy tales. One of the first fairy tales I told was One Eye, Two Eyes and Three Eyes. And then I told East of the Sun, West of the Moon, a Beauty and the Beast variant that I fell in love with as a little girl. The heroine is wily, clever, determined and unafraid. After all, she rides away on a bear whom she loves for his own fierceness as well as his hidden human side.

And that's why I love fairy tales. They are fierce and human and basic explorations of our nature. When we hear or read a fairy tale we not only are learning something about what it is to be human, something about what we need to survive, we are giving ourselves permission to be more human. To be the wily heroine, the strong-hero, even the wicked villain. Because these stories (in their literary form) are stripped of modern emotion and explanation, we have moe white space within which to place our selves. They are basic, stories of how to survive in the wide world and why the wide world needs exploring.

What's more, fairy tales give us permission to believe that magic just might exist. That if we are daring and strong and smart and not afraid to call a pin a sword - or even just really lucky - the world will open to us. They encourage us to believe in bigger things and strive to be heroes in our own stories.

(c)2012 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Thanks, Laura! That's what I want, too: to be wily, clever, determined and unafraid, daring, strong, and smart, not afraid to call a pin a sword--and to have the world open up to me!

    1. Thanks Mary Grace! I'd say you already are wily, clever, determined and unafraid!

  2. Wonderful, Laura, thanks. The series I produce here in NY at the Provincetown Playhouse is focusing on fairy tales this celebration of the Grimms' bicentennial. I'm going to send the link to this blog to my NYU students. Thanks for this!

    1. Thank you Regina, I really appreciate it. And if you need a teller, let me know :)
      I look forward to actually getting to spend time with you.

  3. Laura,
    One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes - my mom told that to my sisters and me. I haven't heard anyone mention that story for so long. Thanks for the memory.


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