Nowadays, fairy tales have become crucial in our everyday lives. In Valerie Gribben’s essay “Practicing Medicine Can Be Grimm Work,” she reveals that as a medical student she treats patients going through severe conditions that remind her of the character archetypes in fairy tales. During her practice as a medical student she saw too much misery, and fairy tales helped her envision that regardless of the circumstances, one must remain optimistic. Regardless of her practice in medicine, fairy tales gave her insight that like in fairy tales, real life is about “the bizarre, the unfair, the tragic” (475). They provide awareness that happy endings exist, misfortunes are part of the real human life experience, and that kind acts get rewarded. Although fairy tales take place in a dream-like world, I share Gribben’s belief that fairy tales can help people, especially children, cope with crucial internal and external life experiences.
Fairy tales show us that fears are limitless, but it is possible to limit them by confronting and defeating them. In his essay “Fairy Tales Are Good for Children,” G.K. Chesterton claims, “Fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already because it is in the world already...What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey” (450). Indeed, fairy tales help children cope with life because it allows them to learn about how to conquer the circumstance that gets in the way of their existence. Chesterton shares that, as a child, he would stare at the darkness and visually construct a giant. He once read a fairy tale in which a giant was bewildered by a little boy and his sword, bad riddles, and a brave heart. This fairy tale allowed him to connect with the boy and learned that the absence of fear allows you to proceed in life. Chesterton acknowledges that this fairytale empowered him to defeat his fear and bring back normality into his mental health. Chesterton’s anecdote is a clear example that demonstrates how fairy tales can help children survive their constructed, negative mental states. Like Chesterton, many people, old and young, have been victims of fear at some point in their life. Many of us contain our everyday fears, but when we can turn to fairy tales which reflect real life, we learn that we are never alone. While fears are mostly constructed internally, we can terminate them by drawing a correlation between our lives and fairy tales.
Fairy tales help children cope with fear by conveying that refusing to control their internal fears can have extreme consequences on the external world. In the Disney movie, Frozen, Elsa is born with the power to create and control ice and snow. Her powers frighten her because she knows that she can hurt the people she loves the most if she does not control them. Elsa believes that the solution to her fears is to isolate herself and make her life up on the mountain, completely disconnected from her only family. When her sister Anna tries to see here, Elsa refuses to explain why she cannot have contact with her. Rather than confronting her fears, she just decides to be alone. However, her absence turns out to have consequences on the town of Arendelle and her sister. Elsa brings an extreme winter to Arendelle; therefore, people begin to dislike her and call her a “monster.” As Elsa’s powers become uncontrollable, they impose a climate effect that causes people to suffer from cold and the ice on the ground to break.
Although the destruction caused in the movie is something that cannot happen in real life, the movie effectively portrays that fear does not have limits. This movie makes it evident for the audience that when individuals conceal their fears and are self-absorbed, they can potentially harm those around them. This movie shows everyone, especially children, that not facing their fears can cause separation and destruction. In real life, people who are afraid cannot break the ice or freeze an entire town. Yet, their fears can still cause a disconnection between family and friends. Children learn that as a result of not facing their fears, they can eliminate people from their lives without knowing it. People learn that their life can be intimidating, but they must face their fears to ensure the well being of themselves and others, in order to not cause the elimination of important relationships. Furthermore, fairy tales display that love can help individuals conquer internal obstacles. In the same Disney movie, Frozen, Anna constantly projects her love towards her sister above anything, including life and love interests.
Although many people tell Anna that her sister is a “monster,” Anna goes out of her way to look for Elsa without assistance from anyone. Anna lets Elsa know that she believes in her and that she is the only one that can undo the curse. However, Elsa shuts her off, tells her she does not know how, and strikes Anna. Anna makes her return to Arendelle almost frozen from her heart. Towards the end, Anna runs in front of the sword to save Elsa from getting killed and becomes frozen. Anna’s sacrifice is her act of true love. Her act of true love saves both of their lives and the life of Arendelle, as it becomes unfrozen. Elsa realizes that she truly values her family and that there is nothing more than the love of her sister that can help her cope with her internal obstacles. This movie shows that when an individual is afraid, angry, and stressed they usually do not make good decisions to overcome their crisis. However, being affectionate and believing in their abilities will bring out the best in them. Often times people need someone that loves and believes in them. If we apply these characteristics we can alleviate people suffering from a disability or a personal weakness. This fairy tale gives insight that will allow children to help assist people who can not cope with their individual obstacles.
Fairy tales allow children to realize struggles are unavoidable, but they can overcome hardships if they maintain kindness and a positive attitude. For instance, in Charles Perrault’s “Cinderella; or, the Little Glass Slipper,” Cinderella’s father marries another woman after her mother’s death. In the fairy tale, Cinderella’s life turns into misery after her father’s decision. Cinderella’s stepsisters and stepmother envy her, so they force her to clean dishes and tables. She lives in the worst conditions because the surrounding women are prideful and envious towards her. In the fairy tale, the Prince invites everyone to assist a ball.
The women that surround Cinderella impede her from going because her poor appearance will not satisfy anyone. Although Cinderella is named by her stepsister as “Cinderwench,” and overworked, she is not cynical. She continues to have a kind heart and a positive attitude. It is her graciousness that allows her to receive help from her fairy godmother. The fairy godmother tells her that she will help her formulate a plan that will allow her to attend the ball if she continues to be a good girl. As a result of continuing to be kind and positive, Cinderella's godmother helps her attend the ball several times and makes outstanding touches to her clothing and hair. Even though Cinderella knows that her stepsisters and stepmother have mistreated her, she never steps out of her kind and positive character. At the ball, she still shares oranges and citrons with her stepsisters.
Towards the end, Cinderella’s slipper falls as she runs out of the castle. The slipper makes her identifiable, she is not “Cinderwench,” but Cinderella. Maintaining kindness, hope, and a positive attitude allows her to surpass the women that made her struggle. Even though the women constantly mistreat and oppress her, she ends up being more beautiful than they thought. The elegant appearance the fairy godmother gives Cinderella is not what allows her to end her enslavement with the women, appeal to the prince, and live a happily ever after. Cinderella’s persona and fortitude are the characteristics that allow her to move on with a better life. This fairy tale helps individuals cope with real-life struggles. It conveys readers of all ages that while they may not have the nicest things and live mistreatment, they must not give up their hope because good things happen to those who continue to be kind and positive. Today more people are aware of fairy tales because of the Disney movies. We all know that fairy tales are reflections of real life experience more than people say they are not. While fairy tales aim to have a broad audience, children may not always perceive the value of morals.
Overall, fairy tales show the possible things that may occur in our lives, but they also demonstrate how we can cope with the experience and continue to move forward. Fairy tales help people obtain a better understanding of serious issues like illness, injury, and death. They simplify that misfortune can interrupt our life journeys for good motives. Fairy tales mimic real- life experiences that have come before and remain real in today’s society.