The Strength of “Once Upon a Time…”

OnceI listened to the author Helen Oyeyemi (What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours) in an interview on National Public Radio this week as she described her reasons for incorporating fairy tales in her new short story collection:

“I am trying to find out what endures — because these stories are so old, and have been retold by so many tellers, in so many different forms. There’s a way in which, when you retell a story, you’re testing what in it is relevant to all times and places. Bits of it hold up, and bits of it crumble and then new perspectives come through, and I like that the fairy tale is one of the only stories that can bear the weight of all that.”

Where her quote ended reminded me  of another reference to the strength of fairy tales. It was from a Waldorf  education manual for kindergarten classrooms, a manual that emphasizes the role of imagination in learning:

“That is the strength of fairy tales. They are filled with promise. The weak can be strong; evil can be turned to good; the ugly can become beautiful; Cinderella can become a princess, the frog a prince. Every human being can rise to his true stature. Even the smallest child can realize this and rejoice at future victories” (54).

Fairy tales are strong and they endure as the foundation layer that supports learning and growth for children.


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