The Value of Fairy Tales - Livin' the Good Life
Mar. 7th, 2010
09:14 pm - The Value of Fairy Tales
Fairy tales play a big part in the early-Waldorf curriculum. Being a Waldorf education fan, I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying fairy tales, trying to make sense of them, memorizing them, and telling them. Many people are offended by them. They say, "I don't want my daughter growing up thinking “some prince” is going to come along and “complete” her, or heaven forbid SAVE her. I don't want my daughter thinking she is weak, incompetent, and just needs to be beautiful to get by in life." Some say, “I’m still waiting for that (blankety, blank) prince!!!! That’s a fate and a message I don’t want to pass on to my daughter!” All excellent points! But there IS another point of view.
Here’s my understanding of fairy tales:
Fairy tales are very old, very wise stories, which are entirely symbolic! When there is a prince and a princess in the story, they are merely symbols of archetypal qualities. They symbolize the idea that everyone has a “prince” and a “princess” inside. The prince symbolizes positive masculine qualities such as strength, bravery, chivalry, conscience, assertiveness and wise, loving leadership. (On the other hand, a troll is a symbol of negative masculine qualities, such as greed, coarseness, aggressiveness, force, and low-consciousness.) A princess symbolizes childhood innocence, purity, goodwill, trust, and someone who is preparing to be a nurturer… a helpmate and partner to a strong leader… a “king”. The symbolic interpretation of the king figure is a Higher Power or Heavenly Father. A girl who does not develop “princess” qualities, but instead develops selfishness, cattiness, deviousness, and non-caring for others, turns into a “wicked” character. Princesses are trained to recognize a strong, brave, intelligent, and wise partner who can be counted on to be there and be loyal to her. Her future goal is to raise a royal family to continue on the higher qualities in the royal line. (And likewise, princes are trained to recognize their positive female counterparts. “Handsome princes” and “beautiful princesses” are merely symbolic of the fact that people who develop positive qualities are attractive. Plain and simple.)
This whole idea raises serious feminist hackles. “Wait a minute! I’m strong, brave, and assertive myself! Why would I look to some man to be that for me?” Good point.
Remember, though, that every person, male or female, has all of those good qualities inside waiting to be developed. Male and female characters in fairy tales are merely symbols for qualities that everyone has that need to “get together” INSIDE THEMSELVES for a sense of completeness. The idea is that if we unite (or “marry”) those qualities inside ourselves, we are likely to attract a mate in real life that has those positive qualities united inside themselves too, resulting in a completeness and a “happily ever after” kind of life. If, on the other hand, we don’t develop the prince and princess inside ourselves, but instead develop a troll and a wicked fairy, we are likely to attract a partner who has not developed the positive qualities in themselves either, and there will be no happily ever after.
What’s so bad about that? I believe that’s a wonderful lesson for children (hidden in a story). When our boys were young, I read them fairy tales, and other more sophisticated morality stories as they got older. Those were, by far, their favorite kind of stories! We did our best to protect their trusting, vulnerable, sensitive, willing-to-compromise, nurturing "princess" qualities, while encouraging and applauding their brave, mannerly, adventuresome, do-what's-right, get-the work-done, striving-for-goals "prince" qualities.
And guess what? We have no regrets, because we raised five amazingly integrated “princes”. No question about it… each full of princely integrity. Good catches, all.