Fairy Tales are the graphic novels of ancient oral tradition. See how these stories shape modern culture.
Faeries, come take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind, run on the top of the disheveled tide, and dance upon the mountains like a flame. ― William Butler Yeats
The Traditions of Faeries and Fairies
Stories with extraordinary characters are an excellent way to send messages (1). Memorable stories often contain exaggerations, supernatural imagery, and magical characters. That’s what makes them popular. The more popular, the more they are spread in the culture.
Fables are the kinds of stories that last for generations. These stories are not entertainment, although they are entertaining. These ancient oral tales often contain many levels of information. The storyline makes it possible to embed information in the language and symbolism. Read them again now with spiritual ears and eyes.
Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. ― C. S. Lewis
Fairies are imaginary creatures. Legend tells us they are spirits with metaphysical, supernatural, or preternatural traits. Their origins stretch back to primordial gods and goddesses. We also know them as fay, fae, or “fair folk”. Plural forms are faeries and fairies. These creatures appear in the traditions of European folklore. They are prominent characters in Celtic, Slavic, German, English, and French stories.
These gothic and grim tales spark the imagination. These qualities encourage their translation across language and cultural barriers. And, their intrinsic messages and values can become a part of the culture. Fairy tales are a popular focus for superstition and mythology. We find these creatures are like the anthropomorphic animals we see in fables.
The characters in these stories are versatile. They can take on a variety of roles. Sometimes they fragile, innocent, shy, and docile. Other times they appear scary and menacing. Most of the traditions make them human as they display both good and evil traits. Take, for instance, the creature in Pan’s Labyrinth. This a modern-day version of the classic tale.
The Common Themes in Fairy Tales
These stories are definitely not entertainment. These stories are vehicles for communicating and programming the cultural narrative. Many of these stories have a specific theme or goal. Some of these stories contain several levels of information.
At every moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss. ― Paulo Coelho
1) Beware of Deception
An excellent example of this lesson is the story of “Little Red Riding Hood”. In 1697 Charles Perrault was the first to publish in a collection of short stories. He changed some parts of the original story. He did so to make the story suitable for younger audiences.
The story of Hansel and Gretel comes out of the famine in the 1400s. Brothers Grimm first published the German lore in 1812. Children found themselves abandoned by family, sometimes killed and eaten. The witch in the story builds the gingerbread house as a lure and deception. This personifies the deception and darkness of humanity.
This type of story teaches moral behavior. The tale of “Cinderella” exemplifies how moral behavior returns a positive outcome. We are to focus on the positive and not retaliate. It is an admonition to extend kindness regardless of how we are treated.
The story of Cinderella also demonstrates the concept of Karma. If we do the right, we will receive a positive reward. The traditions we know as fables are of the showcase of positive moral behavior. Fables will often use anthropomorphic Beings. They often the wise ones who lead the main character through the lesson. The human/animal form is also a major theme with faeries and fairies. A modern version of this is Yoda from Star Wars.
2) Avoid Making Assumptions
The third prototype story is to avoid assumptions. This type of fable teaches us not to assume. We cannot know or understand someone or something based on superficial attributes.
This lesson best exemplified by the story “Beauty and the Beast.” “Snow White,” is another story that showcases this admonition. Here we see “faeries and fairies” take prominent roles in the story.
3) Preserving Spiritual Truths
These accounts are not contrived narratives designed to entertain and frighten children. These accounts hold spiritual truth. For example, the journey of “Jack in the beanstalk” is a microcosm of a spiritual journey to the Upper World. The story of “Alice in Wonderland,” contains journeys to the Middle and Lower worlds.
If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. ― Albert Einstein
Beowulf is a Scandinavian hero of the Geats. He comes to the aid of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes who is under attack by a monster known as Grendel. This story is often cited as the first important work of literature is written in Old English. The story of Beowulf contains Anglo-Saxon roots. This helps us decipher the deeper meaning of the text. Grendel attacks because of his exile and exclusion. This is a reference to the retaliation of those excommunicated and excluded from society by the Church.
Stories Become Part of the Cultural Narrative
Many cultures identify the dragonfly with the presence of fairies. This form reflects the general typology. It is a creature that is both beautiful and dangerous.
Fear isn’t so difficult to understand. After all, weren’t we all frightened as children? Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. It’s just a different wolf. This fright complex is rooted in every individual. ― Alfred Hitchcock
When stories are repeated they take root in the traditions of the cultural narrative. This is how superstition becomes part of the values of the culture. Superstition is then used to support the inhumane treatment of all sorts.
For instance, the fear of the Crone as an evil witch is perpetuated by stories like Hansel and Gretal. They then reflect this stereotype in other texts such as in Exodus 22:18. The King James version says Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. And in Deuteronomy 33:8-10 refers to the use of the Urim and Thummim as instruments of witchcraft. So, if you fit the mold of the stereotype, you become an outcast at the very least.
The Catholic Church used these stereotypes to root heresy throughout Europe and then in the Americas. It’s inquisition demonized anyone that did not support their mythology. This stereotype is still in place. This is why it is so important to learn to question the cultural narrative.
These types of negative stereotypes are used to justify discrimination, bias, and prejudice of all types. Anytime you encounter a negative stereotype, this should make you investigate the root cause. Western organized religion began depicting angels with wings in the 3rd Century. This is when Tertullian (c.160-c. 240) an early Christian author Roman wrote, “every spirit is winged, both angels and demons”. This became the model in Christian art from the 3rd century onward.
Do you believe in Faries? What about Angels? Not everyone who believes in Angels also believes in Fairies. This is because the mythology contained in the Bible of Western organized religion does not mention fairies.
The origins of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are the rebranding of Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Assyrian mystery religions. Their mythology is ripe with angels and demons, but are consciously absent European folklore. The separation was necessary. This is because organized religions saw any connection to indigenous beliefs as competition.
Despite the rigorous attempts by the dominant organized religions, fairy tales are still a part of many cultural traditions. The resurgence of nature-based philosophies has helped to keep these stories alive. Popular culture is full of references to fairies. Watch the beginning of any Disney film and you’ll see a fairy flying in with a magic wand.
Fairies Become Vampires
Our culture is fascinated with Vampires. They take on many of the characteristics of Fairies. They live for many generations and possess supernatural powers of strength and guile. Both are often able to shape-shift. And, they can appear human. So, in a way, we are still creating fairy tales.
Does this obsession with mythological creatures harmless? Or, does it create a slippery slope for the belief in other types of mythology like those associated with religion? We have conducted surveys of our members. And, we do not see a correlation between the imaginary creatures like fairies and those who follow the mythology of the major organized religion.
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