Having become accustomed to the funny looks when I tell people I am working on a fairy story I thought it would help by putting some background to my motivation in a blog post.
I loved being told stories as a child; becoming and remain an avid reader as a result. However, it was while observing the positive influence of using story work in the primary EFL classroom, that lead me to discover a seminal work by Dr Bruno Bettelheim “The Uses of Enchantment”. Dr Bettelheim survived the holocaust and while in camp he suggested to make things a little easier that the inmates tell each other stories that they could remember from childhood. In the USA while meeting with fellow survivors his psychiatrist training was to be astonished by the fact that those who has told stories had come through with less emotional scarring. This led him to dedicate the remainder of his life to working with traumatised children and research the importance of the story in human culture and psyche. His findings are documented in afore mentioned book.
What he discovered was fascinating and confirms Jung’s theories of ancestral archetypes. His investigation and treatment of others confirmed, what Jung had said – that that symbols and motifs in stories were common to the collective human psyche. All traditional stories from all cultures share common values and reinforcing universal ethics; respect your parents, don’t harm other people, don’t steal, don’t lie, be responsible and dependable, work hard, behave with dignity.
Fairy Stories deal with two principle concepts; the inner integration of a person at spiritual, emotional, and psychological level and the child’s striving for maturity and independence in a healthy fashion. Fairy stories all contain a journey where the protagonists evolve, grow and learn to surmount their difficulties. Discovering that life throws a lot of curve balls but help is also available, if we are prepared to accept it.
Fairy Stories like their cousins Myths have a defined structure and order of things and the imposition of a structure like rhyme in poetry in fact guides the creativity, it is the recognition of the structure on behalf of the reader or the listener that gives security and satisfaction. The storyteller has existed in all cultures since time immemorial. The form continually evolving, from the medieval ballad minstrels to the author of the novel as a consequence of the printing press via the cinema to the video game. All are stories. The oldest known fairy story is dated 1250 BC on Papyrus in Mesopotamia.
We tend in these days of Disneyfication to see the fairy story as a child genre but the idea of children’s literature per se only evolved as a concept with the introduction of compulsory education; prior to that people had read and before that they had listened to the storyteller. Each one of us takes out different things at different times from a story; assimilating what we need and that may not be the same on every encounter with the tale. Bettelheim discovered that the leitmotifs in stories connect with our subconscious and cure us without our knowledge and are in fact more holistic that a self help book which give insight but don’t always institute change.
After my self help book phase; useful, insightful but too many were simplistic superficial gimmicks; products of marketing departments. I returned to my passion fiction with a new idea. I read the blurbs of the pile of books waiting to be read (there are always lots) and choosing the one I feel most resonates with me at that time. Often disappointing but when it works and offers insight, gives an answer, it is most satisfying and fulfilling. I can recommend it.
I decided to work on a fairy story whose theme was the changing role of women in society to seek insight to a personal dilemma. I consider myself both feminine and a feminist, two things I have often found difficult to reconcile. It provided the obvious answer be true to yourself, I am a feminist who wears high heels, ribbons and flowery dresses. An answer, however, not the question of the title. Suggestions would be much appreciated.