Recently I was listening to an old lecture by Jeff Overstreet at Seattle Pacific University. He was talking about Madeline L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the value of fairy tales. Since these are three of my favorite author’s I couldn’t help but listen. One fairy tale he mentioned was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which most of us are familiar with from the Disney film of our childhood. At its heart, he said, the story is about an apple, a curse, and a prince who rescues Snow White by love’s kiss. If this does not bring to mind another story, it should. I have probably seen or heard this story many times and never seen this parallel. Now it seems so obvious that I wonder how I could have missed it. If you dig deeper you will find other similarities, but I will save those for you to find. Stories share some of the attributes of living things. They are fragile and can die when dissected. Nothing could be worse than to turn Snow White into an allegory.
Now to the question: are fairy tales true? On the surface it is a question which seems so childish that most adults no longer ask it. At a certain age we tell children who ask this question or something similar that no, fairy tales are not real. Do we really want children growing up with a belief in dragons, fairies, and magic? My response would be that what is more real than a dragon? People who know a little about dragons, and I know a little, know that dragons are by nature selfish creatures, hoarding up gold and trinkets with the sole purpose of having a pile to sit on. When the occasion arises they will go out and terrorize the peasant folk, but otherwise they sit guarding the pile until the day they die. I am sure that with a little thought you can think of a few dragons (or at least the dragon hearted) among your acquaintances, maybe you are one.
So if asked the question, are fairy tales true, my answer would be that all good fairy tales are true. All good stories echo the larger story that God is working, one that does involve an apple, a curse which we are powerless to break, and a king’s Son who comes to break the curse.
*Note: This lecture can be gotten through iTunes U here. I have uploaded the audio file and linked to it above for those for which iTunes is not an option. If this violates any copyright laws I sincerely apologize to Mr. Overstreet and SPU.