I’ve always loved fairy tales. Some of my favorite memories involve pulling the thick brown volumes that had belonged to my grandma off the shelf and reading in my room for hours. I enjoyed animal stories and the quests of Greek and Roman gods as well, but I’ve always gone back to fairy tales.
As I grew older, I discovered there are many versions of fairy tales. There’s even overlap from different countries when it comes to the well-known stories of Cinderella, Snow White, and Rumpelstiltskin. As I got older, I began seeking out different and unique versions, and I think I was in college when I discovered The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly.
I think fairy tales appeal to me because though they’re often set in a fantasy world, the people involved deal with very real problems. In The Book of Lost Things, 12-year-old David’s beloved mother dies, leaving him lost and untethered. And his father falls in love with and marries another woman, then has a child with her, leaving David feeling abandoned and lonely and angry.
So when he hears his mother’s voice calling for him, he follows it to another world. There he meets strange people and is hunted by a Rumplestiltskin-like creature. He has to make choices and through the course of the book does some real growing up.
When I was a kid, my dad died. My mom remarried. And my stepdad brought a son into the marriage. I strongly identified with David, though I never met the monsters he met or made the friends he did in that strange other world.
I’ve read this quote before, and though no one can agree on who said it, I love it: “Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”
And I think therein lies their power. They tell stories of princesses, evil stepparents, poor sons, and countless monsters, but in the end, good usually wins. And that’s good for not just kids; it’s good for all of us to be reminded that dragons can be beaten.
My dragons at almost 40 are a lot different than the dragons I had at 12 or 20, but I still have them. And reading about a boy who faces down his fears or chooses to help another person instead of taking the easy way out is incredibly powerful. It’s a wonderful reminder that while good wins in the end, it’s up to us to make that choice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Starkley lives with her husband, three daughters, and numerous pets. She likes to read, write, bake, and dabble with the clarinet. She also infrequently blogs.