Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Meditations on the Fairy Tale

 I've doing a lot of contemplation lately, and with my new favorite tv show being Once Upon a Time, I've really been thinking on fairy tales and their significance. My thinking sessions have resulted in two sketches which I would like to share, along with some of my thoughts.

Whether it is a Disney Classic or a new fairy tale twist, I love fairy tales. I own the complete Brother's Grimm along with several retellings of fairy tales, especially in illustration form. Anything having to do with fantasy is my cup of tea; Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Earthsea Cycle, Harry Potter, the list could go on. Many may find fairy tales to be either meant for children or not a form of storytelling as high as drama, independent films, or something more realistic and/or gritty. Disney is definitely ridiculed for its idealism, the "Disney Princess" having a negative connotation besides with families and their five year olds. In more recent years, with the success of so many fantasy-based films, fairy tales/fantasy-based stories have definitely become more mainstream, but even then, fantasy, on a whole, isn't taken truly seriously. I'm generalizing, I realize, but I believe the fairy tales' simplicity makes it easily overlooked by many. I think that is a great shame for fairy tales offer us so much. They speak of Truths in ways other stories cannot, expressing the human experience in a way that can transcend reality and touch a higher Reality. One aspect of this that I've been thinking on while sketching is one of the most profound things fairy tales offer us, which is endurance for the sake of Hope.

"Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." - G.K. Chesteron

Tangled Concept Art. It is my absolute favorite!
It is stunning and profound!
Most fairy tales present us with a protagonist or protagonists who through a mysterious and magical sequence of events, meets opposition, trouble, misfortune, struggle, peril, whether in a form of an antagonist or something else entirely. Many might find it quaint or unrealistic when in the end the protagonist(s) overcomes, saves the princess, rescues a kingdom, and then promptly lives "happily ever after." In our world there are so very few marriages, relationships, situations, life experiences that end in a "happily ever after", which is where the disconnect happens. However, is the fairy tale merely about the "happy ending" or are they saying something much deeper? If we peel back the simple structure of its plot, we will find many rich and insightful layers, one of them being the call and reward of endurance. They tell us that through long-suffering, "dragons can be beaten", that the "night is always darkest before the dawn", that "weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning." When Beast, suffering under a curse, watches Beauty leave him knowing that she is his only chance at freedom, that is deep soul darkness. When Rapunzel, in the original Grimm's version, is cast out in a wasteland pregnant and alone, her prince overcome with grief and blinded by thorns, that's agony and hopelessness. When Snow White lies as if dead in a glass coffin, her dwarves weeping over her, that's loss and sorrow. Fairy tales then become a magical and metaphorical picture of a very real place that we find ourselves in many times in our lives: hopelessness, loneliness, times where we are  overwhelmed with pain, grief, and the struggle of life. Yet in everyone of these stories that is not the stopping point, the story continues on. Beauty comes back and confesses her love for the Beast changing him into a human again, Rapunzel and her Prince find each other and her tears heal his blindness, and Snow White with a kiss is brought back to life! If one half of these stories is true, the other speaks of an even greater Truth, namely that there is Hope and through endurance, that very real Hope does not disappoint.

"How dare you? How dare you steal my rose?"
- Beauty and The Beast a retelling by Max Eilenberg
"And when her tears touched his eyes they become clear again,
and he could see with them as well as ever." - Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm

These two sketches express that darkness passing into light moments of fairy tales. The rose, made up of thorns, stands alone in the midst of an ominous, moon lit sky, representing that struggle the characters find themselves in, the events through which the characters endure, all hope seemingly lost. The second sketch is when that story shifts, darkness breaks into light, and all that was endured passes away, hope rewarded. Movement, composition, and the abstracting of the shapes are all intentional to express these themes.

Fairy tales are powerful stories and if we are willing, like Henry in Once Upon a Time, to believe something that might appear foolish to others, then let us return again to childhood and listen to what the fairy tales tell us.

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.           He is not here, for he has risen." - Matthew 28:5 - 6

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11


  1. I love this post! Fairy tales/fantasy are a few of my favorite things, as you know. :-) I have always loved loved loved Rapunzel, especially the whole heals-him-with-her-tears thing (probably 'cause I cry a lot and I liked to think that tears can have another purpose than just turning your face all red, haha). And Beauty & the Beast has always been my favorite. You're right, though, about the whole darkness/light aspect in fairy tales. I think a lot of people miss that. Fairy tales generally speaking earn their happy endings. Your drawings are very beautiful and a tiny bit grim and I really like that!!

    1. Yes! I too love the idea of her tears healing him. Your explanation for why you think you like it made me laugh. Indeed! I know you have the same love for fairy tales, and I'm glad you enjoyed this post and my sketches. I like that they are a bit grim too. Thanks! And you are right, fairy tales usually do earn their happy endings. Speaking of which, you *must* read the retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Max Eilenberg. Look it up on Amazon. The illustrations are gorgeous, but the telling is very moving and deep, though it is a children's book. I know you'll love it! ;)

  2. Beautiful post, Danielle. I love the new art, too! :) I found a great quotation to go with your post. I love that last two sentences.

    There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it.
    And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way.
    One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost;
    and that is the tragedy of life.
    On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over.
    Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of common day.

    Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again;
    and blessed are they above mortals.
    They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned
    and from which we must evermore be exiles.
    The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers;
    but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.

    ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

    1. Ooh awesome quote Erika! I love it!

    2. Erika that is a beautiful quote. I love it. It beautifully captures what I was saying in my post, and the last two lines are powerful. It is also has Biblical language, of those bringing tidings to the exiles, the tidings of the Good News to those who have been exiled from Eden. Awesome!

  3. Lame. Somehow, it didn't post my above comment under my blogspot account. Well, you know who I am. :-P

  4. Girl after my own heart! This post must be shared, so I am! haha Absolutely wonderful and all my own thoughts and feelings on the matter too. Between the two of us posting about fairy tales we shall rule the world! haha :-P

    1. Thank you for the share, partner in crime! Hehe! Yes, the both of us shall bring a fresh take on fairy tales to Hollywood...and then the world! ;)