Should I Teach Fairy Tales in My Homeschool?
The Study of Nations
Do you know that almost every nation has its own compilation of fairy tale literature? As such, these often incorporate folk tales which contain related tales among different nations. This is important when you consider how all things point to Christ. Even in these rudimentary tales, you can often find echos of the Gospel, shadows of His Story, along with a moral code. And where there’s a moral code, there’s a Moral Code Giver.
Therefore, we can learn a lot about nations in certain periods of history by what these stories share. But, first things first… let’s define our terms.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines fairy as: “1. A fay; an imaginary being or spirit, supposed to assume a human form, dance in meadows, steal infants and play a variety of pranks. [See Elf and Demon.]” So, let’s look up those suggested key words as well…
“ELF, noun plural elves. 1. A wandering spirit; a fairy; a hobgoblin; an imaginary being which our rude ancestors supposed to inhabit unfrequented places, and in various ways to affect mankind. 2. An evil spirit; a devil.” –Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
If you’re still with me after reading the definition, just hang on to the end.
What is a Fairy Tale?
“A story relating mysterious pranks and adventures of supernatural spirits who manifested themselves in the form of diminutive human beings. These spirits possessed certain qualities which are constantly drawn upon for tales of their adventures: supernatural wisdom and foresight, a mischievous temperament, the power to regulate the affairs of men for good or evil, the capacity to change themselves into any shape at any time.” –The Noah Plan® Literature Guide ©1997, p. 100
A Fairy Tale is in short a culture’s explanation of how things came to be, how things are, and how things may be.
Why Use Fairies in the First Place?
To begin with, fairies teach about how many people in various nations saw the world. And they’re a way of showing the depraved nature of man. In a way, they’re very similar to Greek Myths.
Like Greek Myths, people truly believed in these gods or other spirit beings. And the key thing to highlight is that these gods or fairies aren’t any better than the fallen nature of mankind. Therefore, they can be a teaching tool to show our deep need for the Savior, Jesus Christ.
- Philosophy. For instance, this includes a love of wisdom, a way that natural effects are explained, and can be used for reasoning and argumentation. Of course, true wisdom and reasoning come from Scripture. For this reason, you’ll want to pull out the Bible and research together what God says about the actions, attitudes, and motives of character in the stories. Needless to say, Bible principles will be the greatest instruction to your children.
- Lessons. If you consider Aesop’s fables and the animal protagonists in them, you’ll see how human nature is also taught. Plus, children learn to see the outcome and how to handle such characters in real life.
How Do Fairy Tales Teach About Nations?
In short, they help us identify the character of nations. The character of the nation is the overall picture we get of a nation- the people, places, events, and personality.
For example, some English Fairy Tales teach us about challenges the English have faced in history. Jack the Giant Killer is a fairy tale that shares about the challenges of injustice and tyranny in relation to the the first arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in England. There’s victory as he conquers the giants one at a time.
Another example is found among Spanish Fairy Tales. Washington Irving had spent months alone in the ancient Moorish palace which was built during the Muslim occupation of the Iberian peninsula. During this time, he wrote legends which emphasized the Arabian beliefs. In this way, children also learn how these beliefs affect the Spanish culture during this time in history.
Fairy Tales Teach Us About Life
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” G.K. Chesterton
More than any other reason, we choose and teach those fairy tales that point our children ultimately to Christ and their need for Him. It’s really why we teach anything.
In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien in his essay, On Fairy Stories . . .
The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy.