Why We Believe in Fairy Tales

by Ron Vitale

I finished watching ABC’s Once Upon a Time and I really enjoyed it. I loved the characters, the premise and how the story drew me in, causing me to want to watch more. Yet there’s a scene in the pilot that really touched me. Henry’s teacher Sister Mary Margaret Blanchard played by Gennifer Godwin says to Emma: “What do you think stories are for? These stories are classics. There's a reason why we all know them. They are a way for us to deal with our world. Even if it doesn't always make sense.”

As a writer myself, I’ve always believed that Sister Mary Margaret Blanchard’s question is so important: “What do you think stories are for?” She believes that they help us deal with the world around us, but I would go a step further and say that fairy tales give us hope. Hope that true love exists and that good will triumph over evil. Tell me this: When the Queen came into the castle to find Snow White holding the bloodied Prince Charming and she realizes that the baby was safely transported away, did you not feel a swell in your heart? All of the Queen’s evil plan and her curse appear to have taken hold of everyone and won the day, but a tiny thread of hope is enough to give us pause to know that all is not lost.

In our lives, there are many problems and dark times, but through it all we fall back on the core values of faith, hope and love. When I was little, I remember seeing my first film in the movie theater. My Uncle had taken me to see Snow White and I became immersed in the story as a little boy, wondering if Snow White would ever wake from eating the poisoned apple. Even as a little boy of only 6 or 7, I hoped that she would be saved and that good would win the day. Forgotten were the difficult times I was going through as my mother had recently divorced my father. For the rest of the movie, I escaped into Snow White’s magical world. Now here I am, at 40, watching Once Upon a Time and getting caught up in the wonder of fairy tales all over again.

I believe in the power of stories and of the imagination. In my writing I try to get to the core of why we love, hope and keep our belief that good will triumph over evil. An important thing to remember though is that these fairy tales also have darkness attached to them. Over the centuries, they have been watered down little by little. In the original Brothers Grimm version of Snow White, when the evil Queen arrives at the wedding and all realize she poisoned Snow White she is punished “for her wicked ways [with] a pair of heated iron shoes. [They] are brought forth with tongs and placed before the Queen. She is then forced to step into the iron shoes and dance until she drops dead.” Definitely, not light reading for little kids. The original stories of the Brothers Grimm had such dark parts in them to teach people that there are those who would do us harm. Evil is not imagined, but a part of our world. We often forget the original fairy tales and most adults brush off such stories as childish.

With Once Upon a Time, I hope that the storyline will be dark and we’re able to see how the characters pull through the curse to find their own happy ever after. (I expect there's a great chance of this because we haven't seen much yet of Rumpelstiltskin.) And for me, I look forward to watching the rest of the series for with all the violence and darkness in the world these days, it will be nice to escape for a short while. Yet when the show is over and I come back to the land of reality, I hope that some of the characters' belief in love and goodness will stay with me.

Ron Vitale is the author of the fantasy novel "Cinderella's Secret Diary" who never gave up hope of finding his own happy ever after.