A little girl puts on her dress up clothes and dreams of fairy tales come true. She’s Cinderella dancing at the ball with her Prince. She’s Rapunzel letting down her golden locks. She’s Sleeping Beauty awakened at last by true love’s kiss.
A pre-teen tosses her head at the immaturity of the boys around her. She’s old enough now to see that there are many more frogs than princes–but she dreams of her own knight in shining armor.
A high school senior still dreams of fairy tales, but she knows they’re only a dream. Life doesn’t even come close. She’s been groped by a hundred frogs, propositioned by a dozen clods. But nobody’s coming to whisk her from this world. She escapes into romance novels and chick flicks.
A thirty year old woman scorns her childish fantasies. Fairy tales. Figments of her imagination. They’re not worth believing in. There are no fairies for her, just like there’s been no Prince Charming. She’s done with fairy tales. She’ll make her own way now.
From our earliest childhood, fairy tales awakened in us universal longings. The longing for love, the longing for pursuit, the longing for rescue from the world that’s turned against us. At least, those are some of the longings fairy tales awake in me. But more than just awakening longings, fairy tales promised the fulfillment of those longing. A prince who loves me, who pursues me, who rescues me from the world turned against me.
Dreaming of this prince, we wait for our fairy tale–only to be disappointed when we find that life–well, life isn’t a fairy tale.
Disillusioned adults decry the fairy tale. It only sets girls up for disappointment. They replace the tales with feminist fables, stories of daring girls who need no man. But little girls still love their fairy tales.
Fairy tales are found in every culture–some of them surprisingly similar. Think of the thousands of variations on Cinderella you’ve heard or seen, in stories and movies. Fairy tales, despite seeming far from reality, are somehow an integral part of the human psyche.
Why do you think this is? Why do we continue to fall for the fairy tale when we see it so rarely in “real life”?
I’ve got a guess. I think we love fairy tales because, ultimately, fairy tales tell the story of God’s pursuit of us. The problem comes, the disillusionment begins when we seek the fulfillment of our fairy tales in man.
You’re skeptical. I can see it. Well, let me tell you a story–a Cinderella story if you will.
Once upon a time, there was a girl who was enslaved inside her own father’s house. When the king issued an invitation to a ball He was holding for His Son, the girl wanted to go. But even her best efforts to produce a suitable ball gown resulted only in filthy rags. The girl cried in frustration–but even while she was still crying, who should appear but God-the-Father, who clothed her in a beautiful garment and presented her to His Son.
Too far-fetched, you say?
Well, how about the one about the innocent girl who disobeyed her guardians’ instructions and took an apple from a stranger? It looked good, but when the girl bit into the apple, it only brought her death. For years, she lay there, under the shadow of death, sleeping under the apple’s curse. But then one day, a prince came and saw the girl and loved her. He kissed her, freeing her from the curse.
Still sounds a bit outlandish?
What about the one where a beautiful maiden is locked in a high tower at the beck and call of a wicked witch. The witch uses the maiden’s beauty against her. But a Prince sees the beautiful maiden and falls in love with her. He purposes to destroy the witch and to release the maiden. At first, it appears that He had lost His quest, that the witch had gained power over Him–but in the end, He defeats the witch and takes the maiden to be His bride.
Do you begin to see the picture–the universal themes found in fairy tales? They echo a far greater tale, a tale that is no fairy tale. A God-tale.
For we, all of humanity, you and I, had an enemy who took us into slavery, partly by cunning, partly by our own foolishness and rebellion. Since that day, we have been enslaved, as dead, trapped under a curse, helpless to deliver ourselves. Yet, at just the right time, a Prince, the Son of the King, saw us and desired us. He saw beauty in us, despite our fallen state–and He resolved to break the curse.
At great cost to Himself, the Prince took on our captor, came face to face with our curse, and delivered us from slavery and certain death. Having done so, He betrothed us to Himself–and now eagerly awaits the consummation of that marriage.
I believe in fairy tales because I’m living one. My Prince has found me, has freed me, has betrothed Himself to me. I’m living a fairy tale–a fairy tale halfway between here and heaven.