The Brothers Grimm: Hansel and Gretel

The tale of Hansel and Gretel is one of the more familiar of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Prior to actually reading the tale, I knew that the children were left in the woods, couldn’t follow their trail of breadcrumbs home, discovered a gingerbread house occupied by a witch who intended to eat them, and ended up locking the witch in her own oven.

What I didn’t know was the level of detail found in the original story (or stories). The children were left in the woods at the urging of their mother (stepmother?) who feared there wasn’t enough for the whole family to eat. The children found their way home by way of dropped moonstones. The first time they were left in the woods, Hansel tricked the witch into thinking he wasn’t gaining weight by giving her the same old animal bone to feel when she came to check his finger for fatness. After they were free of the witch, the children were carried across a pond by a kind duck (what?) They arrived home at last to find their mother (stepmother?) dead.

It was fun to see how different translators and retellers tell this story, and how different illustrators illustrate it. It is certainly a dark tale – but each version has its bright moments.

Hansel and Gretel illustrated by Sybille Schenker, text edited by Martin West

Visually, this book is gorgeous. You can recognize it by its black cover sewn together with orange thread. The illustrations are typically black and white with stark contrasts – but with great depth thanks to a multitude of vellum overlays layering page upon page upon page. The illustrations are beautiful, but creepy. The text is fairly detailed, but translational choices emphasized the relationship between brother and sister – and decreased the forboding nature of their abandonment by having the stepmother (as opposed to the mother) doing the convincing and then the actual abandoning (the father is apparently there, but it is stepmom who marches the children into the woods and tells them that their father and she will return for them – which, of course, doesn’t happen.)

Hansel and Gretel illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, retold by Rika Lesser
This book received the Caldecott Honor in 1985 (it’s as old as me!) for Zelinsky’s beautiful illustrations. I wish I knew enough about art history to be able to place them in some artistic school – but I’ve seen paintings in this style in museums. They are perfectly suited to the tale and to the historical setting of the tale. The story is told well, with lots of dialogue between characters. Interestingly, about half of the book addresses the period before the children found the gingerbread house.

Hansel and Gretel retold by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti
A relatively wordy version for slightly older children, this retelling increases the spook factor rather than playing it down. Trees claw at the children in a forboding manner; the old woman (never named as a witch) tells the children that she hopes their arrival heralds the coming of meat to her kitchen again. The additions to the story fleshed it out but didn’t feel contrived or moralistic like some of the other versions (that I didn’t like so much.) Mattotti’s illustrations are stark, black and white with lots of tangled branches and the occasional eye poking out. The people are the clearest of all the forms, but even they are merely black outlines against a white splash of light. The illustrations and story alternate with each double page spread, making this a better choice for reading to oneself than for reading aloud (since you can’t look at the pictures while someone else is reading.)

The Cookie House by Margaret Hillert, illustrated by Kinuko Craft
This is unique among the retellings because it is a first reader, with just 59 words. The text primarily consists of Hansel and Gretel’s thoughts as the events of the tale occur: “Mother is not here. Father is not here. I do not like this.” This leaves the illustrations to tell the story – which they do quite well. As with all first readers, this is a book best read by a child (since it doesn’t have the rich text that makes parental read-alouds so beneficial) – but it really is a nice version of the Grimms’ story. I can certainly see a child reading it to her parent and then having dialogue about what was happening in the pictures (to flesh out the story).

Hansel and Gretel illustrated by Susan Jeffers, retold by Amy Ehrlich
A straightforward retelling of the story – with one new-to-me detail: a white bird led the children to the witch’s gingerbread cottage. The stepmother is often referred to as “the woman”, helping to make the betrayal a little less personal. Illustrator Susan Jeffers has two different illustration styles (it seems to me). The woodland pictures are in great detail, with individual leaves on the trees and lots of lovely wildlife. The indoor pictures and those prominently featuring people seem to be almost in the style of American Country Crafts (you know, the kind from the ’80s and ’90s, round faced dolls with peat moss hair and painted on cheek circles?) This wasn’t a bad picture book, but it’s not my favorite either.

Nibble, Nibble Mousekin retold and illustrated by John Walsh Anglund
A quite wordy version with lots of text on each page and a fair bit of extraneous description. This one has Hansel fill his pockets with stones on the mere suspicion of his stepmother’s wickedness, without having overheard her plan (in fact, she never shares the plan with the father – thereby freeing him from the guilt of weakness.) Furthermore, the stepmother runs away rather than dies, leaving the children and their father to enjoy each other in the end. The illustrations alternated between color and black and white on every other two-page spread. The children remind me of Precious Moments dolls – but the rest of the illustration is different enough that it’s only a passing reminder. I generally prefer the more faithful retellings found above.

Hansel and Gretel retold and illustrated by James Marshall

The retelling was neither bad nor spectacular – but the cartoon-like illustrations didn’t really suit my fancy. My library also had a video version of this, in which the illustrations are lightly animated (the stepmother is always munching something). While the generally very story-book like manner was appealing (that is, a narrator read the story while each page was shown on screen versus the flash-from-one-scene-to-another-very-quickly nature of typical cartoons), I still wasn’t impressed with the storytelling or the illustrations.

Hansel and Gretel retold by Cynthia Rylant, pictures by Jen Corace
Generally speaking, the retellings of “Hansel and Gretel” have been faithful to the extent that my commentary has focused on omissions or on illustrations. This retelling is an exception, for while the illustrations are interesting, what stands out is what Rylant has chosen to ADD to the story – explanations. She explains the stepmother’s selfishness, explains the father’s weakness, and explains the moral she wants children to derive from the story.

“It has been said that guardian spirits watch over and protect small children, and that may be so. But there are also stories of children who find the courage to protect themselves.”

“Perhaps this is when guardian spirits finally intervene, when small children have already been so brave.”

I would much prefer that retellers keep to the story and let parents and children talk about what the story means. In this case, I am all for children being brave – but I want my children to know the bravery that comes from complete reliance on the Holy Spirit, who intervenes when we can do nothing, granting us supernaturally a spirit of “power and of love and of a sound mind”.

So this is one retelling I don’t recommend.

Book Review: “Breadcrumbs” by Anne Ursu

Hazel’s Mom wants her to find new friends–girl friends. She’s just not so sure about Hazel and Jack’s best-friendship. She knows how tenuous those can become once adolescence begins.

The girls at Hazel’s school want to know if she and Jack are “going out.” Hazel feels like maybe she should say yes, because then maybe they’d think she was likeable enough that someone would want to go out with her. But she isn’t “going out” with Jack. She doesn’t want to “go out” with Jack. He’s her best friend.

“And there was a time when everyone understood that, but they didn’t anymore, because apparently when you get to be a certain age you’re supposed to wake up one morning and not want to be best friends with your best friend anymore, just because he’s a boy and you don’t have a messenger bag.”

Except that one day, Hazel wakes up and her best friend doesn’t want to be friends with her anymore.

Why did I love Breadcrumbs as much as I did? What made it shine so brightly among the myriads of children’s stories available?

Like Amy said in her review, I have a hard time articulating my reasons.

But I’ll try nonetheless.

First, and perhaps most strongly, I loved the literary allusions in this story.

Savvy readers can probably already figure out that this story is at least somehow related to Hansel and Gretel. But the story is just as much (or more) a retelling of the less familiar “The Snow Queen”. But the references to other works don’t stop there. I know I didn’t catch all the references, because I’m not as widely read in children’s fantasy as I could be, but I caught references to Chronicles of Narnia, Coraline, Alice in the Wonderland, Harry Potter, and pretty much every Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale.

Second, I loved this story for how it captured a tension between the wonder of fairy tales and “cold science”.

Hazel hates how everyone tries to tell her the boring scientific explanations for everything when she’s caught in the magic that is snow or whatever. When Jack’s soul goes cold (for that is what happened to him), he suddenly finds fairy tales incomprehensible but math makes perfect sense. Yet math and science aren’t completely placed outside the realm of imagination. Jack has arranged imaginary stats for his superhero baseball team. The imaginative Uncle Martin delights in the geometry of snowflakes.

Third, I love this book for its description of the woods.

The book is split in two–the first half is set in the normal world of school children, the second half in the wild woods not far from the sledding hill. The first half is ordinary with occasional asides into fairy tale, the second half is fairy tale with occasional flashbacks into “reality”. The second half was my favorite.

You see, people go into the woods because they’re desperate. Desperate people prey on other desperate people; desperate people fall prey to other desperate people. Everyone there is either predator or prey, desperately seeking something they somehow failed to find in the “real world”.

It might seem that the woods are a fantasy world completely separated from reality, but really, it’s an unveiling of reality–pulling back the mundane details of daily activities to show the heart.

Finally (for now), I loved this book because it’s a story of friendship against fierce foes.

Hazel and Jack are friends, just friends, not boyfriend-and-girlfriend. I love this, in an age where boys and girls are encouraged to “likey-likey” stuff at younger and younger ages. But that doesn’t mean that non-romantic girl-boy friendship is seen as particularly normal or easy. In fact, Hazel and Jack are constantly at odds with the reality that boy-girl friendships don’t usually last through the transition from child to teen.

Their friendship might not last through this adventure. Jack might be changed. Hazel might be changed. When Hazel sets out to rescue her friend Jack, she has no promises that life might return to usual. She might be able to rescue Jack, but she has no illusions that she’ll be able to get her friend back. She has to selflessly choose to rescue her friend–even if she rescues him only to find that he’s not her friend anymore.

I love this. I love how this speaks of real love, not the smarmy stuff found in so many stories. And I love how this story ends. It’s perfectly fitting.

This is truly a good story.

Rating:5 Stars
Category:Middle Grade Fantasy
Synopsis:Hazel ventures into the woods to rescue her friend Jack, who has been taken away by an enchantress.
Recommendation: Read this book. It’s great.

Incarnations of Beauty and the Beast

By a strange flight of fancy, certain children’s picture books are categorized in my no-longer-so-local library by something other than the author’s last name.

Beauty and the Beast tales fall into that category.

Which means I read two renditions of Beauty and the Beast while reading the BEAs (instead of the BREs or the EILs, based on who was retelling the classic tale.)

I didn’t mind in the least.

Sometimes it’s nice to see a couple different retellings of a story side-by-side.

In Jan Brett’s retelling (also illustrated by herself), Beauty is waited on by a collection of exotic animals in the Beast’s house–monkeys, peacocks, and the more tame dogs. The Beast has a man’s legs and a boar’s upper body. He only appears at dinner, where he engages Beauty in thoughtful conversation before closing the evening with a question: “Beauty, will you marry me?”

Jan Brett's Beauty and the Beast

Brett’s illustrations are a delightful treat, especially since they foreshadow the exciting denouement. We see statues and friezes of the prince’s former life in the garden as the merchant contends with the furious beast. Once Beauty is ensconced within the castle, scene after scene includes decorative tapestries which display the scene playing out in “real time”–except with the animals as the people they once were and will again become. Often, these tapestries include little messages–“Do not trust to appearance” or “Courage, Beauty-Your Happiness is not far away.”

Brett’s retelling is relatively simple and follows the classic storyline quite closely (although the classic storyline might come as somewhat of a surprise to those whose only acquaintance with “Beauty” is through Disney!) All in all, I greatly enjoyed this particular retelling.

Max Eilenberg’s retelling, illustrated by Angela Barrett, takes on a different tone.

For one thing, both the writing and the illustrations draw to mind the Victorian age, with delicious gowns for the girls and tails and top hats for the men.

Max Eilenberg and Angela Barrett's Beauty and the Beast

For another, unlike in Brett’s retelling, where the characters retain their types, being merely “Beauty” or “the merchant” or “the Beast” or “Beauty’s sisters”, Eilenberg’s retelling gives each character character beyond type. The merchant becomes “Ernest Jeremiah Augustus Fortune, Esquire, Merchant”. The sisters become “Gertrude” and “Hermione”, who are crazy about jewels and fashion respectively. Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, maintain their typical names–although they’re given some roundness of character.

Beauty becomes a romantic, a dreamer who longs to marry for love–and who thinks nothing would be better than to marry a prince for love. Nevertheless, she keeps her romantic dreams to herself, choosing to seek her family’s best rather than her own. When her father’s fortunes appear to have taken a turn for the better and Mr. Fortune asks his daughters what they’d like him to bring back for them from his trip to the sea to recover his lost ship, Beauty wants to ask for a Prince–her true heart’s desire. But since she knows it isn’t within her father’s power to bring her back such a thing, she asks instead for something she believes will cost him little–just a rose.

Of course, she doesn’t know how costly the rose will be to her father–and to herself. And she doesn’t know that, in asking for the rose, she will be acquiring for herself a prince. But such is the charm of this story. For in being selfless, Beauty indeed obtained her heart’s desire.

The Beast, too, takes on a human quality. He is terrible in his hairy, fanged, and clawed beastliness; but even more so in his fury at what has become of him.

“Do not call me ‘lord’!” roared the creature. “Do not try to flatter me with pretty words. I do not like it. We should say what we mean and be what we are. I am a beast. My name is Beast. You will call me Beast. Beast by nature, Beast by name. Beast! Beast! Beast!.”

He is terrible and beautiful when he acquiesces to Beauty’s request that he no longer ask her to marry him again.

The Beast was silent for a time, his head bowed. “I would not hurt you for any price,” he said at last. “Forgive me.” He raised his eyes to Beauty, and for a moment she feared that she had wounded him beyond repair, so broken and hopeless did he seem. But then he seemed to find courage and somehow she knew what he would say even before he spoke. “I will not ask you again–I promise…I ask only one thing: if you are happy to be my friend, please promise that you will never leave me alone.”

And he is just plain beautiful once Beauty’s love has turned him into a prince again.

“Now you see me as I really am,” he said. “Your love has saved me from a terrible spell. I was turned into a beast, and only a heart who loved me for my self could set me free.”

I enjoyed this retelling immensely–partly for the beauty of the retelling, partly for the loveliness of the illustrations, and partly for my own identification with Beauty’s dreams and with the Beast’s dreadful pain.

I highly recommend either tale.

Reading My LibraryFor more comments on children’s books, see the rest of my Reading My Library posts or check out Carrie’s blog Reading My Library, which chronicles her and her children’s trip through the children’s section of their local library.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses Princes Knights

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The Twelve Dancing Princesses was not a fairy tale that figured heavily into my childhood. Mostly I remember either the fairy tales found in our red-covered copy of Andersen’s Fairy Tales or the Disneyfied or otherwise pop-culturified tales found in videos and Golden books.

My first real exposure to the story occurred this last February, when I read Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball. I loved the story. I loved how George told the story. I still haven’t read Grimm’s version–so I have no idea how it compares.

I haven’t been actively seeking out Twelve Dancing Princesses stories–but I managed to stumble across one this last week in my run through the picture book section of my local library.

And, boy, is this one a STORY!

Debbie Allen’s Brothers of the Knight is an imaginative retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses–except that instead of twelve princesses, there are twelve brothers–the sons of the Reverend Knight.

Reverend Knight is a hard-working black preacher in Harlem, taking care of his congregation and his twelve sons–Brooke, Bobby, Joe, Snacky, Gerald and Jackie, Teeny Tiny Tappin’ Theo, Lazy Leo, Big fat Raoul, Billie and Willie, and Michael (head of the clan, a ladies’ man). He tried to keep the twelve under check but without a wife (there’s no indication of what happened to her–I presume she must have died) he’s somewhat at a loss. He’s gone through dozens of nannies and housekeepers, but none of them can solve the problem that plagues the house–every morning, the twelve young Knight’s shoes would be threadbare and worn.

One Sunday after church, Reverend Knight goes into his office and prays for help with his sons–and when he gets home, a woman name Sunday is waiting on the steps. She wants the job of housekeeper. She’s come to help with the boys.

But can Sunday succeed in solving the mystery when all the other housekeepers and nannies have failed?

Turns out there are a lot of secrets in the Knight house–and Sunday’s determined to uncover them all. Who knows but she’ll have the Reverend Knight dancing before the tale is told!

I adored this rendition. It’s quirky, it’s fun, and it’s all about dancing (Sorry, I should have warned you that there’d be spoilers.) The story itself is fun enough–but add in that it’s narrated by the family dog and you’ve got utter hilarity.

Check this one out next time you’re at your library–and if they don’t have it, get them to order it. It’s a BLAST!!

The Errant Bride

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The New Testament picture of Christ’s pursuit of the church seems tame perhaps (except for the heart wrenching climax where Christ lays down His life for the bride and then rises again to betroth Himself to her–okay, so maybe it isn’t so tame after all!)

But the Old Testament gives us another example of God as husband, as lover, as pursuer–this time, of Israel, who happens to be an errant bride. While the New Testament story focuses on Christ’s courtship of the church, the Old Testament story tells us more about the bride, the bride who continually turns her back on her husband to pursue other lovers.

Let’s hear the story as told by God through Ezekiel’s mouth. Israel was an abandoned daughter, born and left to die in an open field, with the umbilical cord uncut, struggling in her blood. God took pity on the foundling daughter and spoke life into her, and cared for her through her growing up years. “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine.” (Ezekiel 16:8) God married Israel, washed her, anointed her with oil, clothed her with the best, fed her with the best–and she became renowned as the beautiful bride of the great King.

Yet this bride let her beauty go to her head, and began to accept the advances of the men who wooed her. She slept with all and sundry, giving to her lovers the beauty and the clothing and the food that her husband had given her. She even took her children, God’s children, and sacrificed them to her lovers.

No longer satisfied with the men who came to gaze upon her, she now went out actively, pursuing new lovers. A brazen harlot already, she sunk to new depths, paying men to have sex with her.

And God was angry with a holy anger. His rage burned against His wife who had played the harlot with many men. In His anger and His jealousy, He brought judgment upon her.

But yet, even then, His love for His errant bride is unabated. He calls their marriage covenant to mind and reestablishes the covenant again. He provides atonement for her sins.

Hosea tells the same story, but with added detail. Israel, the harlot, has gone after her many lovers–and each time she strays, God pursues her to bring her back.

She claims that her lovers are the source of her food and clothing and goods–even though it is her husband, God Himself, who has provided all these things. So God strips her of them all. He takes away His provision, He frustrates her goals, He dogs her every step. And when she is at the end of herself, come to nothing because of her wickedness, then God says, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness and speak comfort to her….And it shall be, in that day…that you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer call Me ‘My Master.'” (Hosea 2:14,16)

She returns to her husband for a time–but soon she is back to turning tricks. And again her husband pursues her, tracks her down, even buying her back from the slavery she has sold herself into in her quest to satiate her lust.

Ever the errant bride, she returns again and again to her lovers–but her Husband, ever faithful, pursues her again.

Beyond the Fairy Tale

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So you get my point about the fairy tales. You can see the sin, fallen-ness, rescue thing. But you’re still skeptical about the whole “Prince and Princess fall in love” bit. You think I’m over-romanticizing the Bible, turning it into a fairy tale.

Sure, I’ve taken some creative liberties with the story of redemption–but the idea of God pursuing us as a man pursues a woman is not new. In fact, it’s found all over Scripture.

Both Jesus and John refer to Christ as being a bridegroom.

When some people came to John, telling him about how Jesus was baptizing people and how people were coming to Him, John responded without jealousy: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.” (John 3:29) John likens himself to the best man at a wedding where Jesus is the groom. John is ecstatic that the groom has arrived and the wedding approaches.

When others complained to Jesus that His disciples did not fast like the disciples of John did, Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” (Luke 5:34-35) Jesus asks, “Why would you make the groomsmen fast during the celebration leading up to the wedding? When the groom leaves, then the groomsmen will fast.” It is clear that Jesus is speaking of Himself as the bridegroom, and His disciples as the groomsmen.

Paul also picks up this theme in I Corinthians 11:2 “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present as a chaste virgin to Christ.” Like a father, or perhaps a matchmaker, who has arranged a match between Christ and the Corinthian church, Paul is rooting for the relationship to work. He speaks of his fear that somehow the bride will call off the match, “falling in love” with another man.

Let’s put the pieces together. We have Jesus, arriving on the scene, announcing that He is a bridegroom. He has paid a great bride-price, laying down His own life. The church is now betrothed to Christ–and Jesus has ascended to heaven. “In My Father’s house are many mansions….I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) Jesus is now in heaven, preparing the place for His bride–but He has promised that He will return. “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3)

The very end of Revelation tells the end of this glorious story. “‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints….’Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'” (Revelation 19:7-9)

Someday, the home shall be prepared, the groom shall return, the bride and the marriage supper shall be ready, and the story will draw to a close. The happily ever after will begin. Until that day, we–the church, the bride of Christ–wait in eager expectation. “And the spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say ‘Come!’….Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:17, 20)

Prince Song (2nd Chapter of Acts)

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I grew up listening to the 70’s band 2nd Chapter of Acts–and “Prince Song” is one of my favorite of theirs. Take a listen. It’s pretty cool.

I got a brand new story
Though you’ve heard it a time or two,
About a Prince who kissed a girl
Right out of the blue.

Hey this story ain’t no tale to me now,
For the Prince of Peace has
given me life somehow

You know what I mean.

My sleep is over.
I’ve been touched by His fire,
That burns from His eyes
and lifts me higher and higher.

I’ll be forever with Him
right by my side.
He’s coming again
on a white horse He’ll ride.
He’ll clothe me and crown me
and make me His bride.

You know what I mean.
You know what I mean.

Do you believe in fairy tales?

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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.