Simplia folded the letter she had just finished reading and handed it back to Sagacia, who slipped it into a packet full of responses to Middle-aged in Madison’s query.
“But the writer is so articulate. Don’t you think someone who can write so well might know just a little bit more about the matter than you…than we Simpletons know?”
“Yep,” said Simplia. “I’m probably wrong. But I still wholeheartedly disagree.”
Here’s what the writer had to say:
Dear Middle-aged in Madison,
It is with regret that I express my opinion: An adult fairy tale cannot be written. How can the fairy tale withstand the assault of adult thought?
Let me first confess. As much as I love the term “fairy tale,” these words do not accurately represent this body of stories. Not all have fairies flittering about inside their story borders. The common ground they do share is that of wonder. “Wonder Tales” is the better name for them.
Children’s thoughts dwell in the realm of wonder. What will I be when I grow up? Who will I marry? What witches or monsters are out there? These are all subjects of wonder for the child (and the child within the grown-up.)
When we turn our minds to adult concerns we are searching for answers in religion, from politics, and about social issues. To find answers we must define our questions. The territory of questions and definitions we carved out of the former holdings of wonder. Wonder, who was once king, becomes a wandering gypsy. We banish wonder to make way for answers.
The fairy tale fails adults, and while we are being adult, we fail the fairy tale. But there is hope. When we become senile, questions and definitions fall away and we may once again approach wonder and perhaps, as we did as children, glimpse the profound.
Simplia said, “Haven’t I heard forever that fairy tales originally were never intended as children’s stories? That they were told by grownups to grownups around the fire at night when heavy work was done and everybody was doing quiet things like mending or spinning or hemming dish towels? And if children heard the stories, well, so be it, but the stories did not originate as ‘kiddie lit.'”
“Please don’t ever use that term in my hearing again,” Sagacia said, not unkindly but firmly.
Simplia grimaced. “I can’t believe I did that. Sorry. But aren’t I right?”
“I kind of think you are,” her friend agreed. “And I kind of think since you’re so ‘wholehearted’ in your disagreement, you should compose your own response to Middle-aged in Madison’s question about fairy tales for adults, don’t you? You need to do it now, though. I’m going to the post office with this packet before they close.”
Simplia did not want to sit down and turn thoughts into readable prose. Fortunately, she did not have to. At that moment her phone started quacking, signaling the arrival of a text message. An unusually long text message, which Simplia read with growing satisfaction. When she was finished reading, she passed her phone to Sagacia. Here’s what Fox Ellis had to say on the matter:
Whereas I wholehearted(ly) agree that there are fairy tales for every stage of life, including midlife and the end, Jack Out Wits Death for one,
I would also challenge tellers and listeners to rethink the layers in simple stories and though it is the same story you heard as a kid, our life experience allows us to unlock another layer of meaning inaccessible to us as youngsters.
Hansel and Gretal is about parental separation anxiety with implications for the first day of preschool, but for a parent in a blended family there is a disturbing but not uncommon issue of preferences for self survival versus sacrificing non-biological children or self-sacrifice to save your children. A large percent of child murderers are step parents or second boy friends, like the lion who eats cubs to bring the female into heat.
This is only one example.
I have loved Jumping Mouse for 30 years. As a cocky teenager telling the story at a summer camp I relished the adventure and his stretch towards transformation. Now in Midlife I feel more connected to the wolf as guide for those wishing to climb the mountain OR the buffalo who helps the mouse learn selfless/selfishness in self sacrifice.
SO seeing these stories from the variety of life perspectives keeps me coming back.
Simplia uncapped her pen and underneath Fox Ellis’s signature she wrote an emphatic:
Ditto! –S. S.
Bates, Katharine Lee, editor. Once Upon a Time: A Book of Old-Time Fairy Tales. Margaret Evans Price, illustrator. Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1921.