One night my parents had a meeting, who knows what tedious committee work was up, but that meant Daniel and I would be exiled to the bedroom all evening. Mom, as moms like Mom do, made this most wonderful by taking us to the library and letting us check out loads of books, records of spoken books, and gave us all the snacks. Imagine an entire evening with Russian fairy tales, snack crackers, cheese, and sweet vinyl of Trumpeter of Krakow.
I recall sitting on the top bunk and wishing that night would never end. Fairy tales from many nations were an early love. The jolly news that every culture had folk tales, fairy tales, stories told for ages, meant that there would also be something else to read. This has proven true.
God knows how thankful I am for higher education: the heights of the dialectic take us to the stars. There was that night in my childhood a deeper education, however. This deeper education laid down lessons I have not yet mastered. For many reasons, I have at times forgotten the lessons of the fairy tales and this has (almost) never been good for me. These old stories from many lands had most of the falsehoods worn away by time and the truths laid bare.
They were also great, joyous, fun. The stories of that evening were varied, but full of common truth.
Humility is good, but only if freely chosen.
The fairy tale shows that the tyrant exalts himself, pushing down everyone else. The hero is aware of his limits and can act wisely. Self-knowledge allows victory. Ask Aladdin, Cinderella, or Belle.
Tyrants wish to cultivate a false humility to control people. Beware anyone, any system, that would “cultivate” humility. Too often this is an attempt to take those born with the image of God and mar that image so that control will be easier. Instead, true humility begins internally with a realization of just who were are. Self-knowledge, at least for me, was a sad mix of seeing my own faults, grievous faults, and learning who I might be if I allowed God to change me over the decades.
Do not ignore the apparently unimportant people. If unimportant, don’t lose hope. You can be a hero!
The seventh son seems unimportant: our culture would abort him as inconvenient. A fairy tale takes the rejected, the marginal, and exalts that person. The enslaved tell tales better than the masters and undo the tyrant’s lies. Puss in Boots and numerous other stories echo the Mother of God: the humble are exalted. The old stories are not democratic, but personal: each is judged according to who she is!
Follow your heart and become heartless. Instead, do the right thing.
Don’t stray from the path to get some treats. Don’t grab gold in the cave, go for the lamp and leave. We are full of desires, but they are untrustworthy. The best path, safest for all, is the path of duty. This seems dreary and the other adventurers will try to cut corners. Keep going as instructed and all will be well.
You can win.
Christian fairy tales have the boldness to end “they lived happily ever after.” This seems false, obviously wrong, so wicked men sometimes introduce angst, grayness, and complexity into the end of good stories. Christian fairy tales (patterned on the greater work Job) put the ugliness in the middle and the jolliness at the end.
Foolish folk think this is obviously wrong since our stories often do not end well. Right? We live in unjust cultures, full of martyrs who do not live at all, let alone happily. Yes?
We live in the end happily ever after. If we endure, the victory is complete. God will give us all our heart’s deepest desires forever and ever. Amen.
Treats are a reward at the end, not the goal.
The fact that all will be well at the end of the adventure tempts us to live for the pie in the sky by and by. Now liking the treats is fine, but that is not why we kill dragons, look for the Grail, or read old stories of Atlantis.
We do good, because goodness is our duty. We tell the truth, because the truth sets us free. We love beauty, because love cannot help herself. God is good, true, and beautiful and God is enough and so He is.
We do our duty first and then munificently God gives us all the treats that ever we desired. We hope for a good work day, God gives us that and a Holiday.
Perhaps sometime this summer, I will have a summer night lost in a blue book, trying to outwit Baba Yaga, while learning from the Raven. Time to renew a deeper education.