Inherent in the very pattern of the stories themselves is that fairy tales retell the gospel . . . the true prince is the only one that can save the princess. So he overcomes the obstacles, he rescues her, and then he marries her . . .
This conversation between Pam Barnhill and Angelina Stanford is so worth the listen (link to audio at the end of this post). Angelina’s thoughts on the relationship of fairy tales to the gospel are very helpful. Although a few of her statements may sound slightly unorthodox at first blush, i.e., “the gospel is a fairy tale” and “the Bible is a really weird story,” the context and follow-up remarks clarify her meaning, which is happily informed and shaped by the likes of Chesterton, Tolkien, and Lewis.
One other minor quibble: Angelina paints Puritans with a pretty broad brush as being enemies of the genre, along with Enlightenment thinkers. I am not sure is it so much “the Puritans” as “some Puritans.” I also wish she would have distinguished between Enlightenment materialism and utilitarianism vs. the spiritual concern that preoccupied the Puritans in terms of literature and the arts. This does remain a primary objection for some Christians today, and it should be addressed seriously and respectfully. In the balance of the interview, Angelina does just that, laying out reasons why Christians in particular should embrace fairy tales and make them a non-negotiable in our children’s reading repertoire.
At Providence Prep, the main literary selection for our Primer students each year is a book of Lang’s fairy tales. We always advise parent to read this wonderful series of notes at Ambleside Online on why we should read fairy tales (even violent ones) to our children. A few other resources on this topic: