Fairy tales mostly present a world where all struggles result in justice and benevolence. Here, things change for the better and wrongs get turned into rights. They promise a story which will eventually lead to a happy ending. If not, it is quite clear why not.
Their world is straightforward: the good ones win and the bad ones get punished. But the reason why some of them are also called “tall tales” is because we think their stories are lies, impossible and a little crazy. Still, we are inspired by their wisdom and use their symbols and figures as archetypes to learn more about ourselves.
But what if the fairy tales contained a truth that was even more directly applicable? What if the folk tales were to instruct us on how our lives should truly be when balanced? Are they holding a message, just as the German word for fairy tales “Märchen” implies? “Mär” means “message” and the end term “chen” is belittling it. Is here a message which got belittled?
There is not only one, but two messages that were hidden in folk tales. One of them was conveying the old matriarchal ways of living in sync with Mother Nature and the other was the balanced soli-lunar calendar as tracked in megalithic stone circles. Both survived to this day due to the tales’ oral passing on by the illiterate folk who were so close to nature that they understood the tales’ talk about the inter-connectedness of all beings.
The tales spoke about visible and invisible things, of this world and the other, of secrets in nature and the between-and-betwixt times and places, where the two worlds met. These were things the folk knew about, it was part of life like eating and sleeping. The tales were therefore conveying how life worked in the cosmic order.
The fairy tales are our very European wisdom stories. However, such tales were potentially dangerous for the patriarchal world, and that’s why they got belittled. The messages speak of matriarchal values of collaboration and mutual care, where there are no gender and status differences. Such values of equality were indeed not suitable for patriarchal ambitions.
Common people and storytellers alike who passed on the tales, however, sensed that they contained an instruction, a message or a truth, which provided them with a map to help navigate life on this beautiful and mysterious planet called earth. Whenever the path got lost and divine intervention was needed, it could be re-found by heeding the tales’ advice. In this way, all of life’s struggles could result in justice and benevolence. Such is the wisdom hidden in our fairy tales.
©Andrea Hofman, 2018
Some of the material in this blogpost can be found in my recent book "The True Hero's Journey in Fairy Tales and Stone Circles". Order it directly from here.