Introduction | Fairy Tales & Folklore

Here is an assortment of questions, essays, guides, links, and even a short story that will hopefully enlighten and inspire, or at least help you along the way.

Fairy Tale Quotations

Here are some of my favorite quotes about fairy tales, their influence and their eternal nature. Enjoy!

"The recollection of such reading as had delighted him in his infancy, made him always persist in fancying that it was the only reading which could please an infant… 'Babies do not want (said he) to hear about babies; they like to be told of giants and castles, and of somewhat which can stretch and stimulate their little minds.'"

~Mrs. Thrale~
Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson

"Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life."

~Johann Christoph Friederich v. Schiller~
German Poet

"Think what you would have been now, if instead of being fed with tales and old wives' fables in childhood, you had been crammed with geography and natural history!"

Charles Lamb to Samuel Coleridge 
October 23, 1802

"Independently of the curious circumstance that such tales should be found existing in very different countries and languages, which augurs a greater poverty of human invention than we would have expected, there is also a sort of wild fairy interest in them, which makes me think them fully better adapted to awaken the imagination and soften the heart of childhood than the good-boy stories which have been in later years composed for them."

Walter Scott to Edgar Taylor 
January 16, 1823

"I foresee that the Andersen and Fairy Tale fashion will not last; none of these things away from general nature do."

Mary Russell Mitford to Charles Boner
January 28, 1848

"In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected."

~Charles Dickens~
British novelist

"Let him know his fairy tale accurately, and have perfect joy or awe in the conception of it as if it were real; thus he will always be exercising his power of grasping realities: but a confused, careless, and discrediting tenure of the fiction will lead to as confused and careless reading of fact. Let the circumstances of both be strictly perceived, and long dwelt upon, and let the child's own mind develop fruit of thought from both. It is of the greatest importance early to secure this habit of contemplation, and therefore it is a grave error, either to multiply unnecessarily, or to illustrate with extravagant richness, the incidents presented to the imagination."

~John Ruskin~
German Popular Stories (introduction)

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."

"When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking."

~Albert Einstein~

"The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in."

~W. H. Auden~

"Never, in all my early childhood, did anyone address to me the affecting preamble: 'Once upon a time!' ... I can but think that my parents were in error thus to exclude the imaginary from my outlook upon facts. They desired to make me truthful; the tendency was to make me positive and sceptical. Had they wrapped me in the soft folds of supernatural fancy, my mind might have been longer content to follow their traditions in an unquestioning spirit."

~Edmund Gosse~
Father and Son

"If you happen to read fairy tales, you will observe that one idea runs from one end of them to the other--the idea that peace and happiness can only exist on some condition. This idea, which is the core of ethics, is the core of the nursery-tales."

~G. K. Chesterton~
All Things Considered

"At all ages, if [fantasy and myth] is used well by the author and meets the right reader, it has the same power: to generalize while remaining concrete, to present in palpable form not concepts or even experiences but whole classes of experience, and to throw off irrelevancies. Bat at its best it can do more; it can give us experiences we have never had and thus, instead of 'commenting on life,' can add to it."

~C.S. Lewis~
"Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to Be Said" 
Of Other Worlds 

"Fairy tales are experienced by their hearers and readers, not as realistic, but as symbolic poetry."

~Max Luthi~
Once Upon a Time: On the Nature of Fairy Tales

"If you see the magic in a fairy tale, you can face the future."

~Danielle Steel~
Family Album Delacorte 85
Christian Science Monitor 
March 21, 1985

"Educating a son I should allow him no fairy tales and only a very few novels. This is to prevent him from having 1. the sense of romantic solitude (if he is worth anything he will develop a proper and useful solitude) which identification with the hero gives. 2. cant ideas of right and wrong, absurd systems of honor and morality which never never will he be able completely to get rid of, 3. the attainment of “ideals,” of a priori desires, of a priori emotions. He should amuse himself with fact only: he will then not learn that if the weak younger son do or do not the magical honorable thing he will win the princess with hair like flax."

~Lionel Trilling~
Critic, United States
Partisan Review 50th Anniversary Edition
1928 notebook entry
William Philips, editor (1985)

"Fairy tales were not my escape from reality as a child; rather, they were my reality -- for mine was a world in which good and evil were not abstract concepts, and like fairy-tale heroines, no magic would save me unless I had the wit and heart and courage to use it widely."

~Terri Windling~
"Surviving Childhood" 
The Armless Maiden

"And then in the 1970s Angela Carter said she had gone back to writing fairy tales because she learned to love reading from them, not from highly serious novels. I think we all have those purely-for-pleasure narratives we read and reread—for me it's Terry Pratchett, and was Georgette Heyer, and is Ursula Le Guin (who is an important moralist of course as well as a master storyteller). And Walter Mosley's thrillers. And 'round about the time of rediscovering the fairy tale, I shed some of my high seriousness and decided that a writer has a right to learn from what they intensely enjoy as well as what makes them think and understand. (I do know that thinking and understanding are also almost always a form of pleasure.)"

~A. S. Byatt~
"The Novelist's Tale"
An Interview conducted by Jessica Jernigan
Borders Bookstores Newsletter

"The tale of the Monkey Girl gave me wat I needed most at a critical time in my life: the image of the creative and complex woman, unique to herself but willing to share those considerable gifts with a man capable of intuiting the wealth of her worth hidden beneath the skin. But more than that, the Monkey Girl also suggested that I need not be afraid of the fragile happily-ever-after, that I had resources of my own, and that I would not have to contort myself into a restrictive social role for fear of losing that fairytale ending."

~Midori Snyder~
"The Monkey Girl"
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales
edited by Kate Bernheimer



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