About two and a half years ago, I was sitting in a darkened theater with my mother, my aunt, and my little sister as we watched the re-envisioned and live-action version of Disney’s Cinderella.
Admittedly, there were more stereotypically masculine things that I could have been busying myself with that evening (take breaking my hand on a cardboard box or repelling off the roof of a college dorm for example); however, I’m not the type of dude to shy away from a fairytale either… especially when I’m not paying for my ticket.
As I walked out of the theater that evening, I was struck by the fascination that society has with fairytales. In this particular context, I am defining a fairytale as that story that takes the protagonist from an awful or humble beginning and propels them to a feel-good climax concluding in the classic “happily ever after” scenario. These are the tales that my generation grew up with thanks to the work of people like Walt Disney.
When we were children, these stories piqued our imaginations and told us that nothing is impossible, that goodness always overcomes evil, that everyone has the opportunity to fall madly in love with his/her soulmate, and that happiness is something that is obtainable.
Of course, the older we grew and the more exposed to the harsh realities of life we became, the less stories like these seemed to captivate us. We became more cynical and more “realistic.” We became all too aware that some people never find love, that families end in divorce, that dreams often aren’t fulfilled, that good people die young, and that our world is simply saturated with tragedy and chaos. Thus, we see the unobtainable perfection of fairytales and we scoff bitterly. They are just stories. Nice ones of course, but nothing more.
Yet, despite the warranted cynicism, we tend to return to these stories with, at the very least, a nostalgic fondness. We tell them to our children and never eradicate them from our society.
Because, despite the cheesiness of the stories and the characters, something in these fanciful tales speaks to our very souls and urges them to utter a dangerous and powerful four-letter word:
We recognize that the world, in its current condition, is broken and in shambles; but more than that, something inside us says “this is not how things are intended to be.” So we hang on to a hope that there is goodness amidst the chaos and that not every story must end in tragedy.
Fairytales remind me that there was a time in which God looked at His creation and called it “good.” They remind me that, despite how much evil has befallen this world, there is still going to be a day in which God makes all things new and wipes away every tear.
They are important, not so much because they give us a vaguely hopeful feeling, but because they remind us of our very real hope which we already possess in Jesus.
This pain is not forever.