Jan Surasky


In Defense of Fairy Tales

The Cinderella Complex, a book written in the early eighties to support the women’s movement, was meant to dispel the idea often depicted in fairy tales, that women should wait for a handsome prince to rescue them from whatever disaster befell them.

Although I agree with the concept (after all, how many princes are there to go around?) I would like to take issue with using a favorite fairy tale, or any fairy tale, to illustrate this.

Fairy tales are meant to be metaphors and not non-fiction. Criticizing Cinderella for not leaving a bad situation is like criticizing a creature with only fins and no feet for not standing upright and walking on land like you. He/she would if he/she only knew how.

Cinderella was blocked from escaping by more than just the dimwittedness the author of The Cinderella Complex and her followers ascribe to her. She was blocked by the times she was born into (feminism was centuries away) and the lack of a profession to support herself should she flee. There was not a big demand for hearth sweepers in Cinderella’s time.

But, it is not true that you can’t dream of escaping your fate. And, even improving it. Dreams are the impetus to action because if you don’t know what you want to change you can’t change it. And, fairy tales are the impetus to dreams.

The world of fairy tales, full of joy and laughter, beauty and hope, is what inspires you to a better life. And, action abounds in fairy tales as readers of those gems already know. Handsome princes come to the rescue of princesses in distress and slay the menacing dragon. And, as a bonus, they marry and live happily ever after.

What else do we aspire to but personal achievement, happiness, and the satisfaction of achieving our own personal dreams. And, reaching even further, perhaps peace and the triumph of good over evil.

So, immerse yourself in the fantasy and wonder of fairy tales. Permit yourself to dream. And, if perchance, you run into a handsome prince, a damsel in distress, or even a dragon, you will know what to do.