Crane, Beauty and the Beast (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1875)

Why are fairy tales so fascinating, and what can we learn from them?

Why are fairy tales so irresistible? Honors College Professor Ellen Handler Spitz recently joined the Jesse Mulligan program on Radio New Zealand to explore the topic.

During the segment, Spitz, who has conducted extensive research on children, psychology, and the arts, explained that fairy tales are powerful because “they give us access to a world of imagination throughout our culture.”

“They are such marvelous connectors. They take us back historically, and everybody knows these tales,” Spitz explained. “What’s so curious is nobody has to learn them.”

Spitz also described why scary fairy tales can be good for children to read and experience at a young age. She explained how it can be healthy to learn from them by discussing them with an adult throughout the process.

“The fears that children have don’t only come from the outside world and they don’t only come from the stories that they are told,” she said.”There are fears that come just simply from the process of maturation and you cannot sanitize the world,” adding, “…fairy tales in stories and all forms of art are kind of like a safe space, especially when you as the adult are there and think the child might be afraid of something, you can stop and talk to the child and discuss it. ”

Listen to the full segment “Why scary fairy tales are good for kids” on the Radio New Zealand website.

Image: Crane, Beauty and the Beast (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1875)