I have to admit that I have always been a fan of the Brothers Grimm’s Cinderella. I used to think – ‘Shame! That sweet little girl that just wanted to be good to everyone and her stepmother is being so mean to her’ What a bitch’ I would say today. Cinderella’s stepmother is not only without moral and principles she is directly evil – all because of jealousy. Sounds familiar? It makes her going as far as to poisoning Cinderella’s apple, not unlike the style of poisoning cases we sometimes can read about in the media. Brothers Grimm, as well as other authors of fairytales incorporated human qualities, moral and ethics in their fairytales. Can we apply what we learned from our childhood fairytales in real life?
Absolutely, as fairytales in many ways tell us how to live as safely and happily as possible. When the wolf tells Little Red Riding Hood (another favourite by the way) to be careful walking through the forests alone, she should indeed believe him and be careful, that is, unless Little Red Riding Hood in a modern interpretation has become a feminist and takes his comment for being chauvinistic and sexist. Most fairytales tell us one important lesson that is; not everyone wishes you well. Cinderella’s stepmother has taught us some important points in this respect, not very far from real life scenarios.
One thing distinguishes fairytales from real life – the happy endings. The bad getting their punishment and the good their reward – would be great but sadly, this is not always the case. Yet, fairytales tell us to keep trying and then again, when everything comes to everything, it all boils down to move on with our lives no matter what. The little pig (ref Three Little Pigs) did just that, he lives happily ever after a rather vindictive action, where he eats the wolf. I am not quite sure about the moral of that part, maybe; ‘an eye for an eye – a tooth for a tooth’?
Fairytales can also teach us about leadership. ‘Once upon the time, there was a company that....’ Many organizational cultures are packed with Cinderella’s, which we in some instances could refer to as narcissists. An organization run by a narcissist creates a severely unhealthy work environment. The 101 Dalmatians where the wealthy Cruella de Vil wants to have the Dalmatian puppies killed for fur clothing. The tale taught us about greed as well as about animal cruelty, both of which are relevant topics in the real world.
The fairytales we like most of all are stories about heroes that made the world a better place. Robin Hood was one of them, courageous and trustworthy, a real hero of the kind that we still admire. Unfortunately, there are not too many of them and there is also another complication. In fairytales the bad as well as the good guys are easy to identify. In real life, this part is more complicated. Most of all can fairytales teach our children and us about love. G.K. Chesterton rightfully expressed it this way “There is a great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.”