You’re never too old for fairy tales

Once upon a time someone (no one seems to know who) dubbed Feb. 26 as Tell a Fairy Tale Day.

Each year, those who recognize the holiday — mostly elementary schools and libraries — grab their favorite happily-ever-after tale from the bookshelf and read aloud to students, patrons or, in my case, a fat house cat named Webster Oxford Roget Derek Stroebel.

(Yes, my cat’s initials spell WORDS. Fitting, since he’s named after two dictionaries, a thesaurus and two journalists.)

Others take it upon themselves to channel those medieval days before computers or typewriters and write their own with pen and paper. (Bonus points if their writing utensil has a feather plume.)

Or perhaps they celebrate in the tradition of oral storytellers, imparting their tale verbally without a scribe to save it for later.

Whatever the method, it’s a holiday that gets two ink-stained thumbs up from me. Tell a Fairy Tale Day 2015 is tomorrow, so there’s still time to plan a fantastic fantasy celebration.

Fairy tales didn’t leave us behind in childhood. There’s a little bit of Peter Pan in all of us who never grew up, and the magic of folklore and fantasy has followed many of us into adulthood.

A sampling of film and television is a reminder of fairy tale influence in everyday life.

The television series “Once Upon a Time” (7 p.m. Sundays on ABC), now in its fourth season, follows the lives of the residents of Storybrooke, a New England town populated by fairy tale characters transplanted from their magical kingdom into the United States by a curse. The TV series “Grimm” (8 p.m. Fridays on NBC), a police fantasy drama borrowing from the famous Brothers Grimm, debuted in 2011 and is in its fourth season.

In 2012, two Snow White spinoffs competed for attention in movie theaters: the spoofish and laughable “Mirror Mirror,” featuring Julia Roberts as the wicked queen, hit the silver screen in March, and “Snow White and the Huntsman,” featuring Kristen Stewart as a sword-wielding Snow White, came out in June.

One year before “Mirror Mirror” was released, Amanda Seyfried hit the theaters in March 2011 playing the title role in “Red Riding Hood,” a spin on the classic story that includes a village-terrorizing werewolf.

The 2005 film “The Brothers Grimm” not only features the fairy tales but also Heath Ledger and Matt Damon playing the writers of those tales. There’s the 2009 SyFy Channel miniseries “Alice,” a modernized version of “Alice in Wonderland.” And, of course, Disney’s latest rendition of “Alice in Wonderland,” directed by Tim Burton and casting Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter.

And who can forget the 2014 Disney silver screen musical “Into the Woods”?

You get the point. You don’t need me to list them all. The examples are countless — I would miss dozens if I tried to list them all.

Fairy tales aren’t just for children anymore. Their popularity only seems to be gaining ground. The Maison Mochino, an Italian hotel, opened in spring 2010, and each room is tailored to individual works of literature, many inspired by fairy tales.

The Little Red Riding Hood room includes a plush wolf lying in the bed when guests enter. One of the tables in the Alice in Wonderland room is a giant teacup. And who could resist a giant ruffled pillow shaped like a cupcake? Hansel and Gretel certainly couldn’t, and I wouldn’t object to having one at home.

All of these tidbits in our culture — the television shows, films and hotel — are marketed toward an older audience. And it’s an audience that seems all too ready to consume.

So go ahead. Celebrate Tell a Fairy Tale Day this year. Pay homage to the stories you continue to treasure, whether it’s reading an original or a fairy tale-inspired book, watching a movie or catching up on the latest spinoff on TV.

Or better yet, just start writing. Throw in some dragons and dwarves and swords. Make pigs fly.

And may you keep enjoying fairy tales happily every year after.

[Editor’s note: This originally ran as an installment of Julie Stroebel Barichello’s newspaper column
SpeakEasy in The Times (Ottawa/Streator, IL) on Feb. 25, 2013. It has been updated to reflect the 2015 observance of Tell a Fairy Tale Day. See the original column at]  

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1 Response to You’re never too old for fairy tales

  1. trinitygrau says:

    1. I love your cat’s name. Totally original and suprising. 2. I will never outgrow fairy tales. EVER. This is something that NEEDS to stay with people and keep on fueling their imagination for the rest of their life. And for the generation who needs something more intense, watching things like Disney’s Maleficent or the new Cinderella will certainly introduce these stories in a beautiful way. My dad once told me that if you can outgrow fantasy and imagination, that’s just sad. And it’s totally agreed.

    Great post!


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