Crixeo: Kathleen Ragan Interview


Where Are All the Heroines in Fairy Tales? Glad You Asked...

We are the stories we tell.

For the first people who lived in what’s now known as Australia, tales were maps designed to guide generations across miles of desert to landmarks, water and safety. For them, a certain story sequence could mean the difference between life and death beneath the blistering sun.

During America’s civil rights movement, stories were used to alter our collective sense of morality and to shift our perspective on issues as serious as slavery, justice and freedom. Beautiful tales from this era expressed the change that needed to happen and helped us all understand why.

And today, for the little girl reading the same tale over and over again, leaving no word or sentiment unturned, stories are a way for her to understand the world and even herself.

Stories are our survival tools, offering alternative solutions, warnings of danger and the locations of sinkholes. And these potent cultural artifacts exist for a reason. It’s why fairy tales, myths and folklore stick to our bones from childhood onward, and it’s why we just can’t seem to let them go.

We are born with this desire to connect, listen and understand the world around us and our fellow travelers. It’s why our stories often exist outside of time and hover within the confines of our vivid imaginations. To tell a story is to be human, and even a three-month-old baby can tell the difference between narrative and conversation.

But there are so many stories to tell, from that time you built an igloo in your yard, to how your great-grandmother overcame the Great Depression, to the fairy tales from books and dusty collections. Which ones should you tell? How do you choose?

Fairy tale anthologist Kathleen Ragan argues that we should look at a culture, and all the stories in it, like a big cloud, with the storyteller simply incapable of telling them all. “They might tell their favorites, or the ones people ask for, or maybe just the ones they know best.” But over time, the number of stories told decreases. And, for better or worse, those select tales begin to define us and the very society in which we live. We become these stories, just as these stories become us.