The best fairy tales teach us that we live in community, and that we are offered countless gifts to help us on our way. Good magic happens through community.
Brother and sister hold hands, defeat the witch in the forest, and find their way back home again. The ugly duckling, so-called, finds his true identity among the beautiful swans. The girl who journeys to rescue her prince is given golden gifts and is carried by all four winds onto victory. Straw is spun into gold. The brave boy slays the giant and rescues all the knights and ladies.
This week my community created a magical evening to celebrate the launch for my fiction book Letters to Annie: A Grandmother’s Dreams of Fairy Tale Princesses, Princes, & Happily Ever After. Many hands and hearts joined to transform the glass room in the Trinity Western University library into a graceful fairy dream with soft lights, greenery, white tulle, lacy tablecloths, and harp music. (This beautiful venue came about through the artistic talent and amazing organization of one dear staff member and her kindly helpers.) Students, colleagues, family, and friends filled the gently lit room overlooking the lake. Family and friends from as far away as California tuned in online. A graduate drove up from Washington State, bringing a bouquet of flowers.
My heart is full—and as a dear colleague said, “A full heart is a thing of beauty.” I am deeply grateful to so many!
Here are some highlights:
- laughter and hugs among friends
- meeting and rejoicing with new friends
- “This is fun!”
- “We love you!”
- “Thank you for writing this book!”
- wonderful questions from the audience
- seeing how my book was making connections with people of all ages and so learning more about what I’d written
- the humbling joy of speaking with each dear soul who came (and others who wanted to but couldn’t)
- the book draws
- the audience vote for one last reading: 1) “The Ugly Duckling”; 2) “Bluebeard”; 3) Aravis in C. S. Lewis’s Narnian story The Horse and his Boy; 4) “The History of Jack the Giant-Killer” (was it a tie between “Bluebeard” and Aravis? I read from one of my letters on “Bluebeard,” Letter 25.)
- the good trembling at the book-signing as I carefully wrote out each name, the book’s theme, and signed my own name (I was much helped by having watched Madeleine L’Engle some years ago do so calmly, quietly, asking each reader how to spell their name—even names like “David,” never assuming that the spelling she knew was the one that was needed)
Truly, this book launch has intensified my sense that our words, our lives, are to be shared because we belong to each other. We are not lone rangers. We are designed for loving community, and in such community souls are knitted together, grow and flourish.
Here are some things that I got to share:
- my personal connection to fairy tale: my mother having first read them to me in German; my family having fled Eastern Europe in the traumatic upheaval of World War II and having ended up for a time in the very town in Germany where the Grimm Brothers spent their childhood—also the town where my husband grew up (and it was a fairy tale when we met)
- as the first Canadian-born member of my family, this Old World connection to fairy tale meant for me that you never lose or leave behind your stories. It’s our stories, more than geography, that give us identity.
- how fairy tales have helped me to better grasp what God is telling us in the Bible about the Great Grand Story that He is the Author of, that we are characters in
- that my students over the years have influenced me as we have studied fairy tales together—they’re probably the biggest reason for this book
- that beauty in fairy tale means inner beauty: “Virtue is beauty,” as Shakespeare wrote in Twelfth Night
- that the dominant theme in the book is from 1 Corinthians 13:8: “Love never fails.”
A few highlights from the readings I gave:
- Annie, 3, is in love with Cinderella’s beauty (Letter 4) but later, 15, is angry about the “happily ever after” in fairy tale. Omi writes, “ROMANTIC LOVE IS NOT ESSENTIAL FOR A WONDERFUL LIFE.” And ponders “Sleeping Beauty”: how Annie, like all of us, is both the prince and the princess. She is like the prince on a quest for whom the life path opens at the right time. She is also like the enchanted princess who needs the true Prince, God Himself, to awaken her. “It’s a glimpse of the big picture of how God awakens us to life, kisses us to Life.” (Letter 21)
- About the constant fairy tale theme on finding courage and hope and how we see this when Hansel and Grethel must have courage for the unknown. The story “isn’t over the top: it’s about who and where we are. Like us, they are vulnerable children up against terrible odds. Like us, they have no idea how they’ll survive. . . . And in the end, in spite of great evil, we feel that Love always has reigned over them and will ever do so.” (Letter 24)
- How “The Bremen Town-Musicians” is a fine picture of the church. “We’re refugees fleeing for our lives, refugees from a world that feeds on what we can do, then chews us up and spits us out. We’re running for whatever is better than death. . . . In fact, Life itself.” (Letter 29)
My heart is full and “a full heart is a thing of beauty.” We live stories in community and we tell them in community. I look forward to learning more about how meaningfully fairy tales nurture us. I look forward to learning more from my readers. Good magic happens through community.
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Watch for my October blog: “A Thank You Note.”