The gospel according to fairy tales

th-1So, Marti wrote a fairy tale in anticipation of the birth of our first grandchild, and we are talking about it in the Catch this week. And just what do fairy tales have to do with truth and the lives we are attempting to lead in following Christ? Everything.


Fairy tales are harbingers of the gospel.

We wouldn’t appreciate fairy tales if we weren’t already wired for the gospel. Indeed, the gospel is one grand fairy tale coming true every day. The prince did slay the dragon. The princess was rescued from the tower. There will be a huge wedding, and we all will live happily ever after. Any questions?

Fairy tales are outlandish. And the gospel — God’s grace toward us — is as outlandish as any fairy tale. And we might not as readily believe the outlandishness of the gospel if we hadn’t been set up by fairy tales that what we wish could come true. Well, in Christ, it  does. Everything that we hope for, wish for, and dream for is coming true in Christ Jesus. We are living a fairy tale right now. If the Bible says that we have, living inside us, someone who can “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” that sounds pretty much like a fairy tale to me. (Ephesians 3:20)

Steve West pointed out in our blogtalkradio interview last night that Picasso called art, “The lie that tells the truth.” Fairy tales are made-up stories that give us a new slant on truth. They come at truth sideways. They allow us to embrace our hopes and dreams in ways that might otherwise embarrass us, or cause our logical minds to talk us out of believing. But, in a fairy tale, we allow ourselves to be caught up in the magic, and Cinderella has her dream come true one more time.

In The Pigeon with the Ruby Collar, a young prince and princess become fast childhood friends. When the prince has to return to his castle which is far away, they train a carrier pigeon to be a messenger between them; and, to signify it is a royal pigeon, they affix a ruby the princess wore as a child to the pigeon’s collar. Then war and upheaval imprisons them both in their respective castles, and the pigeon flies desperately back and forth between them, unable to reach either one. When a hunter shoots down the pigeon, all appears lost, except that the hunter, seeing the ruby collar and realizing it is a royal messenger, nurses the pigeon back to health, enabling it to reunite the two when peace returns to the land. Of course there is much more than this to the story, but I’ll let you read it for yourself and come to your own conclusions.

Which is the final point to make about fairy tales: There isn’t a “right” interpretation of a fairy tale. Different people come up with different things, and, as is so often with truth, all of them are probably right.

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10 Responses to The gospel according to fairy tales

  1. Yes! I love all you have said about Fairytales, I have enjoyed them since I was very, very young! At the back of the North Wind and the Princess and the Goblin, these were written by George MacDonald! I do like the endings to be where good always overcomes! In many books today, it is so sad the characters end up alone in the dark!
    Well done!

  2. TimC says:

    Yeah, but … life is not a fairy tale. Evil exists and good people do bad things, and evil people do bad things, and bad things happen to good people. Yes, we anticipate a day of redemption, but in the meantime, sometimes life beats the fairy tale out of us.

    A few years ago in The Catch you spent several days writing about myths of Christian life. There are many myths that are used in preaching to persuade people that by following their particular teaching the Christian life is a life of good health and great wealth. And spouses won’t break their vows, and you won’t get fired from your job, and the flood or forest fire or earthquake won’t wipe out your home, and you won’t be persecuted or killed for your faith, and if you tithe you will be rewarded. Sometimes fairy tales are useless.

    But sometimes we have to evaluate which things that might seem like fairy tales are actually worth believing.

    For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

  3. David says:

    Do you watch ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” on Sunday evenings? Season 5 is currently being broadcast. Test your knowledge of some of the biblical connections to the show with this 22 question quiz. (Season 1: Episodes 1 and 2)

    http://www.sloppynoodle.com/wp/once-upon-a-time-a-quiz-part-1/

  4. Tim says:

    My life has been a fairy tale and every step of it I wait for the disaster to hit. My wife and I have been very fortunate with health and healthy children that are doing so well it’s embarrassing to talk about.
    But lots of people are fortunate, Christian and unbelievers.
    I doubt it’s because we have been such shining examples of Christianity that we have been fortunate.
    I have always sucked at being an evangelical believer.
    That’s why I’m a Catch follower. I’m an evangelical refugee.
    I believe the kingdom of God is here and we are to live for Christ as if there is no heaven, no life after we die. The whole point of Christianity is to love and serve others not because of a fairy tale ending, but because it makes our existence here better. Right here where the kingdom is.
    Is there a heaven for me? I’ll take it as a bonus but I’m not counting on it.
    Why do we come to Christ? It has to be deeper than someday I’ll have heaven.
    I am a believer because I saw in my life an emptiness that couldn’t be filled by serving myself. I believe God touched my heart in a way that I couldn’t deny my need for something greater than myself. Being a believer gives me hope and peace when the fairy tale I’m walking gets messy.
    Of course I did my best for 40 years to follow the arminian doctrine I grew up with. fearing the people would go to hell if I screwed up. Fearing if I had unconfessed sin I would go to hell. I did my best to be a good Wesleyan.
    I have found it easier to just love others exactly as they are and walk our journey together.
    The truth in a fairy tale is do the right thing and life will be better, right here.
    And that’s my rambling for today.

    • jwfisch says:

      I agree. Plus … heaven is now. We are experiencing heaven in our lives now. Jesus announced the arrival of the kingdom of heaven. So heaven as a dimension is alongside our life, not up there somewhere.

  5. mitchteemley says:

    Yes! Couldn’t help but think of C. S. Lewis’s recurring phrase “the true myth.” I’ll have to check out The Pigeon with the Ruby Collar.

  6. Marc says:

    John, I’ve just read The Pigeon with the Ruby Collar. And it is so profound, I identify with the one in the dungeon who has been seperated for so long, but the message finally comes through. And fairy tales do that, give an echo of a longing which comes from God. C.S. Lewis said it this way:

    Does anyone suppose that he really and prosaically longs for all the dangers and discomforts of a fairy tale?—really wants dragons in contemporary England? It is not so. It would be much truer to say that fairy land arouses a longing for he knows not what. It stirs and troubles him (to his life-long enrichment) with the dim sense of something beyond his reach and, far from dulling or emptying the actual world, gives it a new dimension of depth. He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.
    –Lewis, On Three Ways of Writing for Children

    I’ve written a fairy tale of another kind, and my email is in the details below. Send me an email and I’ll send you Snokomo Road, where some encounter a fairy tale.

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