Weeping uncontrollably. And driving down the interstate at the same time. Not the safest manuever. So I pulled off until I could regain my composure. What had just happened? Did I hear of the tragic death of a loved one? Was I overcome by some sorrow in my own life? No. I had been been listening to a fairy tale.
It was “The Last Battle” from Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series. King Tirian is fighting a last desperate battle, where he knows that all hope is lost. His only recourse is to hold out as long as possible, kill as many of the enemy as he can, and then die with honor. But at the last minute, he is whisked out of his world into another where all the kings and queens of Narnia have been watching him. Rather than dying, he is being honored. I was overcome with joy, piercing joy, and wept.
What happened to me on the interstate is how fairy tales can change us…and need to.
For a good fairy tale is one in which the deep desires of our hearts are flipped outwards into a fantasy world, where those desires are free to find striking fulfillments. And when we read the tale, we find our own desires stoked and blown into flame, desires long buried or even unknown. The land of fairy is thus a dangerous one where we may be surprised by what we encouter both there and in our hearts.
One of the ingredients in a good fairy tale is what is called the sudden turn. Here when all hope is lost, there is some unexpected gift of grace and good triumphs against all odds. And the turn can produce a sudden glint of joy that produces a lift of heart and sometimes tears. That’s exactly what happened to me in the car. I have also had the same experience reading Tolkien’s great fairy tale, Lord of the Rings.
But for Tolkien and Lewis and many others, the real reason fairy tales can change us is that they point to the story of Jesus. Here when all hope was lost at the cross, Jesus miraculously conquered death. It is the one fairy tale that actually happened, the one story that was history. This is why they believed so deeply in Jesus.
How have fairy tales affected you? When has a book or movie brought you to tears? I’d love to hear some of the titles!