Fears and Fairy Tales
by Wenda Dottridge
Aren't stories a wonderful way to take us away from our everyday fears and worries?
When my children were small, like most mothers, I made weekly trips to the library so I could instill in my children a love of books. Each week we'd arrive for story time, and then we'd meander through the children's section until my kids had placed five books in their special, hand-sewn book bags provided by library volunteers.
My son Timothy chose the same book each and every week. In fact, it was the only book he wanted, week after week, after week. I'd force other books in the bag, but at home they'd be ignored. Every now and then I'd make him leave "his" book at the library so some other child would have a chance to read this wonderfully illustrated and well-told classic, The Three Billy Goats Gruff.
I've never really understood why it had to be this story, but he loved it. He loved to have it read to him, with all the voices acted out, of course. He loved flipping pages on his own and running his hands over the pictures, and most of all, he loved acting the story out whenever we went for walks. At the time we lived in an area full of great hiking and mountain biking trails. We never crossed a bridge without first acting out the whole story. My husband would play the nasty troll and Timothy would take great delight in acting the part of the Biggest Billie Goat. He would enthusiastically butt that horrible troll off the bridge every time. Over and over and over again.
And before you're tempted to ask, "Ever considered if Tim is OCD?" Umm. well, yeah. But he's not, really.
In fact, it's not unusual for small children to want to watch the same show many times, or to read the same story repeatedly. For Tim, I believe The Three Billy Goats Gruff provided a way for him to work out his fears. To enact a scenario in which good triumphs over evil. The fantasy of the story and the role playing provided the thrill of fear, without real danger.
We traveled long distances in the car with our children before DVD players were standard automobile equipment and the one story Timothy loved was a Ladybird Classic tape from England telling the Three Little Pigs. In our house at the time, if one opened our bedroom door and the walk-in closet door both doors would meet and provide a little "house" in the corner. This became the spot the Big Bad Wolf, aka Daddy, blew the house down and ate (tickled) little pigs. Over and over and over and over. The children never tired of this game, and I can still picture all three kids huddled in the corner, giggling and taunting the BBW.
With each reenactment of the story, they triumphed over adversity. They trumped their fears.
And really, isn't that a big part of what compels us to read fiction as adults, too. When our heroes and heroines overcome odds to earn their happily-ever-after don't we learn that we can, too? Is it any wonder our Lord chose to teach most of his lessons through stories? Imagine this....A traveler is beaten by thieves....A woman loses a coin....A man owned a field..... Jesus reveals the new covenant to us in the same way his Father imparted the old covenant to his people, through story.
I'm happy to report that Tim is no longer compelled to take out only one book from the library or to check for trolls under bridges. Nor does he taunt the BBW from behind bedroom doors. Those imaginary bad guys have long been slain, and if they weren't, they wouldn't stand a chance against his lanky sixteen-year strength and 6'2" height and reach. No, Tim's current villains are Algebra problems and English essays. Thank goodness for Ted Dekker heroes to show him that the good guy, with effort and faith and some supernatural help, can still slay monsters.
Thanks for joining us as we relive our favourite stories and story memories. Were there particular books your kids (or nieces and nephews or special small people) loved when they were (or still are) small? Are there stories you seek out to calm your stresses and fears in life?