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June 30, 2024 12:00

The Purpose of Fairy Tales

March 25, 2018
The Novelry
March 25, 2018

We are storytelling animals. We are raised in a nursery of fairy tales, and they teach us how stories work.

In our storytelling foundation class to help you come up with a big, bold story idea—The Classic Class—we take writers back to the first stories they loved, fairy tales, and have them dig there. We show you just how many famous writers of bestsellers did just that.

The magical course, most often described by our writers as ‘mind-blowing,’ shows you how to combine your unique interests, passions and love, your own experiences with the bold gambits of the all-time bestsellers for story success.

Stories don’t need to be entirely original

You see, most writers think that what’s required is an original story. Well, yes and no.

What readers want, and what literary agents and publishers want, is familiarity with a twist.

For years, I wondered how writers came up with their ideas! Now I know!

Our latest, greatest organizational monomyth—the cult of Jesus Christ—is failing in the fast-paced world where technology rules, though still at work in other places. For those of us with the multimedia device strapped to our heads, our reading content is broadly organized into the format of stories via ‘fake news’ and so on.

But we are adrift without a myth, drowning in an absence of meaning in this, the Age of Impatience. In the pandemic, more and more writers—and readers—are turning to tales of fantasy. Our literary agency partners at The Novelry are telling us they’re receiving more and more of these novels, and the market for them is growing!

Big novels begin with small stories

The fairy tale is a story starter.

We show you how to home-grow one at The Novelry, and take it all the way to a publishable manuscript and get published with our Finished Novel Course. It’s our bestselling course, which sees your finely developed work, under the care of our brilliant writing coaches, pitched to literary agencies on your behalf. No slush pile for our graduates! Just take a look at our published success stories and writing course reviews.


Big stories have a consistent structure, and we see the formula which Tolkien called the ‘eucatastrophe’ at work in Game of Thrones and heavy-hitting cinematic boxsets. They remind us of our deepest communal aspiration that something cosmically healing will come from disaster.

Even in the dark, you can discern the shape of the monomyth first spelled out by Joseph Campbell. Find even a narrow well, drop a line and a lead down it, and you will find the big story again, always there, always shaping and organizing us.

It’s been this way since 3000 BC, when the Egyptian sage and god, Thoth (known by the Greeks as ‘Thrice Great Hermes’), first explained the notion of the ‘great mind,’ the mind of all minds, the mind we share, the mind which is the God. He told us that the first thing God did after sorting light from dark was to spill the ‘word’ or logos into the cosmos.

For the marvelous word-spinning mortal human being, the word was to the great mind what speech is to thought.

Fairy tales are hugely powerful

In the darkest times, fairy tales—fantasy stories—have the greatest power.

Why, all of a sudden, so it seems, did highly political men and women, completely committed to furthering class struggle in Germany during the Weimar period, begin in 1920 to write and illustrate fairy tales and fables for children?
—Jack Zipes, the fairy godfather of fairy tales

The good people of the Age of Impatience during the pandemic convene before the smaller screen to watch the big boxset and see mythical creatures fly and heroes defend all that is just to the death.

We bring the power of our tales in the past to the service of present and future, the never-ending story of hope, the transaction between debasement and defeat and possibly victory.

Indeed, if one were to scan the works of the most famous German authors, from Goethe to Gunter Grass, one would find very few who had not written at least one fairy tale.
Jack Zipes

Is using the fairy-tale form the hallmark of a great writer?

Most of the authors of our classic bestsellers of all time (Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, et al.) were close students of fairy tales and their form.

The fairy tale is the form ‘that sticks.’ It packs a mighty moral punch.

Many of our well-known writers have written fairy tales. Oscar Wilde, Chekhov, Ford Madox Ford, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Cunningham, Salman Rushdie... Tolstoy wrote over 100 fairy tales for children.

Of his novel Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rushdie said:

Like most fairy tales, it is about reality... The real dragon that causes evil keeps on hiding. But I’ll find him one day, and then I’ll fight it out with him.
—Salman Rushdie

The fairy story—in its long-form a novel in almost any genre—makes plain the relentless grinding duel between sustaining life and meaningful life. It shows how the idea of evil is, in itself, a sustaining delusion. Necessary because we need something to battle, and the battle is the meaning of life.

Evil, as Hannah Arendt surmised, is banal and commonplace and passive. But in our stories, we offer the consolation that it can be overcome.

Write a big bold story. Start with something small and mighty.

Begin with our Classic Class, then write your novel with the second step of our three-step program using The Ninety Day Novel Class, and produce a lasting story that will be there when you’re gone. We make it easy for you. We give you structure, guidance and support every step of the way.

Come on over to The Novelry, where we warmly welcome beginners, witches, wizards and small children currently lost in the woods of their writing.

For more insights into literary techniques, coaching and a supportive writing community, join us on a creative writing course at The Novelry—the world’s top-rated writing school.

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The Novelry

The Novelry is the world's top-rated writing school offering a complete start-to-finish book program.

Members of The Novelry team