For some time I’ve been a student of myth, fairytales, fables and allegories.
Before I was ordained as a Catholic priest I trained as a script writer and then developed my ideas into a business training program called Working Hero. The program used the story line and symbols from myth, legend and fairytales to illustrate the hero’s quest and how the structure of the hero’s quest empowered personal growth, positive change in business and individual choice.
I haven’t forgotten all the work in that area, and now, with the ease of doing podcasts, I’m branching out soon to start posting “Fr Longenecker’s True Fairytales.”
These will be podcast stories you and your kids and grandkids can listen to on the school commute, or from your tablet, smart phone or laptop.
I’m excited by this project for a couple of reasons. First of all, because stories connect with the deepest part of our being, and fairytales do this best of all.
But first, I should distinguish between different types of stories. A fairytale takes place in a fantasy world where magic happens, animals talk, giants and magical figures reside. The fairytale is important for children because the symbolic characters play out a drama which connects with their inner world through the facility of their imagination. Bruno Bettleheim in The Uses of Enchantment explains how this happens within the child’s subconscious. Deep connections are made and they learn at a gut level about life and how to deal with it.
A legend is history that has been magnified. The real events have grown to epic proportions and assume true, deeper meanings through symbol and theme. Some of the Bible stories, for instance, have become legend. This does not mean they are unhistorical, only that the historical personages and events have grown in their significance as the community pondered and reflected on what happened.
A myth operates, like a fairytale, on a deeper level. The characters and events may or may not be rooted in history. They might be about a historical hero, but they might just as well be about the gods and goddesses. Within the myth great themes unfold. The hero embarks on a quest and as the audience hears the story they identify with the hero and go on the journey with him or her vicariously.
A fable is a fanciful story with a moral or clear teaching point. An example is the story of the tortoise and the hare.
An allegory combines elements of the fairytale or myth, but uses allegorical connections with the characters and events to teach the lesson. Rather than a clear moral at the end, the teaching points are locked into the characters and events of the story. Lewis’ Narnia stories are close to allegory. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is clear allegory.
So why am I recording fairy stories and not writing them, publishing them in an illustrated children’s book? This is what really interests me.
You see, it is important for the child’s imagination to be engaged. This does not happen in an illustrated book, and it really doesn’t happen when the story is filmed. A story that is told–not just read out of a book–also has an immediacy and urgency. This is a real person telling you this story–and as you listen to it–not read it–you must imagine the scene and as your imagination is engaged the deeper levels of your personality are engaged because the imagination is the entranceway to the sub conscious.
As this transaction occurs the lessons are learned at a deep level without the child (or the adult) being aware of it. The lesson is therefore implanted in the child’s mind and heart at deep and powerful level.
Let me give an example: When the story of Little Red Riding Hood is told, various symbolic characters and locations and events work on the imagination. First there is the young girl alone in the woods. What child does not connect with that frightening scenario? As they do, they face the fear and darkness in their lives–but they do so safely. They know this is “only a story”. There is a voracious wolf who represents the evil desires, the wicked stranger, the rapacious villain, the greedy beast. This beast is in the forest, but he is also within. The girl goes to the grandmother’s house, but grandmother is incapacitated. She’s sick. The child therefore faces the possible reality of being orphaned and left alone by those who should be her guardians and mentors. Furthermore, that guardian and mentor has been devoured by the evil wolf. So the child faces the reality that the parents may not be as perfect and omnipotent and sinless as the child would like to believe. The father figure in the wood cutter, is the one who saves the day, kills the wolf, rescues the grandmother and saves Red Riding Hood–thus affirming the strength and goodness of those who protect her after all.
This is what I call “True Fairytales” because while they are fantasy, they are not false.
Fairytales are therefore very important in the child’s imagination (and in the corporate imagination of the family and the society).
So I hope you will tune in and listen to “Fr Longenecker’s True Fairytales.” I’ll be telling some of my own stories–which are a bit more allegorical, but I’ll also be telling some classic tales from Hans Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. I’ll also be telling some of George McDonald’s wonderful tales.
At this stage I am still planning the podcast series. I hope to put together ten podcast fairytales to start with. I’m looking for some sponsors–individuals or companies who would like to make a sponsorship donation. This funding will help produce the podcast, but most of it will be spent in advertising in order to let people know about the series.
No sense making it if nobody listens, and they won’t know about its existence if we don’t advertise it a bit.