Fiddling While Rome Learns
The Significance of Bible Stories, Fairy Tales and Fables
Mrs. Linn, Preschool and Pre-kindergarten
Once upon a time there were children who loved listening to their teachers read enchanting stories in the classroom: a story about God helping a runaway slave defeat an evil pharaoh, brave knights defending the honor of fair maidens, conquering heroes slaying wicked dragons to preserve peace and harmony in the village, a patient turtle entering a race with a lazy rabbit – and winning, and most importantly, the Son of God born for the salvation of the world. These narratives instill in children a moral imagination: truth and virtue, good morals, and God’s love. They illustrate concepts of justice, goodness, truth, and beauty. Absent their beneficial influence, children are confused about what is right and wrong. What was “once upon a time,” should be a present reality.
We teach children rules, but how is wisdom attained? Life experiences are said to bestow wisdom, but not all life experiences are equal. How do we get our sons and daughters to desire or understand the importance of good moral values? How do we set them on a God-pleasing path? British philosopher and theologian G. K. Chesterton commended the virtues of fairy tales:
My first and last philosophy, that which I believe in with unbroken certainty, I learnt in the nursery. I generally learnt if from a nurse; that is from the solemn and star-appointed priestess at once of democracy and tradition. The things I believed most then, the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales. (Orthodoxy, 87)
A classical education presents to children, especially the very young, fables exemplifying moral values and fairy tales demonstrating the true, good, and beautiful that derives from their characters’ actions. When the truth is told, good will prevail. Out of this good, something beautiful will occur. What a young child cannot be taught through immediate personal experience, he/she learns in God’s Word and other stories from the past. Children love stories. They can relate to the characters and scenarios in them. They have a strong desire for the triumph of right over might. By forming a mental bond with these characters and their challenges, they begin to shape their own moral imagination, giving them the desire for goodness while God’s love gives them refuge. Vigen Guroian, author of Tending the Heart of Virtue, writes:
The great fairy tales and children’s fantasy stories attractively depict character and virtue. In these stories the virtues glimmer as if in a looking glass, and wickedness and deception are unmasked of their pretensions to goodness and truth. The stories make us face the unvarnished truth about ourselves and compel us to consider what kind of people we want to be. (Guroian, “Awakening the Moral Imagination”, https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2013/05/awakening-the-moral-imagination.html )
In Bible stories, God tells us how we are saved through Jesus’ love and forgiveness. We are all His children and have a purpose to love and care for one another. His word is true and good, which encourages us to be good people. His word gives us strength to carry on when we are weary and discouraged.
In the end we want to live “happily ever after,” but life is a bumpy road. As parents and teachers, we need to give our children the foundation and tools to cope with the perils of this world while achieving success. By means of stories then, we can hope for the formation of wisdom and virtue in the hearts and minds of our children. As Guroian concludes, “When the moral imagination is wakeful, the virtues come to life.”