“Fairy tales are about a lot more than fairy tales,” says John Green, who co-founded the company that makes the best-selling, Emmy-winning film The Fault in Our Stars.
“They’re about the power of stories, the way people respond to stories.
And fairy tales have been around since the dawn of time, and the only reason people love them is because they’re very simple.”
In his book, The Myth of the Good Life: The Power of the Everyday Story, Green lays out his own philosophy on the origins of the genre: In fact, he says, the fairy tales of the Bible and other Christian traditions “were very similar to the fairy stories of our modern times.”
So why are we so fascinated by them?
It’s all in the storytelling, Green says.
“I think there’s something very beautiful about the way stories make us feel.”
What’s in a story?
“Fairy stories have a lot in common with a good story,” Green says, “and they’re all about what happens when you try to make sense of the world around you.”
In the case of The Fault, Green argues that the good story is about the consequences of being good, while the bad story is the result of being bad.
The good story involves a good person, a good family, and a good place, and they’re punished by bad things happening around them.
But, he points out, in the bad stories, those things happen to a lot of people, too.
And that’s why we can all be so invested in a good character.
“We’re all in this story together, which is why it’s so important to tell a good, well-told story,” he says.
In the bad fairy tales, bad people are bad, and bad places are good.
It’s a cycle of evil, the bad places become evil, and people get hurt.
Green says we’re all victims of the same curse, a curse of our own making, which will eventually break us.
Green’s idea of the good fairy tale is a world in which, in his words, “everyone is a child of God.”
But the bad ones, he adds, are a kind of outsider: “They come from another planet, they are alien to our society, and it’s very scary.”
Green also believes in a moral compass: “In a world where we’re always talking about people being evil and people being bad, the question is: What’s good?
And what’s right?””
The good fairy tales are not about a good guy or a bad guy, but about the right thing,” he continues.
“What’s good about a person?
What is right about them?
The answer is, the world is not a moral universe.
The world is a magical world.”
What to do when you hear a fairy taleYou can listen to the full interview with John Green on the latest episode of the NPR show “Code Switch.”