I know we all believe in fairy stories (you can’t deny something you don’t believe exists). They provide important messages about essential social values, and lessons in things like caution, hope, valour and persistence.

Anthropologists have shown that the popular fables and myths we call fairy stories exist in all cultures, so it’s likely that they are more that just ‘stories’ and that they provide something vital to the human psyche.

Most of these lessons are absorbed subconsciously during our upbringing, but they are also reinforced throughout our lives in various ways, the cinema and popular media, for example.

But they are still just stories. You are not supposed to take them too literally. If you do, at best you’ll be disappointed, at worst you’ll be unprepared for some of life’s trials (the ones the fairy stories are supposed to help you prepare for in the first place).

Fairy tales miss out the hard work

One thing about both ancient and modern fairy tales is that they miss out a lot of detail. They never show the idealised couple arguing, the hero suffering from his injuries, nor the pain and torment of the victim (ogres and wicked-witches have feelings too).

Don’t get me wrong, I love stories. Humans have been called the ‘storytelling species’ for good reason, and stories shape every part of our lives. But fairy tales are a form of propaganda, and there is always at least one other side to every story.

So be careful of the stories you tell, and even more cautious about the ones you believe in. People do live happily ever after, some of us meet our ‘perfect partner’, ‘soul-mate’ or even our prince or princess, but the ones that succeed will always have worked at it, through good times and bad.