On Fairy Tales

From an essay published in Die Furche. Eberhard Arnold discusses the importance of fairy tales.

It is not obvious to everyone what deep inner values are concealed in the simple folklore of fairy tales and legends. The longing for redemption comes to light in all the diverse forms. In severe suffering and conflict the demand for justice proves itself. In fairy tales it is the victory of good over evil that is constantly being fought for. The blessing of work, the overcoming of fear, the power of love, an abundance of practical wisdom is brought close to our hearts in priceless humor. It is never brutal force but always what is noble and pure that is exalted in simple poetic expression.

The fact that the fairy tale claims so large a place in modern literature is a sign of the turning away from materialistic realism to romanticism and idealism which is being experienced in our time. The confusion of vague longing corresponds to a need. Men sense where this longing is leading them and still they do not want to admit it. According to Novalis, “All fairy tales are only friends from that homeland which is everywhere and nowhere”.

Even though it is not stated anywhere in these tales the working out of the conception of redemption, the profound influence of most genuine Christianity is unmistakable. ...The gushing, fresh water of spiritual strength and help that was lost through guilt is restored through the most painful sacrifice of a surrendered life. These stories deserve to be widely known for their fine structure, wealth of illustration, and depth of content. At times their inner character comes very close to that of legends.


Original article published in Die Furche, 1917.

Article edited for length and clarity.