In his book, The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler, who has consulted on stories for Disney movies (like The Lion King), talks about why ancient myths and folk tales have such enduring relevance:
“They deal with the childlike universal questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where will I go when I die? What is good and what is evil? What will tomorrow be like? Where did yesterday go? Is anybody else out there?”
Are such ideas too “big”, too sophisticated for kids?
I don’t think so. In their own way, kids are already thinking and feeling about these kinds of issues anyway. Especially as they approach adolescence.
In fact, kids like being challenged to think about big things—as long as it’s done in a language they can relate to, and in a way that meets them where they are.
This is one of the things that fairy tales and folk tales do so well. They allow children’s minds to “play” with big life issues (such as the loss of a parent, being poor, being ostracized, etc.) in a way that feels safe because it is in the context of a make-believe story.
These stories give children subconscious reassurance that it’s okay to explore big life issues and problems. It tells them, subliminally, “you can handle it.”
And they can.