I'll admit it: I love fairy tales, and I'm not ashamed. Some people may scorn them as boring, trashy fluff, or roll their eyes at the notion that every story has a happy ending, but that only shows how few good fairy tales they've read. Maybe the watered-down versions of Grimms' fairy tales that permeate American pop culture are boring---I don't exactly find Disney's Cinderella scintillating. But no one could call the tale of the greedy miller's wife who murders her adoptive son "boring". Gruesome, yes, but not boring.
Fairy tales open doors into a kind of magic and strangeness that you can't get to by any other path. In otherworlds, absurdity is welcomed, nonsense invited. Nothing is impossible, and while sometimes that means travelling a well-worn route (e.g. the prince is transformed and marries the princess, the girl is rescued from the ogre by the talking cat), other times it means floating right away from reality and cliche into total bizarreness. It all depends on the storyteller, and how skillfully they twist what you know into something different.
Italo Calvino, who created a "popular collection of Italian fairy tales for the general reader," knew this power of the fairy tale. George Martin's translation of Calvino's collected folktales grabs me by the heart every time. Birds speak, tramps are princes, and Wooden Maria dons an oak dress to escape a marriage to her father. Nothing is impossible. When I read it, sentences leap out from the stories and surprise me into laughter. This one, for instance: "At the bottom of the mountain was a door that led directly to Scotland."
Wouldn't that be cool? A door leading directly to Scotland. I think I'm going to keep an eye out for those, as well as more fairy tales. I don't think I'll ever get to old to enjoy them, as long as they have things as strange as doors to Scotland.