Lately, I've been reading stories. Fairy tales, mostly, as I prepare for a summer course I am facilitating.
Did you know that older men and women appear in almost every fairy tale, but they are usually minor characters. They are usually cast as the wicked or the evil or as the unbelievable good. Rarely do fairy tales cast the older person as a realistic main character.
Fairy tales make life a little easier by offering a vision of what life can be. I like fairy tales because they focus on ordinary people with fears, frailties and other human qualities that I can relate to because I share them. I believe this is what makes them so enduring and accessible; they are about average people with similar aspirations and values.
But what about portraying the aging process in fairy tales? With advances in diet, public health, and medical practices we all can expect to live to an age never dreamed of by our grandparents. But what's the point of this gift of longevity? What is the meaning and purpose of living so long? Where are the stories and myths that will assist us on our journey to discover these things?
In a society centered on youth, the older person finds herself caught between the ominous cloud of "decline" and the striving for eternal youthfulness. How can you win in this struggle?
Elder tales might offer a dramatic alternative to this struggle, or at least some respite. They could portray a new image of maturity with a focus on transcendence, hope, generativity and self actualization instead of decline and decay. Allen Chinen in his book "In the Ever After: Fairy Tales In the Second Half of life" suggests that elders and therefore "elder tales" are paradoxical. They could entertain children with the magic, suspense and inspiration, as they also address the concerns of the mature adults who struggle with the physical, spiritual and psychological tasks of later life.
To this end I am collecting new and old elder tales to share with the world. Please share whatever you have and consider this site as a place for your stories and tales for the good of intentional agers everywhere. In fact, why not write a new one and post it here?
"Once upon a time ......."