"Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again." -- C.S. Lewis
What is it about myths and fairy tales that continues to fascinate me, that keeps showing up as themes in my writing and elements in the stories that I like? The simple answer is that fables aren't just tales for children but for us all. They have universal meaning and timeless appeal. They are the foundation of all the popular modern fantasies.
Joseph Campbell explored all this in The Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth, explaining how those fundamental mythic models appeared in ancient creation myths from every civilization around the globe throughout history. Authors from Lewis Carroll to L. Frank Baum to C.S. Lewis to J.K. Rowling have revisited these elements in their imaginary worlds of Wonderland, Oz, Narnia, and Hogwarts.
Motion pictures have used the mythic hero's journey repeatedly from Star Wars to The Matrix. Jonathan Young wrote a great article called "Fairy Tale Movies Speak to Adults," examining the continuing presence of these archetypes in current cinema.
Comic books have been one of the greatest media to continue the legacy of fairy tales. All the superheroes are modern extensions of the gods of ancient myths. Specific comics have reimagined the classic stories and nursery rhymes, most notably Bill Willingham's epic Fables and Zenescope Entertainment's Grimm Fairy Tales, setting the old, familiar characters in modern settings.
Alan Moore's Lost Girls examines the lives of Alice of Wonderland, Dorothy of Oz, and Wendy from Peter Pan's Neverland from a grown-up perspective, shedding light on a world of elusive innocence where modern dangers have other guises compared to the wolves, dragons, witches, and trolls of older tales. Be warned, some of these reimagined fairy tales are definitely for adults only and not suitable for children.
There are many lessons still to be learned from those stories and the countless incarnations that have been written since, and the countless more still to come.