If the Shoe Fits – Life’s Lessons...

If the Shoe Fits – Life’s Lessons through Classic Fairy Tales

by Rochelle C. Pangilinan
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What was your favourite fairy tale growing up? Your most-loved fairy tales may have been around for 100 years or more, but they do not go out of style. A slew of movies, mostly animated ones, are based on these classic fairy tales, and there are innovative ways in which Hollywood comes up with modern re-tellings. Even on television, there is a program (“Grimm”) set in present-day Portland, Oregon which focuses on famous characters from the celebrated author’s creations.

While fairy tales are praised for the entertainment value they provide to kids (albeit sometimes laden with terror—just refer to how the Queen meets her horrific fate in the real ending of “Snow White”), most people do not truly appreciate the lessons in these stories that we can apply in real life. Below are some examples.


Charles Perrault’s “Cinderella” has been one of the many fairy tales which Hollywood has given both animated and live-action treatments, plus a modern spin (aptly titled “A Cinderella Story”). A few have criticised it for placing importance on vanity (Would the Prince have noticed Cinderella if she was not given a makeover?) or Cinderella’s lack of self-sufficiency (her fairy godmother had to enter the picture to ensure she can make it to the ball). However, look deep into the story, and you’ll learn a life lesson—even when Cinderella was continuously mistreated by her stepsisters and her stepmother, she handled the situation with grace and never mistreated them back.


The most obvious lesson from this tale by Carlo Collodi was to never lie. Of course, a nose growing longer was an exaggeration, but it simply was a hint that lies will eventually be found out, so it is always best to go the truthful route. What a lot of people don’t realize is that apart from that, “Pinocchio”also proved the lengths one is willing to go through to care for someone in need. Pinocchio initially was not the boy that Geppetto dreamt of as the puppet was unruly to him, even disobeying and lying to him. However, when he fell sick, Pinocchio realized the error of his ways and finally came through for Geppetto’s health.

The Little Mermaid

Who can’t forget the song from Disney’s animated treatment of this well-loved tale from Hans Christian Andersen? The song even smartly captured the little mermaid’s plight—she wants to try something new and different, but there are physical limitations. Sometimes we find ourselves with a desire or goal for something—we want to join the Spelling Bee, but we have a hard time with words, or we want to learn to dance, but we have two left feet, or we want to join the track and field team, but we hate to exercise. “The Little Mermaid” taught us that if we truly want something, we should go for it.

Jack and the Beanstalk

This tale by Joseph Jacobs, we realize how a seemingly good fortune can turn into a misfortune. In an alternative ending, when Jack succeeds in getting the gold coins, the golden eggs, and the golden harp, and killing the giant, his comfortable life is turned upside down by the giant’s wife, who wreaks havoc in his town. As such, we should not be mistaken that riches can provide us with what we need, so we should not let greed overcome our desire for a good, happy life.

The Three Little Pigs

This tale (author unknown) has been retold so many times and has often been given a comedic spoof version. Though it features anthropomorphic pigs, it’s a situation we can relate to at some point or another. We may have come across someone like the wolf who has terrorised us to a great deal. The best defense against someone who is more physically capable than us is to outwit them. The third little pig did just that to great results.

Think fairy tales are just for entertainment? They serve more than that if you give them a chance.

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