I like stories, I think all good, proverbs, tales and fairy tales are ultimately parables on real life. The way i see it red riding hood tells us beneath the image of a kindly grandmother a dangerous person can lurk, a warning perhaps on trusting people in positions of power.
The Wizard of Oz tells us we are all gifted with the same abilities and the greatest obstacles can be fought with the help of friends. In religious text we have even more parables with Muslims, Christians and Jews sharing common themes, the story of Moses and how he tried to explain the truth to the Pharaohs, tell us how bigots can ignore even insurmountable truth. Or in the story of Noah, and how his son did not heed his fathers warnings of the coming flood, tell us that even messengers can get ignored by their own flesh and blood. And there are the stories of human nature, the story of the frog and scorpion, about how the scorpion kills the frog while the frog is carrying him across the river 'because it is in his nature'.
My favourite are the ones about pride, Abdul Ghani Khan writes his Fairy Tale and tells us of the Princess who is losing her sight and the arrogant prince. The beggar who asks for 'Your kingdom for the drop of laughter and your pride for the drop of love' the cruel prince could not dream of either, one wonders if he lost both?
The great Persian writer Farid-uddin Attar tells us of another story of pride.
'Visit Satan, question him, use your head.'
So Moses descended to Hell's burning halls;
Satan saw him coming, a smile did he install
On his fiery face. Moses proudly asked him
For advice, waiting for Satan's crafty whim;
Satan spoke through his coal-black teeth:
'Remember this rule which sense bequeaths
Never say "I" so that you become like me.'
....You shall become your own tracked prisoner within.
The great Pakistani writer Saadat Hasan Minto wrote his own story, Toba Tek Singh where he tells us the tale of the people in the mental asylum at the time of partition and being forced apart on the basis of their religion. The man called Bishan Singh did not want to leave home and in the end of his bitter sweet story you wonder who the real ones needing help, those inside or the people outside the asylum ?
The more deductive reasoners amongst you and the cynics may be reading this and asking 'Why should we bother stories, tales and fairy tales in a world where evidence, rationality and science is often given so much weight. I can give you no answer of my own..but leave you with two things.. a quote and a talk. The former about why he thinks they are important “Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” G.K. Chesterton
The latter by great fiction writer Neil Gaiman who wants to give you some advice on what do if you were to ever wake up in your own fairy tale.