This wonderful article, Storytelling and Harmonious Dwelling: The Role of Fairy Tales in Environmental Education by Joanna Coleman, instigates a fascinating and relevant discussion about our relationship with the animal world and how fairy tales can be a great tool for environmental education to help us engage in much needed dialogue with the natural world.
Western thinking often maintains the idea of a felicitous rift between human and animal; evincing our linguistic capacity as the proof of our unique humanity.
From fireside to nursery to novel, folk and fairy tale has unceasingly presented an alternative perspective; success is impossible unless we put aside our human voices and speak in the tongues of the wild world, or take off our skins and enter the fur of the forest dwellers. As the impending environmental crisis urges us towards a change of thought and heart, we are confronted with a paradox; how is it that we empathize, to a large extent, only with our own species, when our tales
remain those in which courtesy to other species is, according to Marie Louise von Franz, the only consistent moral imperative?
A theoretical introduction is followed by a discussion of the Czech fairy tale Zlatovlaska: Princess of the Golden Hair, a tale in which animal speaking triggers adventure, and animal empathy secures success. Ecocritical theory today converges in hope that imagination and storytelling can reconfigure our dysfunctional relationship to the natural world.
Yet how does this work in the reality of environmental education? Discussion of the tale is followed by a pedagogical exploration of the ecological potential of the story in a creative writing classroom.
Comparing and ‘unwrapping’ tales to explore the values held within can open a lively environmental dialogue, and writing itself can transform object to subject, and give voice to that which is mistakenly seen as mute. Fairy-tale writing and performance can allow students to negotiate their own, original journey between the human and themwild world.