What do we read them for, and how do we read them? We read for the telling, for the “and then he … and then she … and so it turned out …” as far as “they lived happily ever after”, which takes the story out of the time of the telling. Aristotle said you could have tragedy without character; he was right – and we can also have stories without character or feeling. Maria Tatar, the Harvard expert on children’s literature, feels that children read such tales typically by siting themselves in the world of the tales as fascinated onlookers or audiences, not as part of the closed world of the story. Reading in this way is a particular and necessary pleasure, quite different from reading for instruction, or identification with feeling.
From the remarkably good fairy tales series at the Guardian UK.