The world of gorgeous gowns, gallant princes, enchanted forests, twinkly fairies, magical creatures and towering castles isn't just for wide-eyed little girls.

Some people scoff at the fantasy world of fairy tales and happily-ever-after endings. The cynical might say that such stories don't mirror real life. They're a waste of time and hold no place in the real world.

Don't we all need an occasional escape from life's harshness? Fairy tales offer so much: faith in a happy ending, a belief in beauty and a creative outlet via an enchanting tale. We can remind ourselves and teach our kids that beauty and magic exist when we look for them. They serve to enhance a dreary day and offer hope and romance.

In the novel "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith, impoverished 18-year-old Katie complains to her mother about the bleak, physically challenging life that lies ahead for her and her infant daughter. Frustrated, Katie wonders how she can create a better life for her daughter.

Katie's mother, an uneducated Austrian immigrant, teaches her that the key lies in reading and writing. She counsels Katie to teach her daughter about Santa Claus and fairies. Katie thinks this sounds ridiculous. "Why? When I, myself, do not believe?" she asks.

I love the wisdom of the old woman's reply: "Because ... the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination ..."

Katie points out that her daughter will grow up and discover that she'd lied. Her mother answers, "That is what is called learning the truth. It is a good thing to learn the truth one's self. To first believe with all your heart, and then not to believe, is good too. It fattens the emotions and makes them to stretch. When as a woman, life and people disappoint her, she will have had practice in disappointment and it will not come so hard."

What a wonderful lesson on the importance of sharing stories and legends.

Adults and children can also adopt the morals that fairy tales offer:

Set your sights on a prince or princess rather than settling on a frog

Develop standards and goals for dating and marriage. Hold out for the right person, and don't settle for less.

Evil always loses

The villains in fairy tales are unhappy creatures. They make choices that are selfish and cruel. They may experience momentary pleasure and power, but are they ever truly happy and content? In real life, the bad guys ultimately lose and good triumphs.

Be kind and make good friends

The sidekicks and pals of fairy tales' heroes and heroines always pull through. When the princess is in a pinch, her friends arrive at just the right time to give aid and save the day. Teach your kids to surround themselves with good and loyal friends.

Don't discount fairy tales. Enjoy the old stories, enrich your children's imaginations, and embrace the morals of the stories.

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