Dr. Reverend Barbara Edema revisits The Nightingale with a piece that adds to our prompt to retell fairy tales and myths. She compassionately acknowledges the difficult reality of survivor’s experiences in comparison to the uncomplicated fairy tales we’re used to. Edema’s affirming message reminds survivors that strength, truth, and that “happily-ever-after’s” can be found in any story.


When the Fairy Tale Ends

by Rev. Dr. Barb Edema

What is a fairy tale? A dream? An adventure?

A princess, a predator, a savior.

Singing animals and mice that sew.

Have you lived a fairy tale? Who were you?

Did you dance and sing? Did you wear a princess dress? Were you a little boy searching for treasure?

Did you walk in the woods? Did it get dark?

Did you trip and fall and rip your dress? Did you walk into a cave and get lost?

Did someone come along and grab you in the dark?

Fairy tales are make-believe, unless you have lived one.

The wolves are there. The wicked witch, evil queen, and forest monsters are there.

They lie in wait or loom in plain sight. They attack.

But there is a promise of a savior! A shining knight, a handsome prince, a genie, a fairy-godmother or a good sister. Surely, you will be rescued.

Or you won’t.

Fairy tales are tales. They are fiction. They are false narratives.

You are living in real life.

There may be parallels to fairy tales, but real life is rarely so tidy. Real life doesn’t wrap up so neatly.

No more fairy tales.

When the fairy tale ends and is put aside, the beauty and ugliness of reality becomes our truth.

Your truth. My truth. The truth.

Have you been relieved of your darkness? Have you seen a promising ray of sunlight? Have you healed a bit? Do you remember how to dance?

You don’t have to be your own hero. We’re in this together. We share stories, ideas, hope, and our wounded bodies and souls.

We don’t expect someone to save us. Rather, we link arms and hold one another as we go forward together.

For all those caring people who believe our stories, give us encouragement, and a cup of tea, we say thank you.

We heal step by step. We have brand, new dreams and they are the reality we live into each day.

No more fairy tales.

However, the possibilities of “happily-ever-after” are endless. Really.

And happily-ever-after belongs to you and me. It will not elude us. It is hard won, and worth our anticipation and expectation of living in health and happiness. It’s certainly a process.

It’s not a fairy tale.



The Reverend Dr. Barbara Edema has been a pastor for over twenty five years. Her most recent pastorate was interim work at an open and affirming church in Grand Ledge, Michigan. She is a survivor of sexual abuse. She is the author of poems and prose about abuse and healing. She is also the author of The Pastor Maggie Series available at Amazon.com and Pen-L.com. She is a wife, mother, and happy owner of four rescue cats.