Middle Tales

Fairy tales are not just for children! Youth tales are the most common fairy tales and feature young heroes and heroines that “meet, fall in love, defeat horrible enemies, marry, and then live happily ever after.” But there are also middle tales and elder tales. Elder tales are fairy tales written for those in the upper age group of society while middle tales are for those of us in midlife. Middle tales begin where youth tales end — “when the Prince goes bald and the Princess has a midlife crisis.” They are stories that “portray middle-aged men and women juggling the demands of family and work, grappling with self-doubt and disillusionment, and ultimately finding deep new meaning in life.” (Chinen, 2003, p. 3)

Between the first half and the second is the period we call midlife. Midlife is a “liminal” state, rich in possibility but full of danger. It is often marked by disorientation, deep questioning of one’s purpose, and the likelihood of "getting stuck" in the first half. Movement from the first half of life to the second is generally determined by time spent in the discomfort and confusion of midlife.

Middle tales and subsequently elder tales contain many valuable lessons that facilitate the movement from first half of life to the second, and help put us on a path towards wisdom. Through these “fairy tales for later life” we learn a developmental sequence that helps illuminate the second half  — a life that is more in line with our true selves.

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