The Ingredients of a Good Fairy Tale

Today, I have a very special guest, Dr. Lesley Philips, author of The Midas Tree. She’s written a great article on the perfect ingredients for a good fairy tale.  Enjoy.  🙂



My new book, “The Midas Tree”, came to me as a vision.

I did not plan to write a book for a specific genre or audience. Rather the book was given to me and then I had to figure out what I had created. Those who have read it, liken it to a modern day fairy story, a fantasy adventure novel (e.g. Alice in Wonderland) or even new age fiction (e.g. The Celestine Prophesy).

It definitely follows the hero’s journey and has elements of all of the above and more.

So what makes a good fairy tale?

This is what JRR Tolkien says about them “The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords.”

I decided to do some internet research, reflect on Tolkien’s words and my experiences reading fairy stories as a child and compare them to “The Midas Tree.”

Is it the characters?

The first question is must there be fairies? It seems that the consensus on that is no. There must be some form of other worldly creature, but they don’t necessarily have to be called fairies.

  • The Midas Tree has nature spirits called devas, each of whom has a role within the tree and is the keeper of a piece of spiritual knowledge.

The second question is must there be talking animals? It seems to me that this is another common element. Sometimes they help and other times they hinder, but they very often feature in a classic fairy tale.

  • The Midas Tree has a talking woodpecker, bat, bees, ants, spiders, ladybugs, grubs, bluebirds and chipmunks.

Is it the magic and enchantments?

Perhaps there is a magical potion that puts the heroine to sleep or makes her taller or smaller. Maybe there is an elixir or everlasting life or a witches’ brew. These are all common elements.

  • The Midas Tree has a deva who lures the hero into sticky situations with her alluring whispers and exotic brews.

Is it the demons and tricksters?

The classic fairy tale always has temptations that entice the hero into a trap and finding a way out challenges him to the very core.

  • The Midas Tree has entrapments and trials of patience and wit; as well battles of the ego that must be overcome.

Is it the plot or the quest?

Commonly the hero or heroine is thrust against their will into an extraordinary new reality. They find out they are special in some way and are propelled into a journey where they must search for something or someone and on the way must overcome internal and external demons.

  • Joshua, the her of The Midas Tree, finds a magical acorn that transports from his home  to an adventure inside a tree. In order to return home, he must learn many lessons, so that he can turn the tree and himself to gold.

Must there be a moral at the end?

Aesop’s fables and biblical parables share many of the common elements of the fairy story; as they provide an analogy of life and aim to teach an important moral lesson by presenting some sort of ethical dilemma or challenge of the ego.

  • Each chapter within The Midas Tree is like a story within a story, in that it presents a unique spiritual lesson, and provides the tools and techniques necessary to learn it.

Does the story have to be short?

I don’t believe there is an ideal size for a fairy tale. Many are quite short, such a “Little Red Riding Hood” but some are full length novels like “Lord of the Rings.”

  • The Midas Tree is a full length novel, although as mentioned above there are many shorter stories within the main story.

Must it be for children?

According to Wikipedia, the older fairy tales were intended for an audience of adults, as well as children. They were part of an oral folklore tradition. More recently, they have been more closely associated with children.

  • The Midas Tree is for children of all ages. It has been read and enjoyed by everyone who has read it from twelve years old and up.ü

So at the end of this, my conclusion is that The Midas Tree could be viewed as a modern-day fairy tale. Although this is a genre that crosses over into action, adventure, fable, fantasy, parable and more. I think my book has elements of them all and I am looking forwards to finding out where it will make its home.

Dr. Lesley Phillips is a speaker, author, workshop leader, spiritual and meditation teacher based in Vancouver BC, Canada. Her book “The Midas Tree” will be published on November 11th 2012. She can be reached at:

Twitter: @DrLesleyP

New Hobbit Trailer is here!


I normally don’t do two posts in one day, but have you all seen the new trailer for The Hobbit?

I have to say, Peter Jackson is a genius.  This film looks positively amazing.  I’m sure he took some poetic license with this film as he did with LOTR, but he is a brilliant man, and it’s really hard to believe, after watching the trailers, he had serious snags in the beginning with producing this film.  There is even talk of a 3-part trilogy to tell Bilbo’s tale.  What do you guys think?

here is the original trailer that came out 3 months ago.

For those unfamiliar with the story, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” follows Bilbo Baggins on his epic quest with 13 dwarves to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.

Do you plan on seeing The Hobbit?  After seeing the trailers, what’s your enthusiasm level, with ‘1’ 🙂 being ‘eh’ to 5 🙂 being OMGosh, When can I buy tickets?

I’m at 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂


G is for Gandalf versus Dumbledore

This is a continuation of the A-Z blog challenge.  Click here to see the list of all 1935 participants!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series as well as watched all the movies, and each time I’m drawn to the parallels between the two. As a writer, it has been drilled into me how important it is to make my characters and my story unique, to not let them be like something that has already been done. Yet here I am, looking at these two stories, both unique in their settings and story, and I can’t help but compare two of the prominent characters: Gandalf and Dumbledore.


– They both have long white hair and beards
– They are both the greatest, wisest and kindest wizards of their time.
– They rally around the underdogs and help them to defeat the “Dark Lord”
– They care about those less fortunate than them
– They are both guides, counselors
– They are both very well respected
– They both like to interfere
– They are both courageous
– They both fight fearsome enemies
– They are both unmarried


– Gandalf’s and Dumbledore’s magic are not the same, nor are the reasons they use it.
– Gandalf has one wizard to face: Sauron. Dumbledore has many running around who want to see him dead.
– Dumbledore is more passive than Gandalf. He’s more of a ‘let me teach you the skills, but you’re going to have to do the rest’ kind of guy. Gandalf doesn’t have time nor the inclination to teach magic. His focus is defeating the bad guy and he’ll get in the middle of the action and put his life on the line to do it.
– Gandalf rides horses and wields a wicked sword. Dumbledore can vaporize you with a thought?  Why does he need a sword?
– Gandalf comes back from the dead. Dumbledore…yeah, not so much.
– Gandalf and Dumbledore are both fatherly types, but Gandalf is more stern. He’s more of the sort who’ll bop you over the head for doing something foolish. Dumbledore will talk to you, make you see the errors of your ways.
– Dumbledore’s knowledge is limited. Gandalf’s is vast.
– Dumbledore had a brother. Gandalf didn’t
– Dumbledore was mortal. He could rid himself of this world. Mortality, however, was not a gift Gandalf had. He HAD to make sure the underdog succeeded. If he failed in his task, Sauron would have taken over Middle Earth, and without the Valar’s intervening, life would have been much worse. The whole world was a risk. If Sauron lived, Gandalf would have to live with his own failure forevermore. Gandalf had much more at stake should he lose the battle for Middle Earth. Dumbledore got off easy because he could die.

There is a whole other list of character similarities between Harrry Potter and Lord of the Rings:

Harry = Frodo
Ron = Sam
Voldemort = Sauron = Dark Lords (please)
Dementors = Ringwraiths
Horcruxes = The Ring
Fred and George = Merry and Pippin
Sirius = Aragorn/Faramir
Hagrid = Gimli
Regulus = Boromir

But I won’t go into that today. What I do want to say is that it’s okay to recycle characters when you write, so long as you make the characters and stories ‘yours’. Make them unique to you, to your world. Give the reader something they don’t expect. Study the past characters. What can you do to make yours different from what’s been done? Give your characters vulnerabilities. Strip away the clichés and define your characters, your story. If you’re lucky, someday someone may compare your best-seller novel to a classic. I could think of worse things to happen.

And now for your entertainment needs: