The Fairy Tale Atlas

Fairy tales as road maps to transitioning terrain


The Fairy Tale Atlas is a twelve-week online course run by Dr Joanna Gilar. It is an exploration of the fairy tale and its resonance and ramifications in today’s changing world.

It is very difficult, in our rapid world, to hold space to encounter, process, and digest stories, even stories endemic to our culture. The course is an introduction to talking with fairy tales. It aims to hold a conversation both about and with the old tales, and think about telling and re-telling tales in ways that speak to both their and our complexities, and explores their ancient and modern role in guiding us along the map of life on earth.

The course is relevant to anyone with a genuine interest in fairy tales, whether long time folk reader or curious beginner. No previous experience is necessary, but a willingness to take fairy tales seriously in their dual complexity of light-hearted entertainment and sacred art is vital. Relevant for teachers, storytellers, artists, parents or readers, it is a course that provides space for you to think differently, creatively and independently about these ancient building blocks of folk culture, and opens a door to fluency in the language of the fabulous.



Course Content


The course will take the form of an in-depth exploration of five of our culture’s best known fairy tales, from Cinderella to Sleeping Beauty to the Frog King. Each fortnight will be focused on close discussion of a particular tale. We will explore historical and cultural variants of the story as well as its psychological and mythological interpretations. Yet rather than considering the fairy tale as artefact, the central question of the course will be learning how each story can locate us – guide us in living more deeply and carefully within the complexity of our enchanted world.

The fortnightly modules will follow the pattern below:

1) Cinderella and Intimate Kin

2) Sleeping Beauty and Wild Sleep

3) Rites, Rituals and Little Red Riding Hood

4) Waste, Water and Wonder in the Frog King

5) Eating the Woods with Snow White


Course Structure


The course is deliberately planned to provide space and time to consider the tales in their depth and complexity.  Every fortnight, you will receive a set of materials on the particular story, including downloadable material and recommended further reading. You will also receive an email every week with creative and reflective exercises.

The course will also include invitation to a private Facebook group for discussion of all course materials and reflections. This will allow interaction between participants and space to share responses to and experiences of the stories, and is thus a significant part of the course. (Pleae note that if you do not have Facebook it is still possible to complete the course, but sadly you will miss out on a significant amount of discussion. Currently, Facebook is the best option for a free and rich discussion space, although we respect the decision of anyone who would rather not take part.)

A weekly 60-minute webinar session will provide space for two seminars on every story; each seminar will be part lecture, and part discussion forum, and will take place on weekend afternoons. They will be available online for anyone who cannot take part.


Dates, Payment and Enrolment

The spring 2019 course is now full; please sign up to our newsletter to be kept informed of future dates. 

Image: ‘And Gladdens the Day’ by Lucy Campbell:

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