Scars of Trauma, Fairy Tales, and “Deerskin”


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Fairy tales have many different meanings and uses, and one of them is to exorcise our demons. The things in our nightmares, like being abandoned by our parents or cornered by monsters, can be conceived of and defeated in a fairy tale. Demons can be defeated, heroes save the day, and everyone can live happily ever after.

In real life, the demons are much more insidious than in fairy tales. Monsters wear human faces. And our encounters with them can scar our souls.

Those kinds of demons are what Robin McKinley wrote about in her fairy tale “Deerskin.” The trauma that lives on in our souls and our bodies is the monster of this wonderful fairy tale. And as the demons are more terrifying in this story than in any Grimm brothers tale, so to is more demanded of her heroine.

At its best, literature helps us deal with the fears we cannot speak. But fairy tales are for the fears we can speak, but that we have to deal with anyway. The fears that are both fantastic and all too real. That’s what Deerskin is about. It’s about real trauma, and how to live through it.


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