I love fairy tales. I read the ones adapted for children when I was a kid. I read the much scarier "originals" versions in college. As an adult, I still love a good fairy tale. I relish new spins on old stories. I look up the stories behind the stories when I get a hankering.
I came across a document a while back from J. R. R. Tolkien that was riveting. Tolkien wrote this piece, On Fairy-Stories, for a speech back in the late 1930's. It was first printed, with some help by C. S. Lewis, in the mid to late 40's. Several incarnations have been published over the years. It is 60 pages (including 10 pages of notes) of Tolkien's philosophy of fantasy and mythology. Read the entire text here.
Tolkien argues that the fantasy genre is able to help a reader see the world from a different perspective. He encourages leisure reading, or reading as an "escapist pleasure" for everyone. He also suggests that the happy ending of fairy tales can provide a person with consolation otherwise unachieved.
It is a long and interesting read. What Tolkien piece isn't? The notes at the end are an incredible insight into the mind of one of the pioneers of my favored genre.