About the Author
Michelle Tocher, M.A., M.J.
For three decades, Michelle Tocher has been writing, telling stories, and speaking about the healing power of fairy tales. She is author of several celebrated books that demonstrate the practical and spiritual relevance of myth, including Brave Work: A Guide to the Hero’s Journey at Work, and How to Ride a Dragon: Women with Breast Cancer Tell Their Stories..
In addition to writing parables for our times such as the award-winning film “Soul Fish,” and the beloved illustrated book, “The Broad Mind,” Michelle conducts workshops that enable people to step into fairy tales and experience their transformative power.
She has served as an Artist in Residence for Gilda’s Club of Greater Toronto, and Casey House, a hospice and treatment center for people with HIV/AIDS. Michelle is passionate about creating common ground through myth-telling, and is constantly creating opportunities for people of all abilities to have meaningful artistic experiences.
Prior to 1995, she was President of Creative Premises Ltd., a communications company that served profit and not-for-profit organizations promoting health and social well-being. She has two Masters degrees, in history and journalism, and is a member of Storytelling Toronto, and Storytellers of Canada (Conteurs du Canada.)
Why Fairy Tales? A Few Words from the Author
I’ve been doing WonderLit myself for about three decades now. I continue to be surprised by what I find when I imagine my way into a fairy tale. It’s never what I think I’m going to find. I might think that I want to see what happens when Cinderella meets her fairy godmother, and instead my imagination finds Cinderella feeding a piece of cheese to a mouse. To my astonishment, the mouse is telling Cinderella something that I need to know, making the story a real fairy godmother.
That kind of magic has been happening since I first started venturing into fairy tales back in the mid 1990s. I had been telling them for a few years but I soon turned to them as a source of healing. I needed to find perspective with the gritty and unexpected things had happened in my life. One of the toughest was the experience of mystifying chronic pain and fibromyalgia. I felt trapped in my body and repeatedly found myself thinking about Rapunzel stuck in her tower. When I went into the storylines I found that she was singing happily from her prison window.
I wondered how one finds that kind of joy when you’re locked in a body that felt like a “prison of bones.” As I used my imagination to walk the path of her story, I started to consider the freedom I truly had. How did I wish to be within the conditions of my life? The question prompted deep shifts and led me to sources of delight I never would have imagined.
I think of fairy tales as a storyteller thinks of them, and I’ve been blessed to learn the art from some of the great teachers in the Toronto storytelling community. They have taught me to see the stories as a country, a place to go inside that opens up many more places inside. I’ve lived many lives in stories. I’ve been an exiled daughter, a wounded soldier, a frog under a spell, a nightingale in a cage. I’ve seen human beings from the point of view of birds, trees, the shoes we wear, the mirrors we look into. I’ve discovered that all these varied viewpoints alter the way we relate to the world outside.
Storytellers have a long tradition of walking into stories, and my work is just one part of a broader reclamation of mythic territory. There are many new doors to open as we retell the old stories and see the possibilities within them for new and timely revelations.
While the world continues to scorn fairy tales and confuse them with wishful fantasies, I believe they are a treasure given to us by our ancestral mothers. They show up in the stories as spirit mothers, speaking animals and fairy godmothers. “The myth is not my own,” said Euripides. “I have it from my mother.”
When I follow the thread back in time, I find my very very very great granny sitting by the fire with her spinning wheel. She’s doing the archetypal work of spinning the thread of life and weaving it into good coats to wear in inclement weather. The stories belong to what in Germany was known as “rockenphilosophie,” the philosophy of the spinning wheel. It’s practical stuff. The clothing keeps changing but the thread remains the same, and it has always had the same function, to lead us back to ourselves, to the heart of the world.
I’ll end with a picture that I painted a few years ago. It expresses my gratitude for the myths that light up our lives and the people who have lived them.