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Fairy tales shed positive light on aging process

Karen Rae Kraut

Most folk or fairy tales relegate older people to cameo roles or bit parts as fairy godmothers, ailing grandmothers or wicked witches.

However, the few that feature an older person as the hero or protagonist can pack a pretty powerful message of transcending one’s own needs, shortcomings or losses and developing a new willingness to help others.

One example fromCroatiais about a mother who rejects a promise of eternal life and happiness to stay on Earth and protect her son, who is bewitched by an enchanted snake.  Her selfless act breaks the spell and frees her son of his obsession.

Professional story teller Karen Rae Kraut was experiencing a midlife crises about 20 years ago when she discovered the lessons of transcendence in a series of fairy tales centered around older characters compiled by psychiatrist Allan B. Chinen.

“It was transformative,” Kraut said. “I took another direction in my life and have been a professional story teller for the past 21 years.”

Kraut, a teaching and touring artist with the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, will teach “Fairy Tales and the Second Half of Life” class through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute sponsored by UCR Extension at the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences, 39000 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, Wednesdays beginning Oct. 26 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Osher members pay a fee of $40 per quarter, which entitles them to a $15 per class fee to attend college-level classes on a variety of subjects including history and the arts. Non members pay $30 per class. Classes also are conducted at the UCR Extension Center in Riverside and the Esplanade Arts Center in the San Jacinto Valley.

Kraut’s course will help participants gain an understanding of the promise and potential of the aging process through stories which deal with loss, self-confrontation, wisdom and transcendence.

Kraut, who taught the class for the first time earlier this year in Riverside, wasn’t sure how the class would react.

“They loved, it,” Kraut said. “During the class projects, we cried at the things people shared.”

One woman made a fairy door out of wood for the class project and gave it to her granddaughter, who loved fairies.

“She realized through taking the class that she wasn’t finished.  She had an important future in nurturing the capacity and development of her grandchildren,” Kraut said.  “ She embraced it as a mission in a new way.”

For further information about the “Fairy Tales and the Second Half of Life” class and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute go to or call (951) 827-7139. To enroll, call (951) 827-4105 or (760) 834-0997.

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