As some of you may know, I was accepted several months ago to the staff of Ink and Fairydust. I was thrilled to discover that, after my first article, they had offered me a position as a staff writer! I was to have my own column! You will see this column in the next issue; look for “The Writer’s Magic” by myself.
In the last issue, I had an article published called “The Importance of Fairytales.” If you wish to read it in the magazine, go here – http://issuu.com/inkandfairydust/docs/jan-feb/9 – (I highly recommend subscribing; it’s free, wonderful, and I write for it. Yes.)
However, I decided to post the article here on my blog, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
The Importance of Fairytales
By Mirriam Neal
“It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.”
Nowadays, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of fairy tales. Skyscrapers have replaced castles, concrete has replaced long dirt roads, and shining armor has been replaced by baggy jeans.
It can seem like there’s simply no room for fairy-tales. Harsh reality has replaced the magic and wonder of the days when princesses and dragons were real.
Fantasy has no place in reality, so people say.
But to me, this only increases their importance. Fairy-tales are not simply meaningless stories told to entertain. They’re important. In a world that leeches the color from everything, fairy tales spark that glint of magic; that shade of brilliant blue in a cloudy sky.
We need stories. We need fairy tales. Nowadays there is a greater need for them than there has ever been before. An article written shortly after the release of the blockbuster Avatar discussed how viewers often fell into depression after watching the film, because our world seemed bland and colorless in comparison to the one depicted. And I quote: “James Cameron’s completely immersive spectacle ‘Avatar’ may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.”
People are spiritually thirsty. They want hope, color, mystery. People are more in need of magic than they have ever been before.
Just look around you. Movies, books, and music all portray mystery, love, and magic. People are longing for something beyond this world. C. S. Lewis once stated, “If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
I believe that is exactly why we have this deep hunger for things beyond our reach. God has created in us a higher calling; a longing for something more. Something beautiful and perfect and full of everything we’ve ever dreamed.
He created in us a vision of Heaven; one which we cannot help but try and fulfill on earth.
Fairy-tales are important because they help keep that spark of Heaven alive. G. K. Chesterton put it beautifully when he said in Tremendous Trifles;
“Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.
Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness and stronger than strong fear.”
Fairy tales gives us a glimpse of something nobler and full of wonder. They give us a glimpse of chivalry, danger, monsters, courtship, honor, valor, peril. In a world where black and white are blurred into gray, fairy tales are full of villains and heroes, good versus evil, where the good always wins.
I don’t believe that this is a foolish or unrealistic view of the world. Deep down, people know that it is not a false view, because we see the patterns for it everywhere in the world around us. Darkness gives way to the morning rays of sunlight. Wars that seem to last for an eternity finally end. Napoleon once said that the pen is mightier than the sword, and he was right. With words, we can craft stories that are representations of what we want. We can create hope and bring light to darkness. Fairy tales – indeed, stories themselves – are special things. Neil Gaiman says in his work Fragile Things,
“Stories, like people and butterflies and songbirds’ eggs and human hearts and dreams, are also fragile things, made up of nothing stronger or more lasting than twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks. Or they are words on the air, composed of sounds and ideas—abstract, invisible, gone once they’ve been spoken—and what could be more frail than that? But some stories, small, simple ones about setting out on adventures or people doing wonders, tales of miracles and monsters, have outlasted all the people who told them, and some of them have outlasted the lands in which they were created.”
The written word is one of the most powerful things on earth. Do we use them for good, or for evil? Cynics say that fairy-tales are for dreamers.
But I say, what’s wrong with dreaming?