Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Forget not Fairy Tales

Today, while I was in the library, I set down St. Anselm's Cur Deus Homo, and went to the children's literature section- a tiny portion of a small division of a single bookshelf. I was contemplating whether I wanted to check out The Hobbit or look into The Tale of Despereaux, when a girl walked up to the same section with a copy of The Hobbit to return the bookshelf.

We were both embarrassed to be discovered among the fairy tales.

"Oh... excuse me."

"No worries... I'm glad someone else uses this part of the library"

"Yeah! I love children's books... I mean... not that The Hobbit's a children's book"

"Oh, yeah, I love The Hobbit"

"Yeah, I need to put it away, otherwise I wont get any homework done..."

I relate this chance encounter to you, reader, because I think that in the rush of our lives, we ought not forget fairy tales. Infinitely greater minds and far more poetic souls have argued for the relevance and importance of myths and fairy tales, so I will not burden you with my attempts to replicate them.

I feel like, at least for my generation, returning to children's books is fairly normal, so that understanding their importance is not the pressing need- the pressing thing is to be reminded of the wonder and goodness that fills the best fairy tales.

Too often, I am tempted to read my weathered copy of A Farewell to Arms because it looks like the type of book a mature, artistic English major would read; when truth be told, I would rather be reading a Narnian chronicle. This is not to belittle Hemingway; quite the opposite. It is to belittle my selfish motives for reading him, the same selfish motives that prevent me from reading him as he ought to be read. I will never read Hemingway well if I cannot read Rowling well.

So this week, forget ambition, and forget the appearance of intellectual maturity, but forget not fairy tales: literary insight cannot be divorced from the prior delight of stories.


Ariel said...

Thank you for the exhortation. It is reassuring to know that my love for fairytales is not a silliness that has not yet worn off.