Fairy Tales, Grownups, and An Overdue Confession
Maybe it’s just the season — it being Easter and all — but I have something I need to get off my chest…you know, a confession of sorts.
Before I acknowledge my alleged transgression, however, let me ask you a question (and then answer it).
J.R.R. Tolkien. George MacDonald. C.S. Lewis. Maurice Sendak. Neil Gaiman.
What do they all have in common?
Well, for starters, each penned fantasy literature at some time in his life. In addition, each of these authors experienced great success. It may also be said of these writers that their works have been enjoyed by the same audience: children everywhere.
But that’s not all. There’s something else about these rather accomplished wordsmiths. Are you ready? Here it is: by their own admission, none of these brilliant authors wrote for children. That’s right, none of these best selling children’s writers set out to create stories for youngsters alone.
Maria Popova, of BrainPickings.org, points out that Tolkien as well as Sendak and Gaiman are all on record saying that “there is no such thing as writing for children.” Additionally, C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” And Lewis’ fantasy-writing mentor, George MacDonald, once wrote that “children are not likely to trouble you about meaning. They find what they are capable of finding, and more would be too much. For my part, I do not write for children, but for the childlike, whether of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.”
I suppose in some sense, all of this begs the question: for whom are fairy tales written?
Well, all I know is that I find great comfort and encouragement from reading that some of my writing “heroes” wrote for all ages and not just children. You see, I love fairy tales. I love how they remind me how very small I am in this great big universe, and of how I am yet very important at the same time. I love how they teach about me about the truths of a world that is much greater than what my finite, limited vision can see and what my simple human mind can comprehend. I love how they help me to understand something of the wondrous Magic that not only exists in the world unseen but that is at all times working in our world for our good. And finally, I love how fairy tales help me to clearly see the contrast between the Light and the Darkness, reminding me that my decisions affect my path toward one or the other.
So, well, there it is. I admit it. I’m a grownup, and I love fairy tales as much today as I did when I was a child.
Maybe it’s a crime somewhere, but I’m in good company I guess.
How about you?