J.R.R. Tolkien. George MacDonald. C.S. Lewis. Maurice Sendak. Neil Gaiman.
What do each of these authors all have in common?
Well, for starters, each of them penned fantasy literature. In addition, they all had best-selling books. But that’s not all. Each of these writers’ also saw their works enjoyed by the same audience: children. Yet, by their own admission, none of them wrote for children. That’s right, none of these successful “children’s” authors set out to write for kids.
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.”
So, I suppose in some sense, all of this begs the question: who are fairy tales really written for?
A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.C.S. Lewis
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, and yet how very important I am 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 behind the scenes of our world. 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 effect my path toward one or the other.
Well, there you have it. I admit it. I’m a grownup who still loves fairy tales.