children need fairy tales

I find that there really are human beings who think fairy tales bad for children. I do not speak of the man in the green tie, for him I can never count truly human. But a lady has written me an earnest letter saying that fairy tales ought not to be taught to children even if they are true. She says that it is cruel to tell children fairy tales, because it frightens them. You might just as well say that it is cruel to give girls sentimental novels because it makes them cry. All this kind of talk is based on that complete forgetting of what a child is like which has been the firm foundation of so many educational schemes. If you keep bogies and goblins away from children they would make them up for themselves. One small child in the dark can invent more hells than Swedenborg. One small child can imagine monsters too big and black to get into any picture, and give them names too unearthly and cacophonous to have occurred in the cries of any lunatic. The child, to begin with, commonly likes horrors, and he continues to indulge in them even when he does not like them. There is just as much difficulty in saying exactly where pure pain begins in his case, as there is in ours when we walk of our own free will into the torture-chamber of a great tragedy. The fear does not come from fairy tales; the fear comes from the universe of the soul.

The timidity of the child or the savage is entirely reasonable; they are alarmed at this world, because this world is a very alarming place. They dislike being alone because it is verily and indeed an awful idea to be alone. Barbarians fear the unknown for the same reason that Agnostics worship it—because it is a fact. 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.

― G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles

I had come across a Neil Gaiman’s quote that paraphrased this above passage.

Fairy tales are not true. They are more than true. Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated.

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On turning 37


I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil,
this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and
their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

 

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what leaders seek

Do not seek to find hope among your leaders. They are the repositories of poison. Their interest in you extends only so far as their ability to control you. For you, they seek duty and obedience, and they will ply you with the language of stirring faith. They seek followers, and woe to those who question, or voice challenge. ― Steven Erikson, Midnight Tides

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favourite questions

Jim Mackenzie asks a few of my favourite questions.

What problem am I trying to solve? How does this help me get there?
This question is an old friend. A constant companion as I muddle my way through life. What am I trying to do? Do I know? Child questions spawn, dragging me closer to an imperfect answer that works for now. There is something powerful about the way asking a question reveals flaws in my understanding, or illuminates new avenues to explore. The beautiful thing is, behind each answer I find more questions.

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