“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” G.K. Chesterton
Last night I took the boys to see the movie Brave. Yep, three boys off to see a movie about a girl.
I had heard mixed reviews. Most of the reviews from friends were that the movie was fantastic in its animation, but dragged in the story. Some said that they were bored through parts of it. So, I approached the time with a bit of low expectations.
Maybe it is that we were at the end of a full day of swimming and activities and I was in a mellow mood. Maybe it is that I like a story that takes its time in the telling and doesn’t rush through to get to the action. Maybe it just was a good story….but I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. And I did notice that all three boys at one moment had their hands to their mouth waiting to see what would happen.
We knew what would happen. We’ve read lots of fairy tales, lots of tales of bravery and courage. We know that the good will win. Sometimes we need to be reminded, though…and as Chesterton says above, kids know already that the dragons exist. They know that there are terrors in the night, they know that there are things to be afraid of. Sometimes they don’t know how to overcome those terrors.
Sometimes we don’t know either.
There are terrors. No one has to be taught that. Fires rage, literally, on the doorsteps of friends this morning. Babies have lived their whole lives in a hospital bed at almost 5 months, waiting for their bodies to understand how to work with the heart given from another who did not survive.
Rape. Murder. Drug abuse. Robbery. Abuse. Violence. Fear. Death. Poverty. Disease.
We do not need to be told these are real. They terrify us in our imaginations and in our realities.
I have known the quotation from Chesterton above for some time, but I found a fuller expounding on his thoughts that brings this out more clearly:
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.
Every night, or as close to that as I can get, I read to the boys while they lay in bed. They all sleep in the same room (their choice), so we all tuck in and read. We’ve read through most of the Chronicles of Narnia, Wrinkle in Time and the first book in the Wingfeather Saga from Andrew Peterson. We are almost through the second book (we got sidetracked for awhile) and the third book is loaded on the IPad to read during our roadtrip. These are all fantasy tales. I think the Hobbit is next on my list.
These are stories that take time in the telling. They do not rush to the conclusion. They take you on a journey. They ar tales of darkness and light…but more than that.
Brave was a good story, but it didn’t finish. The fairy tale tells us that the strong of heart will win…that there will be a knight that will conquer. But the terror comes back. There is always another dragon, there is always another danger.
The Christian has more to tell…there is an end to the story.
But we are given the mighty blessing of living in the wake of Christ’s resurrection. We can see the beginning of the story, when all was truly well, and we can read of the darkest day when Jesus died, and the holy morning when he rose again. We live in the meantime, when the Church is charged with unraveling the curse, pushing back the Fall, proclaiming not that “All is well”, but that all shall be well again.
We shouldn’t mock the pain of the world by telling the wounded that everything’s fine. We remind them that if there’s pain, it points to healing; if Creation is groaning as in the pains of childbirth, it points to a new Creation.
I love a good story. I love being carried away. The fact is, though, we know a greater story. All these fairy tales and stories point to the deep longing that is part of who we are.
One more thing this sparked in my mind…this song from David Wilcox…