But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. (from the dedication of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis)
This quote might be cheating, but it is a quote, and it is in a children’s book, even if it isn’t part of the story. So I’m saying it counts on a technicality. And because I like it, and I get to post whatever I like. So there.
What I love about this quote is that it’s true. There’s a time in childhood when no stories but fairy tales are worth reading. And then we, most of us, seem to grow out of it, or we think ourselves too grown-up for such silliness. We want to read serious books, or maybe magazines, and we think we want to see the world as it is. But eventually, we realize that the world is never what it seems, not as we think it is as we live our day-to-day lives in it, not as it is depicted in Hemminway’s garish realism or Faulkner’s bleak and fragmented stories, and certainly not as it is manufactured on those glossy pages by the grocery store checkout. And that, I think, is when we (many of us) begin to long in our hearts for fairy tales again. But this time, it is not because we wish to imagine ourselves as the heroes of those stories, or the princess awaiting rescue. It’s not really even because we wish to get away from the world for a while, to retreat into a book and a magical world, although I’m the first to admit that as among the chief pleasures of children’s fantasy. I think it’s because, deep down, we long for the raw Truth, which has not been cheapened by mere fact, that is nestled in the words, waiting in the stories to jump out at us. We want to be reminded that there is such a thing as right and wrong. We want to see good triumph over evil.
You know, when I was in high school, I liked to read Shakespeare and Dickens and other important authors like that. In my spare time. (Pretentious, much?) I wanted to read things that were important, and that made me feel important and smart. Of course, now I read stuff like that professionally–not Shakespeare or Dickens, but “great” literature in general. And I love it, and I think it is valuable and worthwhile. But when I read just for myself, for something that will be meaningful to me, I reach for fairy tales. I guess I’m old enough for them again.