In this past week’s podcast, Brandon and I were talking about the importance of fairy tales. It was an awesome discussion, and I got to talk about Tolkien AND quote GK Chesterton, so it was obviously a highlight for me personally. That being said, the discussion of fairy tales has been rattling around my head ever since, and there was one key idea that wouldn’t leave me alone. Namely, that the joy of a fairy tale is largely in the gift of wonder.
At the end of the story, the things that are explained seem enhanced instead of diminished by the things that aren’t explained. It’s almost like the story is more true because it’s less real. The fact that frogs don’t become princes doesn’t take aways in the slightest from the fact that outward appearances often don’t match internal realities. The fact that there isn’t magic doesn’t take away the more important fact that the world works in ways that we don’t, and often can’t, understand. Ultimately, fairy tales remind us that everything around us deserves to be seen and experienced as a wonder, as a mystery.
Every thing that we know is a revelation. The fact that my hands respond to my wishes is a wonder. It is a mystery. Even with science explaining the firing of neurons and the synapses and all that other wonderful information that the study of anatomy does reveal, the wonder is no smaller. Why should my body respond that way? Why don’t the various elements of my person rise in rebellion against my tyrannical will? Certainly, I know that they don’t, won’t, and can’t. The joy of the fairy tale is that I can wonder if they should.
A wonderful story could be written, to be sure, about the feet, grown weary of their constantly being imprisoned in socks and shoes, forced to carry the weight of the rest of the body, only to be mocked for the smell and appearance that results from their labors. We would all know that feet can’t do it, but maybe, just maybe, it would make us wonder about the dignity and worth of those people who we take for granted but could not function without.