Fairy Tales – Defeating the Bogey

John Goerke at the John Jay Institute on why our culture desperately needs the soul-building power of true fairy tales like Andersen’s:

Anderson’s fairy tales sharply contrast with modern fairy tales and illuminate their fatal flaw. Many modern works tell of extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstance, or of ordinary people in ordinary circumstances. By contrast, Andersen’s characters are extraordinary people placed in ordinary circumstance and ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances. This is the source of his stories’ power. The boy who is bullied does not need the modern tale of tolerance. He needs the “The Ugly Duckling” and its story of a duckling not merely mocked but kicked, bitten, shoved, smacked, chased, and nearly killed, because he himself feels not simply mocked but kicked, bitten, shoved, smacked, chased, and nearly killed. Andersen not only assures the boy that bullying is evil, but also that evil can be heroically endured.

Reminiscent of Chesterton on fairy tales:

“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.” ~ Tremendous Trifles

Read the rest of the article at Hans Christian Andersen: Foundation of Western Ethics.

St. George the Dragon-Slayer by Nun Agathe, 1729
St. George the Dragon-Slayer by Nun Agathe, 1729

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