I never pay full price for a book, but when I saw The Truest Fairy Tale, I not only bought it new, I ordered it all the way from England. It’s an anthology of the religious writings of Chesterton edited by Kevin L. Morris.
Everyone loves Chesterton’s pithy quotes, but sometimes it’s just plain hard work to read his books because they are so dense with epigrams that you can barely sift through them. I thought that this book would ease the pain, by pulling out the best ideas from each book to save me the trouble of slogging through. I found another problem, however: Gems pulled out of their settings sometimes lose their sparkle.
Nevertheless, I was enamored with the book’s concept and kept plugging away. The title reflects Chesterton’s child-like wonder over the world and its mysteries. Science, he says, cannot explain why an egg turns into a bird. The only answer to that is “magic.” He scoffs at a science that boils the world down to facts that ignore the spiritual and the supernatural.
From his book, The Thing he writes, The Faith gives a man back his body and his soul and his reason and his will and his very life. The man who has received it receives all the old human functions which all the other philosophies are already taking away. He alone will have freedom. He alone will have will. He alone will have reason, since ultimate doubt denies reason as well as authority. He alone will truly act, because action is performed to an end. All [society’s] hardening and hopeless despair of the intellect will leave him at last the only walking and talking citizen in a city of paralytics.
I believe in fairy tales, said Chesterton, in the sense that I marvel so much at what does exist that I am the readier to admit what might. p. 44
He writes of his conversion: I had always believed that the world involved magic; now I thought that perhaps it involved a magician. And this caused a profound emotion always present and sub-conscious; that this world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a person. I had always felt life a story; and if there is a story there is a story teller. (from Orthodoxy)
I could include many more Chesterton quotes, but I think I’ll save them for next week.
I mentioned in a previous post that while homeschooling my sons, I did a lot of soul searching about the value (or harm) of fairy tales. Some of the books that helped finalize my decision are listed here.