Monday, July 21, 2014

Michael O'Brien Quote on Stories

Because I appreciate a good discussion about children's literature and the value of fairy tales, I enjoyed Michael O'Brien's A Landscape With Dragons. He argues against most modern fiction for young people because it makes the macabre appealing. (This was written well before the vampire craze.) Fairy tales, says O'Brien, have bad dragons and good knights and children are very aware of the line between good and evil. Modern stories, on the other hand blur the lines between the two.

Our truest stories tell us who we are and where we should be going. They inform us about the nature of the enemy. They strengthen us for the journey. A badly flawed tale, on the other hand, can weaken and confuse it. It may even direct us into some very dangerous territory. (p. 102)

My favorite quote along this line will always be G.K. Chesterton's on dragons: Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell the children that dragons can be killed. (This is a paraphrase of the quote from Tremendous Trifles: "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." 

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