25 August 2016

Tales of Fairy

A genuine work of art must mean many things; the truer its art, the more things it will mean.
- "The Fantastic Imagination", George MacDonald

This is not your normal book of fairy tales. The book opens with an essay MacDonald wrote called "The Fantastic Imagination". Then, we dive into the short stories. George MacDonald has a way of opening up an entirely different world of imagination and whimsy that delves into something so much deeper. Shadows becomes speakers of truth here. Children become wiser than giants, and show courage enough to fill a few adults.

Your typical fairy tale has some sort of moral and lesson, but MacDonald takes it to a much deeper level of imagination and depth. Something I love about his stories is how each reader could take a different important meaning from the story. One person may notice a certain meaning in something, while the next person will find something else meaningful. With each re-reading and sharing with others, you cast a variety of perspectives given the readers' nature.

The best thing you can do for your fellow, next to rousing his conscience, is - not to give him things to think about, but to wake things up that are in him; or say, to make him think things for himself.
"The Fantastic Imagination", George MacDonald

Another thing I love about his stories is how he constructs them in a way that only reveals just-so-much to make you create the rest in your imagination and apply it to yourself. He attempts to awaken the reader's mind and rouse a thought that leads to another, and onward down a twisty, interesting, imaginative world which exposes evil and where truth wins out. It is a fantastic adventure, indeed, and you never know where the journey will take you.

If you know me, you know that I love to encourage others to think. If you ask me something that tinkers on the edge of the rabbit hole, I generally like to guide the thought-process to get the other person thinking about where that rabbit hole might be going. I think there is greater value in discovering things ourselves as we explore, than simply being told that something is a fact. This is probably frustrating to those who "just want to know!" but in the end, it is so much more satisfying to have that sudden layer peel away, and you've gained wisdom in the discovery.

"Can that be true that loves the night?" said the king.
"The darkness is the nurse of light," answered the Shadow.

"Can that be true which mocks at forms?" said the king.
"Truth rides abroad in shapeless storms," answered the Shadow.
"Ha! ha!" thought Ralph Rinkelmann, "it rhymes. The Shadow caps my questions with his answers. Very strange!" And he grew thoughtful again.

- "The Shadows", George MacDonald

And always in MacDonald's stories, we are reminded that we are usually closer to home than we might imagine, especially when the journey leads deep into a fairyland where everything is odd and whimsical. Creatures change into book-reading owls with green spectacles, a halo of moonlight rounds the top of every tree, and the flowers dream. MacDonald was good friends with Lewis Carroll, who had such wide success with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. There are glimpses of that same kind of quirky charm amidst a fantastical world, and it is really delightful to experience it.

"How far am I from home?"
"The farther you go, the nearer home you are."

The people stared at each other with open mouths, for they saw that what they had taken for a lot of umbrellas, was in reality a flock of black geese.....But an umbrella that could lay eggs would be a very jolly umbrella.
- "Cross Purposes", George MacDonald

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