The Beloved Husband, the Dogs, some EAP Teddy Bears and I are off on the first leg of the Stop the Genocide Against Fairy Tale Creatures tour, with the fairy tale Snotty Saves the Day, and don’t think it’s just some kind of post modern ironic joke. Really. More like an assault, even if a minor, popgun-bearing one, rather hilariously rushing up against not just a windmill, but a whole nuclear power plant, what you might call Fortress Accepted Option. Kind of like the Gnome Fortress in Snotty Saves the Day.
The Gnome Fortress there is protected by its Wall of Prejudice. Since that, of course, is the toughest material to get through known to all the worlds. All that can get through, in fact, are the silliest, lowliest, funniest new Ideas. They bounce on it. Boing boing.
I don’t know that any of the following Gnome Fortress Prejudices can be breached by even the silliest, lowliest, funniest new Idea.
But that’s no excuse not to try.
Gnome Fortress Prejudice #1: Fairy Tales are charmingly useless stories told traditionally to children.
Silly Idea: Quite the opposite. Fairy Tales are, in fact, expressions of human biological truth, and this is the hold they have on us all. This prejudice is an old one, most recently appearing in a Jonathan Franzen article in The New Yorker, the loftiest of lofty publications, told in his signature bravura prose style. Lovely writing. He says something like how fairy tales have been ‘proven’, some verb like that, by ‘modern scholarship’, to have been told mainly to children. I’m not sure what scholarship he’s meaning, but my silly idea is it’s actually quite clear that myths, legends, fairy tales, etc. were told to and told by a broad range of ages and classes at all times. Still are, for that matter, even if we pretend it isn’t so. In fact, it wasn’t till about the Victorian era that ‘adults’ started to be embarrassed to be seen with them in polite company, and started putting them in their ‘place’ as morality fables for children.
Gnome Fortress Prejudice#2: Children’s stories are worthless in the ‘real world’.
I’ll get to this one in a minute. Hang on.
Gnome Fortress Prejudice #3: The ‘Real World’ consists of a place where there is no good and evil, only relative value, and where no matter how crap things are, it is childish and foolish to think you can change them. The proper position to take in relation to this ‘Real World’ is one of ironic detachment, in order to dominate it, at least on paper. To be skillful in delineating the downward slide of mankind is about the highest art we can hope for. This is Art for Adults; nothing else need apply.
Silly Idea: ‘Childish’ and ‘Foolish’ are good things, capable of helping us out of the mess we find ourselves in today. Fairy Tales have always pointed out that it is in the ‘childish’ and ‘foolish’ arena where the magic takes place that breaks whatever stranglehold evil has on the land. Further Silly Idea: Evil definitely has at the very least a firm chokehold on us now.
Gnome Fortress Prejudice #4: Despite how crap it all is, in the end, everything is going to be fine. Things have always been crap, and we haven’t died yet, so there’s no reason to actually think we might be up against it now. After all, we have indoor plumbing, modern dentistry, and all night markets. We’ve never had it so good. The ability to destroy ourselves and our World will eventually be offset by further advances in technology.
Silly Idea: Despite all these Wonders of the Age, we may just be mistaking Knowledge for Wisdom. And without Wisdom, we may be headed for a cliff. Oh, I know every so often some article/pundit says we’re in danger of going belly up as a species, taking a good lot of the world, if not all of it, with us. But does anyone actually take this seriously? Of course not. If we did take it seriously, we would certainly be acting in different ways than we do at present. ‘Adult’ novelists would be zooming in on one subject, and one subject only, if they believed this was true. The one tale, in fact, that fairy tales tell over and over. What is the right way to live our lives?
Gnome Fortress Prejudice #5: Only professionals should be heard. Only professionals know what is going to happen and what is good for us. Professionals are named sources, with cvs and resumes. Fairy Tales therefore are outside of the Serious Discourse, because who knows where they came from and for what reasons?
Silly Idea: Let’s look around and see where the professionals have gotten us, eh?
Gnome Fortress Prejudice #6: Art is only about entertainment. If it tries to be about the establishment of a Better World, it is Didactic, Boring, and not to be attended to. Also probably borderline nuts.
Silly Idea: William Blake. Marcel Proust. George Orwell. Isak Dinesen. C.S. Lewis. J. R. R. Tolkien…well, I could go on. But you probably can, too.
Gnome Fortress Prejudice #7: We live in the best of all possible worlds.
Silly Idea: This is the not the best universe it and we, in partnership with it, can manage. A world that has the beehive and the bat, the whale and the hummingbird, the egg and the wild mushroom, this is the best THAT WORLD can do? I don’t think so. Is this the best we can do? No, it isn’t. Is that the silliest idea of all?
Now, what does all this have to do with Fairy Tales, you’re saying to me, partly because in the back of your mind, what Fairy Tales mean to you is the grotesque monetization/commodification of this biological resource, particularly by international corporations like Disney. But if you look at the tradition of Fairy Tales, and, indeed, of ‘children’s’ stories in general, you’ll see that what these tales are mainly concerned with are questions of Good and Evil. These stories say, and unselfconsciously, too (not being too concerned about peer review, as it were): We are here for a reason. We are in this together, not just with other humans, but with Nature itself. We can do Good, or we can do Evil, and what we do–each one of us–has an effect in the world around us. So what is it we should do? Fairy Tales say it will magically make a difference if we learn what that is and then doggedly apply it, with the unforeseen help of the Natural World.
This is the position that those high up in the Gnome Fortress assures us is naive, unregenerate, backward, foolish, and laughable.
But is it?
And what has the position of superiority to those questions gotten us exactly? More importantly, who does that position serve?
This brings us back to Gnome Fortress Prejudice #2: Children’s stories are worthless in the ‘real world’. The Real World used to be defined as the marketplace of getting and spending, but that marketplace has been rather under attack of late. Waters from tsunamis lap at its edges. Tornados sweep over its bargaining floors. Wildfires lay waste to its attempts to make the stock market rise again.
These things are the Real World, too. And that is the world we all of us live in, and are a part of. A world that is both Terrible and Wonderful at the same time, and which our puny attempts to tame and turn into something controllable, moderate, and hidden away from Death itself have had the opposite effect.
Do you remember Hans Christian Andersen’s story of The Emperor and the Nightingale? The Emperor of China hears from the Emperor of Japan that the most beautiful thing in his whole realm, known throughout the world, is a nightingale that sings at the edge of a meadow. The Emperor of China is properly outraged that he has known nothing of this wonderful thing, and orders it brought to court. It comes, and sings, and is indeed wondrous. But it refuses to stay at court, and a mechanical, jeweled nightingale takes its place, to the ravishment of a court that doesn’t know any better. That mechanical nightingale eventually breaks, as all things mechanical do. And so does the Emperor, as all things mortal. As he is dying, he is abandoned by a court that only knows Power, and Knowledge, not Love…certainly not Nature. The real nightingale comes to comfort him. And so strong and beautiful is the song of the real nightingale, that the Emperor is restored to health, wiser than he was before.
Now tell us that Fairy Tales are for children and have no place in the ‘Real World’.
I don’t think anyone can actually tell us that. Not with a straight face, anyway.
So…Stop the Genocide Against Fairy Tale Creatures!
And see you on the road.