Posts Tagged ‘universal themes’

Dream Castle

Fairy Tale castle

I am possessed by the image of fairy tales; luminous, mysterious and Other.  My younger self read all the tales I could get my hands on;  Greek and Roman myths, Norse and Native American, Hans Christian and Mother Goose, Celtic tales and Arthurian lore, Sleeping beauties of all sorts, Lewis Carroll and L. Frank Baum, and of course, Tolkien.  The Eastern European tales scared me, Baba Yaga with her chicken-legged house.  It was distinctly unsettling, but I have come to understand many things ‘all that glitters is not gold.’  We as humans wish for the the light, but we are drawn to the dark, can’t resist watching the trainwreck – physical or metaphorical.

Harry Potter speaks to our longing for fantasy, for a world just a little ‘off’ from ours.  We have manga, a Japanese import heavy on the fantasy element which is wildly popular and new movies like the Watchmen and Avatar which take us into and fantasy worlds.  All fiction involves some suspension of reality; perhaps when we hear daily of job losses, economic woes, and natural disasters  we need more of an escape than other times.

I know I’d like to escape sometimes – turn a corner, and walk into a world where a magic spell can solve all my financial concerns.  Am I the evil queen, pulling what I need regardless of the needs of others, or can I be the hero, creating a new way to create wealth that helps everyone?  I want to be a hero.  I’d like to be anyone else, for a while. Just a quick little vacation from my life ‘my boring life’ as my ex- so joyfully put it (he’s the Ex for a reason!).

That’s what fantasy and fairy tales can do for us; a Rowling or Tolkien can transport us into their world, teach us something about life, and return us a little bit wiser, and hopefully, more capable of dealing with our respective realities.  Tolkien conveys the importance of friendship, and having people you can count on, from his Fellowship to Sam and Frodo’s close friendship.  All friends have issues – Frodo was ever loathe to tell Same everything, even if it was important.  Rowling again returns to the theme of friendships with Harry, Ron and Hermione, but her books also seem to insist on ‘human’ values; witness Hermione’s agitation over the enslavement of the house elves.  Human or not they are entitled to basic rights.  The inclusivity of a world where anyone can be born a witch/wizard even if their parents aren’t is powerful.  She continues the theme with the horror over the issue of ‘muggle-born’ and the use of the term mud-blood.  Tolkien had dwarves and elves, but humans were never really their equals in the LOTR trilogy; the humans who had been were long passed into myth.

What does myth tell us about ourselves?  What can we learn from the myths which have remained – Cinderella in all her many forms is absolutely a universal tale, but what do the ‘lesser’ tales, tales more linked to specific geographic areas have to tell us about who created and passed them on?

‘To question is the answer’ states a bumper sticker.  I like questions.  Answers I am less certain of, there are so many variables to account for.  Opening the question, will come back and stir the pot, now and again.

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