Monday, August 8, 2011
Einstein said it
Why do we love fantasy?
There’s a story told about Albert Einstein where a young mother wanted to know what would be best to read to her son so he could grow up smart. “Fairy tales,” the genius answered.
The mother didn’t think she heard correctly. “What?”
“Fairy tales,” he repeated.
Because he believed that imagination was more important than knowledge. Imagination. One of the greatest minds ever believing fairy tales the most important inspiration for a child. Einstein said, “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.”
JRR Tolkien, the man who gave us Lord of the Rings, also an Oxford professor had a view of fairy tales. “Fairy stories are not stories about fairies…but rather about Faerie, the realm in which fairies have their being.” So, what is this world? It is a place that “is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords.” You will find that many writers were inspired by the Lord of the Rings trilogy, finding much to agree with that “fantasy is, I think, not a lower but a higher form of Art, indeed the most nearly pure form, and..the most potent.”
Given that it’s estimated 150,000,000 copies of Lord of the Rings have been sold, we are talking about a very potent story.
What does it mean to you when you hear the opening, Once upon a time? What it means is there is the possibility of perhaps. Perhaps I am a wizard! Perhaps there is a secret in that forest. It is what gives us hope.
What are some of my favorite fantasy stories?
For the young reader I’ve discovered a new animal fantasy, “Tumtum and Nutmeg” about two charming mice who find a way to help the young humans in their house. If you haven’t revisited any of the L. Frank Baum Oz books, do so. But put on your flight suit. I’m fascinated by the world that Jeanette Winterson creates in “Tanglewreck.” Another realm that calls to me is identified as "Steampunk," a mix of Victorian times and clever inventions, sort of if the kids in “The Secret Garden” had access to James Bond’s master of tricks, Q. Two fast fun reads are by Phillip Reeves, “Larklight” and “The Mortal Engine.”
Both of these are exciting tales with strong engaging characters who face devious villians.
So for those who fear fantasy and what doors it might open, please, remember Einstein’s words, “Fairy tales.”