We have told each other stories for as long as there has been an ‘us’ to tell stories and to listen. We create the greatest of all gods and the meanest of all  foes and all are derived from what we know and what our sense tell us. And then we bind oursleves to the stories because we grow up with them and in childhood we don’t just love stories but we learn from them.

Yet it is the subliminal things we don’t always think about that tell us the most. For the stories tell us how to think – and bind us to traditions started when people really did think there were little people in the world, that the noises from caverns were dwarfs mining, that when you didn’t have an explation for something happening you could assign it to a fairy or a god and that was the entirety of the explanation needed.

These stories today are fables, loved by children and told by everyone. But they do compel us to believe in the story as a means of imparting ‘truth’. That can be the most dangerous thing we ever leearn.

Today we believe thse stroies to be part of the divine story of creation and the univesre. To be a terasure that imbues us with conifence because it id as ongdt our childhood recollections.

Writing For Children

I knew I wanted to write for children when I was fourteen. I think it was the absolute joy of finding all those fairytales, reading C.S.Lewis and Hugh Lofting, J.R.R.Tolkien, Hans Christian Andersen, and the amazing fables of Greece, Rome and India. I think I still loved those kinds of stories in my adult life because I immensely enjoyed the riotous translation of Monkey by Arthur Waley.

It is important to evolves the imagination in children and give them a wide variety of experiences they can share with past generations. Firing that imagination will help them as they grow into adults. Like all things though it is a two edges sword. Because the world is not as fantasy filled as the books, and maybe that is their attraction. No other worlds to walk into through wardrobes, no talking animals, no magic off-stage.

And yet in a strange way the world is very like the books for there are honest people and liars, people you can trust and people you must ever trust, sour people and loving animals. There are brave things you can do which no one will ever know about, moments of crisis when you count more than others (look at the Russians who died stopping a nuclear disaster in their Submarine – they probably saved the world from war). And even more brilliant than in the books these things are in the real world.

No one asks you believe in giants and dwarfs and fairies; just that you recognise them when they meet them.

Pied Pipers

I love children’s fairytales though the traditional ones have a longer history than as merely bedtime stories read aloud by parents to wide-eyed children fantasising about magic and witches. In their way they were morality tales. In the original story of Sleeping Beauty the prince raped the sleeping princess; Hansel and Gretel is about the child abuse of step-mothers and cannibalism, and many original tales (some of which can be found in collections of Grimm) have awfully racist things happening to people of ethnicity on the roads and byways of Europe.

It is only as Europe softened that these stories were either dropped, or changed so that magical worlds filled with good and evil became the ‘norm’ until we reached some beautiful new stories such the Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde.

The fairytale as a short land of wonder seems to have gone out of fashion with modern writers. Publishing houses enjoy the long books of magic but they don’t go for many ‘short stories’ that even adults can enjoy. Yet there is a space here for magic and wonder, a place that enlivens the ancient tales with modern nuances. To put laughter in places, and dragons in their place.

Instead of emperors we could talk of Presidents, instead of step-mothers we could write about same sex marriages and IVF; the little people have not gone anywhere, they are waiting in every house in the world to be brought to life and share an evening with the larger folk.

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February 2019
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