After ages, I am reconnecting with my love for Neil Gaiman. Paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton, he wrote:
“Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”
I love fairy-tales. Some people say for a thirty year old, my love for fairy-tales actually borders on obsession. Somewhere I feel they’ve cast a spell on me that does not have or need a cure. To many, this may seem immature, weird or even childish and I have had my fair share of “Aren’t you too old for…?” questions, but I don’t mind. Really. For there is no feeling that I would ever choose over the magic and hope you feel running through your veins when the shoe fits Cinderella or when Sleeping Beauty awakens or when Wendy flies for the first time.
J.M. Barrie said it best when he said, “All the world is made of faith, and trust and pixie dust.” This just happens to be all we need too. But we let reality get in the way, and I wish we didn’t let that happen. I do not see why Neverland has to be left in the fairy-dust. And I most definitely do not understand why we cannot keep the hope we once had as children alive and afire.
What happened? Why did people have to go from loving fairy-tales as children to mocking them as teenagers? Don’t tell me, “Life happened. We’ve changed and we’re now moving past our former selves – we don’t know us anymore.” Yes, life is frustrating, chaotic and sometimes unbearable, and we cannot really do much about it. Dark clouds block the sunshine often for me as well – but what I do to pull myself out of this is wish ‘Once Upon a Dream’ like Aurora or ‘Let it Go’ like Elsa. The point is fairy-tales do not deny the existence of heartache, despair or sorrow, but they do deny defeat, failure and unhappy endings.
The lessons we learn from fairy-tales are no different from the lessons learnt for life. Yes, you do not need to believe in poisoned apples or pumpkin carriages but believe in the themes that these stories are rooted in. Fairy-tales, in all entirety, are not an escapade from realistic situations – our world is not unlike theirs, in which both good and evil exist. The difference could perhaps be that we don’t have magic or a Fairy Godmother to save us from the clutches of evil. But, perhaps, we’re so accustomed to being Muggles that we do not realize that magic exists. A good heart, a spoonful of courage to use kindness and goodness wisely and humour – that’s all the magic one really needs.
Once upon a time – for that is how all stories should begin – your story began, truer than true. And they all lived happily ever after – for that is how all stories should end – and yours will too. Life is a story with good parts and bad. How would you know happiness without knowing the sad?
If you do not like the story you are in, leave and find your own happily ever after. The best thing about fairy-tales is probably how applicable they still are in our lives – of course not literally, but metaphorically or symbolically – and how we are so oblivious to it all…
It may have been centuries since Little Red Riding Hood took on the Big Bad Wolf or Dorothy defeated the Wicked Witch of the West, but “Fear” has not changed. We were frightened as children, we’re possibly more frightened now. What frightens us today might not be what frightened us back then, but it is just a different wolf, a different witch. And we still need to battle them.
“Fairy tales since the beginning of recorded time and perhaps earlier, are the best means to conquer the terrors of mankind through metaphor.”
– Jack Zipes
I feel this is what seems to be the most sensible approach to feeling better about the world that we live in – if we could only believe in making our own magic.
“Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget what precisely happened but if a story touches you, it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind you rarely visit.”
– Neil Gaiman
One of my favourite metaphors is the following:
Just like the Baby Bear’s porridge in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the universe is “just right”. Happy endings need not exist just in fairy-tales. I love fairy-tales and while I may not believe in magic mirrors, or Fairy Godmothers granting me the most exquisite glass slippers (shoes are quite expensive in real life!) but I do believe in the idea of hope and love, which runs from the end of one story to the beginning of another – the idea that happiness does exist. Love believes when you don’t. That is all the motivation and validation I usually need to get on with my life. The ‘bare’ necessities if you know what I mean!
To wrap this all up with a flick of a wand, I wish you all find the same joy and inspiration that I do from fairy-tales. Fairy-tales have the beauty of always giving one a simpler, newer perspective of things, a transformation of ideology from “I wish” to “I will” and a belief in trust, kindness, goodness, hope and love.
Life is too short to not embark on new adventures. Have some fun, do good, and remember to always keep your mischief managed. I wish you all Hakuna Matata and lots and lots of love! There is life beyond the stone tower in which you’ve enclosed yourself. Set yourself free, and go seek your kingdom of Far-Far-Away!