A hidden door, bound in leather rather than carved of wood, opens into the lost lands of Atlantis and Elysium, the remote regions of poetry and prose, the foreign frontiers of imagination and dreamland. This door beckons the pilgrims who grace its threshold to realms of courage and cowardice, hope and despair. Although many pass this door and some attempt to turn its rusty hinges, few find the key to the terra incognita within: the land of Faerie. The fabled regions of this world have been charted in the works of Andersen and Spenser, MacDonald and Perrault. These pioneers and cartographers transcribe this realm to the understanding of the readers who follow. Through the doorway of a fantastical book, one may attain passage to the ultima Thule of human thought.
Faerieland proves not merely a beautiful world where “magic casements open on the foam of perilous seas,” where wind harps threnodies to elfin pipes, where dryads dance under star-powdered skies. Faerieland also contains the wicked, grotesque, and selfish —making the good, beautiful, and just all the more precious. The echo of “horns of elfland faintly blowing” never fades from the ear that strains or the heart that listens. However, although all acknowledge the influence of fairy tales in history, few admit their importance in personal lives. Reading fairy tales proves an influential component in a reader’s development. These tales plant truths and penetrate hearts.
To begin, fairy tales positively affect readers through the truths they plant in the mind. Like Thumbelina’s mother, who planted a barleycorn to grow a beautiful blossom, so do fairy tales plant seeds of truth in the minds of readers to grow into conceptual conservatories. Fairy tales omit the moral relativism which influences much of modern literature. These stories do not create the modern idealistic hero, a miscellany of morals relating to both the dark and the light. Rather, they trace the stark contrast between the noble Paladin and wicked Saracen. These fictional stories outline the principle that actions lead to consequences, teaching impressionable minds from the beginning to weigh the effects of their choices. The Little Mermaid pondered whether to exchange her life for a soul, and Belle debated whether she should trade her freedom for her father. In both stories, these heroines face life-altering decisions and must learn to accept the consequences of their choices. These seeds of truth take root in the moral imagination and gradually blossom into vibrant blooms of the heart.
Fairy tales prove effective in their methods of persuasion because they penetrate the heart. Fictitious tales appeal to every age, touching the minds of children and adults alike. Weaving themes of love and sacrifice, resentment and forgiveness, these stories satisfy the curiosity of the infant while awakening the intellect of the elder. Fairy tales pierce the hearts of readers through providing not only a courageous victor, but also a fearsome offender. Through exposure to the mischievous goblins and self-centered stepmothers of faerie, young readers do become acquainted with the dangers of reality– yet they learn to overcome it rather than shirk it. The sighs and sobs of distant ages imbue the poignant piping of elfland’s horns, but, laced into the melody of regrets, the limpid notes of perennial joys avert despair. Although apparently simple, fairy tales weave an intricate tapestry of the silver floss of tears with the golden thread of laughter, recognizing that the remembrance of anguish grants value to rapture.
Fairy tales are vital for every reader’s development. The truths and methods of these stories take root in the mind and shape the heart of the young reader. Grimm and Malory, Tolkien and Lewis charted a land where foamy waves wash shores with silver and where glowing moonbeams drench darkness with light. Wicked goblins may lurk behind the trees, dragons may hide in caverns’ depths, but bewitching fairies outsmart the goblins, and valiant knights slay the dragons. The intricate themes threaded into simple tales inspire young and old alike, molding the boy into a man, and refreshing the man with draughts of boyhood. The maps of Faerie guide readers beyond the ultima Thule of human thought. A hidden door, bound in leather rather than wood, opens into the located lands of Atlantis and Elysium, the reliable regions of poetry and prose, the familiar frontiers of imagination and dreamland. The key to this door waits in the land “east of the sun, west of the moon,” the immortal pages of fairy stories. As the door turns on its rusty hinges, the stark reality of the world fades into obscurity. Ahead lies a land of courage and cowardice, misty casements and purple slopes, a region where good overcomes evil and the weak conquer the strong: the land of Faerie.