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Happy endings

I’ve been writing and thinking about some heavy topics lately, most of them related to the issues that come up my novel.  The revised manuscript is in my editor’s hands, and I’m taking a short break from writing.

But not from reading.  Ever.  At the request of my pastor’s wife, I’m about to dive into some stories that revolve around curses, witches, murders, and magic.

Ellen is another book-lover.  For the benefit of the young moms in the church, she’s organizing a program on children’s literature.  Several people will share their recommendations for various types of kid-lit.  My assignment:  fairy tales.

In some circles, fairy tales are a no-no.  If you think that’s ridiculous, thank you for agreeing with me, but some people think fiction is frivolous, if not downright ungodly. They think elements of fantasy must be avoided because they can’t be true.  Therefore they’re lies.

To which I say, “Bah, humbug!”  If I belonged to a church that held those beliefs . . . well, it wouldn’t be my church anymore.

One of my favorite childhood books is the “Folk and Fairy Tales” volume of the old Bookshelf for Boys and Girls series.  The cover illustration portrays two knights on chargers.  Lances out and pennants flying, they race past a castle high on a bluff.  I have always wanted to know what’s going on behind those castle walls.  Who is watching from the windows?   Who are those knights?  Are they friends?  Enemies?  Whose side are they on?

There are only two sides to a fairy tale.  The good guys almost always win, but not before the reader enjoys page after page of shivery excitement.  (Is the witch really going to shove Hansel and Gretel into the oven?)

Some people prefer “safe” versions of fairy tales, lest a child be scared spitless by the dark originals.  I prefer the originals, in most cases, when they’re age-appropriate.  I think it’s healthy for a child to visit a story-world that includes good and evil, heroes and villains, happy endings and sad endings.  Like the real world.

I love the old illustrations, too.  At a garage sale a few months ago, I bought a 55-year-old copy of “The Illustrated Treasury of Children’s Literature.”  It’s over 500 pages of classic stories illustrated by Wanda Gág, Kate Greenaway, Palmer Cox, Walter Crane, Tasha Tudor, Arthur Rackham, N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Jessie Wilcox Smith….  It’s in good shape, too, and all for two bucks.  Now, that’s a happy ending.

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