Everyone has their favorite kinds of literature. I think we all develop an affinity for some sort of genre as we begin to explore literature. As we grow up, we are trained to diversify. English teachers assign us novels, biographies, fiction, non-fiction, more novels, dramas, plays, novellas, historical fiction, autobiographies, poetry, historical non-fiction, etc. Before you know it, you barely have time for your literature-first-love anymore!
If you are like myself and YOUR first love was of the Fairy Tale ilk, take some time to be reminded: fairy tales ARE relevant!
For those who immerse themselves in what the fairy tale has to communicate, it becomes a deep, quiet pool which at first seems to reflect only our own image; but behind it we soon discover the inner turmoils of our soul – its depth, and ways to gain peace within ourselves and with the world, which is the reward of our struggles.
–Bruno Bettelheim The Uses of Enchantment
According to Bruno, fairy tales provide insight into the soul and its relation to the world . . . what could be more profound? But that’s not where it stops! Pardon me for sounding like a salesman, but everyone should remember the inherent view of good and evil that fairy tales provide. They depict the beauty of good and the lurid details of evil and they show the need for good to overcome. They’re sheer word illustration. Everyone should grow up with an awareness of the rightness and beauty of good as it overcomes evil.
Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.
–G. K. Chesterton
When reading fairy tales, good fairy tales, something magical always happens. The events of the plot are so intense, the values so extreme and the stakes so high that we cannot help but tumble deep into the clutches of the plot. We feel cutting betrayal when Snape utters “Avada Kedavra”. We can’t stand how spoiled and selfish Edmond is to be blinded by a pittance of Turkish Delight (even if it was pretty stellar). We fall desperately in love with Peeta. We cry when Hedwig dies. We want to cheer when the wicked witch’s evil plans are thwarted. We sigh in relief when the prince wakes snow white with a kiss. Our hearts swell with each triumph of our protagonist, but break with the obstacles they meet.
Fairy tales are not a passive read. A real fairy tale does not allow you to be a detached participant. Instead, you are passionately involved and you find yourself on one distinct side in a very high-stakes story. In the best of fairy-tales, we cannot see the ending, we cannot imagine how Frodo will possibly make it to Mordor. We cannot foresee the masterful ending that the author has in mind, but we cling to the characters that we have come to love. And we hope, as Harry walks into the Forbidden Forest, as Lucy and Susan accompany Aslan to the Stone Table, as Sam desperately carries Frodo when he can go no further; we hope against hope that some magic will intervene; that good will triumph. We wait with baited breath for the defeat of a seemingly overwhelming evil, trusting in the good we see in all that opposes. We wrap our emotions into those of our protagonist and we trust that they might, by some miracle, overcome the odds.
I think something deep inside cries out to the concepts upon which our fairy tales are based. I like how Hans Christian Andersen put it:
Now, as I am sure you have already discovered/deduced, I am an unabashed lover of The Harry Potter Books.
BUT, before there was Harry Potter, I had an abiding love of all-things-fantasy, and you can absolutely bet that there are some books I will be giving to my children (if I ever have any) to get them ready for the journey that waits for them. SO, without further ado, I want to share with you 10 books/series that I plan to share with any children I can get my influence on (or Adults, for that matter). These are the books that you may not see made into major motion pictures after The Hobbit comes out, nor will they be topping the new release charts (unless you time travel), but they are books of quality, and I hope you read them all!
#1: The Fairy Books by Andrew Lang
I used to be obsessed with the Fairy Books.There are twelve, you know. Red, Green, Pink, Olive, Green, Blue, Yellow, Purple, Violet, Crimson, Grey. . . and. . . oh shoot. I alway forget if there is an orange. Anyhow, I think they went out of print before I was born. But who needs contemporary fiction? The best fairy tales have been around for centuries, right? These books are incredible compilations of fairy tales from around the world . . . and I used to read them over and over and over again. Growing up, I would haunt the library book sale every spring to see if anyone had tossed another battered old copy. These books are a treasure.
#2: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
If there was ever a series which I could have everyone read, it would be this one. Four books of pure magic. From the moment Princess Cimorene volunteers to be a dragon’s princess, the adventures just don’t stop! With buckets of cherries jubilee, intelligent magic and magically messy devious wizards, this book is just sheer original. My sister Sarah read me this book when I was little and I loved them so much that I read them to my little brother a few years later. He loved them so much that he has re-read them a gazillion times since… in fact, for his 20th birthday, the only thing he asked me for was a copy of each book.
#3: Everything by Edward Eager
These books are absolutely classic.
Find a castle in the attic? Enter a magical world.
Have a garden where thyme grows? Use it to travel through time.
Find a random talisman? Have HALF your wishes come true.
Vacation by a magical lake? Meet the talking turtle and chill with Ali Baba.
Read one of these books? ADVENTURE.
#4: The Fairy Rebel by Lynne Reid Banks
What happens when there is a tiny little fairy with hott pink hair who bumps into a sad childless woman in her flower garden? I used to listen to this book on cassette tape (man, that makes me feel/sound ANCIENT) while I played in my room and I was spellbound the entire time as Lynne Reid Banks described the incredible world of the little rebellious fairy!
#5: The Wonder Clock is another compilation of beauty…
It is laid out as a story (a fairy tale) for each hour…
#6:The Seer and the Sword
This story was badass fantasy before The Hunger Games was even a twinkle in Suzanne Collins’ eye. With enough cunning and heroism to last a lifetime, I have probably read this about a million times (as you can see by the crease in its cover!) and I still don’t get bored with it. Sometime soon, I plan to find myself a snazzy hardcover copy, but until then, I plan on wearing this one out completely!
This is like a picture book for grownups. . . at least nowadays. It’s probably at an 8th grade reading level or something, but what a stunning story! Ask yourself, what happens when a little girl is born with the curse . . . of being bald, but then is cursed too much hair? So much that she can’t even fit into a house anymore? Melisande learns the dangers of what happens when you get what you wish for. . .
#8: Court Duel and Crown Duel by Sheerwood Smith
These stories might’ve been my first favorite somewhat-romantic fantasy series. They are stunning in every way. Seriously, I judged them by their cover and never looked back.
The second book was even better than the first!
#9: The Chewing Gum Rescue & Other Stories, by Margaret Mahy
My favorite story from this book is all about a family that moves into a house that once belonged to a Giant. Everything in the home has been remodeled except for the bathroom, which is in possession of a gigantic bathtub. The quirky family takes an adventurous dip down the drain one day and, without spoiling anything, I’ll just mention that I still remember it years and years later, after reading it as a little girl! I am happy to say that I own my very own copy (thank you thriftbooks.com) but it is on loan to some friends, so I am sadly sans photo. But trust me, it’s fantastic!
#10: The Search For Delicious by Natalie Babbitt
What IS delicious?
What really IS delicious???
As in, if you looked in a dictionary, what would there be a picture of next to the word “DELICIOUS”?
I could go on, but this seems like a lovely list to start. Do you have any favorite stories that you plan on having your children read? Any suggestions for me?