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Food for thought: The value of fairy tales


"What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon." --G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles (1909).
Hat tip Keanan Brand, who (very impressively, imho) recently recognized a version of this quote at the end of an episode of Criminal Minds. Definately sure I wouldn't have placed it.
(Image: by Ivan Bilibin via Wikipedia; public domain)

Comments

Anonymous said…
Chesterton was an advocate of patriarchal "culture" with its inherent hostility to any and everything to do with the feminie principle.

The image of St George on the dragon exactly summarises what western patriarchal culture is all about. The war against the body and the feminine/female principle.

St George is the masculine/male principle, full of angular sharpness and always wanting to cut the entire BODY OF THE WORLD up into little pieces. Always threatened by the great other, the fear of death, and being overwhelmed by the power of the world process altogether. Always at war with everything "else". Always heavily armoured against any kind of vulnerability and the pattern of relationships in which we are all inseparably embedded.

The dragon IS the BODY OF THE WORLD, or everything to do with incarnation or the "flesh". It is also very much to do with the FEMALE principle because traditionally the female or WOMAN is associated with the body, with vulnerability and the culture of the senses or the Pleasure Dome Principle. With participating in the open ended patterns of relationship.

We all project our understanding(s) of the body onto the world altogether. The world IS our extended body. We relate to the world altogether exactly as we relate to the body.

In Chinese culture dragon symbolises something completely different. Dragons are honoured and revered, and seen as omens of good luck, fortune and blessing.
The dragon also symbolises the unkillable life-force which animates the body and the world altogether. It is also equivalent to the kundalini energy or the shakti energy in the Hindu tradition---the shakti energy being the equivalent of the holy spirit that animates everything.
Mirtika said…
Considering that most cultures have been patriarchal for millenia, it's no big deal to say Chesterton was patriarchal. Shrug.

I saw the end of that episode, and I was trying to recall who said that about fairy tale. Duh. There ya go. :)

Now, the question is: Do you love PUSHING DAISIES? :)

Mir
Carmen Andres said…
i think chesterton's point was more in line with the power of stories and myths (ala Lewis and Tolkien)--and, yeah, i'd read somewhere that some of the asian cultures revered dragons! there's more than one story, at least in recent film history, that takes a sympathetic view to dragons.

mir, i saw your review of "pushing daisies"! we too are hooked on the show, though i'm not sure how long the writers (not counting the strike) will be able to keep it up. i hope they do though!
KEANAN BRAND said…
Thanks, Carmen, for the hat tip.

It was the Hotchner character (in Criminal Minds) who quoted Ol' G.K. at the end of the show as Hotch was kneeling at the bedside of his sleeping son.

As for patriarchal archetypes and all that, well, we can ruin the story by missing the point. Dragons in this case are merely allegorical for monsters/evil in general, but we know from recent films that even ogres are people, too. (wink and a smile) Lighten up!
Nancy C. Brown said…
Anonymous has obviously never read Chesterton's essay "The Emancipation of Domesticity" and others. Chesterton was totally pro-woman, pro-family, pro-life. Anyone reading him as "patriarchical" is misreading him, or selectively reading him, or simply not reading him.