What Makes a Fairy-Story Helpful?

Posted on August 31, 2011 by

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Something we’ve already given some thought to is the fact that good literature, of any sort, ought to point us more toward reality than it draws us in to unreality.

Here are a few ways that fairy-stories in particular (and by that I mean almost any fanciful setting) can do that when sometimes other kinds of literature can’t. If a story does these things, it still isn’t necessarily a good story, but if it doesn’t do these things, it’s most certainly a bad story.

First, they should give us clear pictures of good and evil. Fairy-stories have the ability to do this in a unique way, since they allow the author the freedom  to make it easy to tell who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Digory actually explains this quite well in The Magician’s Nephew:

 “…I suppose all the old fairy tales are more or less true. And you’re simply a wicked, cruel magician like the ones in the stories. Well, I’ve never read a story in which people of that sort weren’t paid out in the end, and I bet you will be.”

Second, good stories should go beyond even this and remind us that it isn’t just the “big” sins that matter. Fiction should not be an escape from conviction. It should not coddle our sensibilities. It should show us that things like gossiping and lying grieve the heart of God just as much as betrayal or murder. We will see a lot of this in Narnia, though more in other books than in TMN.

Finally, good literature should have a good ending. The day should be saved, and the evil should be vanquished. And we should know that it happened because good wins in the end. If you think that seems naive, you should put down this blog right now and pick up your Bible. Because God says that evil always gets judged and righteousness always gets rewarded – even if it’s not on your timetable:

 Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.  (1Ti 5:24-25, KJV)

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