Monday, October 29, 2012

The Evil We Know We Know From the Cradle

Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear;  fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. 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. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this:  it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.
                                                                              G.K. Chesterton, "Tremendous Trifles"


PS: While we're at it (so to speak), do go read Katherine Infantine's First Things essay on the same theme:  Jesus the Dragon-Slayer. 


Katherine Infantine said...

I recently wrote a post for First Things on the same topic that you might enjoy entitled Jesus the Dragon-Slayer.

Sally Thomas said...

Yes, I saw that. Very good indeed. And thanks for dropping by!

Melanie Bettinelli said...

So true! Recently my three year-old has started to have nightmares. One night he woke up waving at the air in front of him and wanting me to make the "colors" go away. I was mystified. What does one do about terrifying colors? Later we questioned him and it seems like the colors in his dream might have been fire. Since then he's got me up several times crying about "debils." We've been trying to direct him to asking Jesus and his patron saints and guardian angels to protect him. At first he was very skeptical and insisted that St Michael would fall asleep on the job. But the last time he woke up with a nightmare I found him in the hallway clutching his crucifix that he'd taken off the wall. I'm so glad he's starting to learn to see Jesus as the slayer of his devils.

Sally Thomas said...

The St. Michael prayer has worked wonders for my kids, too. I've done blessed salt as well, around the windowsills -- as soon as I'd finished sprinkling it, the frightened person gave a sigh of relief and fell asleep. Yet another thing I love about Catholicism: there are tactile, tangible things to *do* in the face of these things, and they are tactilely, tangibly comforting.