Fantastic Quotes

Ever since I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay “Fairy-Stories,” I’ve wanted to write a post about it. Then Ursula Le Guin’s new collection No Time to Spare came out, and I wanted to include some of her comments too. So far, so good, two of my favorite authors backing up several points on which I’m quite passionate. Then my father read me a G.K. Chesterton quote which turned out to be a Neil Gaiman quote which turned out to be Neil Gaiman paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton because he couldn’t remember the exact quote at the time. And yes, I know that probably no one but a historian would have bothered to check on—let alone be secretly delighted by—the convolutions of the provenance of that quote. Regardless, I did and I was, and it became clear to me that I had more quotes on fantasy than would comfortably fit in a single essay, and moreover, it really is more fun to write the stories—or poems, someday I want to add something about the role of poetry in all of this—than to write essays about them. So I decided to just post a selection of the quotes instead. Here they are, and I hope everyone finds them as enlightening and enjoyable as I do.

  • “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Neil Gaiman (b. 1960), Coraline
  • “The timidity of the child or the savage is entirely reasonable; they are alarmed at this world, because this world is a very alarming place. They dislike being alone because it is verily and indeed an awful idea to be alone. Barbarians fear the unknown for the same reason that Agnostics worship it– because it is a fact. 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.” G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), “The Red Angel” in Tremendous Trifles
  • “… fairy-stories as a whole have three faces: the Mystical towards the Supernatural, the Magical towards Nature, and the Mirror of Scorn and Pity towards Man.” J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), “Fairy-Stories” in Tales from the Perilous Realm
  • “… I would say that Charlemagne’s mother and the Archbishop were put into the Pot [the Cauldron of Story], in fact got into the Soup. They were just new bits added to the stock. A considerable honour, for in that soup were many things older, more potent, more beautiful, comic, or terrible than they were in themselves …,” ibid.
  • “Fantasy (in this sense) is, I think, not a lower but a higher form of Art, indeed the most nearly pure form, and so (when achieved) the most potent.” ibid.
  • “Fantasy has also an essential drawback: it is difficult to achieve.” ibid.
  • “That right has not decayed: we make still by the law in which we’re made.” ibid.
  • “But the true road of escape from such weariness is not to be found in the willfully awkward, clumsy or misshapen, not in making all things dark or unremittingly violent; not in the mixing of colours on through subtlety to drabness, and the fantastical complication of shapes to the point of silliness and on towards delirium. Before we reach such states we need recovery. We should look at green again and be startled anew (but not blinded) by blue and yellow and red.” ibid.
  • “We need, in any case, to clean our windows; so that the things seen clearly may be freed from the drab blur of triteness or familiarity—from possessiveness.” ibid.
  • “I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘Escape’ is now so often used: a tone for which the uses of the word outside of literary criticism given no warrant at all. … Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in a prison, he tries to get out and go home?” ibid.
  • It doesn’t have to be the way it is. That is what fantasy says.” Ursula K. Le Guin (b. 1929), “It Doesn’t have to be the Way it Is” in No Time to Spare
  • “Fantasy, odd as it sounds to say so, is a perfectly rational undertaking.” ibid.
  • “The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is ‘escapism’ an accusation of?” ibid.

3 thoughts on “Fantastic Quotes

  1. Thank you, Sir! Be aware that you may have just sown the seeds of many compositions — poetry and prose. And, should they prove to be of much worth, I will cast the credit… and the blame… in your direction!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.