Tuesday, 26 July 2011


While I was pondering the value of fairy tales, I met several parents who didn't seem to value them for their children. I recalled that growing up, the fiction shelves in the library started to fill with realistic books. Stories of broken families, of grumbling teenagers, of children like me. But I didn't want to read of children like me, and a plain messy world. I knew that people were sinful and the world subject to frustration. 

As a child, I wanted to read of greater possibilities, to call me out of myself. Not escapism, but words of power to call me on to glory, beauty, faithfulness, hope and love. To know, meeting those things in another broken world, that they might yet be my portion in this world. Fairly tales, myth and legend are timeless, and therefore always relevant. The story of teenagers trying to whine their way through the mundane of school life, well, I didn't need someone to write to me about that. 

Now C S Lewis was on a pursuit of glory, of joy. Surprised to find it in Christ, he turned against the myths which had so fascinated him before. In 1931, he argued about this with his friend Tolkien, who wrote a poem in response, 'To one who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though 'breathed through silver'.' It's quite an astonishing read - although, we don't know if Lewis embraced the views Tolkien tackled, or if his friend was showing him his opinions pushed to logical extreme. 

Philomythus to Misomythus

You look at trees and label them just so,
(for trees are 'trees', and growing is 'to grow');
you walk the earth and tread with solemn pace
one of the many minor globes of Space:
a star's a star, some matter in a ball
compelled to courses mathematical
amid the regimented, cold, inane,
where destined atoms are each moment slain.

At bidding of a Will, to which we bend
(and must), but only dimly apprehend,
great processes march on, as Time unrolls
from dark beginnings to uncertain goals;
and as on page o'er-written without clue,
with script and limning packed of various hue,
an endless multitude of forms appear,
some grim, some frail, some beautiful, some queer,
each alien, except as kin from one
remote Origo, gnat, man, stone, and sun.
God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees,
tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these
homuncular men, who walk upon the ground
with nerves that tingle touched by light and sound.
The movements of the sea, the wind in boughs,
green grass, the large slow oddity of cows,
thunder and lightning, birds that wheel and cry,
slime crawling up from mud to live and die,
these each are duly registered and print
the brain's contortions with a separate dint.
Yet trees are not 'trees', until so named and seen
and never were so named, till those had been
who speech's involuted breath unfurled,
faint echo and dim picture of the world,
but neither record nor a photograph,
being divination, judgement, and a laugh
response of those that felt astir within
by deep monition movements that were kin
to life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:
free captives undermining shadowy bars,
digging the foreknown from experience
and panning the vein of spirit out of sense.
Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves
and looking backward they beheld the elves
that wrought on cunning forges in the mind,
and light and dark on secret looms entwined.
 To  be continued tomorrow...

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