holiday fantasy

Okay, where's the chimney?

We invent, or reinvent, so much in fantasy literature, it comes as no surprise that the holidays are included.  To choose some examples at random, Tad Williams staged the major kingdom overthrown of Shadowmarch (New York: DAW, 2006) at a winter celebration–something resembling a German Christmas.  J. K. Rowling wove the rhythm of the holidays most of us know and love into the Harry Potter saga.

The Doctor’s kept pretty busy the past few Christmases, as well.

One suspects Williams may have chosen the holiday just to have a battle in spectacular costumes.  And Rowling’s holiday feasts decline in importance as her characters grow older–which is an understandable experience of childhood, really.  And Christmas specials in Doctor Who are admittedly a clever marketing ploy.

Nevertheless, holidays form part of our lives, and they can, should, do, form part of our fiction.

In a way, the dwindling of childhood wonder appears manifestly at the holidays.  Everyone remembers where they were when Kennedy got shot (I wasn’t born–I remember that), and where they were when the learned there’s allegedly no Santa Claus.  (No, Virginia–I lied.)  Or that Hanukkah Harry was really just a red-haired kid in a wig.

Sigh.  Move on.  We’re grown-ups now, however much it doesn’t feel like it.  We understand about finance, and budget, and the laws of thermodynamics and spelling.  The holidays are a time of expenditure and bustle.  Of fatigue, collapse, exhaustion.  Of too many relatives and not enough falafel.

Wonder?  What about it?

There’s a silent, fluttering part of ourselves that still rushes to fall asleep on Christmas Eve–because maybe, in that place between dreaming and waking, we’ll here the clatter of  , the crunching of snow on the roof.  Maybe, in the shadowy borders of dream and memory, we can hope like a child again.

It’s that same part of ourselves that pulls us up short when we see a book cover with a dragon. Or a mouse holding a sword.

It’s something we can break but not tame, smother but not silence.  We remember, if we let ourselves, the wonder of see that well-padded gentlemen with the silk beard, blurting through our awe, that yes, we really did want legos–not legos we had already–legos we didn’t have–the legos with the dragon…

Then, a few weeks later, we open that shiny package, to find the legos with the dragon, and we wonder.  Sometimes, if we let our grown-up selves admit it, we still do.

Our minds reach toward the borders between the known and the possible, between the practical and the imagined.  A story well placed–say a Christmas story, a Holiday story–takes us beyond those borders into the Perilous Realm itself.  Grown now, we begin to understand what we didn’t before.

That wonder and joy seem much like heartbreak.

That heartbreak shows us new ways to wonder.

That the legos may lie forgotten in a garage, but the wonder, the delight, remains.

That the wonder of the lego wasn’t just the lego–but the worlds it helped us discover.

That’s why we write fantasy.  We are the rebels, the singers of subversion, who dare to write worlds from dreams and wonders, from fears and loves.  We are storytellers and loremasters, who wield clear words to unwind the magic in the world.

Because we’re counting days now, and we can’t help but wonder.

And why not?

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4 thoughts on “holiday fantasy

  1. I wasn’t yet, but I am now. ‘On Fairy Stories’ has deeply shaped my consciousness as a writer and critic.

    After listening your your latest Pubcast, I realized that I’d missed the subtlety of JKR’s use of holidays. Yes, as I said here, the celebration of the holidays diminish. But their spiritual and narrative significance increases. And that, too, I find reflects our experience of wonder.

  2. Pingback: christmas friday diary « The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond

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