unsettling wonder

Household Tales: A Read Through illus-155   illus-155-title


his tale isn’t really a fairy tale. Tolkien would define it as a beast tale. It’s folktale, clearly, and a truly wonderful tale to tell aloud. It is not a story to be taken seriously. At least not when telling it, or when listening to it.

Afterward, however…

Afterward, it sticks around as one of those tales that—that you just like. It wasn’t just that you like laughing, or that you like talking donkeys, or that you like seeing villains in stories getting hard done by. There’s a deeper meaning here, as with all good tales and all true tales, that lingers. Not a moral, not a didactic teaching—just a deep sense that this, this is real. Whatever it is.

That is why I consider this one of the Great Tales.

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unsettling wonder

Household Tales: A Grimm Read-through illus-100illus-100-title When they had walked for two hours,
they came to a great piece of

“We cannot get over,” said Hansel,
“I see no foot-plank, and no bridge.”

“And no boat crosses either,” answered Grethel,
“but a white duck is swimming there;
if I ask her, she will help us over.”


ow here is a tale that should have been better told. This, too, is one of the Great Tales, told and retold time and again, to be told and retold again. The Grimms struggled with this tale, trying to soften its harshness and make it, somehow, a ‘proper’ story for children. They did not want to believe that such cruelty as it records could be—well, possible.

Two world wars, a Holocaust, and a half-century of unremitted genocides later, the barbarism of the tale is somehow more believable. Is it a commentary of bleak despair, the collapse and dysfunction of family and social structure? Is it a weirdly subversive message of hope? Is it, simply, a cry of pain, rage against a broken world? Or is it a nice little tale for children?

The answer to all these questions is yes.

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an imaginative life, part 2 of 3

a conversation with Claire Massey

(c) Jonathan Bean (litfest.org)

The conversation continues, as Claire Massey discusses the harmonies between hospice, fairy tale, and healing, and we ponder the bewildering, glittery world of Disney Princesses.

PARADOXES: Another unique feature of New Fairy Tales is that, rather charging a subscription fee, you have an affiliation with Derian House. How did you settle on doing the donations to a children’s hospice, and why did you settle on Derian House?

CLAIRE MASSEY: I was uncomfortable—as much as I love the internet for the fact that you can distribute to everybody—I was uncomfortable with the idea of just giving stuff away for free. And I was conscious that as a writer, when you submit to some magazines they can pay you some kind of nominal amount, and that’s really nice. I want people to be able to make a living writing, and as illustrators.

But at the same time, I knew that without setting up as a business I wasn’t going to be able to pay anybody. So, to me, asking for donations to charity is a way of kind of raising money for charity, and of valuing it. It’s about valuing people’s work, and saying I can’t pay you to publish your story like this, but it’s an opportunity for it to be there online and also hopefully to raise some money.

Although the interesting thing is that hardly anybody ever donates. So I think that says a lot about society.

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and if, then

a phantasmagoria’s revenge


‘To invent fables about a world “other” than this one has no meaning at all, unless an instinct of slander, detraction, and suspicion against life has gained the upper hand in us: in that case, we avenge ourselves against life with a phantasmagoria of “another”, a “better” life.

–Friedrich Nietzsche, “Reason in Philosophy”

The Courage of Words


I see.

I speak.


“And your point is?”


To stay silent—no.

I do not think that I

could stand the pain.

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/b-tal/179390247/ Can we imagine a world?

As fantasists—as artists—as musicians—it’s what we do. And it’s what we try to get people to pay us to do. Whether we draw the utopia we long for or the absurd we confront, or the dreams we puzzle over, we imagine worlds.

Worlds of unutterable darkness, rent suddenly and violently by the silent, gentle onslaught of light.

Worlds of unquenchable light, darkness beleaguered, but unconquerable.

Worlds incomprehensibly strange, but oddly unforgettable.

Can we imagine a world?

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