"Folktales and fables and myths often show humans talking and working with other animals, with trees, with rivers and stones, as if recalling or envisioning a time of easy commerce among all beings. Helpful ducks and cats and frogs, wise dragons, stolid oaks, venturesome winds, faithful rocks, all have lessons for us in these old tales. The trickster -- Coyote or Raven or Hare -- changes form as rapidly as clouds, reminding us how fluid nature is, and how arbitrary are the divisions between human and beast, between self and other. It is as if through language, the very power that estranges us from other animals, we are slowly working our way back into communion with the rest of nature.
"Of course no storyteller can literally become hawk or pine...we cross those boundaries only imperfectly, through leaps of imagination. 'Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instance?' Thoreau asks. We come nearer to achieving that miracle in stories than anywhere else. 'It is not natural for our minds to be open to what is other,' Carol Bly points out, 'we have to cultivate it.' Stories cultivate that openness. They release us from the confines of self. They nurture compassion and empathy, which are the springs of kindness and justice."
- Scott Russell Sanders ("The Power of Stories")
"It's no coincidence that just at this point in our insight into our mysteriousness as human beings struggling towards compassion, we are also moving into an awakened interest in the language of myth and fairy tale. The language of logical arguments, of proofs, is the language of the limited self we know and can manipulate. But the language of parable and poetry, of storytelling, moves from the imprisoned language of the provable into the freed language of what I must, for a lack of another word, continue to call faith."
- Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007)
The magical art here today is (from top to bottom):
* "Beginning," "Fable," and "Dreaming in the Woods" by Austrian digital artist Christian Schloe, who describes his work by quoting Peter S. Beagle: "Anything can happen in a world that holds such beauty."
* "Bear Girl," "Wolf Girl," and "Rabbit with Lace Collar" by German painter Anne Siems, whose influences include fairy tales, shamanic ceremony, and the mysteries of nature.
* "Marsh Hares," "Dream Fields," and "Rural Sisters" by American painter Andrea Kowch, whose work is inspired by the land and light of rural Michigan.
Follow the links above to learn more about each artist.
Words: Scott Russell Sanders' "The Power of Stories" can be found in his essay collection The Force of Spirit (Beacon Press, 2000). I don't know where the Madeleine L'Engle quote is from, and I can't find an attribution. (If you do know, please tell me so that I can credit it properly.) All rights reserved by Scott Saunders and the L'Engle estate. Pictures: Credited above and in the picture captions; all rights reserved by the artists. Related posts on animals & myth: "The Speech of Animals," "Wild Neighbors," and "The Blessing of Otters."