Ira Glass on storytelling
Dreaming awake

Finding the colors again

As we wander through the magical world...

"We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices, and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamed that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever, somewhere south of Oz, and north of Shangri-La.” – George R.R. Martin

…the trees are our guides. They know the way.

"Current cant equates fantasy with escapism, and current fashion would have it that fantasy is both easy to read and to write. It isn't. When it is done honestly, by a skillful writer, fantasy takes us far enough beyond our daily perceptions to open us to the essential realities beneath it. This is the true goal of all art."- Ellen Kushner

We come to a bend in the lane and a sign post. Reality? Fantasy? Which should we chose?

"All art, by definition of the word,  is fantasy in the broadest sense. The most uncompromisingly (should I say sordidly?) naturalistic novel is still a manipulation of reality.  Fantasy, too is a manipulation, a reshaping of reality. There is no essential conflict or contradiction between literary realism and literary fantasy, any more than between science and humanism. Technical details aside, most of the things you  can say about fantasy also apply to realism. I suppose you might define realism as fantasy pretending to be true; and fantasy as reality pretending to be a dream."  - Lloyd Alexander

It doesn't matter. Take either path, Tilly.

"The world of reality has no room for wistful backward-looking; and even if it had, there are no more than a few people who actively retain the desire for [the sense of wonder] known in childhood or have the capacity to evoke it at will. These few, moreover, soon become strangers to their fellows, for they are the incomprehensible ones--the dreamers who take the sky for their skull, the ribs of mountains for their bones, who sense always the faculties of the primitive, and see always with the wondering eye of the child.

"They are the ones who never pass a secret  place in the woods without a stare of curiosity  for the mystery implied in all its mounds and hollow, who still turn corners with a lift of expectation at the heart. And to be a writer of fantasy, one must be among those few -- those fortunate few; for, to produce a work that answers all the demands of fantasy, is to suddenly turn the corner which  does at last show something strange and wonderful waiting to be seen, and -- most gloriously -- to know that long-ago sense of yearning at last fulfilled."  - Mollie Hunter

They both lead to the same place: the beautiful, color-filled world we live in.

Comments

"They are the ones who never pass a secret place in the woods without a stare of curiosity for the mystery implied in all its mounds and hollow, who still turn corners with a lift of expectation at the heart".

This resonates and resonates. As a child I could not understand how people missed the shoreline and seas made by the clouds at sunset, who missed the flicker on the edge of the eye in hedgerow and copse. As an adult I still know that the old brick wall conceals the crossing point, that Sidhe live on the edge of vision and the old places hold the key to truths half forgotten.

I love that Mollie Hunter quote...and my only quarrel with it is that I think there are more than just a few of us. But then, the quote comes from an essay she wrote many years ago, when fantasy literature was considered far more marginal than it is now.

And yes, for me, also, it resonates and resonates.

"We read fantasy to find the colours again.." Absolutely true. I remember as a very little boy seeing a tiny table sitting on top of a cupboard and when I asked what it was, I was told: "That's where the fairies have their tea."

The sense of intense excitement and glorious mystery filled me to the uttermost brim and coloured my life for days afterwards. But then the table disappeared, and I was left almost grief-stricken; the world became grey and drab, and I thought the fairies had abandoned us. Imagine then my excitement when a few weeks later I saw it again, nestled on top of the cupboard. "Look there's the fairy table; can we watch them when they have their tea?"

"Don't be silly," I was then told. "That's just an old bit of furniture from your sister's dolls house."

The fantasy had been forgotten and I was told the boring, unvarnished truth. And ever since then I've been striving to find the magic again. But now I realise I've been lucky; I was given a quest, a grail to find. And on the way I've found a vocation and career as a novelist and artist as I try to fill the grey with colour.

Stuart Hill


South of Oz

“(S)outh of Oz, and north of Shangri-La.”
– George R.R. Martin


If there is a place south of Oz,
my compass will find it,
that true north I have sought
since childhood, fairytale needle
always spinning toward strangeness.
My father, whose life was built
on careful lies, always wondered
at the cardinal point of my longing,
declaring it unreal, as if his make-believe
was more natural than my compass rose.
But I am aligned to the magnetic field
of the human heart and his was a gyro,
spinning rapidly to keep up with a world
rotating only on its solipsistic lies.

©2013 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

Oh, Jane, that is gorgeous.

Thank you first for introducing me to Mollie Hunter. As you do so often, my world of company worth keeping expands because I include you in my daily world.

For me, the finding of colors is found again and again as I learn the route of being elder, become kupuna in the old language, means to listen and see the signs of words and symbols I thought were lost ... I was not taught the language. It was the hiding years after all.

Fiction and myth allows me to straddle the language of my ancestors ... rolling in the muck of those 'careful lies'[thank you,Jane] ... coming away with dirt that will not lie ... to make words that travel like the voyaging canoes have done for time beyond logic. Carrying story the real dirt worth keeping under my fingernails.

I was forever being called in at dusk into the house, pulled down from trees, out of hedgerows, grape arbors,the gardens. I talked to birds, chipmunks, squirrels, woodchucks, trees, flowers, wee folk..i still do and that's why i love,love,love this blog...i belong here...good morning Tilly!!!!!! and Terri

Stunning photos - especially love the light in the first and second. I saw something of this cold-blue sky with hints of the turning season in the land yesterday. You really captured it here!!

Thank you for the reminder. I've been looking outside and seeing only white and gray (February in Indiana). I'd forgotten to look for the colors.

those reaching bare branches are a magical portal to the in-between and you found the sign post with trusty Tilly showing the way thank you for sharing your magic Terri. Love the words of Mollie Hunter too! there are a lot more than a few of us in the world who feel the wonder, that's the magic of being human we all have a little bit of the magical fey inside, just that some hide it away better and it's the musicians, writers and artists of the world who help us remember!

You always find the most beautiful quotes, Terri.

I used to be able to feel magic in the air when I was a child, and I read fantasy (and write it!) to find that magic again.

As a child, I voraciously read fairytales and had that expectation of wonders around every tree. When I got older, and began to lose that sense of unknown adventures awaiting, I felt so sad, as if I'd lost an ever-young part of myself.

But then I was so happy to read this, which reminded me that our connection to the earth is the deepest of all magics—our interaction with the wonders around us is the fount of all of our fairy stories and mystery tales:

"…we are situated in the land in much the same way that characters are situated in a story…along with the other animals, the stones, the trees, and the clouds, we ourselves are characters within a huge story that is visibly unfolding all around us, participants within the vast imagination, or Dreaming, of the world." —David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

Absolutely, I second that. Gorgeous, Jane.

I was walking through the fog here in Toronto about a week ago, a strange thing, fog in late January while mounds of snow were still steaming away along the sidewalks. I could see about a block ahead of me, and I kept thinking, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if I might walk on to that next block and things will have changed, if only subtly, from what was generally supposed to be there, and if that kept happening each block until eventually I end up someplace completely different?" (And preferably warmer too, I must admit, since sometimes my fantasies are practical too). And then I thought about how I was probably the only one of all the people walking or driving through that fog who were thinking of this. If they had been imagining the same thing, what might have happened, I wonder. I suppose I write to infect people with that same desire so maybe someday I can answer that question.

Yes, gorgeous is definitely the word.

Thought those of you who liked it on its first (pre-revision) outing, might like to see a more finished version:


South of Oz

“(S)outh of Oz, and north of Shangri-La.”
– George R.R. Martin


If there is a place south of Oz,
my compass will find it.
If it is the true north,
that lies past Shangri-La,
I have sought that way
since childhood, fairytale needle
always spinning toward strangeness.
My father, whose life was built
on careful lies, always wondered
at the cardinal points of my longing,
declaring them unreal, as if his make-believe
was more natural than my compass rose.
I am aligned to the magnetic field
of the human heart and his was always a gyro,
spinning rapidly to keep up with a world
rotating solely on solipsistic lies.
There was never adventure for him,
no Shangri-La, no Oz, only a cold trail,
trackless plain, and a meal of salty regret.

©2013 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

That's a lovely reason to write.

"our connection to the earth is the deepest of all magics"

Yes!!!

Thank you for being part of this conversation, everyone.

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