Why we need fantasy
Stepping into the unknown

Re-shaping reality

Nattadon Rainbows

From an article on fantasy literature for children by Lloyd Alexander (The Horn Book magazine, 1968):

"All art, by definition of the word, is fantasy in the largest sense. The most uncompromisingly (shall I say sordidly?) naturalistic novel is still a manipulation of reality. Fantasy, too, is a manipulation, a re-shaping of reality. There is no essential conflict or contradiction between literary realism and literary fantasy, no 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.

"Of course, for practical reasons -- and librarians and teachers understand these better than anyone -- we are obliged to catagorize and separate. Like it or not, we become specialists. The best we can do is make sure we are not nearsighted specialists. We can always keep in the back of our minds the idea that whatever our specialty, it is still an integral part of the whole. Literature for children is not a quiet backwater, but a current of the mainstream."

Nattadon Rainbows 2

From Ursula K. Le Guin's acceptance speech for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature (received for the third of her "Earthsea" books, The Farthest Shore, 1973):

"We who hobnob with hobbits and tell tales about little green men are used to being dismissed as mere entertainers, or sternly disapproved of as escapists. But I think perhaps the catagories are changing, like the times. Sophisticated readers are accepting the fact that an improbable and unmanageable world is going to produce an improbable and hypothetical art. At this point, realism is perhaps the least adequate means of understanding or portraying the incredible realities of our existence. A scientist who creates a monster in the laboratory; a librarian in the library of Babel; a wizard unable to cast a spell; a space ship having trouble getting to Alpha Centauri: all these may be precise and profound metaphors of the human condition. Fantasists, whether they use ancient archetypes of myth and legend or the younger ones of science and technology, may be talking as seriously as any sociologist -- and a good deal more directly -- about human life as it is lived, and as it might be lived. For after all, as great scientists have said and as all children know, it is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception, and compassion, and hope."

Nattadon Rainbows 3

From Alison Lurie's collection of essays on children's literature, Don't Tell the Grown-ups (1990):

''The great subversive works of children's literature suggest that there are other views of human life besides those of shopping malls and the corporation. They mock current assumptions and express the imaginative, unconventional, noncommercial view of the world in its simplest and purest form. They appeal to the imaginative, questioning, rebellious child within all of us, renew our instinctive energy, and act as a force for change. This is why such literature is worthy of our attention and will endure long after more conventional tales have been forgotten.''

Nattadon Rainbows 4

From Andre Norton's The Book of Andre Norton (1975):

"There is no more imagination-stretching form of writing, nor reading, than the world of fantasy. The heroes, heroines, colors, action, linger in one's mind long after the book is laid aside. And how wonderful it would be if world gates did exist and one could walk into Middle Earth, Kavin's World, the Land of Unreason, Atlantis, and all the other never-nevers! We have the windows to such worlds and must be content with those."

Tilly at the window


It is telling that in trying to write adventure stories, every child in my class wants to add a little supernatural or magical element to their tale. For them the escape of a true adventure should lift them out of the ordinariness of the everyday;not even the world of espionage is sufficiently adventurous enough.

All of them want to turn a corner, go through the gate and encounter the whisp of a ghost for them to chase after.

Whew.....how lucky that series of rainbow shots with Tilly, and I LOVE the shot that ended them!....One hardly needs imagination when reality is this spectacular...but 'tis true nonethe less, that "it is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception, and compassion, and hope."


I am the worlds that exist
In the space between atoms

I am insanity's warp
in the rational weft
of your everyday mind

I give colour and depth
To your monochrome life.

Lucky shots, indeed! There are larger versions of the rainbow pictures on Tilly's Tumblr: http://dartmoor-dog.tumblr.com/

I love this.

Thank you Terri. Much appreciated. I waffled on a bit yesterday, so I thought I'd keep it brief!

Waffle away, sir. Discussion on these topics is exactly what this blog is for.

What beautiful pictures, beautiful rainbows. Almost worth all the winter rain that produced them.

The hills of Devon *are* Fairyland.

How did I miss Tilly's tumblr site? My boys will love it. They're big fans of Tilly.



The photos...

The words...

Thank you,

Hi Terri

These photos are just stunning, I love how you capture the rainbow arcing over the hills with adorable tilly as the sentinel, keeping watch, guarding and sensing all the woodland magic that endures and haunts this place. And the essays are fascinating and present some ideas about the need and purpose of fantasy I totally can relate to.
My grandmother came from Slovakia and with her, she brought rural tales of her village, Bratslava. Mermen, shape-shifting felines, witches and other delightful creatures were part of her imagination and that of the Slavic landscape. As children, we sat spellbound listening to these tales and somehow incorporated them into our perspective and identity. Here's a poem I wrote last year remembering my grandmother and that "hush" which comes when one discovers the
evidence of heirloom magic in their lives and its influence.

The Hush
( For Mary Rose Blazick)

I heard Slavic tales of the hush
where midnight came and a barn cat
resting on the wheel of the beer wagon
leapt into more than cold darkness
and cobwebs.

She sprang into a woman
of sprawling hair and slender hips,
a white gown and arms bundled
with bull rushes that would be used
to craft her broom.

I found traces of the hush
where paw prints turned into heel marks;
and a hematite buckle from her shoe
framed some catkins fallen off
their long stalk, and fine threads of wool.

She was gone gathering the hours
with her wild dance and broom sweeping down
shadows and stars. Wishes and secrets
from ancestors she knew. From women
who spun straw into gold, placed brass
bed warmers between the sheets
and infants from the elfin world. Women
who read cards and brewed more
than a kettle of soup or tea. Women like me who know
the feel of that hush in their bones
when blood turns to ink, and the idle hand
of a writer takes wing.

Again, many thanks for these wonderful essays and photos!

Hi Stuart

I agree with Terri, this is wonderful, clever and crafted with a keen metaphor. These lines have a powerful sense of truth in my opinion -

I am insanity's warp
in the rational weft
of your everyday mind

Thanks for sharing

Everything that you put in your 'waffle' yesterday was spot-on and beautifully put. Please keep sharing. Today's poem is a gem.

As always, the images, words, thoughts, and comments are like an oasis that nurtures and inspires, provokes and opens doors. Thank you all, and especially Terri!

Today I find the title particularly evocative. To re-shape is such an interesting word and verb. To give new shapes, like molding or pouring into another container, to conserve the constituents but arrange them differently, to observe and acknowledge but then to choose to transform. This is deep magic and it is also everyday experience. It demands that we filter the external and re-create it. It is eminently active, implying engagement and agency.

Words and ideas of inspiration, further enhanced by that marvelous double rainbow and the beautiful Tilly. I will mull them over and let them sit and evolve, to be re-shaped into a thousand new forms.

Thank you Wendy and K.W. for your support. I was a little concerned about the brevity and quality of the poem


Thankfully,amongst the treasure shining forth from the base of this magnificent rainbow is the welcome sanctuary of this blog,its creator and all that is shared around it.It is surely via the imaginary pathways that life's true riches and beauty are revealed.

The hush arrived along with your poem!Thank_you

Who wrote the quote,"A child who can love the oddity of a fantasy book cannot possibly be xenophobic as an adult. What is a different color, a different culture, a different tongue for a child who has already mastered Elvish, respected Puddleglums, or fallen under the spell of dark-skinned Ged, the greatest wizard Earthsea has ever known? ..."?

It is so very true. Because of their religious beliefs, my parents tried to raise me to be racist and intolerant of those with non-traditional sexual orientations -- as well as being narrow-minded in other ways. They made one HUGE mistake. They let me read SFF books. Those books opened my mind and unlocked my soul, letting me escape the the very narrow and judgmental world that my parents tried to cage me in.

What a perfect poem, really. I was mulling over the ways to describe my own connection
with fantasy. It seems to be the nearly seen but now quite...oh, wait a minute....wasn't

I love the sense of magic stepping out of the domestic in this piece: "Women who read cards and brewed more/ than a kettle of soup or tea..."

Reminds me so strongly of my Gran!

And in the next line you capture the mystery and alchemy of writing perfectly when you say "[Women who feel] that hush in their bones/ when blood turns to ink, and the idle hand/ of a writer takes wing."

Great poem, Wendy!

Wendy, your poem is simply gorgeous. Many thanks to you and Stuart for keeping the poetry going while Jane is away!

Thank you, everyone.

Hi Grace

Thanks so much for reading and replying to my poem. Yes, I think the hush does arrive when we stop to realize what magic lies in our life and the power of the imagination that allows us to perceive it.

Again thank you

Hi Terri

Thanks you so much for the lovely comment on my poem. I am glad you enjoyed it. And what a wonderful set of essays and photos this series presents on fantasy and our imagination!

Again thank you!!

Hi Stuart

I am so glad you liked this one! thank you for the wonderful comment and your keen perspective on this poem. There is nothing so special or sacred like "our Grans". Mine passed away about 20 years ago and I still miss her dearly. She was filled with imaginative magic and keen sense for those unseen things in nature and life.

Again thanks!

It was Jane Yolen, in her book "Touch Magic." (The quote is spread across two photos, and the credit is in the second photo caption. My apologies if the credit wasn't clear.)

Oh, this is beautiful, Wendy. Such wonderful images it conjures up, I love the line "brewed more than a kettle of soup or tea". For me it sums up the magical that is part and parcel of the everyday, it's not 'out there' somewhere else, it's here all around us, if we only learn to see it!

I would go further than Lloyd Alexander, and suggest that our entire human world, at least everything in it that is human made/created, is a kind of fantasy. After all, everything began as a fantasy in someone's mind's eye, of something that did not yet exist. Skyscrapers once existed only in the realms of the imagination. As did airplanes, rockets to the moon, this magical world web we are currently communicating via, and almost everything else we take for granted as rock-solid reality. Fantasy allows us to entertain the possibility of, and to experience, things that don't exist. And until you've done that, how can you possibly ever create anything new? You have to imagine it before you can create it!

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