The magic of art
Tunes for a Monday Morning

The magic of hope

Morning walk

From "Myth and History in Fantasy Literature," a lovely essay by O.R. Melling:

"At the heart’s core of fantasy literature lies the infinite possibility of dreams. Whether it presents alternate worlds in outer or inner space, alternate forms of life beyond humanity, alternate realities beyond our own, this genre speaks not to the limited self but to the limitless spirit. The well from which it draws its inspiration -- be it established myth or the capacity for myth-making -- is that which Joseph Campbell calls ‘the lost forgotten living waters of the inexhaustible source.’

Morning walk 2

"Fantasy literature of the high tradition is a song of hope. It whispers a simple message: as long as the spirit is intact, nothing is broken irreparably. It is idealistic in both the conventional and the Platonic sense and can therefore be a nourishing source for the idealism of youth. Young people are by nature idealistic as, regardless of the hardships they may have already endured, they do not have the accumulation of failures which every adult has gathered through time and experience.

"We as adults can react to youth’s spirit in either a negative or positive way. We can envy or resent their innate optimism and we can discourage it with cynicism, or even actively try to break it. Or we can nurture and encourage that fiery seed in the hopes that this generation might actually win. This generation may not inevitably lose their dreams to disillusionment or defeat. Gottfried von Strassburg, the 13th century author of Tristan, wrote of his work: ‘I have undertaken a labour, a labour out of love for the world, to comfort noble hearts.’

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"Fantasy literature is often considered to be simply a form of escapist fiction. Firstly I do not feel that ‘escaping’ is necessarily valueless in itself. As anyone who needs a holiday will attest, escaping can be a form of psychological and psychic regeneration as necessary as sleep. But I would also maintain that anything which encourages dreams and aspirations of a better self or a better world, anything which ‘comforts noble hearts’, is hardly an escape from reality. Rather, it can be an aid to survival and a source of strength, as well as a possible vehicle for improvement. And, as Tolkien pointed out, ‘a living mythology can deepen rather than cloud our vision of reality.’ "

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Painting by Terri Windling


I came to fantasy literature as a genre quite late in life but its power had a profound effect on me immediately, and also gave me a portal into another world beyond the hideous car factory where I worked. Suddenly I realised that noble beings like Elrond Half Elven didn't work in a realm where mice poohed in the sugar bag, and neither did he earn a living in a regime where the boss pinned dead rats by their tails to the dartboard you played lunchtime tournaments on with your workmates. Admittedly there were orcs, and other evil beings, but I already worked with some creatures that were very similar in outlook, and cars that needed a completely new interior because the owner's dogs had decided to be very incontinent and very carsick on a long journey, rarely appeared at all. In short, Fantasy confirmed that there were such things as nobility, altruism and beauty somewhere beyond the gates of the motor industry where I worked.

A Finding Place

"It isn't a hiding place. It's a finding place"--Jeannette Winterson

See that book, such a small thing
to contain so many worlds. As a child
I paced through Oz, held Beast's paw,
scrambled up the glass mountain,
stood in the jury box judging Alice.
Not to hide from the world,
but to discover it.

The world is built on stories,
an Empire State Building of them,
the climb up slow, but the oxygen
at the very top, as you lean out
into the void, makes you giddy
with understanding,
and rapturous with the word.

©2015 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

Hi Terri

I love these quotes on the magic and power of hope. Without dreams, as Langston Hughes said in his poem of the same title, "life becomes a broken-winged bird that cannot fly". And as Emily Dickinsen contends, it gives us flight, the ability to soar and sustain a dream, this, "thing of feathers". And if I were to give the concept of a hope a metaphor or image, I might see it as a medicinal plant whose spirit must come through a dream telling the dreamer, the seeker how to extract, use and accept its power.

Lexiconing Hope

The recluse in her rare way
said it was "the thing with feathers"
and specified a small bird
that sang in the gale.

I never found it winged
as bird or angel but something else
that arrived in my dream.

A maiden draped in long folds of linen,
holding a plant soft plumed in green.

Most of her face was hidden
beneath fallen hair, a crystal eye
and pale mouth revealed.

She told me
to provide the dream and prayer
then find this flower in the marsh.

Spread its leaves along the door step
and let my breath become
the wind that gives them flight.

Spring that carries the waiting,
"pinnatus" in her ancient tongue.

Thank you for this rich and inspirational blog today. It was very engaging along with those beautiful pictures of Tilly in the woods and field.

Take care,
My Best

Fairy tales was my entrance gate to literature in general, but until today I love fantasy! And during the childhood of my daughter and sons, I gave them what I received in mine childhood: stories to dream and wonder. Our psique needs to be feeded and nothing better than stories for that.

Regards for all.


Hi Jane

I love how you climb up the significance and power of fantasy/fairytale in this poem. And I totally agree with these lines --

Not to hide from the world,
but to discover it.

Yes, those characters in myth or folklore, allow us to explore and imagine. They even , perhaps, embolden us! Thank you for sharing this. I can relate.

My best

Hello, Terry !
Do not write on the topic. Just wanted to share . For inspiration, new ideas and new thoughts . Recently found a site of the artist who did not leave me indifferent.
Artist Andrew Remnev:

How glorious were the Muses to open the portals behind that lunchtime dartboard, beckoning you 'THIS WAY!' I loved reading of your personal invitation to the borders where options like these here feed you fantasy in place of car interiors.

This post, fuel for that living mythology Tolkien told us about. Thank you Terri!

Thank you for this Terri. I love these words about the great power of escape, the balm and medicine of it; it's something as a writer of mythic tales that I've always battled against, that the need for something to be full of hope and beauty and magic might be escapist, in a negative way, when this is how I have always "survived" the world-- by stepping in to its beauty, by letting that be what I believe. I love this-- "I have undertaken a labour, a labour out of love for the world, to comfort noble hearts.’" What could be better? Thank you for all of your posts--what you offer here is really without compare. SO grateful. XO Sylvia

I began with the Grimm Brothers (though many or most of their tales were from old wives and only attributed as such in later day biographies, and by attentive historians) very early. So, early on I began dealing with darker layers of reality through fantasy. Essentially, I've never stopped, though as time went by, my sources spread out to include philosophy physics, religion, history, astronomy, medicine, poetics, non fiction, fiction in every form, and from almost every region of the planet (so long as there were English translations-the major gap in my life).

Thus, with nearly no bankable resources, and no serious academic skill, I've traveled far and wide, and come to the conclusion that where there is darkness-there is light. What could be more hopeful than that?!

"As a child
I paced through Oz, held Beast's paw,
scrambled up the glass mountain..."

Oh yes. That's exactly how it was.

How wonderful that fantasy opened the gates to that other world, and that you can now make your home there as a writer of books. I feel the same.

I love the idea of hope as a medicinal plant, teaching us its use through shamanic dreams. Hope then becomes something we learn, participate in, converse with -- which gives me a whole new way to think about it.

I love it when a poem can completely alter my ideas about something. Thank you, Wendy!

Jane Yolen often says "Touch magic, pass it on" -- which is exactly what we do when we pass fantasy and fairy tales down to our children and grandchildren.

Andrew Remnev's paintings are gorgeous!!! I haven't seen his art before, and I thank you very, very much for introducing me to it.

I hope everyone will follow this link and have a look!

Sylvia, your tales are true medicine; I think you have the balance between light and dark just right. I, too, believe we need beauty, true beauty (not the media and advertising industries' idea of beauty) in our lives and our art, now more than ever.

There's a Shirley Hazzard quote that I love (I've probably mentioned it here before), from her book The Transit of Venus:

"Beauty is the forbidden word of our age, as sex was to the Victorians. But without the same power to reassert itself."

I've always liked the way your influences are so wide-ranging, Michelle -- and I find that to be true of many I meet in the fantasy and folklore fields. Once one has the courage to step into the dark of the woods, it seems that the path can lead anywhere....

The Muses were glorious indeed, Mokihana. Fantasy was a wonderful escape from the nasties of life...and still is!

A beautiful post, wise words from OR Melling and beautiful poetry in response. But no one has mentioned your painting, Terri! Juxtaposed with the loving brown eyes of Tilly and the quotes in the picture captions, it tugs at my heart. Such a combination of joy/innocence and sadness here, just like the best fairy tales and I love the little ones' patchwork clothes and wild hair. More, please!

Yes, it's a wonderful home to be in. While I think of it, I should say that I didn't win the Redhouse Children's Book Award that I mentioned I was nominated for some months ago. But I was in good company because the Children's Laureate didn't win either! But I had a great time and all the other writers were lovely. It was wonderful to be consorting with 'literary greats' like Malorie Blackman who was very friendly and gracious and even took a 'selfie' with me (I think that's what it's called...anyway she took a photo of us both) Overall a great and enjoyable day.

Thank you Terri

For such a wonderful and keen understanding of this poem! I deeply appreciate your insight and gracious words!

My Best!

This is one of those cases where it is really true that being nominated is a high honor in itself. Congratulations again, Stuart. I'm so glad your work was recognized this way.

Awww, shucks. Thank you, Chris!

Thank You, Terri.

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