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The impudent heroines of fairy tales

The language of story

Lisbeth Zwerger

"The fairy tale, which to this day is the first tutor of children because it was once the first tutor of mankind, secretly lives on in the story. The first true storyteller is, and will continue to be, the teller of fairy tales. Whenever good counsel was at a premium, the fairy tale had it, and where the need was greatest, its aid was nearest. This need was created by myth. The fairy tale tells us of the earliest arrangements that mankind made to shake off the nightmare which myth had placed upon its chest.''

- Walter Benjamin

Little Red Cap illustration by Lisbeth Zwerger

''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 lack of another word, continue to call faith.''

- Madeleine L’Engle


Border art by Arthur Rackham

The two fairy tale illustrations are by Austrian book artist Lisbeth Zwerger; all rights reserved. The decorative border at the end is by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939).